For the Love of God, Volume 1/March 15
From Gospel Translations
Exodus 26; John 5; Proverbs 2; Galatians 1
ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING biblical passages dealing with what it means to confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is John 5:16-30.
In a preindustrial culture, the majority of sons do what their father does. A baker’s son becomes a baker; a farmer’s son becomes a farmer. This stance—like father, like son—enables Jesus on occasion to refer to his own followers as “sons of God.” Thus Jesus declares, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). In other words, God himself is the supreme peacemaker; therefore, people who are peacemakers act, in this respect, like God, and therefore can be designated, in this respect, “sons of God.”
That is the kind of functional category with which Jesus begins in John 5:17. When challenged about his “working” on the Sabbath, he does not offer a different reading of what “Sabbath” means, or suggest that what he was doing was not “work” but some deed of mercy or necessity; rather, he justifies his “working” by saying that he is only doing what his Father does. His Father works (even on the Sabbath, or providence itself would cease!), and so does he.
His interlocutors perceive that this is an implicit claim to equality with God (5:18). Yet almost certainly they misunderstand Jesus in one respect. They think the claim blasphemous, because it would make Jesus into another God—and they are quite right to hold that there is but one God. Jesus responds with two points. First, he insists he is functionally dependent on his Father: “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing” (5:19). Jesus is not another “God-center”: he is functionally subordinate to his Father. Yet second, this functional subordination is itself grounded in the fact that this Son does whatever the Father does (5:19). Christians may be “sons of God” in certain respects; Jesus is the unique Son, in that “whatever the Father does the Son also does.” If the Father creates, so does the Son: indeed, the Son is the Father’s agent in creation (1:2-3). In the following verses, the Son, like the Father, raises people from the dead, and is the Father’s agent in the final judgment.
Muslims with little grasp of Christian theology think the Christian Trinity is made up of God, Mary, and Jesus: God copulated with Mary and produced Jesus. They think the notion bizarre and blasphemous, and they are right. But this is not what we hold, nor what Scripture teaches. I wish they could study John 5.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.