Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Did Jesus Claim to Be God in His Teachings?

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Now obviously Christianity, like Islam, comes in a variety of forms, but what

I'll be discussing this evening is what the writer CS Lewis called

"mere christianity," the common beliefs of all of the broad segments of Christendom,

whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. In particular, I'm going to suggest first

that Jesus of Nazareth regarded himself as the unique, divine Son of God, and

secondly, that his divine self-understanding was vindicated by his

resurrection from the dead. Let's talk first about whether Jesus of Nazareth

regarded himself as God's unique divine son or only as a prophet, as Muslims

claim. I want to examine several sayings of Jesus which are demonstrably

authentic, that is to say, actually uttered by the historical Jesus, and

which disclosed his divine self-understanding. In fact, today the majority

of New Testament scholars believe that among the historically authentic words

of Jesus are claims that reveal his divine self understanding. Jesus' radical

self-concept is disclosed, for example, in his parable of the wicked tenants of the

vineyard in Luke chapter 20. Even skeptical scholars like those in the

radical Jesus Seminar admit the authenticity of this parable. In this

parable, the owner of the vineyard sends servants to the tenants of the vineyard

to collect its fruit. The vineyard symbolizes Israel, the tenants are the

Jewish religious leaders, the servants are the prophets sent by God, and the

owner is God himself. The tenants beat and reject the owner's servants. Finally

the owner says I will send my only beloved son; they will listen to my son.

But instead, the tenants kill the son because he is the heir

to the vineyard. Now what does this parable tell us about Jesus' self-

understanding? It tells us that he thought of himself as God's special son,

distinct from all the prophets, God's final messenger, and even the heir to

Israel.This was no mere Jewish prophet. Jesus' self-concept as God's unique son

comes to explicit expression in Matthew 11:27. Jesus said "All things have been

delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no

one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal

him." Again, there's good reason to regard this as an authentic saying of the

historical Jesus. It's drawn from an old source which is shared by Matthew and

Luke which scholars call the Q document. Moreover it's unlikely that the early

church invented this saying, because it says that the Son is unknowable; no one

knows the son except the Father, but for the post-easter church we can know the

Son, so this saying is not the product of later church theology. But what does this

saying tell us about Jesus' self-concept? It tells us that he thought of himself

as the exclusive and absolute Son of God and the only revelation of God the

Father to mankind. Now think of it; if Jesus wasn't who he claimed to be, then

he was crazier than Jim Jones and David Koresh put together. Finally, I want to

consider one more saying, Jesus' saying on the date of his second coming in Mark

13:32. Jesus said "but of that day or that hour no man knows, not even the angels in

heaven nor the Son, but only the Father." This is an authentic saying of the

historical Jesus because the later church, which regarded Jesus as divine,

would never have invented a saying ascribing ignorance or limited

knowledge to Jesus. But here, Jesus says he doesn't know the date of his return.

But what do we learn from this saying? It not only reveals Jesus'

self-consciousness of being the one Son of God, but it also presents us with an

ascending scale from men, to the angels, to the Son, to the Father, a scale on

which Jesus transcends every human being and even every angelic being. This is

really incredible stuff and yet this is what the historical Jesus believed. And

this is only one facet of Jesus' self-understanding. CS Lewis was right when he

said "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not

be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on the level of a man who

says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the devil of hell; you must make

your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God, or else a madman or

something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him

as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not

come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has

not left that open to us.

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