Monday, May 10, 2004

Opening my Bible

I find it interesting how many people have Bibles in their homes, and yet they hardly ever read them. Families seems to keep them around like an antique decoration, something to display next to the Victrola, or the picture of dear old grandma and grandpa. And yet the very book that sits ignored in almost every American home is probably the most influential, far-reaching, life-changing book in human history. I was amazed at what I learned when I began actually reading my Bible several years ago.

Do you realize Jesus actually claimed to be God?

In John, 10:22-30, there was a feast in Jerusalem, and Jesus went. Many people were in the temple area when Jesus was there, too. The people who listened to Jesus and watched his miracles finally said to him "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ (or Messiah, the long awaited savior the Jews had been waiting for) then tell us plainly."(v24)

Jesus tells them in v25, "I did tell you! You don't believe what you've seen. All the miracles I've done in my Father's name, they speak for me, but you don't believe because you are not my sheep." See, Jesus knew these people in the temple were not looking a spiritual savior. The wanted "The Christ" that would reclaim for Israel it's lost lands, prestige, and power. They wanted an earth-bound leader that would lead them back to their former military and social might. But that's not what Jesus was.

Jesus had been talking earlier about how he is The Good Shepard, the one that watches out for his sheep, and will give his very life to save even one. Now, in v27, Jesus tells these people in the temple with him, "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me." See, these people didn't want to believe. They wanted something different. They were looking for another type of fulfillment. To be honest, they probably didn't understand in the least what Jesus was offering. So Jesus tells them.

V28 "I give them (my sheep) eternal life, and they shall never perish: no one can snatch them out of my hand." Now the people in the temple were beginning to get a little worried. See, only God can grant eternal life. In the Jewish culture, this claim was no mere exaggeration. It was truly blasphemous. Horrifying to the learned Jews of the day. No mere man can grant anyone longer life. Only God himself can do that, and yes Jesus was claiming that he could.

V29, Jesus goes on, "for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from me." Now, this seems a little confusing to many people, because Jesus, if he is God, is saying his Father is more powerful. People ask, how can Jesus be God if his Father is greater? This brings into play the dual nature of Jesus. He is God, but he is also, at the same time, a man. Jesus often weaves both perspectives into his speech. Here, he speaks both of being God (granting his sheep eternal life), and his humanity (acknowledging that nothing is greater than God Almighty). There is no contradiction, just two different frames of reference from which Jesus spoke.

And now, the kicker. V30, Jesus says "I and the Father are one." Pretty plain speech, in my opinion. Jesus couldn't make the claim any clearer. He claims to be one with the Father. Make no mistake, in Jewish culture, he was making clear, absolute reference to God Almighty. Jehovah. And its clear the Jewish people in the temple knew what Jesus was referring to, because they got angry and wanted to stone him! (v31).

So Jesus asks the people that were bent on killing him, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these miracles and good deeds do you stone me?" The people replied that they were going to stone him, not for the miracles, but "for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

I've heard people argue that Jesus didn't really claim to be God. After all, he'd have to be a nut to claim to be God, right? But the Jewish people here clearly heard his claim, and were angered by it. No doubt at all about what Jesus was saying.

I don't believe Jesus was a nut. I believe in him as the one promised from long, long ago, that would take away the sins of the world.

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