Jesus called himself the “Son of God”—that is, of the same nature as God. A son is of the same nature, the same species, the same essence, as his father. Jesus called God his Father: “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30) and “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
He also claimed to be sinless: “Which of you convicts me of sin?” (Jn 8:46). He claimed to forgive sins—all sins, against everyone. The Jews protested: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Lk 5:21). The only one who has the right to forgive all sins is the only one who is offended in all sins, namely, God. I have a right to forgive you for your sins against me, but not for your sins against others.
Jesus claimed to save us from sin and death. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live” (Jn 11:25). He said he had come from heaven, not just earth, and that he would return again from heaven at the end of the world to judge everyone (Mt 25:31-46). Meanwhile, he gave us his flesh to eat and said that this would give us eternal life (Jn 6:51).
Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter (Jn 1:42). For a Jew, changing names was something only God could do, for your name was not just a human, arbitrary label, but your real identity, which was given to you by God alone. In the Old Testament, only God changed names—and destinies: Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel. An orthodox Jew who got his name legally changed was excommunicated.
Jesus kept pointing people to himself, saying, “Come to me” (Mt 11:28). Buddha said, “Look not to me; look to my dharma (doctrine).” Buddha also said, “Be ye lamps unto yourselves.” Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Lao Tzu taught the way (tao); Jesus said, “I am the way” (Jn 14:6). Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad and other religious founders fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and did not rise from the dead. Jesus did.
Most clearly and shockingly of all, he invited crucifixion (or stoning) by saying: “Very truly, I tell you [i.e., I am not exaggerating or speaking symbolically here; take this in all its force], before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58). He spoke and claimed the sacred name that God revealed to Moses, the name God used to name himself (Ex 3:14). If he was not God, no one in history ever said anything more blasphemous than this; by Jewish law, no one ever deserved to be crucified more than Jesus.
If Christ was only human, he could have made mistakes. Thus, anyone who wants to dissent from any of Christ’s unpopular teachings will want to deny his divinity. And there are bound to be things in his teachings that each of us finds offensive if we look at the totality of those teachings rather than confining ourselves to comfortable and familiar ones. Christians ought to realise how difficult, how scandalous, how objectionable, how apparently unbelievable and absurd this doctrine is bound to appear to others.
Categories: Defending the Faith