Meditations for Layfolk - Jesus Christ, True God

The foundation of the Christian name is belief in the divinity of Christ, that is, a belief that He is God equally with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Without this clear expression of faith, there can be no acceptance of the plain meaning of the Gospel. For if He were not God, then He could not even have been a good man, since He certainly claimed to be divine in a sense altogether different from everyone else, and distinct from the vague conceptions that made Buddha and Mahomet the sons of God. Schlegel has crystallized this in a sentence: "If Christ was not more than a Socrates, then a Socrates He certainly was not." Lessing turns it another way: "If Christ is not truly God, then Mohammedanism was an undoubted improvement of the Christian religion. Mahomet on such a supposition would indisputably have been a greater man than Christ, as he would have been far more veracious, more circumspect, and more zealous for the honour of God, since Christ by His expressions would have given dangerous occasions for idolatry; while, on the other hand, not a single expression of the kind can be laid to the charge of Mahomet." Our Lord proclaimed Himself unique, sinless; now to do this, and not to be this, is either hypocrisy or madness, for the claim of a man to be God is such an act of assurance as can come only from knowledge or from an unbalanced mind. The whole force of existence is continually teaching us our own littleness by means of the little aches, pains, and disappointments of life, so that for one habited in human flesh to claim immortality, infinity, all-mightiness, and responsibility for all existing beings, requires full deliberation and absolute conviction. Even the Caesars who demanded to be worshipped in their lifetime looked upon themselves merely as symbols of empire and heroes, not as unique in divinity.

Now Christ our Lord did make this absolute claim. In His parables and broken sayings, apart from the definite allusions to His Sonship of God (which might indeed be differently interpreted), He shows us the greatness of His claim. In one place He tells us about a vineyard, to which the king (who is evidently God) sent his messengers to demand the fruit of the vines. These messengers, whose coming was received by the Jewish people with insults, injuries, and persecution, are admitted by all to represent the prophets. Then, the parable continues, the father sent at last his son. This son was of his own nature, sole heir to his possessions, whom at least, he thought, the workers would treat with respect. The prophets were God's messengers, but the new arrival was His Son. Our Lord, therefore, put Himself above the prophets as the sole Son of God: we are told expressly that the Pharisees knew that He was speaking of them. In another place He says that the day of judgement is known neither to the angels nor the Son, but to the Father: here He places Himself above the angels also. Finally, He claims the privilege of a unique and mutual relation with the Father: He alone knows the Father, and the Father alone knows Him. What is this but the claim of an equality of knowledge with God? To know and be known solely by another is surely to be equal to that other to be so penetrated with his spirit and so to dominate him with one's own spirit that nothing can in any sense separate one from the other. Nor is there, finally, any passage in the New Testament in which our Lord ever asks for the prayers of others.

Jesus Christ then claims to be God, and justifies that claim by miracles and still more by a blameless life. He is not merely one who is conscious of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, not simply divine in the sense in which all are touched by the spark that is of God, but uniquely the Only-begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. "My Lord and my God," was the confession of Saint Thomas. O true and perfect God! Like the apostle, I, too, am on my knees before Him. I can see in His life signs evident and manifest that He is human. I read of Him under the terrors of life and death. Man surely I know Him to be, but He is more. "I know men," said Napoleon: "and Jesus Christ was not a man." My eyes may see only the human form. I see the print of the nails and spear, the marks of scourging and crowning, the linen cloth lying, the very signs of death. Yet all the while I know Him to be God as well as man. I profess my belief in His divinity precisely in the same sense in which I profess the divinity of the Father. There is no difference of nature between them, without beginning or end, eternal, yesterday and to day and the same for ever, the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God. The importance of the revelation is immense. Neither flesh nor blood could reveal it, but the Father only who is in heaven. By His grace is it that I say: "My Lord and my God."

- text taken from Meditations for Layfolk by Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.