I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man;
How could Jesus really be both God and man? We have taken two weeks to begin to understand what God is really like, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and Earth. Now we are going to begin to grapple with what Christians believe about the Incarnation – how God became man in Jesus Christ.
A few weeks ago we asked what the God of the Bible is really like? And we saw that the God we worship and believe in is almighty, all-knowing, ever-present, eternal, holy, all-loving, TRANSCENDENT! REPEAT – almighty, all-knowing, ever-present, eternal, holy, all-loving, TRANSCENDENT! It is totally impossible and beyond any human understanding how that transcendent God who is SO different from us, and so much greater than we can possibly imagine, could actually become a human being, limited in space and time and knowledge and mortality. This is the paradox and the total contradiction of the Incarnation! So let’s begin by reminding ourselves just why we Christians believe that Jesus Christ was indeed God born as a human being, Immanuel, God with us.
Let’s remember that it took the Early Church a couple of centuries all to agree on the truth that Jesus was actually divine. The reason for this was simple. The Jews believed there was only one God. Every day they recited in their prayers, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deut 6:4) Jewish monotheism stood out against the polytheism of Greeks, Romans and Eastern Mystery Religions. So it was very difficult for Jewish Christians to recognise that Jesus of Nazareth was not only human but also divine. Indeed it took almost four centuries for the whole church to recognise God as Three in One, a Holy Trinity. Bear in mind that when the gospels speak of Jesus as “the Son of God” NOBODY during Jesus’s lifetime would have understood that title to mean “God the Son, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity”.
Remember as well that before the resurrection NOBODY who saw and listened to Jesus immediately said, “This man is God”. Jesus’s miracles, for example, were not taken as proof of Jesus’s divinity. Indeed Jesus refused to give any such proof or sign. The only sign he would offer was the “sign of Jonah”.
MATTHEW 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The resurrection of Christ is God’s ultimate proof that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. So the apostle Paul can begin his letter to the Romans talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Romans 1 2 the gospel (God) promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead:.
Only this side of the resurrection, with hindsight and the eye of faith, can we see the glimpses in Jesus’s ministry and His teaching that He was more than a man – that He was indeed God incarnate.
But the Bible does give us other compelling evidence that Jesus is indeed divine, “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father,”
And we find that evidence principally in the gospel of John. This is how John introduces Jesus – in those words so familiar to us at Christmas.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
18 No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Looking back on the life of Jesus, John recognised that Jesus was indeed the One and Only Son, the Word made flesh, the one who had created the world.
And we find the apostle Paul echoing that understanding of who Jesus is when he writes to the Colossians expressing the faith of the Early Church, and possibly quoting an early Christian hymn.
We can best see why John and all the disciples, and Paul and the Early Church came to recognise Jesus as God by looking at the words of Jesus Himself.
Some people would start with the seven great “I am” statements in John’s Gospel.
See John 6:35; . “I am the bread of life.
8:12; “…I am the light of the world.
10:7; … “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. ,,,,
11:25; “I am the resurrection and the life.
14:6; …. “I am the way and the truth and the life.
15:1. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
All these great “I am” declarations certainly reveal that Jesus had a unique relationship with God. But they do not necessarily imply that Jesus was God. Two others however are almost certainly claims to be divine.
10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Remember that in the Old Testament God was the shepherd of Israel. Psalm 23 – the Lord is my Shepherd. So a claim to be the Good Shepherd could well be a claim actually to be God.
8:58; “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
Here is is very significant that “I am” was the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). That name of Yahweh is usually translated in our Bibles as “the LORD”. Those Jews who picked up stones to punish Jesus for blasphemy certainly understood “before Abraham was, I am” as a claim to be older than Abraham, and probably actually a claim to be God.
So the “I am” Jesus claims of Jesus do point to the idea that Jesus was indeed God. But there is a different saying which is even more important – when Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are One”.
Can you imagine the scene? Every day for more than a thousand years the Jews had prayed that same prayer, The Shema: “Hear O Israel the Lord your God, the Lord is One.” Then one day Jesus of Nazareth, said that most amazing thing. JOHN 10:30 I and the Father are one.” There was an outcry!
31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
If we think it was easy or obvious for the first Christians to recognise that Jesus was God, remember that Jesus was executed for blasphemy for claiming to be God! “I and the Father are One”, Jesus said. 79 times in John’s Gospel Jesus talks about the relationship between His Father and Himself. And in those sayings Jesus revealed His divine nature in a number of ways.
PERFECT SERVANT OF GOD
TEACHING GOD’S WORDS
Jn8:28 28 I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
Jn12:49 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 … So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Jn14:23 24 …These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
Jn15:15 Everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Jesus brought us God’s teaching. He claimed to speak His Father’s words with His Father’s authority,
But what about the miracles?
DOING GOD’S WORK
Jn5:19 19 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
Jn5:36 36 “The very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.
Jn14:31 31 I love the Father and … I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
According to the gospels, Jesus’s miracles were not done in his own strength, by His own divine power as Son of God. The miracles were the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus. So the miracles are not proof that Jesus was God – and nobody at that time took them as proof that Jesus was God. But the miracles do demonstrate that Jesus had a very special relationship with The Father.
Jesus was the Perfect Servant of God – teaching God’s truth and doing God’s Work. But more than that, Jesus was
UNIQUE REVELATION OF GOD
EXPERIENCE OF GOD
Jn10:. 38 …. the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
Jn8:38 38. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence,
The reason Jesus is able to reveal the Father to us is because of his unique relationship with God – his unique “one-ness.”
Jn8:19 “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
Jn14:7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Jn14:9 9 Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
What Jesus is saying time and again is this. “If you want to know what God is like, look at me!” That claim could be bold, outrageous, arrogant, insane, evil – if it is not true. But with Jesus it IS true! Jesus IS the Song of God who brings salvation to rebellious human beings by revealing God to us.
THE SOURCE OF LIFE
Jesus is“the resurrection and the life,” the source of eternal life – the source of life in all its fulness
Jn6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. …. 44 “No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
“I am the bread of life” – the source of grace and daily strength for all believers.
Jn6:57 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.
Jesus is the unique way to a relationship with the Father – the only way of salvation.
Jn14:6 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.
We share God’s life – because Jesus share’s the Father’s life and we share the life of Jesus.
Jn14:20 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 …. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
The life which we have comes from God THROUGH Christ. The Holy Spirit makes that life real to us – and it is Christ who gives us the Spirit.
Jn15:26 26. “When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
Jn16:15 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
So it is the Holy Spirit who comes and shares Christ’s life with us. All the blessings of Christ’s death and resurrection are brought to us by the Holy Spirit – and it is Christ who gives the Spirit.
So – Jesus is the perfect Servant of God. More than that, from His unique experience of God He brings a unique revelation of God and is the Source of eternal life. He can do this only because He is indeed much more than a man. Jesus is the
UNIQUE SON OF GOD
SENT BY GOD
Jn8:42 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.
Jn20:21 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Jesus of Nazareth the man was fully human. Yet he was also conscious that God had sent him. More than that – Jesus was conscious that He had existed before his earthly life had begun. That He was indeed the Word become flesh!
THE PRE-EXISTENT SON
Jn16:27 27 I came from God. 28. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
Jn17:21 Jesus PRAYED 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
One – just as you are in me and I am in you – a unique closeness to God
Jn17:24 24. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.
Beyond His death and resurrection, Jesus knew he was returning to His Father.
Jn20:17 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, `I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
Jn10:17 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life- only to take it up again. 18 No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
We can see that Jesus is more than a man from this power he had over his own life and death. He was the Son of God – God, the Son, born as a human being for us and our salvation. And all these claims Jesus makes about Himself and His understanding of his own identity are confirmed for Him and for us by God the Father.
GLORIFIED BY GOD
5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me.
Jn8:54 54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.
In Gethsemane Jesus prays Jn17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
So here we see Jesus Christ as HE describes Himself in John’s gospel.
The Perfect Servant of God – teaching God’s words and doing God’s works
The Unique Revelation of God – having a unique experience of God, revealing God, indeed being the source of life itself
The Unique Son of God – sent by God, coming from the Father and returning to the Father, given glory by God Himself.
And at the end of John’s gospel, the apostle Thomas gives us a pattern for the way we should respond to Jesus, God’s own Son.
JOHN 20:26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
The Perfect Servant – the Unique Revelation – The Unique Son of God. Jesus allowed Thomas to worship him – “My Lord and My God!
How CAN Jesus be BOTH God and man? Three questions to stretch our understanding.
1. Could Jesus have used His divine power to overcome the Temple guards when they came to arrest Him?
2. Did Jesus know everything God knows?
3. Was the Divine Word holding the whole universe together at the same time as He was dying on the cross?
How can Jesus be BOTH God and man?
Beware of the “superhero” heresy!
Jesus was God only APPEARING to be a man –
like Superman disguised as Clark Kent, or
a King disguised as a beggar.
1 John and 2 John challenge this heresy of “docetism”.
“This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:2-3)
How can Jesus be BOTH God and man? The clue lies in Philippians chapter 2:6-7
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,being born in human likeness.
Phil 2:6-7 New Revised Standard Version.
he gave up all he had, (Good News Bible)
He laid aside His mighty power and glory
(New Living Translation)
He made Himself nothing (NIV)
1. “DIVINE SUICIDE”
“He EMPTIED HIMSELF” – “Kenosis”
God becomes man and ceases to be God
BUT that is also heresy!
“God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him,” “For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Colossians 1:19, 2:9
2. “DOUBLE LIFE”
God the Son became human and at the same time continued to sustain the universe.
2 sets of relationships in parallel
“The Word” as God with the universe
“Jesus of Nazareth” as a man in the world
Deity “retracted” into humanity – God the Son voluntarily contracted His divine life to the form and dimensions of human existence.
So Jesus did not necessarily know that He was actually God – the King living as a beggar because he had amnesia .
But what about “cosmic chaos”? Who then was sustaining and ruling the universe while Christ was dying on the cross. PT Forsythe – “The resources of the Trinity are adequate”!
How can Jesus be BOTH God and man? Some final thoughts:
“God into man won’t go – and yet has gone!”
“Human logic is not omnicompetent.”
“Our metaphysics is not adequate to cope with the incarnation.”
Deity and humanity are NOT mutually exclusive – “a mathematician AND an englishman” – perhaps they are “orthogonal”.
Circle is intersection of cone with plane – so Christ is intersection of God with humanity.
WE BELIEVE in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
How could Jesus be both God and man? Bow down and worship – for this is your God!