October 12, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Jesus does not leave room for compromise about his identity. One cannot seriously maintain that Jesus was a great man, perhaps even a wonder worker, but something less than divine. The New Testament will not allow it.

It claims, "The Father and I are one" (John 10.30); "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14.9); "In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Colossians 1.19).

Either Jesus is the Son, as he claimed, who is in such an intimate relationship with the Father as to be one with him or he was a mad man, driven by psychotic delusions of his own divinity.

If the latter is the case, those who follow Jesus' example and teachings are horribly mistaken.

However, if the former is true - if Jesus really is who he claimed to be - then we are compelled to draw as close to him as possible. To believe Jesus is God and to accept some of his teachings and ignore others is to act out of the most profound arrogance. It is to set oneself above God.

These articles discuss Jesus Christ as the life of the world. However, before we can do that, we need to be as clear as possible about the nature of Jesus' life. If Jesus is a mere creature then he brings the same sort of life as you or me to the world. If Jesus is divine, but only appears to be human, it is unclear how people can share in his life.

However, if Jesus is fully human and fully divine - as the Church says he is - then his incarnation has breathtaking implications for humanity.

Why believe Jesus is God? Although Jesus claimed to be divine, this claim has struck untold numbers of intelligent, rational and even pious people as absurd.

Jesus was born like any other person, experienced human emotions and suffering, ate and slept, and was ultimately executed in a humiliating way. His mission appeared to be a complete failure. Surely, the claim that such a person is divine is ridiculous.

Yet, one should not be so certain of knowing what is possible and not possible for God, the eternal, all-powerful source of everything that exists. As Joseph Ratzinger once wrote, "God is not the prisoner of his own eternity, not limited to the solely spiritual."

Jesus told the apostle Phillip at the Last Supper, 'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father' (John 14.9).

Jesus told the apostle Phillip at the Last Supper, 'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father' (John 14.9).

If God chose to become human in the humblest of circumstances and to suffer abuse from the mighty, no power could prevent that. The angel rightly told Mary, "Nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1.37).

JESUS' CLAIM

The greatest testimony to Christ's divinity is his claiming it and the disciples believing it. A man or woman can believe all sorts of absurdity, but when that person remains true to their belief by accepting torture and execution, one at least ought to sit up and take notice.

True, the claim may be fraudulent. But follow the money. What earthly gain did Jesus' disciples receive by proclaiming his divinity? Ridicule, exclusion from their religious community, poverty, suffering and eventual martyrdom.

No creature comforts came to them because of their belief. Nor, by any account, were they forcibly compelled to believe in Jesus' divinity as would the members of a cult.

PERSONAL COST

Clearly, the disciples clung to an unpopular belief freely and at great personal cost. Moreover, they went to their deaths, not reluctantly, but with great joy, singing hymns and awed that they had been found worthy to share in Christ's act of redemption.

Yet, the first disciples came to that faith after they had abandoned Jesus at his crucifixion and, at first, refused to believe in his resurrection. They had witnessed Jesus' power and authority during his public ministry, but his suffering and death destroyed their human belief in him.

If Jesus was divine, God had been killed. Yet, no one has the power to destroy God. This appears to be an insoluble dilemma.

SUPERNATURAL FAITH

However, at the "Pentecost" recounted in John's Gospel, the apostles received a supernatural faith. Jesus breathed on them, said "Receive the Holy Spirit" and gave the apostles the divine power to forgive sins (20.22-23).

Here is the core of the dogma of the Trinity. The death of a divine Jesus did not mean the destruction of God; the one God is three persons, and the third person is now sent to live in the apostles.

Further, the belief in Christ's divinity is reasonable because the Jesus movement did not evaporate with the deaths of those who knew Jesus personally. Just the opposite. The movement spread rapidly through an empire that at times tortured its adherents.

DIVINE SPIRIT

One can only conclude that these persecuted followers of Christ saw great and profound truth in Jesus and his teachings. A divine Spirit enabled the disciples to see truth, gave them courage and nurtured the growth of the mustard seed Church. This Spirit could only have given life to the mustard seed if its origins were in God.

Arguments against the truth of Christianity have been advanced. All are based on bias, and none are reasonable. This series of articles will not, however, refute those arguments, but will stick to the theme that Jesus Christ is the life of the world. It aims to feed the faith of readers of this newspaper, people who already have a living faith.