Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Was Jesus God in Human Form? Responding to Rick Gedeon

The deity of Jesus, or the doctrine of Jesus being God in human form, is at the very core of the Biblical worldview.  Jesus specifically claimed and taught that he was the 2nd member of the Trinity (see The Trinity: Biblical or Unbiblical?).  Naturally, there are people who claim that Jesus never claimed to be God; that's to be expected.  What's really sad though is that there are people who call themselves followers of Jesus who claim that Jesus never once proclaimed to be God.

One such person is Rick Gedeon, the pastor/head of the John 5: 44 and 10:36: Jesus never claimed to be God!, Rick tried to prove that Jesus never claimed to be God by looking at John 5:44 and John 10:36, and the verses that immediately preceded each one.  He would quote those verses to show that the Jews thought that Jesus was making a claim to deity, and that Jesus was supposedly correcting their incorrect interpretation of his statements.  We are going to analyze why the claims made by Gedeon are not true, and I am going to present different occasions where Jesus himself made claims to be God in various ways.

Responding To John 5:44

Returning to what pastor Gedeon said, let's take a look at his "evidence" that Jesus denied being God.  Let's read John 5:44 in context so that we can see what exactly Jesus said:

John 5:41-44"I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.  I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.  How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

According to Gedeon, when Jesus said in verse 44 that the Jews didn't seek the glory that comes from the only God, he was supposedly correcting the Jewish leaders' faulty understanding of what Jesus said in John 5:17.  Let's read what Gedeon is talking about:

John 5:16-18:  "So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.  In his defense Jesus said to them, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.'  For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

According to Gedeon, when Jesus called God his father in verse 17, the Jewish leaders incorrectly understood that Jesus was making himself equal with God (which would make him God), and Jesus was simply correcting their understanding at the end of verse 44 by stating that there is only one God.

Looking at verses 41-44 of John 5, I already see a claim Jesus made that proves that he is God:  Notice in verses 41-42 how Jesus told his Jewish listeners that he knew them and that they did not have the love of God in their hearts.  The question we should be asking is, how could Jesus possibly know the hearts of his listeners so well that he knows that they have no love for God if he was not God? Wouldn't he have to be able to see into their hearts like John 2 says he could?

John 2:23-25:  "Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.  But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.  He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person."

As we can see from this passage in John 2, Jesus in his first coming knew what was in each person, and that's why he knew all people.  This is why in John 5 it was perfectly logical for Jesus to say to the Jewish leaders that he knew them, and that he knew that they had no love of God in their hearts.  How does this prove that Jesus was claiming to be God?  King Solomon said the following in 1 Kings 8 as part of a prayer of dedication directed to God in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel:

1 Kings 8:37-40:  "When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart), so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors."

According to what God told Solomon in 1 Kings 3:12 and what 1 Kings 4:29-34 says, King Solomon was the wisest man who has ever lived and will ever live, and it is this King Solomon who says that only God knows every human heart.  Let's see what the Psalmist had to say:

Psalm 44:20-22:  "If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?  Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

So according to verse 21 in Psalm 44, God knows the secrets of the heart, which is something that no human being can ever know.  Jeremiah provides us with some interesting information:

Jeremiah 17:10:  "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

According to the prophet Jeremiah, God searches the hearts and examines the minds of all people, and rewards each person according to what they deserve.

So let's put all this together in reverse order:  According to 1 Kings 8:37-40, Psalm 44:20-22, and Jeremiah 17:10, God searches the heart and examines the mind, he can see the secrets of the heart, and God is the only one who knows every human heart.  Since Jesus claimed to know that the Jewish leaders he was talking to had no love of God in their hearts, and John 2:23-25 states that Jesus knows all people and what is in each person, it it quite clear that Jesus is making a claim to be God in the exact passage that Gedeon is trying to use to show that Jesus never claimed to be God.  

Response to John 10:36

Much like John 5:44, Gedeon only looks at the verses immediately before his proof verse to make it seem like Jesus was refuting their incorrect understanding of his statements.  Let's look at the entire context so we can see where Gedeon's error is:

John 5:22-39:  "Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.  The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, 'How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.'

Jesus answered, 'I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.'

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?'

'We are not stoning you for any good work,' they replied, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'

Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your Law, "I have said you are 'gods'"?  If he called them "gods," to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?  Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, "I am God’s Son"?  Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.'  Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp."

Now that we know what the entire context for this verse is, let's look at Gedeon's argument:  Gedeon asserts that in response to what Jesus said in verses 25-30, the Jews picked up stones to stone Jesus because they understood that he was claiming to be God (verses 31-33).  According to Gedeon, what Jesus said in verses 34-36 was a correction of the Jew's incorrect understanding that Jesus was claiming to be God.  There are problems with this argument, naturally.

First off, Gedeon conveniently ignores the rest of Jesus' quote that appears in verses 37-39, where Jesus essentially says that they should believe his claim to be God on the basis of evidence before he claims yet again to be one with the father, causing the Jews to try to stone him yet again.  If Jesus was supposedly trying to communicate to them that he is not God, then why would he right away speak in such a way that they understood that he was claiming to be God in human form?  That seems awfully deceptive if it were true.

Fortunately for us, there is one instance in the gospels where Jesus performed a miracle specifically to support his claim to be God in human form.  If you've read chapter 6 of Another Inconvenient Truth, or if you've read my old blog post Faith in Jesus: Blind or Evidence-based?, then you know that I am referring to Mark 2:

Mark 2:1-12:  "A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.  They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.  Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk"?  But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' So he said to the man,  'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.'  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'”

Notice how in verses 6-7, when Jesus told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven, the teachers of the law understood that Jesus was making a direct claim to deity.  How they come to this understanding?  They probably had Isaiah 43 in mind:

Isaiah 43:25:  "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."

If you know the context of Isaiah 43, then you know that verses 14-28 are the words that God wanted Isaiah to tell to the people of Israel.  What you will also notice is that the context around verse 25 doesn't change the meaning of verse 25 when it's taken out of context.  What does this mean?  It means that in Isaiah 43:25, God is claiming to be the one who forgives our sins, and by implication, God is the ONLY one who forgives sins.  The teachers of the law understood it that way, and since they rejected Jesus, they viewed Jesus' forgiving the man's sins as a blasphemous claim.  
Notice how in verse 8 of Mark 2, it says that Jesus knew they were thinking this in their heart; doesn't that sound familiar?  It should, because as we saw when I dissected John 5:36, it is once again stated that Jesus knows what is in the hearts of his listeners, an ability that only God has.

Also notice how Jesus responds to their accusation.  Jesus tells them that he wants them to know that he has the authority to forgive sins (which only God has the authority to forgive sins), and then he performs the miracle of healing a paralyzed man. 

In short, when we look at the immediate context of John 10:36, we find that Jesus was telling them that he was God, and that they should believe his claim to be God in human form on the basis of the evidence, evidence like what we see in Mark 2:1-12.  


So, after looking at Gedeon's supposed evidence from the gospels that Jesus denied being God in human form, it turned out that Jesus was claiming to be God in the very context that Gedeon was pulling his verses from.  These kind of arguments are what you would expect from Muslims and Muslim apologists, not someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus.  By denying that Jesus claimed to be God, pastor Gedeon has identified himself as a heretic. 

Aside from showing that the context around Gedeon's proof verses has Jesus saying and doing things only God can do or say, there are other passages in the Gospels where Jesus makes a claim to deity.  For example, we read the following in Matthew 21:

Matthew 21:14-17:  "The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they were indignant.

'Do you hear what these children are saying?' they asked him.

'Yes,' replied Jesus, 'have you never read, "From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise"?'

And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night."

As we can see, the children at the temple were worshiping Jesus, and the religious leaders were upset by that.  They wanted Jesus to stop, but Jesus referred to Psalm 8 to justify allowing the children to worship him.  In Psalm 8, children are praising God, and yet Jesus refers to that psalm to justify allowing children to worship him!  It's almost like Jesus considered himself to be God.  

We find another instance of Jesus making a claim to be God in Matthew 11:

Matthew 11:27:  "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

What a claim by Jesus!  Jesus claims that not only is he so incomprehensible that it takes God the father to fully understand and comprehend him, but that he is the only one who can fully understand and comprehend God the father, and that he can choose who he wants to reveal God the father to.  It almost sounds like Jesus was making himself equal with God, which is the very thing Jesus was doing in John 5:16-18.  

In response to the question, "Did Jesus ever claim to be God?", the answer is a resounding yes.  He claimed to be able to see into everyone's heart (John 5:41-44, John 2:23-25), which something that only God can do.  Jesus claimed that people should believe his claims to be God on the basis of the evidence (John 10:22-39), evidence such as when he performed a miracle to prove to the teachers of the law that he had the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12), which is something only God can do (Isaiah 43:25).  Jesus referred to a psalm where children are worshiping God (Psalm 8) to justify allowing children to worship him (Matthew 21:14-17).  Finally, Jesus claimed that he was so incomprehensible that only God the father could fully comprehend him, and likewise that he was the only one who could fully comprehend God the father, making himself equal with God (Matthew 11:27).