Is there anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus DOESN’T think of himself as God?
Where he comes across as mere man…or simply a lofty teacher of ethics?
If you say “yes” and point to the Sermon on the Mount…we need to talk.
The Stupendous Claims of the Sermon on the Mount
There’s a lingering discussion on this blog about the deity of Christ…
What’s at stake? Nothing more than the truth that God was born to save us from guilt and the power of sin.
That’s why it’s troubling when people point to the Sermon on the Mount as good, basic ethical teachings.
You’re missing the point if that’s all you walk away with.
The Odd Strain of Authority in the Beatitudes
At first glance, the Beatitudes might seem independent of this lofty view of Jesus, especially with statements like “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Yet, we detect an odd note of authority.
Indeed, a strange note pathological and overwrought coming from anyone else: Jesus assures us who will be saved. He announces rewards only God can give. He blesses those who suffer in his name.
Imagine if I said to you, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
I can’t imagine many of you would stick with me after that.
Assuming Authority Reserved for God
Moving deeper into the sermon we hear Jesus put his own words on a level with the Old Testament: He says he isn’t abolishing the Law…but fulfilling it.
Yes, OT prophets claimed authority. They said, “Thus says the Lord.” They were mouthpieces, yes. And unquestionably Jesus was a prophet.
But he didn’t say, “Thus says the Lord.” He said “I say.”
He steps forward–out of the crowd of prophets–with authority. Authority reserved for the God expressed in the OT.
Again, insane if it came from me. Or you. Or even Isaiah.
The Fate of Men Rests on Jesus’ Word
And finally, Jesus declares that those who say “Lord, Lord” with their lips but don’t mean it in their hearts will be banished from his presence.
Upon Jesus’ decision rest the fate of men. An act reserved for God alone.
Imagine if I said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
I think you get my point.
What Do You Think?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents himself possessed of an authority that goes far beyond that of any prophet. In fact, those who heard Jesus’ sermon walked away astonished because he taught like someone with authority.
And remember: Jesus was ultimately crucified for blasphemy. For thinking he was God. Pathological, yes. But the thing is, the resurrection proved his claims. Demonstrated he was who he said he was.
All ethical teachers–whether great or lame–are dead. Jesus is not.