BLOG: HE BLOWS MY MIND
Last week I wrote about how to make the Bible “come alive,” and how I saw something new when I read the “red letters” (quotes of Jesus) only. This week I’ll pick up the story from there.
As I read through the Gospels, red letters only, I thought I saw something that stood out in the Gospel of John. So I went back through each Gospel again, and confirmed what I saw.
First, consider the structure of the Gospels. There are four of them, each written by a man who had intimate knowledge of the story of Jesus. Matthew and John were in his inner circle. Mark was mentored by Peter, who was one of Jesus’ closest friends. Luke was a colleague of Paul’s (who encountered the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, Acts 9).
Three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are written with a similar structure, telling the story of Jesus in basic narrative fashion. Because these three Gospels tend to see things alike in their structure, they are called the “Synoptic Gospels.” Synoptic comes from Greek and basically means, to “see the same way”). John, though, charges into the story from his own unique angle.
When I was working on my Classics degree at Florida State University, my New Testament Greek class read through the book of John in Greek. I was struck by the fact that John is a paradox—his Greek is the simplest in the NT, but his themes are profound. So whereas Matthew started his Gospel by saying, “Here’s the lineage of Jesus, and here’s how He was born,” John starts his by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and was God.” BOOM! John starts with a major, deep concept!
John says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14). He makes it clear that Jesus was/is God. Later in the book (John 8:58), he quotes Jesus making a cryptic statement that almost gets Himself killed: “Before Abraham was born, I am.” The crowd wanted to stone Jesus. Why? Because He used bad grammar? (Talk about Grammar Nazis!) No! Because they knew He was referring to the burning bush story in Exodus 3, when God said to Moses, “I AM that I AM.” Jesus was claiming to be God.
The Deity of Christ has been clung to as orthodox doctrine for two thousand years. The Catholic Church (ancient and modern) has always held to it, tightly. The Orthodox Church does, and so does the orthodox Protestant world. In the earlier years of the church, our brothers and sisters were gladly willing to give their lives for this doctrine. No one fully understands it (how could a mortal man totally grasp it?), but people will die for it.
Your church may (if you’re lucky) recite one of the ancient creeds on Sunday morning. Why were those creeds written? Because the believers were being martyred for what they believed. An ancient believer wrestled with a vital question: What points of theology am I willing to die for? If it’s in the creed, it’s so important that it is something they would risk their lives for. You can see that they had to figure out what they really believed.
They gave their lives for the Deity of Christ. Would we do the same?
We Christians say that we believe in the Trinity, three Persons with divine essence (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). You’ll rarely hear this from the pulpit, but we believe in what is called the Hypostatic Union, which claims that Jesus is 100% deity and 100% humanity, united in one Person forever. Jesus is the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, fully human (yet without sin), and fully divine.
In my observation, most of us will talk about the Trinity but not think much about what that really means. For example, if Jesus is a Member of the Trinity, He is God. Paul says in Colossians 1 that Jesus:
Made peace by the blood of his cross (His sacrificial death for mankind)
Was the One through Whom God reconciled the universe and sinful man
Is the head of the body (the Universal Church of all time)
Is the image of the invisible God
Is the firstborn of all creation
AND, GET THIS:
He created all things, visible and invisible, on heaven and earth
Is before all things
Holds all things (in the universe) together!
He’s more than mere man. Ponder that when you look at your Nativity Scene.
My mind is blown. This is orthodoxy. I don’t understand all of it, but I think I’m willing to give my life for it.
Why get into all of this? Because, with all of His greatness, this King of the Universe still submitted Himself to someone. How? To whom? That’s what I want to get into next. Of all four Gospel writers, John is the one who pulls the lid off this vital topic.
The attached image is what some scientists think Jesus looked like, based on forensic research. If it’s accurate… mind blown.