He sat cross-legged in front of the white brick fireplace in his parents’ living room, balancing his Bible on one thigh as almost a dozen high school kids surrounded him. It seemed like it was going to be a typical Thursday night Bible Study as we sang upbeat praise songs to begin the evening. But his opening prayer came with an odd intensity. He forcefully praised Jesus for being God in the flesh, his voice swelling with passion at each sentence.
Before he could finish his prayer, a girl I’d never met lept from her seat and, covering her ears, ran out of the house yelling, “Blasphemy! Blasphemy!” The Bible Study leader watched calmly, saying he’d pretty much expected that reaction, though he’d hoped she would stay and listen.
Only a few months old in the Lord myself, I was quite confused by the incident. I asked point blank why he’d intentionally prayed something when he knew it would offend her. I didn’t think his actions modeled Christian love.
Patiently, he explained that the girl was a Jehovah’s Witness, which meant that she denied that Jesus was God. He had wanted to take a bold stand against the false teaching that kept her from knowing the true Jesus Christ. Looking back, I’m still not sure his methodology totally pleased the Lord, but I believe his motives came from a sincere desire for her salvation. He knew that she’d been deceived into believing in a false Jesus.
I accepted his explanation, but I still felt confused. I knew that Jesus was Lord, and that the Father was the Lord God. I’d sung the Doxology in church throughout my childhood, praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I’d just never put it all together. Somehow, the familiar Christmas story from Luke 2 didn’t register with me, although I knew the tidings of great joy announced the birth of Christ the Lord.
Opening his Bible to John 8, the Bible Study leader proceeded to show us that Jesus openly declared His deity during a conflict with the Jews who opposed Him
48 The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. ~~John 8:48-59 (NASSB95)
He zerored in on verses 56-58 as he referenced back to Exodus 3:14, where God proclaimed to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He explained that Jesus, by using the phrase, “I am,” made a claim to deity that was unmistakable to Jewish ears. Verse 59 verifies this understanding because the Jews reacted by trying to execute Him for the blasphemous sin of making Himself out to be God. If He had been merely a man, they would have rightly condemned Him for blasphemy; their reaction consequently proved that they correctly understood that He identified Himself as none other than the God they said they worshiped. Therefore, the Bible Study leader explained, we could be confident that Jesus is God made flesh.
That evening, I developed a fascination with the Trinity in general and Christ’s Incarnation in particular. Over the days and weeks following that Bible Study, I poured through my Bible with an eagerness that I’d never had, hungry to find corroborating evidence that Jesus is really God. John 1:1-3, 14 captured my heart, and Isaiah 9:6 absolutely thrilled me! I loved Isaiah 7:14 and John 20:26-28.
As the years progressed, I continued to find Scriptures testifying to the deity of Christ. Each time, I felt as if I’d stumbled on a gold mine, and the Incarnation became my favorite Biblical doctrine. Sometimes, I confess, I went too far in trying to imagine Him learning to walk and talk — such speculation is not only foolish, but it leads to irreverence if left unchecked. Most of the time, however, reading about and meditating on Christ’s Incarnation have drawn me into worship. That worship especially happens whenever I read my favorite passage of God’s Word:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (NASSB95)
I frequently think back on that Thursday night, remembering the Bible Study leader’s impassioned prayer and the horrified reaction from the Jehovah’s Witness as she fled away screaming. In those memories, I always land on the fascination of learning that Jesus is God. That fascination has grown in the intervening 52 years, causing each Christmas to be sweeter and more full of wonder than the last. I pray that your Christmas will be a beautiful time of praising the Word made flesh Who dwelt among us.