Summary: In his book, Dan Brown claims that the deity of Jesus was a fourth-century creation. This sermon looks at Jesus’ own statements on the subjects and then examines the three ways we can respond to those statements.
The Da Vinci Code Claim: “The deity of Jesus was invented at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.).”
- A character in Brown’s book states, “Until that moment [the Council of Nicea] in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet. . . a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.”
- The Council of Nicea was an important meeting in 325 A.D. of the leaders (“bishops”) of churches throughout the both the Western and Eastern world. It served to solidify the core of the faith against the corruptions and heresy (particularly Arianism) of that day. This served to explicitly lay out the core of what the faithful church already believed - not, as Brown suggests, make up new doctrines and ideas. (Note: the Nicene Creed (not the original, but a direct descendent of it) is in our hymnals (#717).)
- Arianism was putting forth the doctrine that Jesus was not of the same substance as the Father. In other words, Jesus was not really fully God in the way that many other Christians claimed.
The Big Question For Us: “Did Jesus claim to be God?”
- The point of contention here regards whether the fourth-century followers of Jesus were creating claims for Jesus that He never made for Himself. If Jesus was content to simply be another teacher and not make any grandiose “God” claims, then Brown is right that these disciples highjacked Jesus’ name and turned Him into something different than He originally claimed to be.
- We established in our last sermon that the Bible has an incredible record of reliability, so let’s turn to the words in the Bible and see what Jesus said about Himself.
1. Jesus claimed the authority to forgive sin.
- Look up: Mark 2:5-7.
2. Jesus’ enemies believed He was claiming to be God.
- Look up: John 5:17-18.
3. Jesus claimed that knowing the Son was the same as knowing the Father.
- Look up: John 5:19-23.
4. Jesus claimed for Himself one of God’s biggest names.
- Look up: John 8:58-59.
5. Jesus didn’t stop people who worshiped Him.
- Look up: John 9:35-39.
- cf. John 4:20-24 (only God deserves worship).
6. Jesus claimed He was alive before the world began.
- Look up: John 17:5, 24.
7. Jesus didn’t rebuke Thomas when he called Jesus “God.”
- Look up: John 20:28.
- also, see John 20:30-31.
What Does That Mean For Us?
- Examining the many statements of Jesus, it becomes obvious that Jesus was very clear in His claims to be God. Jesus believed Himself to be God Incarnate. Josh McDowell has pointed out that these claims leave us with three options of what to believe about Jesus.
1. He was a liar.
- One option is that Jesus made all these statements about “being equal with God” knowing that all of it was pure hogwash. The whole thing was just invented out of his imagination.
- The problem here is that if that is true - that Jesus was a habitual liar - then that casts a dark cloud over everything that He taught. We can hardly take the moral teachings of a habitual liar seriously. We cannot take Him simultaneously to have been a great moral teacher and to have deliberately lied in statement after statement after statement.
2. He was a lunatic.
- A second option is that Jesus genuinely thought that He was God. . . and He was genuinely wrong. He was really just a mortal man, but He had “delusions of grandeur.”
- The problem here is that we certainly don’t want to take a stark raving lunatic for our life’s primary moral teacher. People who go around claiming to be God are generally put in an institution, not on a pedestal to be adored by millions. If Jesus was genuinely deluded, that nixes the authority of His teaching.
3. He is Lord.
- The third option is that He was exactly who He said He was. He wasn’t lying about being God - He really was. He wasn’t a lunatic for claiming to be God - because He really was. It could be that He was in fact God Incarnate, just as He said He was.
- There are many who want to accept Jesus as a good teacher without giving Him the control of our lives that comes with admitting that He is Lord of the world and Lord of our lives. We want to have Jesus’ influence without having Him be in charge.
- The classic statement on this issue is from C.S. Lewis, who wrote: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”