Witnesses To The Deity of Jesus Christ
In our last study, we saw that members of Jesus’ earthly family (Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, James, Jude) were witnesses to the Deity of Jesus Christ. We move next to people closest to Jesus during His earthly Ministry.
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was the man God used to prepare the way for “the Lord.” John preached a baptism for the remission of sins and the coming wrath of God. He also preached – “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8) John was preparing the way for the Messiah of Israel – Who would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire – Who would thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, gather His wheat into the barn, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. The Old Testament Scriptures attributed this same Power to God alone.
Jesus came to John for baptism – not for remission of sins, but to fulfill righteousness and for special anointing as God’s Priest, Prophet, and King of Israel. John immediately knew who Jesus was and said – “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” (John 1:29-30) There was no doubt that John knew that Jesus was the One about Whom he preached. He also knew that Jesus existed “before” him even though John was several months older by his earthly birthday.
The exchange between Jesus and John is very telling of what John knew about Him:
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)
John the Baptist was arrested sometime after baptizing Jesus. He heard about the works of Christ and sent two of his disciples to ask Christ an important question:
“Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
John’s question is surprising on the surface because God had shown him that Jesus was His Anointed One, but we need to understand what Jews believed about the Messiah. The Old Testament prophets presented Messiah as a Conquering King. They also presented Messiah as the Suffering Savior, but so many Jews missed the significance of what God was going to do for them by suffering for them. Even though it was in their Scriptures, they didn’t comprehend the significance of Messiah dying for their sins and being raised from the dead for their justification. What Jesus did in answering John’s questions was to point him to the “evidences” of the Messiah – the blind seeing, the lame walking, lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead rising to life, and the poor having the Gospel preached to them. Those were prophetic evidences John the Baptist would recognize. He went to his death knowing that Jesus is the Promised Messiah of Israel.
Jesus selected 12 men who would become His closest disciples – men we know as the Twelve Apostles of Christ. They spent 3+ years traveling the country with Jesus. They witnessed His Miracles and Teachings. They saw Jesus heal the suffering multitudes and cast thousands of demons out of oppressed people. 11 of the Apostles were witnesses to His Death, Resurrection and Ascension. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and experienced His Great Power in their own lives and ministries as they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Did these men who knew Jesus best believe He is God? Let’s see what the Gospels shows us about the beliefs of the Apostles about the Deity of Jesus Christ.
“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away … Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22, 33
These Jewish men would have only worshiped God. They really believed that Jesus is God.
“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:15-17
The Apostle Peter understood from what he had witnessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
“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 nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:1-4
The Apostle John made it clear in his account of the Gospel that Jesus is the Word of God and that the Word of God is God. John believed that Jesus was in the beginning with God and that every created thing was Created by Jesus.
“Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
The Apostle Nathanael (also called Bartholomew) recognized Jesus as the Son of God, the King of Israel. This was on their first meeting when Jesus told Nathanael He had seen him standing under a fig tree before Philip called him to meet Jesus. Nathanael knew that Jesus had not been near him and immediately saw that Jesus is the Son of God.
“And Thomas answered and said to Him, “’My Lord and my God!”
When Thomas saw Jesus after His Death and Resurrection, he recognized that Jesus is God and testified to his belief.
It is clear from reading the Gospel accounts that while Jesus was with them on earth the Apostles believed Jesus is God, but what did they believe after He Ascended into Heaven? What about the early years of their ministries? Did their experiences change their minds about the Deity of Christ? What do we learn from the letters they wrote to other believers decades after Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension? Did they still believe He is God? We’ll look at that in our next study.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”