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Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Deity’ Category

The reality of the incarnation is so central to our faith that for two millennia every expression of Christianity that could make any claim to orthodoxy has busied itself articulating and defending and honoring that sublime verity. Nor could there be a more noble or God-honoring busy-ness to which we might give ourselves!  But might it be that in the course of those two thousand years we have become altogether too accustomed  to the notion of the God-man, that we have lost something of the wonder that ought to grip us as we contemplate that reality?  Even as the season especially given to the celebration of the nativity of our Lord passes, it is appropriate to take a moment to consciously contemplate the bottomless mystery intrinsic to that narrative.

 

I wonder whether God has ever set before men any truth that more thoroughly drives then to their knees in humble submission than this: The Word became flesh! How it scandalized the sensibilities of the Jewish generation to whom the man Jesus was initially revealed.  And well it might have.  Throughout her history, Israel was surrounded by pagan peoples who professed belief in whole companies of pretender gods.  Those puny “wanna-be” deities were said to live just outside of town on this or that mountain; they were wickedly and selfishly regarded as gods, but in fact they were nothing more than men-blown-big.  They lusted big and battled big, but in no sense did they transcend the things of this earth.  To the contrary, Yahweh, the God of Israel, had revealed Himself as holy, as transcendent, as ontologically separate from this universe in all of its parts, as the Maker of all that exists outside of Himself.  In short, central to all that the God of Israel revealed concerning Himself is this: Yahweh God is not a man!  And yet here was a man standing before that generation of Israel claiming to be God!  It is almost impossible for men today to appreciate how desperately difficult it must have been to bow the knee to such a claim.  But Jesus did many signs (Ac 2:22), and even given the claim to deity all that Jesus taught was entirely consistent with that which God had revealed in days gone by (Ac 17:11; Isa 8:20).  Thus were men brought to their knees in humble submission to the blessed but unspeakably difficult truth: indeed, the Word has become flesh!

 

But before there was a God-man, there was a God-baby. Here is a helpless child, recently born into ignominy and want, lying in a stone manger. Luke’s staggeringly sublime telling of the story of that birth includes the poignant remembrance that “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:19).  What things she had to ponder!  The visit of an angel with the message that she, a peasant maiden residing in the most despised village in all of the land, would bear the promised Messiah.  The unmistakable recognition of the Baby newly gestating in her womb by another yet unborn child who had been growing for six months in the womb of Mary’s aged cousin, Elizabeth. The experience of giving birth to a child while she was yet a virgin.  The arrival of a company of shepherds to the humble place where the Baby had been born, and the story told by those shepherds of a company of angels who had assured them that they would find that royal Babe resting in an animal’s feeding trough. The young woman could not deny the reality of all that, and yet her soul/spirit staggered at it nonetheless.  And would we not be advantaged to ponder the bottomless wonder of those events, and especially the marvel of the central event of the narrative, the eternal Word made flesh!  Embrace that truth – celebrate it, share it, defend it!  But in all of that, vigilantly guard your spirit so that you never for a moment get used to it.

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Recently a friend posed a question relating to the story of the palsied man lowered through the roof in Capernaum (Mt 9:1-8), and specifically to Jesus’ offer of forgiveness in that pericope.  Basically, the question had to do with the apparent incongruity of a man offering forgiveness.  The question included the suggestion (rejected by the interrogator) that in that act of forgiveness, Jesus acted only in His deity and not in His humanity.  The question broached some issues that I encounter now and again, and which I believe are worthy of clarification.  Thus I have waxed bold to record my response in this place.

 

First, we would all concur that in His incarnation – in taking upon Himself all of the real limitations intrinsic to unfallen humanity – Jesus never surrendered anything of His deity.  Thus, though fully man, the God-Man Jesus was fully God, and thus could (and did) claim for Himself the sublime prerogative of forgiving sins.  Indeed, that is the point of the narrative in Mt 9:1-8.  The record is explicit that it was “…in order that [Jesus’ detractors] might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” that “He said to the sick of palsy, ‘Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!’”  In short, though He was man very man, Jesus knew full well that He was God very God, and thus that even “on earth” He possessed the authority to forgive those who believed.  (continued)

 

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