Summary: Our recognizing Jesus' divinity is especially associated with recognizing Jesus' "concluding" work of dying for sin and rising to enable eternal life, although the Son of God also helped create the world as well. Recognizing this can help us better pray in Jesus' name.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about what it means for Jesus to be divine, I’ve often just thought about the past. If Jesus helped create the world, he must by God. If Jesus lived from eternity with God the Father, he must be God. As John’s Gospel records,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
Or again as Jesus says in John 17:
And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Now there’s certainly a lot of truth in associating Jesus’ divinity with his preceding the world and his beginning various things. But I still wonder if these things only tell half of the story. As Asbury Theological Seminary President Timothy Tennent once said,
The very Christ we proclaim in the gospel is the greatest impossibility made possible. In fact, the gospel emerges in the context of two “impossibilities.” As someone once noted, He entered the world through a door marked “no entry” (a virgin womb). He left through a door marked “no exit” (a tomb). Two “impossibilities” made possible in Jesus Christ.
It's not just Jesus’ work at the beginning of the world and at the beginning of his life that show that he is God. It’s also Jesus’ work bringing about endings in the world. It’s the fact that the Son of God brings the world to its completion, fulfilling the will of the Father. It’s the fact that Jesus is the one who will come again in glory and bring this world as we know it to its end. And it’s the fact that Jesus’ resurrection assures us of both of these things. We’ll entitle the sermon this morning The Divinity of Jesus.
We’ll begin this morning by thinking a bit about the nature of the Son of God’s work at the beginning of the world. I have stressed many times that Genesis 1 focuses on God the Father creating the world. In the beginning God [that is, God the Father] created the heavens and the earth. This is what the Apostles Creed says too: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” As Genesis 1 continues, God the Father continues to be stressed. Here the Father shouts out commands from heaven: let there be light, let there be a sky, let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear. Here the Father is clearly the lead actor, although the Spirit of God is also involved as an agent of the Father since the Spirit of God has been hovering over the waters.
What then about the Son? Well, he seems to start to share the spotlight towards the end of Genesis 1. Here the Father says to the Son “Let us make man in our image.” And then in Genesis 2 we see the Son intimately using his hands to form Adam and Eve and walk and talk with them. The Son is thus especially associated with the end of the six days of creation. This foreshadows the fact that the Son of God will be especially associated with bringing about the end of the world through taking on human flesh and leading people to heaven. So while the Son of God certainly helped create this world, he did so in such a way that pointed to his greater role in bringing about the conclusion to this world.
How then does Jesus bring about the end of the world then? There were hints of this in our text from John 10 a couple of weeks ago in connection with Jesus walking in the temple at Hanukkah. Here Jesus’ Hanukkah-fulfilling work of being the temple that would have to be destroyed and then rebuilt was distinguished from the work of the Father as Creator. Here Jesus showed that while his work was distinct from the Father, they also always work together. Thus Jesus said “I and the Father are one.” I didn’t mention it at the time, but this claim of Jesus immediately caused Jesus’ opponents to pick up stones to stone Jesus and say that the reason for this is “because you [Jesus], being a man, make yourself God (10:33).” Did you catch that? Jesus’ opponents correctly understood that Jesus was demonstrating his divinity especially in connection with the work he was doing at the end of his life, which would be his death and resurrection.
Our text this morning from Jesus’ sermon on the last night of his life also shows that Jesus was proving his divinity through his final work. For example, twice in our text Jesus says that if disciples will start asking the Father for anything in Jesus’ own name, the disciples will receive what they need from the Father. Here Jesus’ own work opens up new avenues in prayer. Disciples will have more and better things to pray for because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This shows that Jesus was divine, for no mere man could make the claim that prayers had to go through them to get to the Father. Another way Jesus in our text proves his divinity is in saying that he is going to the Father. The Father took the initiative in sending Jesus into the world, as we can hear repeatedly at the beginning of John. To use familiar words, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. But the return trip of the Son to the Father comes by the initiative of the Son. Obviously it’s true that the Son trusts the Father for help in this. Nevertheless, the Son himself had to walk the lonely road to the cross. And especially this proved to the world the great love and divinity of the Son. The very end of our text also teaches something similar. Here Jesus says, “I have overcome the world.” If you stop and think about this, it’s an extraordinary claim. Think of hundreds of millions of people lining up against Jesus but then Jesus overcoming them all, all of the hatred, all of the sin. Here Jesus is already confidently anticipating his resurrection, which provides the decisive victory over sin. The fact that Jesus’ work will earn this victory and lead back to the Father in heaven again shows that Jesus is divine.