4th Sunday in Lent, 03/11/2018
“Fully Divine AND Fully Human?”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Today is the Fourth Sunday of the Season we call Lent – a season of recognizing our own sin-nature, reflecting on what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ, rendering our faith and our lives more deeply into God’s power and presence.
We are journeying through this season with a sermon series wherein we ask some of the important questions of faith – and see where Scripture might lead us in our search for reasonable answers.
So far we have explored the questions of God’s existence, whether the Bible truly is God’s Word, and if our belief that God cares has any merit – and while we probably cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt any of these questions, we came to realize that the Christian faith system is the most logical and philosophy for life.
So, as believers in this Trinitarian God’s existence, today we ask how Jesus could be FULLY God AND FULLY human.
The new Marvel Blockbuster film that just came out, Black Panther, is one of those super-hero stories that is told so cinematographically beautiful that the audience easily slips into forgetting that it’s just a story, nothing truly real about (except maybe a life lesson about sharing our resources with those in need around us). But, as is true in all sci-fi fantasy, it’s not truly real. There is no African country called Wakanda; and there is no super-element called Vibranium that holds the potential of all the power in the universe!
So, of course it’s OK when the Wakanda people think of their King as a demigod, half-deity/half-human. It’s make-believe.
In two weeks another movie opens that is based on a real person: Paul: Apostle of Christ. This movie tells the story of the New Testament era church-starter, letter-writer, and ultimate promoter of the Christian faith. But, because of miracles and new-fangled medicinal treatment, Paul’s friend and biographer, Luke, is hailed as a half-god human. Of course this is fully denied. In Acts 14:12 the people credit Barnabas as being the Greek god Zeus and Paul as being the Greek god Hermes. Again, this is fully denied by both Paul and his buddy Barney.
But what about Jesus? Is Jesus like Hercules? Hercules was considered the son of Zeus (god) and Alcmene (human), and therefore a demigod, half of each. Of course, this, too, is mere folk-lore in the annals of Greek mythology.
But what about Jesus – according to Matthew and Luke, the Gospel writers, Yahweh God and the virgin Mary had a baby named Jesus: half-God and half-human? You see why this is a real question in theological history?
Well, if the Bible is believable at all, it offers and answer.
The writings of Jesus’ Disciples, those who knew Him best, and who lived and died because of their belief in whom He was! In fact, even in the recorded words of Jesus Himself, we read where He calls Himself more than mere demigod, but FULLY God incarnate, fully human.
In the earliest written account of Jesus, the Gospel according to Mark, at Jesus’ trial, 14:61-64, the High Priest asks Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus answers straight forward: “I Am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Now, it might be easy for you and me to miss some of the significance of this dialog, but His 1st Century hearers (and Gospel readers) did not. The question, about “Christ” and “Son of the Blessed” are Old Testament code words that point directly to God Himself. And Jesus’ answer refers to two Old Testament scripture passages, AND to the name of God Himself, YHWH! He undeniably called Himself FULLY God and FULLY human. We know that the High Priest understood His answer by the way he responded: “The High Priest tore his garments and said, ‘What further witness do we need? You heard His blasphemy!” And the whole Sanhedrin understood what Jesus meant when they condemned Jesus as deserving of death.
In the Gospel of John, after healing a man on the Sabbath, a Law that the Jews considered a mortal sin to break, Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Am working. (John 5:17)” The next verse says that this is why the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus – He broke the Law AND He claimed to be equal with God, again invoking God’s holy name as His own!
Why do the Gospels say the people wanted to kill Jesus? Not just for being confused or arrogant, but because He claimed to be Divine, blasphemy, and the legal, just, punishment for that was execution!
And it’s true that Jesus continually articulated His harmony with His Father in heaven Can anyone think of an example of that from the Scriptures? Can you think of a way Jesus was identified as God? [Baptism “This is my Son”; at 12 years old “I was about my Father’s business”; “the Father and I are one” etc.]
Today’s Bible passage is from the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is barely even introduced yet, and we read these words, John 1:29-34 …. —-
“29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’
32 Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’”
“Lamb of God” is a sacrificial reference, right? But this Lamb of God is the same One whom we were introduced 28 verses earlier as “the Word [who] was with God and the Word [who] was God!” Sacrificial lambs are offered for the forgiveness of sins. But John says that this Sacrificial Lamb of God takes away EVERY SIN, the sin of the WORLD!
And this Sacrificial Lamb which can only be divine because of what He does – who else can forgive sins? – John gives the testimony that the Holy Spirit – divine, FULLY God – the Holy Spirit comes on Jesus, and Jesus will “baptize with the Holy Spirit”, “God’s chosen One”.
And so, those who know Him best, His Disciples, those original followers were very bold and definite in their proclamation of things like: “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13:2, II Peter 1:1)”; “the Lord of glory (I Corinthians 2:8)”; “one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things (I Cor 8:6)”. This is exalted language.
Not demigod or semi-god, or hemi-god (that was for you big pickup guys) – Jesus is fully God!
Truly, in Jesus, the Creator has entered into His own Creation, and we cannot hide from His claims on us! We cannot be neutral about who Jesus is. Either we believe Him – or we reject Him!
In the Fourth Century the Church was dealing with some who denied that Jesus was really human, and so His death and resurrection were not real (gods cannot literally die, so Jesus merely appeared to die). Others who claimed Jesus was only human, and not God (yeah he died, but all humans die, so, so what?).
Using what the Bible says about who Jesus is the Church held a Council (actually a number of Church Councils – like General Assembly Meetings) to figure out what the Scriptures teach about Jesus.
Turn with me to No. 15 in your hymnbooks, and read with me the words of the Nicene Creed. Notice how much more is about Jesus than about God the Father or God the Holy Spirit:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen. [What has God created? – absolutely everything!] [That’s all there is about God the Father – now we come to Jesus!]
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father [That means from before time began!], Light of Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through Him all things were made; [What did you see there about who Jesus is?]
For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became truly human. [Did you hear that? The early Church, our faith-mother, has told us from the beginning that Jesus is FULLY God AND Fully human!]
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. [What did you see there about who Jesus is?]
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, [the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son – that was actually added 200 years later, and 400 years later caused the first major split in the Church (West and East) – not over the divinity of the Son, but over the Person of the Holy Spirit! But what does that say about the Son?]
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, [What did you see there about who Jesus is?]
who has spoken through the prophets. [And that’s all there is about the Holy Spirit. Next comes belief about the Church:]
We believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
I want to close this today by asking what YOU see, or what YOU wonder about, the full humanity and the full divinity of Jesus from this Creed. Any insights or questions?
Ultimately, this is a question of faith – but it is a faith that nothing has yet been able to defeat. And when we submit to His full divinity AND His full humanity, even in the midst of doubts and wonderings, we hear Him call to everyone, we hear Him call to us personally, to repent, believe, and bow our knee before Him. He is truly worthy of all our praise. And we give glory to God!
As we move toward the cross of Good Friday, never forget that we also move toward that empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday. Amen.
White, James R..; “Is Jesus Really God?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 14-15.