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The Divine Christ and the Bible
SACRED SCRIPTURE is made up of a number of books, different in many ways, but all brought together in Jesus Christ. From Genesis to the Apocalypse or the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ is the center. The story of the Bible is the story of Jesus Christ. In the old Testament we are prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament Jesus Christ is with us, in His life on earth in the Gospels, in His life in the Church in the rest of the books.
To grasp then what Jesus Christ was and what He came into the world to accomplish, we must study all of the Old Testament and the New Testament. No one passage gives us the whole story of Jesus Christ. In the study of the human body the various members must be seen in relation to the body itself. So, too, the various passages in the Bible must be seen in relation to the whole Bible.
We must remember, too, that the picture of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament is a sketch, to be filled in the New Testament. A quick glance at the passage in the Old Testament will show us Jesus Christ as the descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Juda, and David. It will show us that He is to be a king, with divine qualities or characteristics. Thus He is called Emmanuel, that is, God with us (Isa. 7:14). He is called Mighty God, Wonderful Counsellor, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). He will have the spirit of God (Isa. 11:2; 61:1). He shall be given the title "The Lord, our Just one" (Jer. 23:6).
In the New Testament the angel Gabriel tells Mary that her son "shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father . . . the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:32, 35). When Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, was told of the origin of his foster-son, he was told to "call his name Jesus" (Matt. 1:21), in fulfillment of Isaias 7:14, "and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is, interpreted, God with us." At his birth the shepherds were told by the angel that "today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord." Then they heard this praise of God: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will" (Luke 2:10-14).
At the age of twelve Jesus and His parents went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover. St. Luke records for us the first words from the lips of the youthful Jesus, speaking of God as His Father. "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business" (Luke 2:41-50)? When Jesus began His public life one of the first scenes is that of His baptism by John the Baptist. A voice from Heaven speaks to Him: "Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22).
In two of the three temptations recorded in the desert, the devil begins "if thou art the Son of God . . ." (Luke 4:3, 9). Upon our Lord's return to Nazareth He entered the synagogue and read from Isaias: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me . . ." (Luke 4:18).
THOU ART THE CHRIST
Jesus began to manifest Himself through His teaching and miracles. As He did so the people came to realize that "if this man were not from God, he could do nothing" (John 9:33). The Apostles came to realize that this was not a mere man Who had called them. They came to believe as Peter said for all of them: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). So, too, did the leaders of His own people realize that He was claiming for Himself more than any one of their Prophets had ever claimed for themselves. They accused Him of claiming to be "equal to God" (cf. John 5:18), of claiming to be God (cf. John 10:33). Christ's answer to this claim was that His works indicate "that the Father is in me and I in the Father. . . for the Father and I are one" (John 10:30, 38).
There came a time, however, when Jesus Christ proclaimed His divinity in all solemnity. He stood before the Great Council, the Sanhedrin, that had the right to judge in religious matters. Here, in answer to the question put to Him by the High Priest, "I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God," Jesus answered "thou hast said it"; Jesus was the Son of God (Matt. 26:63-64). It was for this that He was put to death.
The Apostles had come to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). A clear expression of this belief is to be found on the lips of doubting Thomas. Eight days after Resurrection, when our Lord appeared to His Apostles, Thomas was absent. On this occasion, Thomas was there. Our Lord appeared and offered His hands and side for Thomas to examine. Then there burst from the heart and lips of Thomas: "My Lord and my God." "Because thou hast seen me, thou has believed," so spoke Christ. He accepted the titles, for He was truly the Lord and the God of Thomas as well as of all the Apostles (John 20:26-29).
Son of God, Lord, God: these are names for Jesus Christ. To put it in another way: Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He is Lord, He is God. The people of His time knew that He claimed to be equal to God (John 5:18). He claimed the same honor that was given to God the Father (John 5:23), the same right to judge all men that belongs to God (John 5:22, 27), the same life that God the Father had (John 5:26). He went further. He said that to see Him was to see God the Father (John 14:9).
Jesus Christ is by nature God. By nature God the Father is God; so, too, is the Holy Spirit by nature God. There is, however, but one God; there are not three Gods. There is but the one divine nature. Therefore He is God as is God the Father, as is God the Holy Spirit. It is because of this one divine nature that Jesus Christ could say: "The Father and I are one." They are one in nature. Hence it is as right and just to apply the name of God to Jesus Christ as it is to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. It is as right and just to adore Jesus Christ as it is the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus St. Paul says that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2: 10-11).
This is the doctrine taught by the Catholic Church. In her prayers the Catholic Church adores, thanks, asks, and begs pardon of Jesus Christ as she does of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. It is true that the Church also prays through Jesus Christ, for as man He is the mediator between God and all men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). It is for this reason, too, that we read of our Lord saying that the Father is greater than He (John 14:28). Jesus Christ is true God; He is also true Man. As God He is one with God the Father.
Jesus Christ is also called the Word. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . and the Word was made flesh" (John 1:1, 14). The Word existed with God in the beginning, that is, in the beginning of time. Genesis begins by saying, "In the beginning God created heaven and earth." John 32 is referring to this and he is telling us that the Word was with God before the creation. As God existed before creation, so did the Word. What existed before creation is eternal, for there was no time. The Word then is eternal. Jesus Christ is the Word, therefore He is eternal. But the Word is God. Jesus Christ therefore is God.
MEANING OF THE "WORD"
For the origin and meaning of the concept "word," we must look to the Old Testament. The Old Testament frequently expresses the idea of God's word. When God created, He is described as saying . . . and it was done: "And God said. . ." When God gave the ten commandments to Moses, the phrase "and the Lord spoke all these words" is used to introduce them. Again we read: "And the Lord spoke to Moses saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, and to all his sons, and to all the children of Israel, saying to them: 'This is the word which the Lord had commanded.' " In the Prophets it is common to read expressions such as this: "The word that came to Jeremias from the Lord, saying: Stand in the gate of the house of the Lord, and proclaim there this word, and say: Hear ye the word of the Lord . . ."
In Psalm 118, one of the words used for the law is "word." God's law is then God's word: it is God's revelation given to the Chosen People through His word. St. Paul has summed up this thought and at the same time has shown where the Son fits into this idea at the beginning of his epistle to the Hebrews: "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by his Son. .." (Heb. 1:1-2).
The Son then is the Word, and the Word is God, and the Word was made flesh. Jesus Christ then is both the Word and the Son. The term "Word" is very apt to express the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son. When we think of something we express our idea in a word. At times this word is only in the mind, at other times we express the word externally; that is, we speak. God thinks of Himself; He expresses His thought of Himself in the Word, the Second Person, His Son. With us the word is separate from the idea and is different from our human nature. Our word is not another self or another person. In God, however, the Word is another person for it is a perfect expression of the thought that the Father has of Himself. Mysterious, yes; profound, yes.
As was said, at times we speak the word in our mind. St. writes that "last of all in these days (God) has spoken to us by His Son." God first spoke to us through the Word in the work of creation, as St. John says (1:3): "All things were made through him (the Word)." Last of all He spoke through the Word in the Incarnation: "The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him" (John 1:18). The Word made flesh is the revelation of God to man, for the Word is God, and He reveals God through His life and through His teaching. Let us read what He said: "I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou has given me out of the world. They were shine and thou has given them to me, and they have kept thy word. Now they have learnt that whatever thou hast given me is from thee; because the words that thou hast given me I have given them. And they have received them ( the words) and have known of a truth that I came forth from thee..." (John 17:6-~).
St. John has summed up the relation of the Word to God: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). The Word is eternal; He is with God, that is, in the company of God the Father, yet distinct, or as we say, another person whom we call the Son, or the Second Person of the Trinity. He is God, one with the Father, consubstantial with the Father. This Word became flesh; therefore Jesus Christ Who is this Word made flesh is God; He is eternal; He is the Son, the Second Person of the adorable Trinity.
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut. 6:4). One Lord: one God, the God of Israel! This is fundamental to the revelation made by God to the Chosen People. The exclusive unity of God was the first doctrine of the covenant between God and His People.
When Jesus Christ claimed to be God, it would seem that this claim attacked the very basis of the Jewish religion. But strong as was their monotheism, the Jews could not overlook certain passages in the Old Testament in which the divine name was given to others. In what is called the Book of Emmanuel (chapters 7 to 12), Isaias is speaking of a child who "is born to us," and of a son who "is given to us." In chapter 7 he writes that "his name shall be called Emmanuel," that is, God with us. And in chapter 9 he adds that "his name shall be called . . . Mighty God."
As the name, God, is applied to the Father, so is it applied to the Son. But Jesus Christ is the Son; therefore He is God. Hence our Lord could say as He did: "I and the Father are one." There is but one God, as we have already said. Even though "God" is applied to both the Father and the Son, there is but one God. Both the Father and the Son are divine, both have the divine nature, both are eternal, omnipotent, infinite. In all of these things they are one. Yet they are distinct, for God the Father is the First Person, and God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Hence Jesus could say: "I and the Father," that is, two persons, "are one," that is, one in nature.
Jesus Christ therefore is one with the Father because together with His human nature He has the divine nature, He is distinct from the Father because He is the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. There is only one "I" in Jesus Christ; that "I" is a divine person. But there are two natures in Him, the divine nature and the human nature. In us wherever there is a human nature, there is an "I," one person; but in Jesus Christ there are two natures, yet only on "I" or person, and that is the divine person of the Son.
All of this is very profound; it is mysterious. Yet those who wish to appreciate and understand Jesus Christ must know Who He is, what He is, and what He means to them. We have seen Who He is, and what He is. Now let us reflect on what He means to the human race.
Jesus Christ is God, our Creator, our Maker, our beginning and end. We came from Him and we must go to Him, He has destined us for an eternal life with Himself. We must pay Him homage, honor, adoration, obedience. Since Jesus Christ is God, all of this belongs to Him as much as to the Father. So in the Apocalypse, St. John "beheld and I heard a voice of many angels around about the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them were thousands and thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and divinity and wisdom and strength and glory and blessing . . . To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb, blessing and honor and glory and dominion, forever and ever' " (Apoc. 5:11-13).
This is the worship that the Catholic Church gives to Jesus Christ. It prays to Him as it does to God the Father. It gives to Him the same adoration that it gives to God the Father. Since there is but one God, any honor paid to God the Son (or God the Holy Ghost) is paid to God the Father; to honor one person is to honor all three, for the three persons are one God.
Yet we find Jesus Christ praying to God as creatures pray to Him: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee." "I pray for them . . . Yet not for these only do I pray . . ." "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." He goes so far as to tell the Apostles that "if you loved me, you would indeed rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I" (John 14:29). Jesus Christ as a human being is not as great as the Father, even though, as divine, He is equal to Him.
St. Paul who wrote of Jesus Christ "who though he was by nature God," also wrote: "For there is one God, and one Mediator, between God and man, himself man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). He also said that Jesus Christ as high priest "is able at all times to save those who come to God through Him, since he lives always to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). He added: "For Jesus, in the days of his earthly life, with a loud cry and tears, offered up prayers and supplications to him who was able to save him from death, and was heard because of his reverent submission. And he, Son though he was, learned obedience from the things that he suffered..." (Heb. 5:7-8).
It is through Jesus Christ that God is revealed to man. Eternal life, the destiny of all men, comes to us through Jesus Christ because He has redeemed us through His blood. He Himself said: "Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). There is no other way to eternal life, for "I am the way," says Jesus Christ.
Catholic Information Network (CIN)