JESUS : THE STICKING POINT
by Robert Brow (web
site - www.brow.on.ca ) Kingston, Ontario,
Among Jews, Muslims, and Christians Jesus is recognized as a great moral teacher. They all agree that he has greatly impacted and continues to influence the life of nations all over the world. Most people also believe that in some way our world was created by a personal being. He is given different names in many languages : Dieu in French, Gott in German, Theos in Greek, Elohim in Hebrew, Allah among Arabs, Khuda in Urdu.
What then is the sticking point, or heart of faith, that divides believers in Jesus from those who merely respect his place in history? Why did his own countrymen insist on Jesus’ crucifixion? Why do Muslims honor him as a prophet, but deny he could be the Son of God? And why do many view themselves as Christians, and attend the church in their city, but cannot believe that before Jesus’ birth he was the Son of God who reigned among the nations?
When Jesus of Nazareth came healing and teaching among them, what bothered the Jews was that he claimed pre-existence. "You, though only a human being, are making yourself God" (John 10:34). "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God" (John 19:7).
The Jewish Old Testament makes clear in the Psalms that the LORD (Yahweh) was always the Son of God, the Sovereign King of all nations. "O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth" (Psalms 8:1, 9). "The LORD sits enthroned forever, he has established his throne for judgment" (Psalms 9:7). "Say among the nations, ‘The LORD is king!" (Psalm 96:10).
The fact of the LORD’s reign was also taken for granted by the prophets. "The LORD is our judge, the LORD is our ruler, the LORD is our king: (Isaiah 33:22). "Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?" (Jeremiah 10:7). "The LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King" (Jeremiah 10:10). "The Most High is the sovereign over the kingdom of mortals" (Daniel 4:17).
The sticking point for Jews is still the question "How then could Jesus, a mere human from Nazareth, claim his pre-existence as LORD, Messiah, King, the ruler of all nations?"
In the Qur’an six hundred years later Muhammad (c570-632 AD) recognized Jesus as a great prophet. But Islam is based on Monotheism, the absolute oneness of God. By mathematical logic there was no way God could have a son. (The organic oneness of God eternally existing in three Persons is explained on this site in Religion: Origins and Ideas and God of Many Names). Members of the Kingdom of God could only be those who submitted to the rule of Allah. Jews were to be protected as People of the Book, but if they ever claimed that Jesus was the pre-existent eternal Son of God, they became infidels.
Similarly in our western post-Christian world there are many who follow the moral teachings of Jesus and support the church in their city. But for them the pre-existence of Jesus as Son of God and Sovereign King is as much a sticking point as for Jews and Muslims. They imagine that the Kingdom of God is wherever the justice and love taught by Jesus are accepted among people. The situation is not helped by those who assume that Jesus did not become King until his ascension. Nor by those who delay the beginning of the reign of Jesus the Messiah to some point in the future when he returns to establish his Kingdom.
But for those who recognize that the Son of God has always reigned as King of kings among the nations the many references to him in the Old Testament become wonderfully relevant in our day. We recognize that he was the one who took birth among us, like a King among his subjects. We are then able to recognize the principles of his continuing reign in every nation all over the world, and in the ordering of their own lives and families. There is no sticking point in the oneness of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Christian creeds, and the Kingdom of God.
As the Apostles’ Creed has always declared "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: and in Jesus Christ (Messiah) his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit , born of the Virgin Mary."