The Deity and Humanity of Christ in the Gospel of John
Last summer there was a wildfire spreading in the western states with a new subdivision right in its path. Hundreds of firefighters were dispatched to fight the fire, and they used huge tanker planes and helicopters to dump millions of gallons of water on it, but the fire just kept on coming burning everything in its path. To the homeowners amazement, the firefighters actually set a fire to a large patch of brush and trees around their houses. It left a charred and barren area between them and the big fire. They watched as the big fire passed around them. They were safe because there was nothing left to burn in the burned out area. In the same way, the fires of Gods judgment are coming upon a wicked world, but God has provided a safe burned-over place because at Calvary the fire of God’s judgment was met by Jesus. Our sins were burned up by Him. There is nothing left to burn. Jesus died in our place to provide a place of safety. Now the question to you and I is–Are you and I in that burned over place where all our sins are burned up by Christ? Why was it necessary for Jesus Christ to atone for our sins? Ask yourself the loaded question first–Is there anything God can’t do? We think since God is omnipotent He can do anything, but God can’t lie, cheat or steal, and God cannot forgive without justice being done. God was moved out of love to bring about justice through Christ so that we could be forgiven.
The Uniqueness of Christ
Consider the impact that Jesus of Nazareth, a simple carpenter, made on the world. He never wrote a book, He never held political office, He never even owned a home or had his own family, and he never travelled more than 200 miles from home. He never went to college or had any degrees. He never led an army or conquered any territory. He had no credentials that the world respected. He was only 33 when His entire country turned against Him, and His friends ran away. Worst of all, He died a criminal’s death between two thieves, and He was buried in a borrowed grave. Yet for the past 2000 years He has been the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, all put together have not affected the life of mankind as much as Jesus Christ’s one short humble life.
The Gospel of John’s Unique Message
John is unique among the four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke were all written about the same time between 58 and 65 AD to the early churches, but John was written about 30 years later after the churches were more established and mature. The first three Gospels contain a mixture of historical narrative and Jesus’ teachings and works, but 90% of John’s gospel is not found in the other three. Nothing in John contradicts the others, but it adds to them. Writing so much later, John just assumed his audience already knew the stories in the first three. It is likely that various heresies concerning the nature of Christ were beginning to infiltrate the churches at the end of the first century. Some taught that Jesus was not God but just a good man who came like a prophet teaching the Word of God. He had the power of God but the heretics said He was not God. Others said Jesus was a spirit who appeared in the form of a man, but was not human. Therefore John’s purpose in writing was to convince the churches of the true nature of Christ as the incarnate God. Jesus is 100% God and 100% human in the same person. Jesus preexisted the creation as God, and He miraculously entered the creation as the Son of God and the Son of Man. Jesus was God’s agent of creation and spoke the perfect Word of God as He and God the Father are one in essence as Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (Jn.10:30). John’s method of proving the deity of Christ are through the seven signs (miracles), the discourses that followed them, and His I AM THAT I AM statements. In these statements, Jesus used the holy name that God gave Moses and Israel in Exodus 3:14. God told the children of Israel that there were many names that mankind had given God, but the one holy name for Himself that God gave was I AM. This name was unique in that it revealed God’s self existence and eternality. Only God could refer to Himself in this way. God’s name was so holy to Israel that they dared not even say it, so in the Scriptures the consonants YHWH were written but not spoken. Therefore when Jesus used YHWH to refer to Himself, His audience repeatedly flipped out and wanted to stone Him for blasphemy. Clearly they knew Jesus was claiming to be God.
The Titles John Gave Christ
In the history of the church detailed in the book of Acts chapter one through seven, the Apostle John was a co-leader of the Apostles along with Peter as they ministered in Jerusalem. Church history and tradition tells us that John lived in Jerusalem as a leader in the church there up until 60-66 AD. At that time there was a revolt brewing of the Jews against Roman rule so most of the Christians left Jerusalem and scattered around the Mediterranean world. We believe John went to Ephesus, which was in first century Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). In the first century it was a Roman province, but the people were mostly of Greek culture and religion. The Apostle Paul had spent three years in Ephesus planting churches, converting pagans, and teaching the Scriptures. Therefore when John arrived, there was a huge base of Christians in the area for him to disciple and minister to. John wrote the Gospel of John between 85-90 AD to the churches in the area of Ephesus. John’s Gospel deals with the nature and person of Christ and why we must believe in Him.
Chapter one begins, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. As we read through John 1 it is clear that the author is talking about Jesus being “the Word”. In the original Greek in which it was written the word translated “the Word” is the Logos. The church in Ephesus was composed primarily of Greeks with a smattering of Jewish believers. To the Greek mind the Logos is more than just the spoken word, it is the supreme reason and creative force of the universe. To the Jewish mind, the Logos is the word and wisdom of God. Therefore, to both cultures that made up the church the Logos is the revelation of the Creator and the visible representation of God. In John 1:1-5, the Logos preexisted creation and He was the active agent in creating all things. He is pictured as the “light” and the “life”. He is spiritual life and He gives that life to people who receive Him. He is the light that shines in our dark world, and that light reveals both the holiness of God and the depravity of men. The idea of Jesus as the light giving eternal life to the world is presented in John 1:11-18. “His own” who did not receive Him was Israel, but as many individuals who would receive Him “He gave the right to become children of God” when they believe in His name. Those who believe are considered “born of God”. The Logos entered the world to reveal God by taking on the flesh, as John wrote “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory”. In verse 17, the Word is clearly identified as Jesus, and we are told that Jesus brought “grace and truth” to give to all who believe in Him. Then in verse 18, the author gives a summary statement of all that he has been saying, that no one has ever seen God, but Jesus is the visible manifestation of God and Jesus “has explained Him (God)”. The disciples clearly believed in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God from the very beginning of His ministry (1:41, 49), and in John 20:28 they address Him as “Lord and God”. Jesus did not correct them, but accepted these titles thus affirming His claim to be God in the flesh.
The Seven Signs followed by His Discourse
As part of the author John’s presentation of Jesus as God, he details seven signs or miracles that Jesus did that point to His deity. In the Greek they are called simeons or signs that point to the various aspects of the person of Christ as God. Jesus has control over the elements, nature, diseases, and life itself. In Jn.2, He turns water into wine, in Jn.4, He cures the nobleman’s son, in Jn.5 He heals the paralytic, in Jn.6 He feeds the 5000 and walks on the water, in Jn.9 He gives sight to the blind, and in Jn.11 He raises Lazarus from the dead.
After the miracle of turning the water into wine at Cana, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover, and in John 3 a Pharisee who was a member of the Sanhedrin came to Jesus at night to get the answers to all the big questions of meaning, purpose, and eternal life. He probably came at night so his peers wouldn’t know, but he had respect for Jesus calling Him Rabii and saying he knew Jesus was sent by God because of the signs He was doing. Jesus cut right to the chase by telling Nicodemus that to get into the Kingdom of God he needed to be born spiritually. Naturally Nick did not understand the concept since he had always been taught that you were saved by works, obedience, good deeds, etc. Jesus rebuked him in Jn.3:10 for claiming to be a teacher of Israel but not understanding spiritual truth. Jesus’ argument was that He had the spiritual truth because He had come from heaven. Jesus knew “heavenly things” because He came down from heaven, and the truth is that whoever believes in the atoning work of Christ on the cross “may in Him have eternal life” (v.15). What motivated Christ to leave His throne in heaven, where everything is perfect, to come down to a dark fallen world and die on a cross? The explanation is found in what is perhaps the most well known New Testament passage of John 3:16. God was motivated purely by His love–not our obedience, good works, or any other human merit. In order to appropriate God’s love we must believe in Him so as not to perish but to have eternal life. The world has it all wrong when they look at the Gospel negatively as if God is sending people to hell. In v. 17-18, Jesus makes it clear that He came only out of love to save an already alienated people, so if they refuse His love–it’s all on them.
Generally people respect Jesus for His teachings, but they say He was “an example for faith, not the object of faith”; but Jesus claimed to be from heaven in Jn.8:23, “I am from above, you are of this world, I am not of this world”, and in Jn.17:5 Jesus spoke of His own glory as God before the creation. Jesus also claimed all the prerogatives of being God saying in Luke 6:5 that He is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus also said that He had the power to answer prayer (Jn.14:13-14), the right to receive worship as God (Matt.21:16), and the right to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-11). In John 5:17-18, we read that Jesus was claiming authority over the Sabbath and that He was “making Himself equal with God”. In John 5 Jesus had healed a paralytic on the Sabbath and afterward had a lengthy heated discourse with the religious leaders about it. In Jn.5:19-47, Jesus explained that He was in perfect harmony with God the Father. Jesus was jointly working with God and they have a oneness that He described, and in v.21 Jesus even said He has the power and the right to “give life to whom He wishes” and in v.22, Jesus, as God, will judge everyone. Then in Jn.5:23-24, Jesus claimed equal honor with God.
After Jesus did the miracles of feeding the 5000 and walking on the water in John 6, He entered into lengthy discourses about who He is, first with the crowds of people in John 6 and then with the religious leaders in John 7-8. He made many amazing statements like I am the Bread of Life, and I am the Light of the world, and I am the Living Water, but perhaps His most shocking claim was in John 8:56-59. They were arguing over who was a true son of Abraham when Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad…Truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am”. “I am” in the present tense and without a predicate, is the holy name of God that the Jews were forbidden to speak much less use in referring to the self. Consider that Abraham lived and died about 2000 years before Jesus said this, so Jesus was claiming to pre-exist. Jesus did not say I was, but He used God’s timeless name I am. The religious leaders totally understood His claim to deity because they accused Him of blasphemy and picked up stones to stone Him.
Jesus’ I Am That I Am Statements
In Exodus 3:14, Moses asked God what His name was. By this Moses expected a name that identified Him as distinct from all the other pagan gods of Egypt. God replied with His unique name “I AM THAT I AM” that revealed God’s eternality and self existence. This name was unique to the God of Israel. Because of the third command of the Ten Commandments, Jews were forbidden to speak this name so as to take no chance of profaning God’s name. Therefore no Jew would say it except the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ who used it to refer to himself. At least seven times Jesus used it in the Gospel of John with a predicate—I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, I AM the gate of the sheep, I AM the good shepherd, I AM the resurrection and the life, I AM the way the truth and the life, I AM the true vine. Who can say these things but God alone? Even more amazing, Jesus used the I AM statement without a predicate like He did in Jn.8:58 “Before Abraham was, I AM”, and these are called the “absolute statements” (Jn.6:20, 8:24, 28, 58; 18:5). If you or I or any mere mortal said that, our audience would say “you are a what?” It makes no sense without a predicate—unless God says it.