The DaVinci Inquest part 2
Jesus: God, Man, or God-Man?
(Would the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?)
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 21, 2006

 

Main Passage: Hebrews 13:1-9 (NLT)

 

Some movies you just can’t wait to see. It was like that for me with all the Star Wars movies… The Lord of the Rings series… The Passion of the Christ… Spider-Man… Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade… Gladiator… The Fugitive… Air Force One… any Star Trek movie… of course, after the last one, I can wait now.

And just to whet your whistle, here are a few more you can look forward to…

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – Summer 2008
Indiana Jones 4 – 2007
Spider-Man 3 – May 4, 2007
Superman Returns – June 30, 2006
Casino Royale – Nov. 17, 2006
Rocky Balboa (VI) – Dec. 22, 2006
Ocean’s 13 – June 8, 2007
Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties – June 16, 2006
Bean II – March 23, 2007
And, of course, there’s no need to fear, “Underdog” is here on August 3, 2007

So those are just a few you have to look forward to. But many people have looked forward to this weekend in particular. Because it was this past Friday, two days ago, that The DaVinci Code roared into theatres.

Most of you know about the success of the book. We’ve been talking about it here for a couple weeks now. About 50 million copies of the book have now been sold, and with a number of people sharing their books, it’s been estimated that 100 million people or more have read it. I checked at the libraries on PEI, and right now they have 26 copies, they’re all out, and there are 93 people already on the waiting list. And it’s basically been like that for the past few years. So it was no surprise that on Friday, ___ raced out to see it in the theatre.

Now, if you’ve read it, if you’ve seen it, or if you were here last week… or if you’ve read the newspaper or watched TV at all in the last few years… you know that The Da Vinci Code contains a lot of claims that attack the very core of Christianity and the Church. And it’s left a lot of people asking questions:
 

  • Was the Bible made up and put together by men motivated for political power?

  • Was Jesus considered to be just a man until 300 years after his crucifixion, when the Roman emperor Constantine declared him divine?

  • Did Jesus get married and did he have a child?

  • Has the church been involved in a massive cover-up for the past 1700 years?
     

Maybe you’ve been asked those questions; maybe you’re asking them yourself. If you are, then I want you to know this is a safe place to be today. A lot of people are seeking answers, and here at Sunrise we’re going to do our best to provide them. So you can listen… you can weigh the evidence… and you can make up your own mind. And we’re glad you’re here to do that.

Last week, in case you weren’t here, we talked about the opening claim of the book… found on the very first page… the claim that the book is based on historical fact and on the documents of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion founded in 1099. Well, we saw how the whole Priory of Sion was a hoax… it didn’t really exist until 1956. And we saw how the documents were forgeries by a guy by the name of Pierre Plantard. Plantard had created those documents to trace the royal bloodline of Jesus through a series of French kings all the way down to Plantard himself, thus showing that he was the real king of France. And then he hid those forged documents in the Bibliothčque Nationale where they were “discovered” in 1975. The DaVinci Code tells us about that discovery, but it fails to mention that Plantard admitted in court in 1993 that he made the whole thing up as a hoax.

And we looked at some of the other inconsistencies and inaccuracies of The DaVinci Code. The book claims to be accurate, but there are literally hundreds of inaccuracies in the book… some little, some huge. And for a book that makes some very bold claims, it has very few actual facts to support it.

That’s what we talked about last week. Next week… and you’re going to want to be here for this… we’re going to talk about what’s known as the Gnostic Gospels. Just over the last couple months in the news you probably heard about one of them… The Gospel of Judas. Why were these texts left out of the Bible? What about the Dead Sea Scrolls? How do we know our Bible is reliable? Good questions with some good answers. So that’s next week.

In two weeks, we’ll talk about the real Mary Magdalene. What was here relationship with Jesus? The DaVinci Code says they were married. Were they? Could she be the Holy Grail? What was here role in the early church?

And then the week after that, we’re going to talk about sex. I’ve never given a sex-talk before, so here’s my chance. Come watch me squirm. Actually, if you’re familiar with The DaVinci Code, you know it makes some rather… interesting… claims about God and sexuality and the rituals of the early church. So we’re going to talk about that, the role of women in the Church, and some of the ways in which women have been oppressed by the church through the centuries.

And then on June 18, we’re going to wrap it all up with a talk about truth. How can I know the real truth? How do I guard myself from believing lies?

So that’s where we’re at and where we’re going. This morning, we’re focusing in on Jesus. The DaVinci Code has a lot to say about Jesus, and most of it is capsulated in chapter 55 of the book where it makes some pretty outrageous claims. This past Friday morning, on the day the movie was being released, I drove to the Empire Theatres and I sat in my car in the parking lot, and I re-read this chapter and I prayed. Because this chapter, more than any other part of the book, has the potential to confuse people, turn them away from the real Jesus, and become disillusioned with the Church and Christianity.

In this chapter, Sir Leigh Teabing, a supposed scholar, is explaining to the female lead Sophie about the history of the Holy Grail and about Christianity and our Bible. Let me read some of what he tells her…
 

“The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book…
“Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen… Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land… More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them…
“The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great.”…
“At this gathering,” Teabing said, “many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted
upon— the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of
course, the divinity of Jesus.”
“I don’t follow. His divinity?”
“My dear,” Teabing declared, “until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His
followers as a mortal prophet... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.”
“Not the Son of God?”
“Right,” Teabing said. “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and
voted on by the Council of Nicaea.”
“Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?”
“A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing added…
I’ve written several books on the topic.”
“And I assume devout Christians send you hate mail on a daily basis?”
“Why would they?” Teabing countered. “The vast majority of educated Christians know the
history of their faith. Jesus was indeed a great and powerful man. Constantine’s underhanded
political maneuvers don’t diminish the majesty of Christ’s life. Nobody is saying Christ was a
fraud, or denying that He walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives. All we are saying
is that Constantine took advantage of Christ’s substantial influence and importance. And in doing so, he shaped the face of Christianity as we know it today.
“What I mean… is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”
~ Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code (selected passages from the softcover edition, pp. 250-254)
 

Let me tell you something right here… this claim that Jesus was just a mere mortal who was declared to be God by Constantine is the single most important issue that The DaVinci Code raises. Most people are fixated on whether or not Jesus was married. I’m actually not so concerned about that—I mean, marriage is a good thing, and my faith isn’t based on whether Jesus was married or single. But we will talk about that in a couple weeks when we talk about Mary Magdalene. But this claim that Jesus was just a mortal prophet is as serious as it gets. And then the second greatest issue has to do with the formation of the Bible, and you just heard some of what Dan Brown claims about that. We’ll deal with that next week. But this issue of who He really was… and who He really is… is pivotal.

 

Was Jesus a Man?

Was he just a man? Well, Dan Brown isn’t the first person to say something like this about Jesus. He is the first person, as far as I know to say that it was Constantine who declared Jesus to be God. That’s a rather bizarre twist with absolutely no support. But he’s not the first person to say that Jesus was just a mortal man. And there have been millions of people who would say that same exact thing. Ask people on the street who they think Jesus was, and you’ll get a variety of answers…
 

  • He was a good man

  • He was a great teacher long ago

  • He was a moral leader

  • He was a humble philosopher

  • He was the Son of God
     

Now, as we’ll see next week, the Bible is our most reliable record of who Jesus was. And if you read through the New Testament, you’ll discover that it does teach that Jesus was fully human. And he experienced everything that humans experience. In your notes, you’ll see a list of some of the things that Jesus experienced along with verses to illustrate that. You can read through the verses on your own…

Jesus experienced:

Fatigue
John 4:6 (NLT) Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.

Thirst
John 4:7 (NLT) Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”

Anger
John 2:14-15 (NLT) In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; and he saw money changers behind their counters. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple.

Limited Knowledge
Matthew 24:36 (NLT) “However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

Temptation
Luke 4:1-2a (NLT) He was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness, where the Devil tempted him for forty days.

Hunger
Luke 4:2b (NLT) He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry.

Sadness
John 11:35 (NLT) Then Jesus wept.

Humanity
John 1:14 (NLT) So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us.

So was Jesus a man? Yeah, Jesus was a man. He was fully man… and he experienced all of life. He was born, he grew up, he learned a trade, He had his heart broken, he was loved by some, rejected by others, and he endured an extremely painful execution on a Roman-style cross.

Actually, it’s ironic that Dan Brown uses the Gnostic Gospels to support his claim that Jesus was only human. Because it’s the Gospels in our Bibles that do portray Jesus as being human; on the other hand, the Gnostic Gospels often portray Him as super-divine. Which makes sense, because a core teaching of the Gnostics was that anything spiritual is good; anything material, such as a human body, is evil.

So was Jesus a man? 100%

 

Was Jesus Divine?

So Dan Brown is right to say that Jesus Christ was fully man. But he’s wrong to say that He was only man. Because even though he was 100% man, He was also 100% God.

And yes, I know that boggles the mind. It’s hard to comprehend. How can He be God and Man at the same time? But that’s exactly what He claimed to be. And that’s exactly what His followers understood Him to be. And even though Dan Brown claims that Constantine created the divinity of Jesus, the truth is that the New Testament already made that case. And remember, the entire New Testament was written about 250 years (plus/minus 25 years) before Constantine and the Council of Nicaea. Let me show you what the New Testament says about Jesus…

The Gospel of John… written between AD 65 and AD 90 according to most scholars… conservative and liberal… Starts out with these verses…

John 1:1-3, 14 (NLT)
In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make…
So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.


It’s an obvious reference to Jesus, referring to Him as the Word. And it says the Word was God. If a=b and b=c, the a=c. If Jesus is the Word, and the Word is God, then Jesus is God. Here’s another reference in the Gospel of John. In this passage, Jesus is talking with some religious leaders who are becoming more and more upset with Him, and He tells them…

John 8:54-59 (NIV)
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.


They weren’t going to stone Him to death because He claimed to be really old. No, they were going to stone Him because they recognized what Jesus was saying when he said, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” To you and me, it looks like bad grammar. But to the Jews, it meant something very profound. Because they remembered what God told Moses way back in the Old Testament. God was calling Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, but he was afraid the people wouldn’t believe God sent him. So he asked who he should say sent him, and God told him…

Exodus 3:14 (NLT)
God replied, “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “

So when Jesus referred to himself as “I AM”, He knew exactly what He was claiming, and so did the Jews. And then a couple chapters later in John…

John 10:24-25, 30-33, 37-38 (NLT)
The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is what I do in the name of my Father….
“The Father and I are one.”
Once again the Jewish leaders picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many things to help the people. For which one of these good deeds are you killing me?”
They replied, “Not for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, have made yourself God.”…
Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in what I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will realize that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”


Notice that when the people accused Jesus of claiming to be God, Jesus didn’t object. He didn’t tell them they misunderstood. He simply told them, “Look at the evidence.”

Or how about when Thomas first saw Jesus after the resurrection? Remember what he said?

John 20:28 (NLT)
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Or how about the book of Hebrews, most likely written between AD 60 and AD 70, though some date it as a little earlier and others as a little later.

Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)
The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command.

Oh, and there’s an interesting exchange between Jesus and Peter, in the Gospel of Matthew, which was written sometime around AD 65.

Matthew 16:13-17 (NLT)
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”

Do you think Simon Peter the other disciples saw Jesus as being more than a mortal prophet? They certainly did. They believed it to the core of their being. In fact, tradition tells us they believed it so much that 10 of the 12 were killed for their beliefs. And we’re told that when Peter died… remember, he’s the one that stuck his neck out and said “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,”… we’re told that he was crucified. And when they went to crucify him, he told his executioners, “I’m not worthy to even die the same way that my Messiah did.” And he asked to be crucified upside down, and he was. These disciples, and over 410,000 other Christians who were killed in those first three centuries before Constantine, didn’t die for a prophet… they died for their God. And if Dan Brown thinks that things got easier for Christians after Constantine, then he must not be aware that the total number of martyrs jumped to almost 2 million by AD 400.

Now, I should probably explain something here. We’ve read verses this morning that refer to Jesus as the “Son of God”. And you might think that Jesus is an actual Son… as in, He was born or created. But that’s not what “Son of God” means. And that’s not how first century Jews used the term. They had come to use the term “Son of God” to refer to the Messiah, or the Saviour, which the Old Testament had said was coming, and it signified a divine origin. It wasn’t a biological term; it was a heavenly term. And it identified Jesus not just as the Son of God, but as God Himself!


So the divinity of Jesus was clearly established during the first century… in the very statements made by Jesus and by the disciples. And it’s just a bizarre twist to claim that Jesus wasn’t considered to be divine until AD 325 at the Council of Nicaea.

But what was the Council of Nicaea? Well, Dan Brown was right in that it was called by Constantine in AD 325, although he gets the details wrong. First about Constantine… Constantine was not a life-long pagan as it says in The DaVinci Code; he actually converted in AD 310 at the age of 30, and then he lived for another 27 years. Secondly, he didn’t call the Council to stop the fighting between pagans and Christians, he called it to resolve a dispute between Christians. And third, he wasn’t trying to unite the empire under one religion. All he did was legalize Christianity and put it on level ground with all the existing pagan religions, which he did in the Edict of Milan (AD 313). He never made Christianity the official Roman religion… that didn’t happen for another 55 years (by Emperor Theodosius, AD 380).

There’s more Dan Brown gets wrong about Constantine, but let’s get to the Council itself. Why was the Council called? The DaVinci Code claims it was to determine if Jesus was divine or not. But it had nothing to do with whether Jesus was divine or not… Everyone believed He was divine. Everyone believed He was God. The question was, what kind of God was He?

You see, there was this one church leader in Northern Egypt named Arius, and around AD 313 he mixed some Greek philosophy into his beliefs and began to teach that Jesus was a created god, the very first creation by God the Father. Kind of like “God 2: the Sequel”, or God-junior. A belief, by the way, which Jehovah’s Witnesses cling to today.

But there were others who argued, “No, Jesus is God, always has been God, always will be God. He had no beginning and has no end. He and God are one.”

And over the next few years, this dispute built until Constantine called around 300 bishops to the city of Nicaea in modern-day Turkey to resolve it. Both sides were listened to, and the debate revolved around two words in particular…

Homoousios = “of one substance”
Homoiousios = “of like substance”

You know the phrase, “It doesn’t make one iota of difference”? Well, it comes right from this Council and these two words. Homoousios means of one substance. But with the “i”—or the Greek letter iota—put into the word, it changes the meaning to say that there is a difference.

Now, which word best explained Jesus’ relationship with God the Father? That was the question the Council was trying to answer. If Jesus Himself had been created, then He’d be homoiousios – He’d be of like (similar) substance to the Father, but certainly not on the same level. However, if He was homoousios, of one substance or of the same substance, then He’d be an equal part in the Godhead… with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

And they didn’t take this issue lightly. The Council began on May 20 and lasted until July 25. And they spent the entire first month on this one issue.

But when it was all settled, it came down to what Dan Brown called a close vote: 316-2. So the vote wasn’t close, and it had nothing to do with whether Jesus was divine or not. The Council merely affirmed what had been believed and taught for almost three centuries. Jesus is indeed “of one substance” with God the Father and is a vital and equal part of the Godhead… the Trinity. And while it’s difficult to grasp the very nature of God, the basic summary is that there is only one God, and He’s expressed in Three Persons… God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

And by the end of the Council, the bishops who were at that Council in the city of Nicaea expressed themselves in the form of a statement of belief… a creed… which we still know as the Nicene Creed. A later council further clarified it, but here’s the Creed as it comes down through the years to us today. Let’s read it together… and it’s customary to stand for the reading of a creed…

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;

He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].
With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.
 

Okay, so the Christian teaching has always been that Jesus is and always has been 100% God, and of His own choosing, He became 100% man at the same time. Fully God, and Fully Man. And I know that’s difficult to understand. We can’t even understand ourselves; how can we expect to understand God? But this was the claim of Jesus, the teaching of His disciples, the bane of His opponents, the believe of the early Church, and it remains our Creed today. You can accept or reject, but don’t buy into the lie that the divinity of Jesus was an invention of the 4th century.


Now, just as we finish up, we’re going to watch a video featuring best-selling author Lee Strobel. We’ve talked about him here before. And he’s going to talk about what it means that Jesus really is the Son of God. Watch…

 

[Video – Lee Strobel: strobelT1038_M - Discussing The Da Vinci Code: Is Jesus the Son of God? Lee’s Perspective on the Matter (238) from www.leestrobel.com]

 

I was talking with a friend of mine recently about Jesus, and I told him what I’m going to tell you:

If Jesus was a fraud, then I should reject Him. He’s not worth following. But if He really is who He claimed to be, and if I really believe that, then it’s got to make a difference. I can put my hope and my faith in Him. And that believe should permeate every part of my being. I can’t ignore Him. It’s far too important and the stakes are far too high for me to do that. And since I do believe that He is the Son of God, I have chosen to trust Him with my life and follow Him and His Word with all my Heart.

How about you? Do you believe? Same question Jesus asked Peter: “Who do you say He is?” And what difference does it make for you?

Would you close your eyes? We’re going to pray in a moment, but I want to ask you first, have you settled this issue in your own life? If not, why not today? Just quietly, right where you are, you can pray something like this…

Jesus, I do believe. And I choose today to follow you. Help me to do that I pray.

Now let me pray for all of us…

Father, we pray that you will continue to open up or hearts and minds to the Truth… the truth about who Jesus is and the truth about the forgiveness and life that He offers each one of us.

 

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2006 SunriseOnline.ca