All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.’
Consider the untrammelled, uninterrupted and mutual delight of the Father and the Son in the deep intimacy they enjoyed through the Spirit for everlasting ages past; as they contemplated their love for each other, and planned the overflowing of that love in the prospect of creation; as they celebrated their holiness and untainted purity. An infinite capacity for joy was stretched to its maximal immensity as it sought to contain the blazing glory shared within the community of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father’s declaration over the Anointed One, ‘This is my Son whom I love. With Him I am well pleased (Matt.3:17), echoes from all eternity. God’s love is proved beyond all question precisely as He relinquishes that eternally beloved Son to a fallen world.
We need to remember that Jesus as we meet Him in the Gospels, in the flesh as it were, is not Jesus in His historic way of being. The handful of years covered by the Gospel narratives are a fraction of a breath of Jesus’ life. Unlike us, His life does not begin with His conception. It stretches far back into the pre-history of time itself. He is before all things (Col.1:17). He is integral to the life of the Trinity, the fullness of God in Himself (Col.1:19; 2:9). ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn.10:30). Jesus is, in the words of the Creed: God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.
The intrinsic and full deity of Christ (and by implication the whole idea of God as Trinity) has been besieged in every generation of the Church. And yet it remains stubbornly and plainly taught throughout Scripture (e.g. Heb.1:8; Titus 2:13; II Pet.1:1 etc.); the testimony of the Church in their worship of Him (also commanded and modelled in the Bible: Heb.1:6; Matt.14:33; Jn.9:38; Rev.5:12 etc.); and in our confession of Him as Saviour (in the light of Is.43:11-12, see e.g. Acts 15:11). The divine depths of the Son are so infinitely vast that only that only the Wisdom of the Father can plumb them (Matt.11:27). And the Son is equally aware that only He can know the Father and reveal Him (Matt.11:27, Jn.14:9 etc.). If anyone else spoke consistently of themselves in the way that Jesus does, they’d be considered clinically insane, or worse. Yet as we listen to Jesus nothing sounds more sane or self-evidently true.
This is and must always remain our starting point in our consideration of Jesus. The phenomena of Jesus simply will not make sense unless we recognise that ‘the Messiah … is God over all, for ever praised!’ (Rom.9:5). It is only when we have been reconciled to this great, foundational fact of reality that we can begin to make sense of any part of that reality. A pastor-theologian of a former age, John Flavel, opened his Magnus Opus on Christ, The Fountain of Life, with the claim that ‘all knowledge is but a shadow compared to the light of Christ’; and that all the wisest and ‘most learned philosophers are but children in knowledge compared to the most illiterate Christian’. Indeed, Flavel condemns ‘all knowledge and study insofar as it stands in competition with or in opposition to the study and knowledge of Jesus Christ’.
The realisation that Christ is indeed the living God becomes the defining feature of our life. It radically re-shapes our thinking about being disciples, and dispels much of the patronising nonsense that clutters our spirituality. It fires our worship and legitimises our adoration and admiration of Him. It is the lens through which we will interpret everything else that is said about Him, claimed for Him, or revealed to us about Him. It establishes Him as the spiritual and ethical centre of gravity around which all aspects of our life find their orbit. It grants Him the prerogative to define us, to shape who we are, and to determine what we should believe. It demands of us a total orientation of our life towards Him, and a whole-hearted pursuit of Him and of His purposes.
Truly He is ‘God with us’ (Matt.1:23), and that changes everything.
Do you think it matters whether you believe Jesus is God or not? Could we legitimately talk about e.g. someone who was a Jehovah Witness being a Christian? Why / why not? Could we worship with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
How much do you think someone could get wrong about Jesus before you’d have to say ‘their’ Jesus simply wasn’t the Jesus of the Bible? Can you think of any passages from the Bible that would back up your thinking on this?
If Jesus really is fully God, then why does He say that the Father is greater than He is (John 14:28)? And what do you make of passages like I Cor.15:24-28, which talks of the Son being ‘made subject’ to the Father?
Read John 8:42-59
Why do you think there is such a strong link between how people treat Jesus, and how they relate to the Father? In the light of this, how would you evaluate someone’s claim to know God if they didn’t trust Jesus?
Do you think that we can say that anyone who doesn’t know the Father through Jesus therefore has the devil as their Father? …or is this something specific to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day?
Why does Jesus start teaching about the devil in vv.44-45?
What do you think Jesus has in mind when He talks of His relationship with Abraham (v.56-58)? Can you think of any OT passages Jesus might be referring to?
What is Jesus claiming in v.58? How would you explain these claims to someone who wasn’t a Christian? How important do you think it would be that someone understand what Jesus was teaching in John 8:58?
Why do the religious leaders react as they do in v.59? How does their behaviour in vv.48, 52-53 & 59 prove what Jesus said of them earlier was true?
After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
For further reflection:
Not much is revealed of life of the everlasting Trinity before creation (Dt.29:29). But when we are given an occasional flash of insight, it invariably focusses on their anticipation of including the Church in their communion. Paul speaks of a calling and a grace that ‘given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time’ (II Tim.1:9-10); of the eternal life which God ‘promised before the beginning of time (Tit.1:3); and of our being chosen in Christ ‘before the creation of the world’ (Eph.1:4). It is deeply humbling to reflect on the fact that my destiny was settled within the heart of God before my origins ever came to be.
But we can never divorce our destiny from that of Christ. As you read such passages, you can’t help but be impressed by the repetition of the fact that everything that was predestined concerning us was done so ‘in Him’, or ‘in Christ Jesus’. He is archetypally Chosen, and the Church’s being chosen is rooted in the Father’s prior choosing of Him. ‘He was chosen before the creation of the world…’ (I Pet.1:20). All that is achieved through Christ (in creation, redemption and renewal) is because He was chosen, and sent by the Father. It is the command of the Father that gives the Son authority and power to act (Jn.10:18).
It is on the basis of this covenant of grace (Is.42:6), established before the foundation of creation was laid, that Christ was sent and sealed with the Father’s approval (Jn.5:30; 6:27). This is why to reject the Son is to reject the Father (Jn.5:23), and why you cannot know or relate to the Father outside of the Son. For the Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands (Jn.3:35-6).