Note: Beginning today and through Easter, I will be posting on alternating days, offering thoughts and reflections which I hope will challenge and bless you during this special season.
“You have heard that it was said of old…but I say unto you…” (Matthew 5:21)
It was the extraordinary and extravagant claims of Jesus that aroused the anger of the religious leaders of His day. Little has changed, for it is still His deeply disturbing and terribly troubling claims that are so controversial in religious circles, especially in the inter-faith community, where Christ’s claims are totally unacceptable. However, even in Christian circles, among those biblical scholars and historians who are still looking for the real Jesus, the authenticity of many of the personal claims attributed to Jesus in the four gospels of the New Testament is questioned, because they are so exceedingly self-centered rather than self-effacing, and also because such claims are so very disturbing, divisive, and demanding.
The claims of Jesus, as recorded and reported by the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are critically important to those who believe Jesus is the unique and solitary Son of God, who became the Son of Man, the One in whom “…all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”, as the Apostle Paul asserts in his Epistle to the Colossians (1:9). In other words, the One who was not only fully human but also fully God, a basic belief affirmed in the historic creeds and confessions of the Church since Apostolic times.
If one does not truly believe in the uniqueness of Jesus as the “God-Man”, not part man and part God, but fully human and at the same time fully God, the Pre-existent Christ, possessing all the attributes of deity, then it is easy to reject such exclusive claims as these:
- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
- “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes…to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of the Father who sent me…Do not complain among yourselves, for no one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.” (John 6:35, 38, 43-44)
- “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
- “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Well, do you believe this? If not, what are you going to do with such claims? How are you going to account for these and all the other claims of Jesus, where he assumes roles belonging to God alone, equating himself with God—the only One who has the power and authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 7:36-50)—and the One who gives life and who also brings life out of death (John 6:35, 14:1-, 11:25, 15:4-5, and 17:21)?
How can you possibly say you believe in Jesus as “…the Christ (i.e. the Messiah), the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), if you have difficulty believing He made such extraordinary claims? Jesus said He and the Father are one (i.e. one and the same, of the same substance, equal in power and glory). Read John 5:16-24, 10:30, 17:1-5; read also the words of Paul when he proclaims without any apology or uncertainty that the historical Jesus, in His earthly life and ministry, was the visible manifestation of the invisible God (the Epistle to the Colossians, 1:15). In this same passage (vs. 15-20), the greatest of all the apostles and theologians of the Early Church, tells us that Jesus is the Eternal Christ, the agent of God in creation, the One by whom all things in heaven and on earth were created, the One who now “holds it all together” (the “Colossian Force”), the One who was “before all things”, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the Head of the Church, and the One through whom God the Father “was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether in heaven or on earth, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
In His own teaching Jesus never apologized or contradicted Himself, nor did the apostles in their writings and teachings—and neither should any of us in our witness, if we truly believe that all the claims of Christ must be taken seriously—for He is perfect everything for us and “…deserves first place in everything” (Colossians 1:18) in our lives, now and forever.