Blason

I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST THE SON OF GOD

By a Monk of Saint Joseph de Clairval Abbey

© 2000 by Traditions Monastiques

Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval
21150 Flavigny-sur-Ozerain
France

Imprimatur for the original French:
† Michel Coloni, Bishop of Dijon, March 19, 2000

ISBN: 2-87810-037-9


Table of Contents


Did Jesus Christ truly exist? Is He really the Messiah, sent by God, the Savior of mankind? Who is He? an extraordinary man, or really quite a bit more, God made man? These questions are of capital importance for everyone. For if the witness of the Gospels is authentic, Christ, and Christ alone, can open the doors to eternal life for us. The Father loves the Son, and He has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; he who does not obey the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him (Jn 3:35-36).

Jesus Himself said: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me (Jn 14:6).

On Pentecost Sunday, Saint Peter proclaimed: There is salvation in no one else but Jesus (Acts 4:12). And Saint Paul affirmed that Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and men (cf. 1 Tim 2:5).

Thus we cannot just skip over this question. We must study the person of Jesus Christ, such as history has made it known to us, in order to know if we must believe in His doctrine and follow the way which, according to Him, leads to eternal life.

In the following pages, we intend to show that:

I

JESUS CHRIST DID TRULY EXIST

This point can be established with certainty thanks to the witness of pagan authors and above all of the Gospels, which are historic documents.

Jesus Christ did not live during a mythical and poorly understood time. He was born a half century after the death of Julius Caesar, during the height of the Roman Empire (the reign of Caesar Augustus); He was a contemporary of Seneca.

A large number of characters mentioned by the Gospels are known to us from other sources, for example, those that are mentioned by Saint Luke at the beginning of his Gospel: the emperors Augustus and Tiberius, Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, the high priests Annas and Caiphas and Saint John the Baptist, whose mission and death were reported by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

I. The testimony of Jewish and pagan authors

“The act, for the Son of God, of ‘becoming one of us’ was carried out in the greatest humility. Thus it is not surprising that secular historiography, taken up with more spectacular events and by more visible characters, only paid Him in the beginning brief mention, which is nevertheless significant” (John Paul II, Tertio millenio adveniente, November 10, 1994, No. 5).

  1. Christ is mentioned in the Jewish Antiquities, an historical work edited in Rome by the Jewish (non-Christian) historian Flavius Josephus between 93 and 94: “During that time, there was Jesus who was a wise man (...) Some of the principals of our nation having accused him before Pilate, he had him crucified” (Ant. Iud. B.18 ch. 4). From a critical point of view, there is no doubt that Flavius Josephus was giving, in this passage, an authentic testimony of the existence of Jesus Christ.

  2. Right from the beginning of the second century, several Roman authors spoke of Jesus Christ.

    1. Suetonius (~ 69-125) reported that the Emperor Claudius (10 B.C.-54 A.D.) “expelled from Rome the Jews who had become, under the influence of Chrestus, a permanent cause of disorder” (Vita Claudii, 25:4). We note the change in the name of Christ, without doubt due to the pronunciation of Christians of Greek origin. Scholars are convinced for the most part that this text relates to Jesus Christ, who had become the source of internal struggles in the Roman Jewish community. The repressive measures taken by Claudius are also confirmed by the Acts of the Apostles: Saint Paul encountered in 52, in Corinth, a Jewish household that had been expelled from Rome (cf. Acts 18:2). Thus there were Christians in Rome less than twenty years after the death of Christ. How could it be that, if Jesus Christ had not existed, His legend would have been given credence in so short a time, without being refuted?

    2. Tacitus, in his Annals, written about 116, discussed the Christians during the burning of Rome and the persecution of Nero in 64: “The name of the Christian comes to them from Christ, who under Tiberius was delivered up for punishment by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Repressed for a time, this execrable superstition arose again, not only in Judea at its source, but in Rome itself” (Annals XV, 44). Elsewhere, Tacitus speaks of an “ingens multitudo” (an immense multitude) of Christians to be found in Rome as early as 64, a mere thirty years after the death of Jesus Christ.

    3. Pliny the Younger, the Roman proconsul of Bithynia and of Pontus (Asia Minor), in the year 111 sent a report on the Christians to the emperor Trajan and asked him how to deal with them. Pliny reported that the Christians “came together before dawn on certain days in order to sing hymns to Christ as if he were a God”; he added that they had grown numerous to the point of causing distress to the pagan priests (Epist. 10:96).

  3. Later, anti-Christian polemicists such as Celsus, at the end of the second century, would leave no doubt as to the existence of Jesus Christ, but they took pains to depict Him as an impostor or a magician.

II. The testimony of Christian authors

Most of our knowledge about Jesus Christ comes to us through the four Gospels (from the Greek “euangelion,” good news), through the Acts of the Apostles, through the Letters of Saint Paul, Saint John, Saint Peter, Saint James and Saint Jude, and through the Apocalypse of Saint John. These twenty-seven books make up the New Testament. Here, we shall limit ourselves to a study of the Gospels. They suffice quite amply to prove that Jesus existed, and they will make us aware of the events of His life as well as His teaching, for the following reasons:

1) The age and accuracy of the Gospels

Written on fragile papyrus sheets and, from the fourth century onwards, on more durable parchment, the texts of antiquity have been salvaged with difficulty; in addition, there were only a few copies due to the cost of reproducing them. But in spite of that, in spite of the persecutions (Diocletian tried to destroy all of the Christian books), and of the vicissitudes of two millennia of history, about 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament dating from the fourth to the seventh centuries have come down to us. (We cite in particular the Codex Sinaïticus and the Codex Vaticanus, two nearly complete manuscripts of the New Testament dating from the fourth century.) In addition, archeologists have extracted from the dry sands of Egypt numerous fragments of papyrus, some of which go back to the second century (Papyrus 52 dates from the year 130 and contains some verses of Saint John; and the Bodmer papyrus from the end of the second century contains the entire Gospel of Saint John).

By contrast, if one were to ask how we know the works of the pagan authors of antiquity, the authenticity of which no one doubts, we realize that in general they are only known to us through manuscripts copied in the Middle Ages (Homer: 11th century; Caesar: 10th century; Tacitus: 15th century). Thus we have much more solid proof of the existence of Jesus Christ than of that of Cicero or of Julius Caesar, whose existence no one doubts!

This abundance of ancient manuscripts, owing to the necessity that Christians had of possessing, in every Church, a copy of the inspired texts, is an indisputable proof of the accuracy of the Gospels as we know them in the original text, because the different manuscripts are in substantial agreement: the critics are unanimous in agreeing that no other manuscript from antiquity enjoys such a textual validity.

2) Who are the authors of the Gospels? Is the testimony of the Evangelists trustworthy?

A) Who are the authors of the Gospels?

The Catholic authors of the second century whose writings have come down to us (Papias, Saint Iræneus) attribute the first Gospel to the apostle Saint Matthew, the second to Saint Mark, the third to Saint Luke and the fourth to the apostle Saint John. These attributions are confirmed by the Tradition of the Church1 which is based on solid arguments, but this question is not of great importance to our topic. It suffices for us to know that the Gospels were composed by Palestinian Christians, before the year 70 for the first three and before the year 100 for that of Saint John, which is commonly agreed upon today on the basis of linguistic and historic criteria.

B) Is the testimony of the Evangelists trustworthy?

  1. The sacred authors, eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus Christ, Apostles or close collaborators of the Apostles, possessed first hand information. Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed (Beginning of the Gospel according to Saint Luke).

  2. The Evangelists wished to faithfully report these facts for the following reasons:

    • They were virtuous men and they themselves insisted upon the truth of their testimony (cf. Jn 21:24).

    • They recounted facts which their self-love should have made them omit: the low station of their origins, their ignorance, their slowness in understanding the teaching of Christ, their defects, their weaknesses and their faults (for example the denial of Saint Peter).

    • They would have gained no advantage by lying—the only reward the apostles received from their testimony was contradiction and scorn (see for example: 2 Cor 4: 8-12).

  3. Beyond that, it is remarkable how the very rich stories of the Gospels give the impression of being “real life” occurrences. They are filled with geographic and historic details, the correctness of which strikes whoever visits the Holy Land. They are far from being vague mythological fables or even “apocryphal” stories (that is, arbitrarily attributed to a historic person supposed to be the author) about Jesus Christ, written at a later time by poorly inspired Christians.

  4. If the Evangelists had invented facts about the life of Jesus, their false testimony would have led to protests by more sincere disciples or by the enemies of Christianity. But quite the contrary, the four Gospels were accepted very rapidly and without any debate by all of the local Churches (contrary to the reception given to the apocryphal writings).
3) The Gospels are in harmony with each other, despite differences owing to the conditions under which they were written.

Even though the Gospels were inspired by the Holy Spirit, each Evangelist still told the facts in his own style, according to the time and place in which he wrote: “The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on either orally or already in written form, others they synthesized or explained (...) in such fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus” (Vatican Council II, Dei verbum, 19).

If they appear to contradict one another on the details of place and time (for example, in what exact chronological order did the apparitions of the risen Christ occur?), these differences are without importance.

The Evangelists do not present the life of Jesus in terms of a modern biography (like all of the historians of antiquity, they did not seek to be exhaustive about precise details of time and place as we do in the modern era), but they give us an exact knowledge of what the Son of God did and taught concerning our eternal Salvation (cf. Dei verbum, 19).

As to the actual words of Jesus, they must have been uttered in different times and places; as a good teacher, Jesus repeated His teachings in order to burn them into the memory of His listeners; their transcription by different authors and their translation from Aramaic to Greek explain the differences, which at the same time never bear upon the essentials of the doctrine.

II

JESUS CHRIST IS THE MESSIAH, SENT BY GOD

I – The prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Jesus Christ

The entire Old Testament is a preparation of the Hebrew people for the coming of the “Messiah” (in Greek “Christ,” that is, the “Anointed One”—this anointing means that such a person thus receives a special consecration by God in view of the fulfillment of a particular mission, cf. Ps 44[45]:7) who was to deliver Israel, spread the religion of the true God to the ends of the earth, and reign eternally. God, who alone can reveal the future to men, predicted throughout the centuries, through the voice of the prophets, certain events of the life of the Messiah; these prophecies were religiously maintained throughout the ages in the Holy Books of the Jews. Indeed the life of Jesus corresponds to the prophetic sayings of the Old Testament: You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me, said Christ to the doctors of the law (Jn 5:39). It is true that certain prophecies of the Old Testament are obscure. These prophetic sayings seem to have a dual level of meaning. They often refer to events in the present (for example, the deliverance of besieged Jerusalem) and, on another level, as though between the lines, they outline a vision concerning the Messiah to come. It is in the light of the Gospels in which they are fulfilled that we must read these prophecies. Thus, the link between all of these far flung pieces becomes apparent, their obscure details become clear, and the entire history of Israel takes on a true validity of prefiguration.

Let us examine the most remarkable of these prophecies:

1) Time of the coming of the Messiah

  1. Jacob predicted (Gen 49:10): The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is Himself a descendant of Juda, as established in the two genealogies given by Saint Matthew (1: 2-16) and Saint Luke (3:23-38). He was born into the world at a time when the Jewish people had lost all political independence due to the Roman occupation.

  2. The prophet Malachi, writing after the destruction of the first Temple of Jerusalem, predicted that the Messiah would come into the second Temple: Behold I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming (Mal 3:1). In fact, the first Temple, constructed by Solomon, had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.; the Temple was rebuilt starting in the fifth century B.C. Jesus indicated that the first part of this prophecy foretold Saint John the Baptist, letting it thus be understood that He Himself was the Messenger of the Covenant (Mt 11:10).

  3. The prophet Daniel predicted (9:24-27) that the Messiah would die in the seventieth week of years (a period of seven years), that is, between 483 and 490 after the edict ordering the reconstruction of Jerusalem. This edict was carried out by Artaxerxes, kind of Persia, in the year 454 before the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus was probably born four years earlier (perhaps an error in the calculations of the canonist Denis the Little, in the sixth century); He most likely died in 30, a year in which Passover occurred on the Sabbath, as reported by the Gospels. Thus we arrive at 484 years after the edict of Artaxerxes, a number which fits well into the seventieth week of years predicted by Daniel.

2) Family and place of origin of the Messiah

  1. The prophet Isaiah predicted: And there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse (the father of king David), and a flower shall grow out of his roots (Is 11:1). In fact, Jesus was of the family of David (cf. Mt 1 and Lk 3), according to the old Jewish interpretation.

  2. The same Isaiah predicted the great sign of the virgin birth: Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (Is 7:14 – Septuagint and Vulgate versions). This unheard of miracle was fulfilled in Mary, the Mother of Jesus who is in the fullest sense Emmanuel, which means “God among us” (cf. Mt 1:23).

  3. The prophet Micah indicated the place of birth of the Messiah: But you, O Bethlehem Ephratha, who are little to be among the clans of Juda, from you shall come forth for me the one who is to be ruler in Israel (Mic 5:2). The high priests reminded Herod of this text (Mt 2:6). God used the census edict of Caesar Augustus in order to fulfill the prophecy and, in fact, Jesus was born at Bethlehem.

3) Public life of the Messiah

  1. The prophet Isaiah predicted the ministry of the Precursor of Jesus Christ: The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God (40:3). Saint John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy by preaching penitence in the Judean desert (cf. Jn 1:23).

  2. The same prophet predicted the miracles that would be worked by the Messiah: God himself will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy (Is 35:4-6). Jesus did all of this during His public life, giving sight to the blind (cf., for example, Jn 9), hearing to the deaf (Mk 7:32-35), speech to the mute (Mt 12:22), and making the paralyzed walk (Mt 9:2-7). He even sent word to Saint John the Baptist that through His works He was fulfilling the prophecies (Mt 11:4-5).

  3. Zechariah prophesied the entry of the Savior into Jerusalem: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold your king comes to you, the just and Savior: he is humble and riding on an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass (9:9). These details can be found in the Gospels: On Palm Sunday Christ entered the city riding upon an ass followed by her colt (Mt 21:7); the Jews cheered Him, calling Him the King of Israel (Jn 12:13).

4) Passion and death of the Messiah

The Passion of Jesus Christ and His redeeming death were predicted in minute detail by the Psalms and the prophetic writings.

  1. The song of the “Suffering Servant”: The book of Isaiah includes four lyric poems, the “songs of the Servant.” They present a perfect servant of God, who gathers His people together, enlightens the nations, preaches the true faith, redeems through his death the sins of the people, and is then glorified by God. Jesus applied to Himself the texts on the Suffering Servant and his vicarious expiation, that is, the fourth “Song of the Servant” (Is 52:13 – 53:12; cf. Lk 22:37; Mk 10:45), and the earliest Christians recognized in Him the perfect Servant predicted by Isaiah (cf. Acts 8:29-35; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, [CCC] 601 ff.). Here is the text:

    Is 52:13 – 53:12: Behold my servant shall understand, he shall be exalted and extolled, and shall be very high. As many have been astonished at him—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men—so shall he startle many nations (...).

    There is no form in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one has turned aside into his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; who shall declare his generation? because he is cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the wickedness of my people. And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he lays down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed, and the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Because his soul has labored, he shall see and be filled; by his knowledge shall this my just servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

    We shall take up certain passages of this text in paragraphs c, e and i.

  2. Zech 11:12: And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Saint Matthew reports that the high priests would pay out to Judas thirty pieces of silver as the price for his treason (Mt 26:15).

  3. Is 53:7: He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. Jesus would say: No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (Jn 10:18); and the Gospels report His silence before the accusations and the outrages.

  4. Is 50: 5-7: The Lord God has opened my ear, and I do not resist; I turned not backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked and spit upon me. The Lord God is my helper, therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face as a most hard rock, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. Saint Matthew reports: Then they spat in his face, and struck him; and some slapped him (Mt 26:67).

  5. Psalm 21 [22]:16-17: They have pierced my hands and feet; they have counted all my bones. Isaiah said of the Suffering Servant: But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins (...) because he is cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the wickedness of my people (Is 53:5, 8). Jesus had His hands and feet pierced by the torture of the crucifixion (cf. Lk 23:33), and Saint John noted that Christ was the victim of expiation for our sins (that is, that through His suffering He paid our debt), not only for us, but for the entire world (1 Jn 2:2).

  6. Psalm 21 [22]:6-8. But I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads: “He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him, let him save him, for he delights in him.” The Gospels report the jeers submitted to by Jesus crucified: And those who passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads and saying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt 27: 39-40).

  7. Psalm 21:19: They divided my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots. In fact, when the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His clothes, which they divided into four parts, one for each soldier. As for the seamless tunic, they said, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see whose it shall be” (Jn 19: 23-24).

  8. Psalm 68:22: They gave me gall for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Saint Matthew reports: And they gave him wine to drink, mingled with gall (27:34), and Saint John: Jesus said: “I thirst.” Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar; so they put a sponge full of vinegar on hyssop, and held it to his mouth (19:28-29).

  9. Is 53:9: He is with a rich man in his death. Saint Matthew reports: And when it was evening, there came a certain rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, (...). He went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. (...) Joseph laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewed in the rock (Mt 27:57-60).

  10. Zech 12:10: And they shall look upon him, whom they have pierced. Saint John recalls this prophecy after having reported that one of the soldiers, with his lance, had pierced His side, and there immediately flowed forth blood and water (Jn 19:34).

All of these prophecies, written five to ten centuries before the actual events, were fulfilled by Christ during the course of His Passion, and He realized He was fulfilling them. His last word on the Cross was to be: “It is finished,” which means: all of the prophecies are fulfilled (Jn 19:30). Indeed on the evening of His Resurrection, Jesus rebuked the disciples of Emmaus for their slowness in believing all that had been predicted by the prophets; He explained to them the meaning of the Scriptures that had to do with Him (Lk 24:26-27).

5) Resurrection and eternal reign of Christ

The Resurrection of the Messiah on the third day is not explicitly prophesied, but it is hinted at by numerous texts of the Old Testament; for example, Psalm 138[139]:18; Hosea 6:2; Jonas 1:17–2:1 (a text which Jesus applied to Himself: cf. Mt 12:40), Isaiah 53: 10... in such a fashion that Saint Paul could say: he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15:4).

Among his visions, Daniel reported: I saw therefore in the vision of the night, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Dn 7:13-14).

Jesus Christ fulfilled all of these prophecies, something which cannot be explained by human plans. Indeed, it should be noted that a great number of these prophecies were independent of the human will of Christ, for example: His birth in Bethlehem, being sold for thirty pieces of silver, having His heart pierced by a lance. Thus, He is truly the Messiah promised by God. According to His words spoken to the Jews: You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me (Jn 5:39).

II. The wisdom and the sanctity of Jesus Christ prove that He was sent by God

The enemies of Christ attempted to discredit Him by treating Him as though He were insane (cf. Mk 3:21) or possessed by demons (cf. Mt 12:24). But all of His behavior shows a peerless wisdom and sanctity.

1) The wisdom of Jesus Christ

  1. It was admired by the doctors of the Temple when Jesus was only twelve years old (cf. Lk 2:47).

  2. The crowds were enchanted by the words that came from His mouth (cf. Lk 4:22): No man ever spoke like this man (Jn 7:46).

  3. Saint Peter said to Jesus: You have the words of eternal life (Jn 6:69).

  4. Christ solved the most difficult problems: the adulterous woman, the tribute to Caesar..., and no one was able to object to anything He said (Mt 22:46).

2) The sanctity of Jesus Christ

Jesus practiced all of the virtues to a high degree. Reading the Gospels permits one to be convinced of that. In particular, we can take note of:

  1. His love for God His Father: He died so that the world would know that He loved His Father (cf. Jn 14:31). When the Apostles saw Him in the Temple, they applied to Him the prophecy: Zeal for your house has consumed me (Ps 68: 10; Jn 2:17).

  2. His charity towards His neighbor: It was affectionate—He was deeply moved when He saw Naim’s funeral procession pass by; He wept over the death of Lazarus...; it was effective—He cured the sick, did good everywhere, reached out to all, Jews and pagans, and even to His enemies—He called Judas “my friend,” He healed the ear of the soldier who had been struck by Peter; on the cross, He prayed for those who had crucified Him. His charity was not a weakness—He reproached the vices, threatened sinners, chased the merchants from the Temple, etc. And finally, His charity reached the highest level: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13). Jesus did just that.

  3. His piety: He often passed entire nights in prayer; He faithfully attended ceremonies in the Temple. In the worst agony, in the Garden of Olives, He remained in prayer for three hours.

  4. His humility: From His birth in the grotto of Bethlehem to His death on the cross among the thieves, Jesus’ acts of humility were numerous. He always sought to avoid the adulation of the crowd, and He told the sick people whom He had healed not to tell anyone.

  5. His separation from the material goods of this world was absolute. Born into total poverty, He won His bread by the sweat of His brow. During His public life, He lived on charity and had nowhere to rest His head (Mt 8:20). He died utterly destitute.

  6. His chastity: It was so perfect that none of His adversaries dared lodge any accusation on this subject.

The enemies of Jesus had to recognize His sanctity. They set traps for Him, they constantly spied on Him, but they were never able to surprise Him with evidence of a word worthy of blame or a guilty act. The high priests resorted to false witnesses in order to build specific accusations (which in addition did not even agree among themselves). If they condemned Him to death with the accusation of blasphemy for calling Himself the Son of God, this was actually no blasphemy at all, but the pure truth (see below). Judas admitted: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood (Mt 27:4) and Pilate declared himself innocent of shedding the blood of this just man (Mt 27:24). In addition Jesus was able to say without fear of being caught in a lie: Which of you shall convict me of sin? (Jn 8:46).

If Jesus had not been holy, His testimony would be suspect; in addition, it would be necessary to explain how He could have performed so many miracles (cf. following section). But since Jesus was the model of all the virtues, it would be contradictory if He misled us by identifying Himself as the Messiah, since He never told even the smallest lie.

III. The miracles of Jesus Christ prove His divine mission

A miracle is a palpable and certain event or occurrence, which is beyond all human capability, obviously surpassing the laws of nature, and which cannot occur without a special Divine intervention.

1) The Gospels show that Jesus performed true miracles

The miracles of Christ were:

  1. truly acts beyond all human capability surpassing the laws of nature: changing water into wine, walking on the waters of the lake; healing people who were incurable, at least for that era—leprosy, blindness—and healing them in a peculiar way (a doctor would never heal a blind person by placing a bit of saliva on the person’s eyes); raising the dead—for example, Lazarus who had been buried for four days (cf. Jn 11:43-44).

  2. very numerous: for power came forth from him, and healed them all (Lk 6:19). Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book (Jn 20:30).

  3. carried out with authority: To quiet the storm, Jesus called out: Peace! be still! (Mk 4:39). He commanded the demons: Go out of the man, you unclean spirit (Mk 5:8); He said to Jairus’ dead daughter, Little girl, I say to you, arise (Mk 5:41).

  4. noted even by the enemies of Jesus. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said: What are we to do? For this man performs many miracles. If we let him go on thus, everyone will believe in him (Jn 11:47-48).

2) Christ’s greatest miracle was His own Resurrection from the dead, which is the proof par excellence of His divine mission. Jesus had foretold His death on the cross (cf. Mt 26:2) and His resurrection on the third day (cf. Mt 20:19); the high priests had been informed of this prophecy (cf. Mt 27:63), and had taken precautions to prevent its occurring (the seals of the Empire, the guards stationed before the tomb, cf. Mt 27:66).

On Easter morning, while the frightened soldiers ran away, the Angel declared to the holy women: He has risen, as he said (Mt 28:6). Jesus appeared alive to the holy women and to His Apostles and disciples, on the day of His Resurrection itself and for forty days thereafter. The Apostles took Jesus for a ghost, but the Savior invited them to touch Him and He ate in their presence. He appeared before more than 500 disciples before ascending to Heaven (cf. 1 Cor 15:6). How, and to what end, could the Evangelists have invented all that, less than four decades later?

Beginning on the day of Pentecost, after having received the Holy Spirit, Saint Peter preached the Resurrection of Christ. After healing the paralytic at the Temple gate, the chief of the Apostles declared: You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses (Acts 3: 15).

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great motive for belief given by the Apostles. Saint Paul in particular would make it the basis of his preaching: If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain... But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor 15:14,20). At this higher level, the Resurrection is so linked to the Redemption that it becomes itself an article of faith, without in any way losing its validity as an actual, verified historical fact.

If Christ had not risen, it would be necessary to explain how the Apostles came to believe it and to be martyred for preaching the Resurrection, and how the world believed their words; all of this made Saint Augustine say: “Either way you come to the same conclusion: either the world was converted by the miracles that we claim to have been performed to favor the Christian religion, and therefore it is divine; or the world was converted without miracles and, in that case, the establishment of Christianity is, in itself, the greatest of miracles” (City of God 22: 5).

III

JESUS CHRIST IS GOD

The revelation by Christ of His divinity was progressive. It was unveiled by allusions which became more and more explicit, like an obvious fact which emerged from His person. The manifestation of Jesus’ divinity carries with it the traits of His personality: simplicity and uprightness.

In addition, the progressive nature of the revelation was necessary due to the demands of the Jewish religious milieu. A clear assertion of His divinity by Jesus at the beginning of His public life would have been totally incomprehensible, given the rigorous monotheistic convictions of the Israelites. It was above all at the end of His public life and at the moment of His Passion, that He would unveil the mystery of His divine nature: I and the Father are one (Jn 10:30).

I. Jesus Christ called Himself “Lord” and “Son of God” in the full sense of these words

Even before Christ came into the world and began to preach His doctrine, it pleased God to reveal this truth to men. The Angel Gabriel who announced to Mary that she would become the Mother of the Savior, said to her: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the Holy One to be born of you will be called the Son of God (Lk 1:35). When, thirty years later, Christ went to the banks of the Jordan to be baptized, God confirmed the words of the Angel: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Mt 3:17; cf. also Mt 17:5; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 444).

1) Jesus Christ is called “Lord”

In the Greek translation of the books of the Old Testament, the ineffable name under which God revealed Himself to Moses (cf. Ex 3:14), was translated as “Lord.” “Lord” thus became the most common name for designating the very divinity of the God of Israel. The New Testament utilizes this strong meaning of the title of “Lord” not only for the Father, but also—and this is what is new—for Jesus, thus acknowledged to be God Himself: We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages, for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:7-8).

Jesus indeed attributed this title to Himself in a veiled way in a discussion with the Pharisees on the meaning of Psalm 109[110]: Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, till I put your enemies under your feet” ’? If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word (Mt 22:41-46). Indeed the only possible answer to the dilemma is that David, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, recognized himself to be inferior to the Messiah, his future descendant as a man, but his Creator as God.

Jesus explicitly gave Himself the title of “Lord” at the Last Supper: You call me Master and Lord; and you are right, for so I am (Jn 13:13; cf. CCC 446-447).

2) Jesus Christ is called “the Son of God”

In the Old Testament, the title of “Sons of God” is sometimes given to the angels, to the chosen people, and to the children of Israel and their kings. It thus signifies an adoptive sonship which established between God and His creatures a particularly intimate relationship. But its meaning is quite different in the assertion of the Gospels according to which Jesus Christ is “the Son of God” (singular with the Greek definite article ‘o).2

  1. When Martha, the sister of Lazarus, said to Jesus: Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God, who have come into this world (Jn 11:27), the Divine Master accepted this title.

  2. Christ asked the Apostles one day: “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:15-17). Would Jesus have acted that way if the expression “Son of God” was to be understood according to the common meaning of the term (a son among many others)? Certainly not, for in that case Peter’s answer would have been commonplace. In addition, if Saint Peter was able to realize the transcendent character of the divine filiation of Jesus, it was because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood (cf. CCC 442, 443).

  3. Before the Great Council of the Jews (Sanhedrin), the High Priest Caiphas interrogated Jesus: “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him: “You have said it…” Then the high priest tore his robes and said: “He has uttered blasphemy; why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered: “He is deserving of death” (Mt 26: 63-66). In their eyes, according to the precepts of the law of Moses, Jesus should have been stoned as a blasphemer because He made Himself equal to God. Thus they had fully understood Christ’s assertion: I am the Son of God. But, blinded by their prejudices and their passions, they did not want to believe in Him (cf. CCC 443).

  4. The Jews understood so well that Jesus Christ had called Himself the Son of God that they said to Pilate, when the latter had proclaimed Christ’s innocence: We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God (Jn 19:7). When Jesus was dying on the cross, the Jews ironically said to Him: If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross (Mt 27:40).

  5. Occasionally, Jesus simply gave Himself the title of Son, with reference to the Father, who is obviously God.

    • All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Mt 11:27).

    • The Son is at a higher level than the angels themselves (Mt 24:36: But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only [Note: By this statement, Our Lord means to say that the time fixed by Providence for the Judgment which must follow the end of the world was not among those things which He had the mission to reveal to men. In no way does He mean to question His divine nature]).

  6. Even more, Jesus clearly called Himself the “only Son” of God. While He was speaking to Nicodemus one day, He put it this way: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son… He who believes in him is not judged; he who does not believe, is already judged, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (Jn 3:16-18).

II. Jesus Christ called God His Father and said that He was equal to the Father

  1. The first and last words that we know of Our Lord Jesus Christ are statements of His completely unique relationship with God the Father. When He saw the Virgin Mary, His Mother, and Saint Joseph, His adoptive father, who had been vainly searching for Him in anguish for three days, He said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house (Lk 2:49). Before dying on the cross, He cried out: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit (Lk 23:46). In the Old Testament, God is sometimes called the Father of the Jewish People (for example in Isaiah 64:7), in the sense of “creator,” but no person, not even Moses or Elijah, calls God “my Father.”

  2. When He cast the merchants out of the Temple, He said: You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade (Jn 2:16). At the last Supper, wishing to console His disciples, He said: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (Jn 14: 16).

  3. Christ attributed to Himself the same nature as that of His Father. I and the Father are one (Jn 10:30). Jesus thereby wished to show His completely unique relationship with God which is a relation of equality in the same nature. When they heard these words, the Jews understood that Jesus attributed divinity to Himself, and that is why they wanted to stone Him: We stone you for no good work, but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God (Jn 10: 33).

  4. Jesus answered Philip who asked Him to show the Father to the apostles: “Philip, he who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?” (Jn 14:9-11).

  5. It is true that Jesus asked His disciples to say the Our Father when they prayed (cf. Mt 6:9). But before that He said: So when you pray, setting Himself apart and distinguishing Himself in that way from His disciples. For them it was merely an adoptive filiation, which came from the Incarnation of Christ, the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:15). That is why Jesus, on the day of His Resurrection, distinguished these two sorts of paternity when He said to Saint Mary Magdalene: Go to my brethren and say to them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father (Jn 20:17; cf. CCC 443).

  6. Jesus said: The Father has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father (Jn 5:22-23).

III. Jesus Christ attributed to Himself perfection and power that God alone possesses

  1. Jesus Christ asserted His eternity: Before Abraham was, I am (Jn 8:58). Christ did not say “I was,” but “I am,” thus letting it be understood that there was for Him no past, but an eternal present. This statement recalls the revelation by God of His Name to Moses in the burning bush: I AM WHO AM (Ex 3:14). Here again, the Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy.

  2. Only the divine identity of the person of Jesus can justify an absolute necessity such as this: He who is not with me, is against me (Mt 12:30); (cf. CCC 590).

  3. At the Last Supper, speaking to His Father, Jesus called out: Now Father, glorify me, with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was made (Jn 17:5).

  4. Jesus attributed omnipotence to Himself, a power equal to that of His Father: Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise… For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will (Jn 5:19, 21). No man takes my life away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again (Jn 10:18).

  5. Jesus likewise has the power to raise the dead and to assure us of eternal life: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (Jn 6:53-54).

  6. Jesus Christ attested to His power to forgive sins and to judge men (cf. CCC 589, 594, 1441). He said to the paralytic, Be of good heart, son; your sins are forgiven (Mt 9:2). The Pharisees were scandalized by these words: Who could forgive sins, if not God alone? In fact, the priests of the Old Law did not have the power to forgive sins against God; it was Christ who conferred that power on the priests of the New Law. In order to prove to them that he had the power to forgive men their sins, Jesus miraculously gave back to the unfortunate cripple the use of his limbs. If Christ had truly blasphemed in forgiving sins, God would never have given Him the power to immediately perform a miracle.

  7. He accepted Saint Thomas’ profession of faith when, eight days after the Resurrection, he fell to his feet and said to Him: My Lord and my God! (Jn 20:28).

CONCLUSION

DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST

Christ addressed these words to the Jews who did not believe in Him: Do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I in the Father (Jn 10:36-38).

Some years later, at the time of the first generation of Christians, having received approval of his teachings from the Apostles Peter, John and James (cf. Gal 2:1-10), Saint Paul translated and explained the faith of the early Church: And he is before all, and by him all things consist; in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col 1:17, 19); to them (the Jews) belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh is Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever (Rom 9:5); though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:6-7).

“It pleased God, in His goodness and wisdom, to reveal Himself and to make known the mystery of His will… By this revelation, then, the invisible God, from the fullness of His love, addresses men as His friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into His own company… The most intimate truth which this revelation gives us about God and the salvation of man shines forth in Christ, who is Himself both the mediator and the sum total of Revelation” (Vatican II, Dei verbum, 2).

Christ said: I am the way, and the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). Belief in Jesus Christ and in Him who sent Him for our salvation is thus necessary in order to be saved. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6) and to partake of the inheritance as one of His sons; therefore, no one has ever been justified without faith, and unless one perseveres in the faith until the end, no one shall obtain eternal life.

Belief is only possible by the grace and the internal help of the Holy Spirit. We ask Christ for this grace by this fervent prayer: I believe, Lord; but come and help my unbelief (cf. Mk 9:23). This prayer will be heard if it is trusting, persevering and humble: Jesus said, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Mt 7:7).

May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ and thus Mother of God, and Saint Joseph, His adoptive father, lead us to Jesus.

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