By Javan Rowe
It is obvious from observing many Christmas celebrators that they miss the true meaning of the holidays—Christ is not even a consideration. Believers also run the risk of not gaining all that they might from this joyous season because they forget perhaps the greatest description of Christ from Isaiah 9:6, where he is called “Mighty God.”
It is amazing to me that so many celebrate Christmas yet they fail to see the clear illustrations in Scripture of Jesus as God.
The Pre-incarnate Christ
For starters, it is important to acknowledge that Jesus existed, at least in some form, before his incarnation. Many scholars believe Jesus made pre-incarnate appearances in the Old Testament, known as Christophanies. Some agree and some disagree with the particular cases, however.
An important instance that is generally agreed upon is found in the creation account. John’s Gospel beckons back to creation also: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (1:1-3). John went on to write, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (v. 14).
It is clear from John that this “Word” who created the world and became flesh was none other than Jesus Christ. He was present at the beginning where God and the Spirit are mentioned, equating him with these other two members of the Godhead. Rereading the Genesis creation account with this perspective will reveal Christ as the Creator, utilizing the power of the Spirit, with the repeated approval of the Father.
The Deity of Jesus
Even if we acknowledge that Jesus was present at creation, does that mean he is God, or is he just another creation? Some religions and pseudo-Christian cults claim that Jesus was greater than man, but he was still a mere creation. Could they be right?
It is understandable that non-Christian religions would deny the deity of Jesus, considering they do not believe in the validity of the Bible. It is troubling to me, though, when those who call themselves Christians fail to accept the claims made in the Gospels by Jesus, saying that he is God.
1. “I am in my Father and the Father is in me.”
John 14:8-11 contains a clear example of Jesus placing himself on the level with God: “Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
There had been occasions in the Old Testament when people were temporarily filled with the Spirit. Samson and David are great examples of this (Judges 14:6; 1 Chronicles 28:11, 12). But someone claiming to have the Father in them was something entirely new. Jesus moved beyond that and said he was in the Father as well. He made it clear that in order for the disciples to see God, they needed only to look at Jesus.
2. “I am.”
On another occasion Jesus gave a powerful, unmistakable declaration of deity that nearly got him stoned to death. In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you
. . . before Abraham was born, I am!” This is a direct callback to God giving himself that name when speaking to Moses from the burning bush.
God had given Moses the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Concerned that the people would not believe him, Moses asked God what his name was, in case they asked. God responded, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). The Jews knew exactly what Jesus was claiming, which is why they picked up stones to kill him for blasphemy.
3. Immanuel, “God with us.”
We might recall that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, urging him to take Mary as his wife. Then, quoting from Isaiah, the angel said, “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23).
What is interesting about this passage is that Joseph was already told in the previous verse that the baby’s name was to be Jesus, so why the second name? It is because God himself was breaking into our plane to live with us. He was to be called Immanuel to indicate this divine arrival. How often have people sung songs like “O Come, O Come Immanuel” during the Christmas season without realizing its direct claim to Jesus’ deity?
4. “My Lord and my God!”
If these prior examples are too vague, how about a direct quote calling Jesus God? In John 20:28, after Thomas had doubted the resurrection, Jesus showed up, compelling Thomas to respond, “My Lord and my God!” Note that Thomas called him God and is not reprimanded by Jesus for doing so.
Some have suggested that Thomas was referring to two people here—Lord was his talking to Jesus and God was his referring to the Father. This seems to be an unnecessary stretch of the text. Saying “my God” in that manner when he saw Jesus would certainly have been taking the Lord’s name in vain if he was not referring to Jesus like the text appears to indicate. He called Jesus God because he realized only God could raise himself from the dead.
5. “Do not worship any other god.”
God made it clear in the Old Testament that we are to worship nothing but him. Exodus 34:14 says, “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Knowing this command, why would Jesus allow himself to be worshipped on a number of occasions?
A short list of such worshippers are the Magi, angels, a leper, and Mary Magdalene. As seen in the case of Thomas, Jesus would not have allowed worship if he was not God, otherwise he would have allowed people to break the law.
’Tis the Season
During this holiday season it is important to remember that the birth of Jesus was more than a Savior entering into the world, but it was God himself breaking into the human sphere. God came down and revealed himself in a vivid way.
Jesus was born in a wooden stable and he later died on a wooden cross. He was sent to us, as a member of the Godhead, to redeem us. This is exactly what was meant by the prophet who wrote, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation” (Isaiah 59:15, 16). Christ came to bring salvation.
As we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel. We enjoy the fact that we have God with us at all times. Before Jesus left his disciples, he promised that the Holy Spirit would come and remind them everything he had said (John 14:26). The Spirit does the same for us today, accompanying us on this difficult journey of life, reminding us of the words of Christ.
’Tis the season to recognize that Jesus was much more than a cuddly baby lying in a manger. He is God made flesh. Jesus, the God-man, came to redeem us, but he also makes visible to us this invisible God we serve. And what a mighty God we serve!
Javan Rowe is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio (www.eyesonthekingdom.com).