Summary: Jesus was a man. He was not the Son of God as Christians claim, but was elevated to that status by Constantine. That is the claim of The DaVinci Code. This sermon seeks to evaluate that claim and see if it matches up with an historical picture of Christ.
Introduction: It was June 18, 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. The French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the Allies (British, Dutch, and Germans) under the command of the Duke of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of semaphore signals (lights strategically positioned to spell out words) to find out how the battle was going. One of these signal stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral. Late in the day, as the people anxiously awaited any news regarding the battle, it flashed the signal: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N---D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- -." Just at that moment one of those sudden English fog clouds made it impossible to see anything else. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard that their country had lost the war. Suddenly the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The message had four words, not two. The complete message was: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N---DE-F-E-A-T-E-D---T-H-E---E-N-E-M-Y!" It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow was turned into joy as defeat was turned into victory!
So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb on the first Good Friday afternoon. Hope had died even in the hearts of Jesus’ most loyal followers. After the frightful crucifixion the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding crept in on the friends of Jesus. They had their message and it said: "C-H-R-I-S-T---D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D---" On the third day, however, Easter Sunday, the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding lifted, and the disciples and the world received the completed message: "C-H-R-I-S-T---D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D---D-E-A-T-H!" Once again, sorrow was turned into joy as defeat turned into victory,
Easter, or Resurrection Day, as I like to call it, is the most significant day in the Christian calendar. As I say this a few of you might be wondering, "Why not Christmas, when Jesus was born, or Good Friday, when he died on the cross?" The answer is simple: Christ’s incarnation (when He took on human flesh) and His crucifixion, when He offered Himself in payment for sin, are validated through His resurrection. Had Jesus not been raised from the dead, then the words of the Apostle Paul would ring true for all of us: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)." But the tomb was empty as Christ promised beforehand that it would be (See John 2:19-22), death was defeated and life has come to those who believe, so Paul goes on to say: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)." Because Christ conquered death, Christians have every confidence that we, too, possess eternal life.
This morning we have the last message in a short series on the book by Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code. By way of a reminder, the first week we tackled the question, "Can the Bible Be Trusted?" We looked at the Gnostic Gospels, upon which the theories for the book are based. We determined that their content could not be trusted, whereas the Gospels were found to be accurate, historical accounts of the life of Christ. Then, last week we looked at the humanity of Christ. What did it mean for Jesus to be fully human? Did he marry and have children as Brown claims? We answered these questions with a resounding "no!" There is not a shred of evidence, apart from the Gnostic Gospels written 150-200 years after the fact that supports these theories. We also considered the importance of the incarnation for us as believers. We learned that it was only as a human being, that Jesus was able to act as our representative before God and obey for us where Adam had failed (See Romans 5:18-19). In addition, as a human being He was able to die as a substitute for our sin (See Hebrews 2:16-17). Today, on Resurrection Sunday, we’re going to look at the topic of the deity of Christ, or the claim by Christians that Jesus is the Son of God. Specifically we’re going to address three questions: Did Constantine invent the divinity of Jesus? What did the early church believe about Christ’s deity? Did Jesus believe He was God?
I. Did Constantine invent the divinity of Jesus? Here’s what Dan Brown says in his book: At (the Council of Nicea in 325AD) many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon--the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of the sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus...Jesus’ establishment as ’the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea....a relatively close vote at that...By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world..." Is Brown right? Is this really what happened at the Council of Nicea? Did they make Jesus a god? Answer: It is true that Constantine convened the bishops in Nicea hoping to suppress dissent and unify Christianity. However, the dissent was not from those who claimed that Jesus was God, but from a person named Arius who believed that Jesus was not fully divine, but a created god of sorts (i.e. more than a man but less than God). He was a great communicator who used to put his ideas down in musical jingles. We all know the power of a good song, so it should come as no surprise that his ideas gained a wide audience among the general population. At the request of the emperor, approximately 318 bishops got together to settle this dispute about Christ. Overwhelmingly, the council declared Arius a heretic. They recognized that in saying that Christ was created, he was denying the clear teaching of Scripture which declared Jesus to be the Creator (See Colossians 1:16). This along with several other passages (See Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8; John 20:28, etc.) led the bishops to affirm Christ’s deity. Once this issue was settled, they began to discuss how He related to the Father. A man named Eusebius who as an historian and friend of Constantine’s claimed that Jesus had a nature that was "similar" to that of God the Father’s. Another person who was present, but uninvited, named Athanasius argued that Christ could only be God in the fullest sense if His nature was exactly the same as that of the Father. In the end, the Council, based on the testimony of the scriptures, agreed with Athanasius and referred to Jesus as "very God of very God" in their creed. Was the vote a close one as the book claims? It depends on how you define close. The vote was 313 affirming Christ’s deity and nature, 2 voted against and 3 abstained. Application: To make such a bold accusation Dan Brown had to ignore recorded history and reinterpret the events surrounding the Council of Nicea according to his own personal biases. What would motivate him to do it? I can only conjecture, but I think he believed his take on history was more interesting than the actual facts and would sell more books. Don’t think that I am overestimating what the love of money can do to people. A few years ago a writer name Jim Bishop reported what happened to people who won the state lottery: Rosa Grayson of Washington won $400 a week for life. She hides in her apartment. For the first time in her life, she has "nerves." Everyone tries to put the touch on her. "People are so mean," she said. "I hope you win the lottery and see what happens to you." When the McGugarts of New York won the Irish Sweepstakes, they were happy. Pop was a steamfitter. Johnny, 26, loaded crates on docks. Tim was going to night school. Pop split the million with his sons. They all said the money wouldn’t change their plans. A year later, the million wasn’t gone; it was bent. The boys weren’t speaking to Pop, or to each other. Johnny was chasing expensive race horses; Tim was catching up with expensive girls. Mom accused Pop of hiding his poke (winnings) from her. Within 2 years, all of them were in court for nonpayment of income taxes. "It’s the Devil’s own money," Mom said. Both boys were studying hard to become alcoholics. How much did Brown earn from his book? Let’s just say that in 2005 according to Forbes list of wealthy celebrities he had 77 million reasons to alter history.