Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Conclusion.

2. A MAN WITH THE AUTHORITY OF GOD:

JESUS’ DIVINITY IN THE GOSPELS

Darrell Bock notes that whereas the number of times when Jesus is directly spoken of as “God” in the gospels is relatively small, it is “far more common” that Jesus, in his teaching and actions is seen to be “impinging upon space or prerogatives unique to God.”[1] As in Matt 11.2-6, where John the Baptist is instructed by Jesus, so we will likewise turn to what may be seen of Jesus’ life in order that we may see what may be properly believed of him.

A. JESUS’ AUTHORITY OVER THE OLD TESTAMENT. From the very beginning of his teaching ministry (the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus makes the double claim that he is the one to whom the OT points (Matt 5.17) and that he has the inherent authority to re-interpret and apply whatever his hearers had previously been taught (vv 21-48). Commenting on this passage, Stonehouse notes boldness of Jesus’ teaching:

Six times Jesus, completely on his own authority, and without any attempt to vindicate his categorical declarations, seems to set his own pronouncements in antithesis to “that which had been spoken,” the latter deliverances consisting of, or at least including, in every instance quotation from the law of Moses.[2]

Over against the will of God as the people of his day understood it, Jesus declares an authoritative interpretation for all people, “according to his own authority as the law’s ‘fulfiller’.”[3] Both up until this time and ever since no man has lived and preached with this authority. As Carson elsewhere notes from Matthew’s gospel, “At the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8), the whole point of the Matthean account is that Jesus alone and not even Moses or Elijah is to be heard as the voice of God; ‘Listen to him!’”[4] Thus the voice of God the Father is heard to be declaring the superiority of the authoritative revelation in Jesus as compared with that which came through Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets).

B. JESUS’ AUTHORITY OVER THE SABBATH. Repeatedly throughout the gospels Jesus is seen to be flatly contradicting the expectations of Sabbath behaviour commonly held by the Jews of his day. Jesus’ explanation for this is often a declaration his own authority, such as “one greater than the temple is here” and “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matt 12.6, 8). Jesus’ boldness in “working” on the Sabbath could elsewhere be used to display his oneness with the Father:

When Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath (John 5), he claims that God has given him authority to work on the Sabbath, to give life, and to raise the dead. These three privileges belonged only to God. Jesus’ claim that he rightfully exercises these prerogatives because God has authorized him to do so is not lost on his hearers, who hear in his words an impious claim to equality with God.[5]

This type of claim to be carrying out the work of God with the authority of God smacked of blasphemy to his disbelieving audience, who clearly perceived that he was claiming equality with God himself, and therefore divinity.

C. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS. As Bock notes, it is often the works of Jesus which draw the most attention to his claim to divinity. Thus in Luke 5:17-26 and 7:36-49 where Jesus freely forgives people of their sins, “the leadership complains that he is claiming to do something only God can do. … He is claiming to make himself equal with God.”[6] Rather than denying or avoiding this challenge from his opponents, Jesus seems desirous in both accounts of drawing public attention to the fact that he has done God’s work. Thus, we can conclude that the gospel writers have included these pericopes for the very same reason: to challenge the reader to evaluate Jesus’ claims. And we must not miss them, since “Jesus’ opponents appear to appreciate the significance of his actions and what they ultimately mean.”[7] Something so obvious to Jesus’ contemporaries must not be overlooked; in forgiving the sins of humans, Jesus is claiming the rights and responsibilities of deity, and making himself to be equal with God.


[1] Darrell L. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 605.

[2] Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of the Synoptic Gospels to Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1944), 198.

[3] D.A. Carson, “Matthew,” in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, v.8, ed. Frank Gæbelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 148. Emphasis added.

[4] D.A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to the Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 75. For a discussion on the role of such “reliable statements” concerning Jesus and their role in developing the Christology of Matthew, see Terence L. Donaldson, “The Vindicated Son,” in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 108-109.

[5] Paul J. Achtemeier, Joel B. Green, and Marianne Meye Thompson, eds. Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 187-188.

[6] Bock, Jesus According to Scripture, 605.

[7] Ibid.