"Who Is Jesus?" part 3
Truly God, Truly Man
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 18, 2010

VIDEO – WHO WAS JESUS? From SermonVideos.com

As you can see, there are a lot of opinions about this person named Jesus. Ask people who He was, and you’ll get a variety of answers. Some people say He was a cool guy, a good teacher, a prophet who lived long ago; some people will tell you everything about Jesus is a myth, others will tell you that Jesus is different for each person – it’s all subjective; and others will tell you that they believe to the core of their being that Jesus was and is God in the flesh.

We’re continuing this morning with our message series asking the question, “Who Is Jesus?” And let me tell you, for me and for you… that’s the most important question we could ever answer. Because if Jesus is who He says He is… if the Christian faith is correct in recognizing Him as God… if the Bible is true in what it says about Jesus… then that has eternal ramifications.

So we’re exploring the identify of Jesus during this series. We’re going to look at some of the events of His life, we’re going to examine some of His teachings, we’re going to get a glimpse of how other people saw Him, we’re going to talk some theology… Basically, we’re going to try to learn everything we can about the man, the mission, and the message.

And as I told you last week, I believe this may be the most important series we’ve ever done here. Because the message we have is the message of Jesus. The hope we have is the hope that comes from Jesus. The reason the Church exists is because of Jesus. We even call ourselves Christians or Christ-followers because we follow Jesus. It is Jesus who reconciles us with God, who infuses our life with purpose, and who the Bible says will someday judge each one of us.

We’ve already talked about the resurrection of Jesus and how that’s the hinge-pin of history… the most important event that has ever taken place… and we saw how there’s actually evidence to support the claim that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

We’ve talked about how Jesus was a real person who lived and breathed and walked among us a couple thousand years ago. There were one or two people in that video who hinted that they didn’t think Jesus ever even existed. But we saw last week how there are the manuscripts which are now compiled in our Bible that document His life – written while there were eyewitnesses still alive and in the very area where the ministry of Jesus was centred. Plus, there are the many other extraBiblical references to Jesus, too. And there were literally thousands of people in the first century alone who died for this man who they also believed was God – they certainly believed He existed.

So even though there are some people today who do think that Jesus wasn’t a real person… that He’s just a made-up person or a compilation of a bunch of Pagan beliefs… there’s just no basis for such a claim. And anyone who does make that claim is probably just repeating what they’ve heard someone else say and are speaking out of their own bias disregarding the evidence.

But so what? So what if Jesus was a real person? There are a lot of “real people” who have lived throughout history. There may even be some “real people” here this morning. What does it matter if Jesus was real or not?

It matters because we believe – I believe – that He was God in the flesh… that He’s risen from the dead and is alive and well today. Because even though He was a man who lived long ago, He wasn’t just a man.

And even the earliest Christ-followers understood this. And they wrestled with it. Was Jesus a man? Was He God? What was He? Who was that masked Man? And what becomes clear as you read through the New Testament… and we’re going to look at some passages that show this in just a few minutes… but what becomes clear is that the earliest Christ followers understood Jesus to be a man and they understood Him to be God. It wasn’t some belief that arose later on… it was there right at the beginning. It can be seen in the way they treated Him, the way they wrote about Him, and even in the words of Jesus Himself.

Which understandably, could lead to some confusion. And theologians debated about the how these two natures of Jesus were balanced. In what ways was He a man? In what ways was He God? How could He be both at the same time? They even called conferences and councils specifically to talk about in what ways Jesus is God and in what ways He’s a man.

But as early as the second century, the Church capsulate their understanding of just what Jesus was in these four Latin words…

Vere Deus, Vere Homo

Which means…

Truly God, Truly Man

Now, you might hear that as “Fully God, fully man.” Or “100% God, 100% Man.” In fact, I’ve used those kinds of terms before myself. But “Truly God, Truly Man” is more accurate to what those early theologians believed about Jesus, and probably helps to avoid some misunderstandings. I mean, 100% God, 100% Man… the math doesn’t seem to work, does it? I know what we mean when we use terms like that, but it can be confusing and can lead to some misunderstandings. So “Truly God, Truly Man” is probably the best way to describe Jesus.

So let’s start with the second part of that formula first. Was Jesus Truly Man?

Was Jesus “Truly Man”?

And really, most people have no problem believing this. Even in that video, most people talked about Jesus as being a man… a teacher, a philosopher, a prophet, a revolutionary, whatever… but a man.

Actually, though, even this was a point of contention in the early days of Christianity. Because they believed so fervently that Jesus was also God. So some people believed that Jesus was God disguised as a human. He wasn’t really human; He just appeared that way. But John set the record straight when He wrote this about Jesus… describing Him as “the Word”…

John 1:2 (NLT)
So the Word became human and made his home among us.

He didn’t just look like a human, He didn’t disguise Himself as a human… it’s says He “became human.”

Now, remember, we’ve already established in this series that the Bible is our most credible and 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 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. Get your pens ready… we’re going to go through these quickly. I don’t even have these verses in PowerPoint; we’re just going to read them out of your notes.

Jesus Experienced:

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

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

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.”

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.

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

John 11:35 (NLT)
Then Jesus wept.

So was Jesus a man? Yeah, Jesus was a man. He was truly 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. He was truly human. So that leaves the question…

Was Jesus “Truly God”?

And the answer to that is “yes, He was (and is) truly God.” And 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.

Now, here’s an important question: When did people start to see Jesus as God (or the Son of God)?

And I ask that because a lot of people have the idea that Jesus was not considered to be God until the time of Constantine sometime in the fourth century. In fact, a lot of people have the mistaken belief that Jesus was declared to be God by Constantine at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. And we have books like The DaVinci Code to thank for spreading blatantly false claims like that.

I already told you that the formula describing Jesus as Truly God, Truly Man came out of the second century. But even that was simply a summary and a clarification of what they believed about Jesus at least from the time of His resurrection.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul records an early Christian creed that can be dated to within 2 years of the Resurrection. The most primitive Christian hymns affirm the divine nature of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel we have, probably written within 20 years of the Resurrection, is believed to have used source material dating back to within 2-3 years. And in Mark, Jesus is referred to as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. In fact, the very first verse of Mark says…

Mark 1:1 (NLT)
This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

So all of that was to say, this idea that Jesus is God is not some belief that evolved through the centuries; it was there right at the very beginning. It’s how His followers saw Him. It’s what the writers of the books of the New Testament believed about Him.

The Gospel of John… written between AD 65 and AD 90 according to most scholars… conservative and liberal… Starts out with these verses… again describing Jesus as “the Word”…

John 1:1-3 (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…

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)
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 He made that claim again…

John 10:30-33 (NLT)
“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.”

And if we were to read on, you’d see that 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.

And instead of rebuking Thomas for making such a claim, Jesus affirmed what he said.

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 that interesting exchange between Jesus and Peter, which Jim read for us earlier. He read it from Mark; I’ll read it from Matthew (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.

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!

And actually, this term “Son of God”… or “children of God”… had been used centuries previous to the time of Jesus and was used to describe the nation of Israel and their own unique relationship with God. There was something special between them. And they were to play a special role in revealing God’s heart to the nations around them. And that’s what Jesus did… He revealed God’s heart to the nations.

Sometimes you’ll hear Jesus referred to not just as a Son but as the “Firstborn Son” of God. But again, this was not meant to be taken as a biological term. It’s more of a term of position and authority and power. The “firstborn son” in a family was to carry on the family’s values, to uphold its position, to represent the family in society. The firstborn was to be kind of the top dog… the rightful ruler.

And then you have another term that Jesus used to refer to Himself… He called Himself the “Son of Man.” So you have two terms that sound like they’re conflicting with each other… Son of God and Son of Man. Well, which is it, Jesus? When you read Jesus the Son of Man, what do you think? You probably think he’s talking about being human, right? That seems like a pretty obvious understanding.

But the truth is, the first-century Jews who heard Jesus refer to Himself that way would have recognized that term from the Old Testament book of Daniel chapter 7, and they would have known that it wasn’t a reference to someone who was just a human being; it was for someone divine in nature. It was for someone who had authority, had sovereignty, who was worshipped, who is eternal, someone who judges humankind. So again, Jesus is claiming to be God.

So the divinity of Jesus was clearly established during the first century… in the very statements made by Jesus and by the disciples.

Now, I suppose it could be argued that they were all delusional. Jesus was some kind of a con-man or a madman who was somehow able to convince all these people… not just the disciples but the hundreds and thousands of people who came to follow Him during that first century… He was somehow able to convince them all that He was God. And really, we have people today who claim to be God and are able to convince small groups of people that they really are. The difference is, Jesus did it on a bigger scale, and with much better credentials.

The Credentials for the Divinity of Jesus:

Old Testament Prophecies

Not just a few, but hundreds… and not only vague prophecies, but specific prophecies about the Messiah… all of which came true in the person of Jesus. Take a look…

VIDEO – LEESTROBEL.COM – The Evidence for Jesus’ Divinity: Did He Back Up His Claims? (beginning at 2:50)

So you have the prophecies backing up Jesus claim to divinity. And then you have the…

Supernatural Miracles

Healing people who had been blind, crippled, or deaf since birth… suddenly able to see, walk, and hear. People who had died being brought back to life, lepers being made well, water turning to wine, a young boy’s bag lunch being used to feed thousands… all kinds of miracles that went beyond the ability of any illusionist. Even the Jewish Talmud, which was critical and skeptical of Jesus, concedes that Jesus dealt in the supernatural.

The Teachings of Jesus

He spoke with such authority and wisdom, such insight. By themselves they don’t prove anything, but they certainly support the idea that Jesus was more than just a man. And if you actually look at what Jesus taught, you have to accept what He said as the words of God or discard them as the ramblings of a madman. And of course you have the greatest proof of all that Jesus really was and is God…

The Resurrection

We talked about it a couple weeks ago. We looked at some of the evidence, and if you remember, we concluded by saying that if Jesus really did rise from the dead it proves that He really is who He said He is… the Son of God.

Listen: If Jesus was a fraud, if He was lying about His divinity, if He was delusional – then I should reject Him. He’s not worth following. But if He really is who He claimed to be, then it’s got to make a difference. I can put my hope and my faith in Him. And that belief should permeate every part of my being… Not just on Sundays but everyday and in every way. I can’t ignore Him. He’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 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, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca