20. N.T. Testimony


Heb 1:1-3 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

The writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament is quite specific; in fact unusually so.  In his first chapter he seeks to show how Jesus was so much greater than an angel. He writes to the Jewish population explaining how Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law, how he is so much greater that a mere heavenly messenger.  What is interesting is that he starts by countering a claim that Jesus, although greater than a man, was in fact  an angelic messenger.  Already there were strange cults suggesting strange things. There are glimmerings throughout the New Testament of the writers having to counter the heretical ramblings of some of the cults that were trying to take over Christianity, yet it would be several hundred years before the battle got really heated and the Church would have to try to lay down creeds of agreed doctrine to counter the heresies that the various cults were trying to impose.

We have made reference a number of times to the apostle John, and his letters show equal commitment to the Gospel as his Gospel does. His first letter in particular is littered with references to the Son of God and no where does he equate him with a mere man, a mere prophet or a mere teacher. For John he is the unique Son of God.

When we come to the letters of the apostle Peter we find that he too is utterly committed to the concept of Jesus Christ being the unique Son of God. In fact he confirms what we have already seen in the Gospels: “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Pet 1:16,17). His language gives only the foolhardy the grounds to suppose that Jesus is anything but the unique Son of God and that is his point in referring to that occasion on the mount of transfiguration.

Probably the most prolific writer outside the Gospels is the apostle Paul. Often in his writings there are almost side comments, for example: “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thess 1:9,10). His comments about who Jesus is are not the main points he was speaking about at that point in his letter to the church at Thessalonica, but almost without thinking he elevates Jesus who he identifies as God’s Son and who is in heaven awaiting a time when he will return in glory, a subject which occurs elsewhere in his writings. The so-called ‘Second Coming’ of Jesus Christ is a clearly taught doctrine in the New Testament, but it is not the coming of a mere man a second time but of a conquering king who will be seen by every eye on the earth at the same time. This doctrine in itself elevates Jesus Christ above every other human being who has ever and will ever exist. He is revealed as The glorious one. There is no other like him! He is unique.

But Paul doesn’t only make oblique references to Jesus as God’s Son.  Perhaps one of the clearest descriptions of Jesus as described by Paul is the following: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Col 1:15-20)

The early writers, who were accepted into the canon of Scripture after exhaustive considerations, were quite clear in their own minds that Jesus Christ was the unique Son of God.  It was only as cults rose up declaring heresies, things contrary to the teaching of the apostles of Jesus, that that church had to work on detailing this.  It is worth repeating what we said in an earlier meditation.

In later years the early church would struggle over what this really meant. Was Jesus just a son in the sense of being a very holy man given over to God or was he God in the flesh?   It was such a big issue that they struggled with it, even though Scripture was quite clear. It was to challenge those who denied his deity that the early church formulated what we call the Creeds.

The Apostles Creed, one of the earliest of creeds simply referred to “Christ Jesus, his only Son.” For them he was unique. Later the Nicene Creed declared, “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,” which was full of the language of oneness in deity. If you look up the Athanasian Creed, an even later creed, you find this spelled out in even greater detail.

The early Church Fathers were sure in their minds that Scripture spoke of a divine Son of God, and in this they bear out the testimony of the apostles. It is only the ignorant, or those who have another agenda to follow, who refuse to see what any intelligent, open-minded person will see, that all the evidence is piled up revealing Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God, who came from heaven, was killed, was raised from the dead, and has returned to heaven, to await a glorious return.  All this was to express God’s love for us and to open up a way for us to come into a relationship with Him that is not built on fear but on love. That is the wonder of the Gospel or Good News of Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God who came to earth for us.

19. Resurrection


1 Cor 15:3-8 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also.

This was the apostle Paul writing and conveying to the church at Corinth something of the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and within that he speaks of historical facts, mentioning those who Jesus had appeared to after his death. Now if you want to examine the resurrection encounters in detail may I recommend you work your way through our series of 10 meditations about the resurrection.

As we come to the climax of the evidence pointing to Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God, there are two aspects of this to be considered: his death and his resurrection. Fairly obvious really! When it comes to the death of Jesus Christ there are those who try to evade the resurrection question by denying he died. He swooned, they say, and then recovered afterwards. Such a silly claim denies all the evidence of the circumstances.

Observe first the political forces of those who wanted Jesus Christ dead. No doubt the word had got out that he had spoken about being raised after three days. There must be no possibility of any resurrection appearances, true or false. He must be clearly seen to die – and remain well and truly dead. Read the accounts and catch the enormity of the Establishment against him. To deny he died ignores the political situation that required him dead.

But then there are the military forces involved. The executioners are solders of one of the toughest armies in history and bungling an execution would mean you were in very serious trouble. You did not mess up! Perhaps that is why, when they were checking the bodies and found Jesus already dead, one of the soldiers thrust his spear harshly up into Jesus’ side so that all the liquid of the sac that surrounds the heart poured out. If there had been any doubt before, there isn’t now! These soldiers knew death when they saw it for they brought it every day. No, to suggest he didn’t die denies the efficiency of the Roman executioners. Unthinkable!

There is another aspect of this unthinking swoon theory. The obvious part of that theory is that he recovered and came back within three days and walked all over the district seeing the many people in different places referred to in the resurrection accounts. This denies the terrible physical state Jesus was in, even if he hadn’t died. He had been soundly thrashed and tortured before being hung on the cross and both the pre-Cross and actual-Cross experiences would leave any man, however strong they might be, on the critical list for the next ten days probably. Put him in a cold cave for a couple of nights, unattended, with no water, and you can guarantee that he will not survive.

A final desperate option that is sometimes put forward is that Jesus didn’t die because there was a substitute. Now that is desperate! Consider what is required for this to be true. There needs to be a close look-alike. The Jews know Jesus and were not going to be fobbed off by a substitute. They remain at the Cross watching the man they know die. Second, you need a madman who is willing to die by the most painful method known to mankind, knowing that the one he follows is hiding away and letting him do that. Most unlikely! Third you need to ensure a blanket of silence over all the disciples who would have seen and understood the deception. Someone would have talked, but there is not even a glimmer of such a thing.

But then we come to the resurrection itself. We have covered all the bases in our series on the resurrection so will not repeat them all here. But there is one overwhelming piece of evidence that screams out, “This is true!” It is the disciples of Jesus. Here is a bunch of men (and women) who have been utterly devastated by the death of their leader. They are afraid and are hiding away. They fear arrest and possibly death themselves. One of them has already committed suicide for his part in betraying Jesus. Another, a leader, is racked with guilt for having denied him three times in the night of the trial. They are not in a good shape.

Now consider the rest of their lives. In the immediate future they come out of hiding and tell that they have seen him alive and well. They are no longer fearful. (If you come up with the confidence trick, mass hysteria, delusion series of suggestions often put forward, please do go to the resurrection series). No, they are utterly convinced that he was dead but now he is alive. They go out preaching and despite threats from the authorities they carry on preaching the good news: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:23,24). Of the remaining eleven leading disciples, ten died martyrs’ deaths. They died for their sure and certain belief that Jesus was the unique Son of God who was killed but who rose from the dead within three days.

Our verses today list the people who saw Jesus in the days following his resurrection. This wasn’t just one person. This was many men, and men all in their right mind. The resurrection, when you seriously think about it, is utterly convincing proof of who Jesus was and is – the living unique Son of God.

18. Death


Mk 9:31,32 He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

There is this strange feature in the accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that is quite unnerving. It is his clear awareness, no, clear purpose, that said he was going to Jerusalem and there he would die and there he would rise from the dead. Our example verse above is quite specific. As so often, he referred to himself by that prophetic title, ‘Son of Man’ which he used many times. We’ve seen why in past studies. But note how specific he is: he will be betrayed! Someone is going to give up him. This is spoken way before the events of those last two days. He is then going to be killed and, note it clearly, after three days he will rise. Yet, perhaps quite understandably, his followers didn’t understand what he meant. I mean, no one willingly talks about being killed, and as for rising again after three days!!!!

Later on he is even more specific: From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt 16:21). Now he explains that those who oppose him, the chief priests and teachers of the law, will join with the elders and bring this about, but the main points are exactly the same: he will be killed and after three days, rise again. On that occasion, not only do they not understand but Peter is quite outspoken in opposition to this idea: “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Mt 16:22)

On the mount of transfiguration, it is mentioned again: “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:9) and then a while later, he repeats it in full content: “When they came together in Galilee , he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.” (Mt 17:22,23)

Later it is repeated: “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Mt 20:17-19) This has even more detail. It will be the Jews who initiate it but it will be the Gentiles (the Romans) who will do it. It will be an unpleasant time to say the least – crucifixion is said to be the worst possible form of execution, designed to cause the most pain possible, and carried out in full view to exert the maximum of deterrent – but he is also going to be mocked and flogged.

Now do you see this, five times it is recorded he warned his disciples that this was going to happen, and as the records show, it was perfectly fulfilled. This raises various points.

First you only talk like this if you are deranged or you are completely in control of your mind and you definitely intend to do it. Everything else about the accounts of the closing weeks and months of Jesus ministry, show him completely in control and of full and sound mind. There is not even a hint that he is getting depressed or negative. He keeps on healing people and he keeps on teaching. His ministry continues unabated.

The second thing to note is that this is not like speaking about committing suicide because he is saying that others will put him to death. He is speaking about how others will respond to him and how they will eventually rise up and kill him. Now if you are aware that you are likely to be upsetting people to this extent, you do not hang around to be killed, unless you want to be! Some have suggested that perhaps he is seeking to provoke his followers into a violent uprising but right up to the end they don’t believe it will happen and can’t understand it. Apart from Peter’s hacking off the servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane, there is no sign or indication of any strong feeling about all this in the disciples. They seem almost in denial – as we probably would have been in their shoes. No, there is no idea of provoking an uprising in all this.

Now this brings us to the great mystery for the seeker. Why should Jesus Christ allow himself to be arrested, falsely tried, and crucified, when it is so obvious that he was completely aware of the danger, aware of the probability, aware of what was definitely going to happened if he proceeded on his course into Jerusalem? The human answer HAS to be that he had a death wish, but why when it flies in the face of all the other evidence that is needing to be seen in such a person. Nothing about him in those closing weeks and months fits the profile of a person with a death wish!

The one thing that we have almost missed so far, because the emphasis of this particular meditation is the fact of his death, is his constant references to being raised from the dead after three days. Now if you were a modern illusionist you might manage that because you would be in complete control of the circumstances, but these circumstances in question involve a number of highly political individuals and the most harsh army the world has ever known – and none of those players had any desire for him to come through this ordeal in any form other than dead! Any talk of a con, or illusion or a confidence trick really indicates that people making such suggestions have never taken the trouble to examine the historical realities of the situation.

This is either going to happen in the most terrible of ways or it’s just not going to happen. All the records, Biblical and extra-biblical, indicate it happened. He died! So why would he do that unless, completely in line with all his other claims that we have been examining in these studies, he is utterly convinced that he is the unique Son of God and death cannot hold him! This is the only conclusion that any rational investigator is left with. The proof will be in the resurrection, and so we will examine that in the next study.

17. “I Am”


Jn 10:11,14,15 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

We couldn’t draw near to the end of a series like this without picking up on the “I am” sayings. For the untutored, these are a number of sayings by Jesus, recorded only in John’s Gospel, but which make very clear indirect claims to divinity. Again for those who are unaware of the structure of the four Gospels, it needs saying that John was written many years after the other three, probably by the apostle John in old age, after many years of senior church leadership. We have commented in meditations many times in the past, about the tendency in the elderly, to reflect back on things many years ago, which come clearer in the memory than things that happened yesterday! This would easily account for why John wrote such a distinctive Gospel that is full of profundity, meaning and significance.

Clearly as he allowed his mind to go back to those three most significant years of his life (when he was either in his later teens or early twenties), no doubt prompted by the Lord, and saw and heard again his Master speaking and acting in those years, he realised that there had been so many things the others had not recorded, things of immense significance which the early church had not even understood. Thus we find included in his Gospel, these ‘I am’ sayings.

Again we have briefly commented on this before but it bears examining more fully now. When God revealed Himself to Moses, the name He gave Moses was, “I Am” and the Jews were very much aware of that name and avoided the use of any sentence structure where “I am” could be construed to have divine implications. It is thus beyond coincidence that Jesus used that sentence structure again and again.

In respect of the “I am” in our verses above, we find in the Old Testament, the following prophecy: “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd,” (Ezek 34:23) so this could be a messianic fulfilment, yet there is that nagging question that must have been in the minds of the Jews over whether he was claiming something more, because in the Old Testament, God was THE shepherd (Gen 49:24, Psa 79:13, 95:7, Psa 23). When Jesus speaks of himself being the “good shepherd” that adjective singles him out, for as Jesus himself was to say elsewhere, “No one is good–except God alone.” (Mk 10:18). But there are a lot more of these sayings, but with limited space we’ll only be able to make brief references to each of them. Let’s take them in the order we find them.

Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life,” (Jn 6:35). The context for this is very clear. The Jews had just talked about the manna that God had given their forefathers and we find, “Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (v.32,33). He thus declares himself as the one who has come from heaven to give life. This is a far bigger claim that merely that of a deliverer-Messiah, for only God can give life! It’s a very clear claim to divinity.

He said, `I am the light of the world.” (Jn 8:12). Yet it was accepted that “God is light” (1 Jn 1:5) but Jesus claims to be the one who comes to dispel the darkness of sin and evil. In the light of all the Biblical references to light and God, if Jesus wasn’t God then this would seem to be a very competitive challenge to God!!!

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (Jn 10:9). He is the one way in to God’s kingdom. Surely God is the gatekeeper to His realm and no one enters but by His say, and thus Jesus is claiming equality of role with God.

Jesus said to her,`I am the resurrection and the life.” (Jn 11:25). We have observed previously that God alone is the source of life and resurrection as seen in the Old Testament. That which only God can do, Jesus now claims to do.

Jesus answered, `I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6). What a claim: “I am the way to God, I am ultimate reality and I alone am the source of all life.” We haven’t time to justify that interpretation but that is essentially what Jesus was saying. It is a claim, which if he wasn’t God, could only be attributed to a megalomaniac, but everything else in the records denies that conclusion. He was far from that!

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (Jn 15:1). Without going into detail, the vine was the people of God (Psa 80:8) or the life of God flowing in His chosen people. Jesus is thus claiming to be the source of the people of God – who are the branches. As we’ve seen previously all life resides in God alone.

In each of these enigmatic sayings there is a claim to a greatness that is far more than a mere Messianic deliverer. There is a claim to life and provision that only comes, in fact, from God Himself. Aware that, frustratingly, this has been only the skimpiest of studies of a great subject, we simply recommend that the student spends time meditating on each of these sayings and researches for themselves the backgrounds that point towards God. We reiterate, that within these sayings Jesus is making claims to something far more that mere deliverer. These sayings all point to the very character or being of God and Jesus claims that for himself.

16. Uniqueness


Mt 11:4,5 Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

It might be good to recap some of the things we have considered in this set of meditations. We have considered the fact that the Old Testament had many prophecies in it referring to one who would come to Israel to deliver them, a Messiah or Christ. We have observed how the Gospel writers saw in Jesus a variety of things that made them realise that he was fulfilling these verses. Yet some of these verses indicated that the coming one would be far more than a mere man. We saw some claims of angelic visitations pronouncing Jesus as God’s Son. We also saw Jesus himself talking about having come down from heaven in language that spoke of pre-existence. We saw Jesus being worshipped and considered the truth that only deity is worshipped and, what is worse, Jesus never rebuked those who worshipped him.

But the biggest issue is what Jesus said about himself. Many of his claims were quite subtle, but nevertheless the Jews realised what he was saying and tried to stone him for blasphemy. Some of those times were when he equated himself with God in heaven, and others were when he claimed the power only given to God, to forgive sins. Near the end, he was more outspoken and provoked the religious leaders to ask if he were the Son of God, to which he replied in the affirmative. We also observed the two occasions when a heavenly voice announced him and one occasion when he appeared in his glory to three of the disciples. Add to that the fact that the Gospel writers were obviously utterly convinced as to who he was, and we have a compelling case.

Before we go any further, it may just be worth while picking up one possible objection that is sometimes spoken out. “Well,” says our objector, “we see that indeed there are these claims that you speak about, to him being Son of God, but why shouldn’t that just mean “ a son of God” in the sense that we are all God’s children? Why do you claim he is the unique Son of God?”

The answer to that is quite simple. Nowhere does Jesus suggest that he is just another prophet, or another teacher or another good person. When he speaks about his Father in heaven, he does so in terms that no one else would dare use. When he speaks about coming down from heaven, he is using language that cannot be denied is of his pre-existence which no one else can ever claim. When he claims the power to forgive, he doesn’t do in a way that suggests any one can. No, Jesus himself speaks in a way that indicates uniqueness. Add to that angelic visitations, divine voices and glowing encounters and Jesus stands out very distinctly.

As an individual he has a unique ministry and so when John the Baptist’s disciples come asking questions on John’s behalf, Jesus is able to reply as we see in our verses above today. What an amazing catalogue of activities. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” The blind receive their sight? This isn’t just a spiritual reference – although Jesus did talk about spiritual blindness (e.g. Mt 15:14) – but he did literally give back sight to blind people (see Mt 9:27-30, Mt 15:30,31, Mt 20:30-34, Mt 21:14). Lepers were cured and those who were deaf were enabled to hear and, as we have seen, he did raise the dead.

As we’ve just said, what an amazing catalogue of activities and this wasn’t just ones or two but hundred upon hundreds:

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick,” (Mt 8:16), and
Many followed him, and he healed all their sick,” (Mt 12:15), and
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick,” (Mt 14:14) and
Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” (Mt 15:30,31), and
Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there,” (Mt 19:2) and finally,
The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” (Mt 21:14).

So yes, there have been great healers in history but add this to all that we have noted previously, we find ourselves with the inescapable conclusion that Jesus Christ was a unique individual. Just a unique individual? No, he didn’t give us that option! His own claims to unique Sonship deny that. The miracles happen because he is the Son of God, bringing the power of heaven and the goodness and blessing of heaven to earth. Why? Because God had declared that this was His time, the time He had planned to bring this blessing with His Son when, through the angels coming to the shepherds, He declared, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:11) and then, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” (v.14)

Jesus himself emphasized this ‘favour’ of God coming, when he took and applied the Isaiah prophecy in the synagogue at Capernaum: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Lk 4:18,19). The writer to the Hebrews summed it all up: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” (Heb 1:1,2) No room there for seeing Jesus as anything other than the unique Son of God! But then that’s what all these verses say to anyone with a heart open to see!

15. From his own lips


Lk 22:67-71 If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

It is possible that if our sceptic, who I have referred to a couple of times, has followed these meditations he might come to the heading of this one and say, “Ah, at last!” but in saying that would, I suggest reveal an inability to take in the point that has been made a number of times, that through the words and actions of Jesus, he has a multitude of times proclaimed who he is, even though he has not used the words, “I am the Son of God.” Jesus’ way of teaching and, indeed, of revealing himself, was to use enigmatic teaching or declarations that would only be understood by seekers. He very clearly explained the reasoning for this very specific style when he was telling the Parable of the Sower (see Mt 13:10 -17). In such a manner he kept the religious leaders  guessing and put off the evil day of his arrest until after he had been ministering for three years.

It was only as we come to this time, and he has allowed himself to be arrested and falsely tried does he speak out, when no longer does he want to hold back, because this is clearly the agreed time for him to be put to death. This was the symbolic Passover time when lambs had originally been slain to avert the judgement of God (Ex 12). Even now he is not going to flout the truth because he is not wanting to provoke an argument, merely to let sinful men have their way and condemn him.

In the verse immediately before our verses above we find that: “At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them.” So here we have a body of men who would be particularly versed in the traditions of the Jewish people and in the meanings of the Old Testament prophecies. They start out by asking him if he is the Christ or the Messiah. Now that, in itself, would not be particularly damning. The worst charge could be fraud. To simply say he was God’s deliverer for His people when they believed he was not, was not a capital offence deserving death. Jesus realises this and so pushes it on a stage. First he refuses, it seems, to say outright that he is, because of their unbelief. Note he presses them on their unbelief. That would have made them hostilely defensive. His objective is to project the unpalatable truth – unpalatable at least to them – so that they will respond to their sinful hearts and condemn him. Like many atheists today they had made up their minds before assessing the situation.

So, to press it on another stage he dangles another Old Testament concept before them: “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” The Son of Man? That was imagery from Daniel’s visions. We have mentioned it before but it does bear repeating: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Dan 7:13,14) Thus this “son of man”, this human figure, was such a one that required the whole world to worship him. Now, as we’ve observed before, you only worship God, so this figure must be an expression of God in human form – and these religious leaders surrounding Jesus know that deep in their hearts, hence they demand, “Are you then the Son of God?” Note that is their language, to which Jesus replies, “You are right in saying I am.This straight forward affirmation of the truth provokes the response of condemnation.

They take him away to Pilate to get Pilate to crucify him but it is only John, thinking on this many years later, who realises the significance of the eventual, almost desperate, shout of the Jews to Pilate, “The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” (Jn 19:7) Everything in them didn’t want to say these words. Jesus had almost forced them to say the words themselves at the trial, but before Pilate they keep on asking for Jesus’ death because he claimed to be the Messiah, the King of the Jews. It is only when Pilate keeps rejecting these claims that they come out with this apparent blasphemy he claimed to be the Son of God. This made Pilate afraid and so he still tries to release Jesus but eventually, under the pressure from the crowd, he gives way and sends him to be crucified.

Now strangely, my correspondent is correct. Jesus did not himself claim to be the Son of God using those words, “I am the Son of God” – but he did agree quite clearly with those words. Why the difference? I believe he wanted the Jews themselves to speak out the words, “the Son of God”, so that they could never say they didn’t really know what he was claiming. It came from their own lips and so by their own lips they judged themselves.

Now if our antagonist is still quibbling, it is now time to bring on the final damning evidence, because the trial that we have considered was the second trial that is recorded, at dawn when the Jewish elders were added in. When Jesus was first arrested he was taken in the High Priest’s palace in the middle of the night and cross examined. It is at that preliminary trial that we find, “The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.” (Mt 26:63,64). The High Priest used the most solemn oath possible to demand that Jesus tell who he was, and he links Messiah and Son of God. He, at least, does understand the link. Are you the Son of God? Yes! Again it is the Jewish High Priest who has to use the words, but Jesus completely agrees with them!

At the two trials Jesus is asked, “Are you the Son of God?” and on both occasions he replies, “Yes!” At last the many enigmatic references are made concrete. This IS the unique Son of God – he said it!

14. Heavenly Announcements


Mt 3:16,17 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

We have made brief reference to these verses before, but we need to see them now in their own right. This event is a combination of the ordinary and mystery. The ordinary the sceptic can probably cope with. It is the mystery bit that they will struggle with. Let’s take the ordinary bit first of all. John the Baptist had gone out into the wilderness near the River Jordan and had started preaching to whoever would listen to him. Soon the word got out that there seemed to be a prophet in the land and so crowds flocked to hear him. When they arrived they found he had a stark message: God is coming, get ready, repent of your sins and get baptised as a sign of washing your sins away. I can remember the time, many years ago, when a prophet was invited to our church, a man with a reputation of ‘knowing all about you’! In the week before he arrived we all checked our lives out to make sure that we were all right before God!

So here is John baptising the crowds who came to him when Jesus turned up. Now John knew Jesus because he was his cousin, and knowing the sort of person Jesus was, he suggested that Jesus didn’t need baptising. Jesus said let’s do it anyway so no one has any grounds of criticism, so John took him and either immersed him or poured water over him. So far, so good! Nothing for anyone to get upset about, because we’re quite happy with people following their religious beliefs (as long as it doesn’t impose on me!).

But then it happens. Something seemed to come down on him in the form of a dove. Whether it was light, or a mist or what, we don’t know. It wasn’t a real dove because that wouldn’t have caused such comment. There is a little word here that needs comment: ‘he’. The ‘he’ is John the Baptist. It isn’t clear in the three Synoptic Gospels so that may be why John, writing later, included it with more detail: “Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (Jn 1:32-34). John had receiving his calling and instruction from God and within that had been a warning that he would baptize “the Coming One”. So, whatever it was that John sees coming down on Jesus, he realises is the Holy Spirit that he’d been warned about by God.

But then something even more mysterious happens; a voice from nowhere, a voice from above them, speaks the words we find in our verses today. Now I have heard of (reputable) people who have literally heard an audible word from God but it is very rare and only seems to happen at very significant times. How many people heard this word we aren’t told, but when John hears, “This is my Son” he is reassured that he’d heard right from God and is able to make the declaration that John, the Gospel writer, records.

Now for the sceptic, and these studies are written to help sceptic and non-sceptic alike, we need to say again, merely because this hasn’t been your experience, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If you start off with the premise that there is no God, then it can’t happen, but if you start off with an open scientific mind that is willing to investigate the possibility that just maybe there is a God, then such an event such as we’ve been considering, is not so way out. A God who can create the world and move in the world, as the Old Testament reveals, will have no problem in forming words to be spoken into our world. Again, if you were a writer writing to reveal the Son of God to the sceptical world, you might want to shear away from anything questionable – at least I would. The fact that all four Gospels pick up on this incident, suggests it was true.

But was it a one-off event, never to be repeated? Well, no, for we find later in the Gospels another account that occurred up a mountain: “Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Mt 17:1,2) What we obviously have here is Jesus revealing something of his true being to these three disciples. Mysterious? Yes! Beyond our experience? Yes, but if this is truly the Son of God who has come from heaven, this is no problem. But it gets worse for the sceptic: “Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Mt 17:3,4)

So there they are, out in the open on the top of a mountain, miles from anyone else, and suddenly from nowhere two figures appear who the three disciples somehow instantly sense are Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament period – long gone! Peter almost seems in denial that they are experiencing the most amazing supernatural event and so, perhaps to seek to extend it or perhaps to create some sense or normality or ordinariness, he suggests he makes shelters for them. His focus has gone from Jesus to the two men from the past. Now we haven’t got time to go into why they were there, simply to note the experience. “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mt 17:5). Again the same voice, again the same message. It is a message of affirmation.

Now you may not like it if you are a materialistic seeker but these Gospel writers wrote what happened (we’ve been there already!). The inferences of these two specific experiences are quite clear. This sort of thing doesn’t happen – well not usually anyway. But it did and it clearly makes the claim, by its very uniqueness – this is the unique Son of God – apart from the words themselves. Standing on its own we might question it. Put it alongside all the other Gospel references to the divinity of Jesus, and there is little doubt. We are talking about the unique Son of God!