This article was written to accompany the ‘The Life of Jesus’ hangout.
In March 1995, Joan Osborne released the song, ‘What if God was one of us?’.
The chorus of that song is:
“What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on a bus?
Trying to make his way home.”
God was one of us.
Just like with Jesus’ humanity, we can often miss some of the implications of the fact that Jesus was fully God.
Throughout history, there have been various cults that have tried to assert that Jesus was the highest of the angels, but merely a created being. The Bible tells a different story.
- What would we lose if Jesus were not divine?
Again, if Jesus were not divine, he would not be qualified as a saviour (what creature could bear the weight of the sin of the world?). This is well documented, and is often presented as the central consequence of Jesus’ divinity. It is not, however, the only consequence. Here are three more reasons that Jesus’ divinity matters.
We Have a Better Temple
In the prologue to John’s gospel, Jesus is introduced with the following words:
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ (John 1:14)
The words translated ‘dwelt among us’ could be more literally rendered as ‘tabernacled’, a reference to a large tent in the Old Testament that was known as the Tabernacle.
God’s people had been instructed to construct the tent according to very specific designs given in the book of Exodus, and to take the tent with them as they moved, pitching it in the middle of the camp. The purpose of the Tabernacle was to be the dwelling place of God, and in the midst of the people was God himself.
In time, the Tabernacle was replaced with a more permanent structure – the Temple, and served as a reminder that God was with his people.
In fact, the whole Bible could be described as a story about Temple building. The Garden of Eden was a Temple where people met with God. In the Old Testament were the Tabernacle and the Temple, and the promise of the future is a new creation where God’s glory will fill the earth and his presence will again dwell with his people.
If Jesus were a mere creature there would be no meeting place between people and God. But Jesus is God, and that means that his body is a temple. People can meet with God. And when Jesus dwells within us, it means that we are temples too.
We Have a Better Story
During Jesus’ ministry, he faced frequent opposition, and those who opposed him would often frame their objections in terms of the lives of Old Testament characters.
Their worldview was one that revolved around Abraham and Moses and David. It was these stories (or at least their own spin on them) that formed how they lived and explained why they were devout in their religious practice, why they were harsh in their treatment of ‘sinners’, and why they were categorical in their rejection of Jesus.
Jesus did not reject or usurp any of these stories. Rather he provided the one grand story in which they all fit.
In Patrick Rothfuss’s excellent novel, ‘The Name of the Wind’, the central character is a boy called Kvothe, who hears a storyteller keep an audience captivated with an amazing tale. After the storyteller has finished, Kvothe approaches him and asks, ‘Do you know many stories?’ The story teller smiled and answered,
‘I only know one story. But sometimes small pieces seem to be stories themselves.’ (Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind)
Understanding the divinity of Jesus provides the one story into which the pieces fit. When Jesus challenged the Pharisees, he said to them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)
If we miss the divinity of Jesus, we miss the one story about God creating the world, acting in patient grace and loving kindness even as we turn away, speaking his word, sending his prophets, and repeatedly rescuing his people, before finally coming himself to the world he created, bringing grace and truth, and pouring out his Spirit onto his church.
All we will have are the fragments.
And when we look at our own lives, and the fragments of our own stories, nothing will make sense. Often fragments look confusing and nothing fits together. It is only when we have the big story, that all the little stories, including ours, come together.
We Have a Better Community
It is often said that the church started in Acts 2, but this isn’t really so. When the Spirit was outpoured at Pentecost and thousands got saved, the disciples simply did on a larger scale what Jesus had already done with them.
And when Jesus gathered his twelve, he too was simply doing on a larger scale (numerically speaking) what he had already experienced with the Father and the Spirit for eternity past.
Jesus prayed, ‘I do not ask for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.’ (John 17:20-21)
The kind of community Jesus envisages in the church is akin to the Trinity. If Jesus were not divine, he would not know the eternal fellowship of the Trinity (indeed, there would not have been such a thing), community would not be built into the fabric of the cosmos, that early group of disciples may have been a bunch of mates, but could never have been infused with the divine DNA that has grown and spread and become a church of billions across the world and across history.
To put it simply, if Jesus were not divine, he wouldn’t have been able to start the kind of community that he did, and we wouldn’t have got to be a part of it.
- In what practical ways does it make a difference to you that you are able to meet with God?
- How does the story of your life fit into God’s big story in Jesus?
- In what ways do you see similarities to the relationships within the Trinity in your own church community?