Apr 29, 2008

The Name of the Lord. . .

By Jack Kinsella

One of the most baffling claims I've heard repeated about Jesus is the one that says Jesus Christ never claimed to be God. Indeed, some will go so far as to say that Jesus Christ didn't even THINK He was God.

I read one critic's opinion that said 'if Jesus were alive today, He would be astonished and dismayed' to find Himself an object of worship.

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times, and I've seen it in print under the names of some otherwise fairly astute and intelligent authors.

There are as many opinions about Jesus as their are religious worldviews on this planet. Everybody wants to include Him as part of their own religious dogma, provided He doesn't mind playing second fiddle to their own deity.

There is a Muslim 'Jesus' [Isa] but the Muslim Jesus is not God. The Muslim Jesus wasn't born of a virgin, did not go to the Cross, and certainly never rose again from the dead. The Muslim Jesus was not God, but instead, he was a prophet and a teacher.

Jesus plays some kind of role in most the great pagan religions of the world. But with the exception of Christianity, the pagan Jesus was invariably depicted as a 'good man' or as a 'wise teacher'.

And for THAT reason, those who deny the Deity of Christ do so in order to keep their own religious doctrine from flying apart. If the real Jesus claimed to be God, then He was neither 'good' nor 'wise'.

'Good' men don't lie about who they are. 'Wise' men don't allow themselves to be executed to perpetuate a lie. If Jesus Christ wasn't God, but claimed He was, then He was a liar and a lunatic.
So whether or not Jesus Christ believed He was God is of critical importance to their doctrine. The Islamic Jesus says of himself:

He [Jesus] said: 'I am indeed a servant of God. He has given me revelation and made me a prophet; He has made me blessed wheresoever I be; and He has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. He has made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable. So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!' Such was Jesus the son of Mary. It is a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the majesty of) God that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, 'Be,' and it is." (Sura 19:30-35).

So Islam's Jesus is NOT the begotten Son of God -- because it does not befit their god to have a son.

"Christ, the son of Mary, was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how God makes His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!" (5:75).

For Islam to recognize that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God would require throwing out the Koran.

The Koran advances the belief that Mohammed was the final prophet of God. But if Jesus had claimed to be the only begotten Son of God, then Mohammed would not only be a liar, he would have been unnecessary.

Or Jesus would have to be exposed as a fraud. Since Mohammed evidently couldn't credibly deny His existence, the best he could do instead was 'adopt' Him as a mascot.

Islamic theology relies on Mohammed being superior to Jesus, but makes no claim that Mohammed was divine. If Jesus therefore simply CLAIMED to be the Son of God, then Mohammed would either be an inferior prophet, or Isa couldn't be a prophet at all.

In either case, Islam's foundational stone would crumble.

Most cults find a way to reduce Jesus to the status of a created being, for the same reason. If Jesus claimed to be God, then their god can't be, or they wouldn't need a Jesus.

They'd have their own 'Jesus' and wouldn't need to recreate ours to fit their image.

To the Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ isn't the Eternal God, but rather, a creation OF God.

Charles Taze Russell accomplished this transformation by including a single letter in the text of John 1:1 in his 'New World Translation: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was [a] god."

The Mormons not only deny the Deity of Christ, they deny the Deity of God Himself. The Mormon God was once a man himself, and Jesus Christ was really Satan's smarter brother.

Mormons believe that God liked the plan for the salvation of mankind that Jesus submitted better than the one that Satan came up with. So Jesus got to be the Savior of Mankind, and Lucifer became Satan out of sibling rivalry.

All the cults who claim Jesus do so on the grounds He was either a good man and a wise teacher or that He was merely another prophet sent from God.

If at some point, Jesus claimed to be God come in the flesh, then He could be neither.

Consider this. There are somewhere between a billion and two billion Muslims on this planet. They not only believe He was just another prophet, their entire religion demands it.

It isn't that Islam would crumble if Jesus WAS Divine, it would crumble if Jesus simply BELIEVED He was Divine. As previously noted, if He believed He was the Son of God, He could NOT be a prophet of God. He could only be Who He claimed to be, or He would be a liar. There is no logical third option.

If He said He was the Son of God, He cannot be a prophet. And if He thought that He was, and was mistaken, deluded or insane, well, then He cannot be a prophet, as Islam claims.

Jesus never said, "I am God" in the English Bible. Instead, the Bible quotes Jesus as saying, "before Abraham was, I am." "I am" is one of the Hebrew Names for God. When Moses asked God to identify Himself, He replied, "I am that I am. Tell them that I AM sent you."

To the Jews living under the Mosaic Law, "I AM" could only be a reference to the God Who handed Moses the two tablets.

Jesus knew exactly what He was saying, and so did the assembled Jews. Abraham lived around 2160 BC; about as far removed from Christ's time as Christ's time was from our point on the timeline. What else could claiming present-tense existence before Abraham's time possibly mean?

Whether it is clear to the modern-day critics what He was saying, it was plenty clear to the Jews of Jesus' day. After He made the claim, the Jews prepared to stone Him for blasphemy, but He slipped away in the crowd.

To somehow see this as a claim of anything other than one of Divinity is an act of intellectual desperation. What else could it POSSIBLY mean? If I said to you, "before Jesus was, I am," how would YOU, a non-Jew living in 21st century, interpret that remark?

If YOU see it that way, how could the religious Jews of the 1st century have interpreted it to mean something different?

Matthew 28:18 records Jesus saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Who has ALL authority in heaven and earth?

Who does Islam think that refers to? Mohammed? Hardly. Only Allah is all-powerful. Who do the Jehovah's Witnesses believe has all power in heaven and earth? Or the Mormons? Or any other religion that co-opts Christ in a supporting role?

Jesus claimed to be "Lord of the Sabbath". Who did the Jews believe was the Lord of the Sabbath? (Answer: the One Who gave Moses the tablets. They knew Him as "I AM".)

Jesus said that authority was given Him to forgive sins. Remember, He was addressing the most religious Jews of His day -- they knew that the authority to forgive sins belongs to God alone.

Jesus claimed to be the "light of the world' that provides salvation. David identified Jehovah as his "light and salvation." (Psalms 27:1)

Jesus identified Himself as "the Good Shepherd" who was 'sent to the lost sheep of Israel' (Matthew 15:24) Ezekiel 34:11 identifies the Good Shepherd; "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out."

Jesus said He would separate the sheep nations from the goat nations. Ezekiel 34:17 says that this is a function of God:

"And as for you, My flock, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Behold, I will judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and the male goats."

Jesus said of His sheep: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)

Now, is it even POSSIBLE that the observant Jews of Israel circa AD 30 could be confused as to the identity of the One Who gives eternal life? Can you conceive of the possibility that the observant Jews of circa AD 30 were unfamiliar with the identify of the "Great I AM"?

Or that there is any other way for the Jews to have understood Christ's claim to be anything less than Divinity? What was the charge under which Christ was convicted by the Sanhedrin?

Did Jesus ever directly claim to be the Christ, the Son of God? You tell me.

"Again the high priest asked Him, and said unto Him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I AM:" (Mark 14:61-62)

Is this unclear?

If one requires proof that Jesus Christ is real, and that Jesus Christ IS the only-begotten Son of God, the most convincing evidence is found in the number of religions that co-opted Him into it -- to lend themselves legitimacy.

Why do the religions that claim Christ do so? And having done so, why claim a watered-down version of who He is? The reason they cannot deny Him outright is -- because He is real.

And the reason they cannot acknowledge Him for Whom He claims to be is because it would expose their own doctrine as false.

Even acknowledging that He made the claim of Divinity exposes that religion as false. If He claimed Divinity, but was merely a man, He has no credentials as a prophet of God. God cannot lie.

If Jesus was a liar Who allowed Himself to be executed to perpetuate a myth, then He has no credentials as a wise teacher. In either case, there would be no reason for any other religion to even WANT Him, let alone kidnap Him as their prophet.

In the final analysis, logic dictates that the Person of Jesus Christ was either the Son of God, truly God and truly Man, Who lived a sinless life and died a sinner's death as full payment for the sins of mankind, and now sits at the Right Hand of the Father.

Or those religions who have adopted Him as their prophet are following a liar and a lunatic.

In either case, it exposes them as cheap counterfeits. If He is not Lord OF all, then He cannot be Lord AT All.

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

That Name is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.