I’m closing out my investigation this week by looking at the unwitting testimony of some hostile witnesses. Not everyone responded amicably to Jesus and His message. Some were downright hostile and even wanted to kill him. Their reaction to what he said is an interesting study and that’s where we will land this week. Let’s see how opponents of Jesus responded to his claims and what these hostile witnesses can tell us about Jesus.
Dealing With a Common Objection
One common objection that people have about Jesus is they claim he never actually said, “I am God.” On one hand that is true, Jesus never used those exact words. On the other hand, Jesus did use the proper name of God for himself and he claimed to have many of the attributes assigned only to God. Did you know that God had a proper name? You need only look back to Exodus 13:14 to find it. Moses speculated that the people of Israel just might want to know who had sent him. He asks God, “Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” So, when we investigate the claims Jesus made about himself, we must first understand how God had previously identified himself to the people of Israel. He did that using the proper name, I AM.
Attributes Assigned Only to God
Now let’s turn to another very important background point. Trying to understand God is no easy task. The Bible attempts to bring him to our level of understanding by discussing some of his personal attributes. Some of those attributes like loving, merciful, gracious, trustworthy, etc. are traits that we can share with Him (though imperfectly) because we are made in his image. But there are other attributes that we will never share with God because these attributes are exclusive to him. These would be things like all knowing, all powerful, the ability to be everywhere all the time, existing outside of time and space, having no beginning or end, etc. These qualities make God entirely distinctive. They are what set him apart from any created thing and place him above any idol mankind has ever constructed.
Now to Our Hostile Witnesses
The religious leaders of Jesus time were very familiar with the attributes of God and of the proper name that God had given himself. So, when Jesus began equating himself with God by using these attributes to describe himself and invoked the proper name of God, people began to take notice. They either found proof that these claims were true, typically through the miracles Jesus performed or they considered the man a heretic, demon possessed or simply a lunatic. Whatever they believed about Jesus was a matter of their hearts, but their belief did not change what Jesus claimed about himself. Each person must evaluate the claims, but the claims don’t change. And the reaction of our hostile witnesses prove that Jesus did indeed claim to be God.
In this passage, Jesus it talking to some skeptical Jews. He gets into a discussion about Abraham and that Abraham was anticipating his arrival into the world. So the Jews say, “You are not even 50 years old,” they said to Jesus. “And you have seen Abraham?” “What I’m about to tell you is true,” Jesus answered. “Before Abraham was born, I am!” When he said this, they picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus hid himself. He slipped away from the temple area.” So here we see Jesus using the proper name of God, I AM. He is also making a claim about himself that he transcends time, existing before Abraham and existing now. And the Jews react to this strongly. They pick up stones to kill Jesus. They believe he has blasphemed God and the punishment for that is death. The reaction of these hostile witnesses tells us that they totally understood the claim that Jesus was making.
The context of this passage is in the garden where Judas has just betrayed Jesus. The soldiers and officials are asking Jesus to identify himself. “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” Now, the people who have translated this passage from Greek to English have taken the Greek words for “I am,” (ego eimi) and added to that the English word “he.” But in the Greek text, the phrase is only “I am” (ego eimi). But what is more interesting in this passage is the fact that the men fell to the ground when they hear Jesus make this claim. Jesus’ captors are physically responding to the all powerful nature of that proper name.
In this passage, religious leaders are questioning Jesus about his identity. After this instance, they will take Jesus to Pilate and accuse him if misrepresenting himself to the people. ““If you are the Messiah,” 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 the Son of God then?” He replied, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? We have heard it from his own lips.” These leaders are satisfied that Jesus is making blasphemous claims of divinity. They conclude they don’t need any other witnesses because they have heard his claim with their own ears.
Mark records an earlier meeting of the Sanhedrin where Jesus is similarly questioned. “Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah? Are you the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One. You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard him say a very evil thing against God. What do you think?” They all found him guilty and said he must die.” Again, Jesus uses that name of God, claims to be the Messiah and claims authority to sit at God’s right hand. He is accused of blasphemy and his enemies plot to kill him.
Closing the Case
Over the past few weeks I have been building a case that the claims of Christianity are true, that Jesus really is the Son of God. We have looked at the eyewitness accounts of family members, friends, strangers and even hostile witnesses. We have seen Jesus perform miracles to back up his claims. We have even learned of instances where God himself confirmed Jesus’ identity. I hope you are beginning to see that the Bible methodically and specifically makes a strong case that Christianity is true. I encourage you to start your own investigation. I have barely scratched the surface of evidence in the Bible. There is even more evidence outside of the Bible from reliable historical sources. Next week, I’ll share some resources to help you and your family build your own case!
I have more ideas!
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