The Deity of Christ (Part 4)
If you remember, we ended our last article with Jn. 18:3-6 where we read that Judas Iscariot after having received soldiers led them out to where Jesus was in order to betray Him. We noted in verses five and six that the power in the name of God (“I Am” Ἐγώ εἰμι ) cause these people to fall backwards to the ground! What a scene that must have been! How many people were there to arrest Jesus? We really don’t know, in Matthew and Mark’s accounts we are told that it was “a great multitude” (Matt.26:47; Mk.14:43 ὄχλος πολὺς lit. “crowd many” or translated as a “large crowd”) In Lk.22:47 we are just given the word ὄχλος meaning a crowd, or a multitude.
It’s not till we get to John’s Gospel that this great multitude is somewhat broken down for us. We read that Judas had received a detachment of troops meaning a Roman “cohort” ( τὴν Aπεῖραν meaning a band, or cohort.) the normal definition of a cohort was one-tenth of a LEGION (a legion being 6,000 soldiers). So typically, a cohort would equal 600 soldiers. Since Jerusalem was packed with people for the Passover feast, the Roman rulers had numerous soldiers on hand to squash any possible uprising or revolt resulting from religious fervor. Obviously the Jewish leaders were able to convince the Roman authorities ahead of time that they needed their help to ensure that it would be a peaceful arrest. Along with this cohort the chief priests and Pharisees also dispatched their own officers / servants (ὑπηρέτας) for the arrest. Regardless if there were 6,000 plus men who came out to apprehend Jesus, or a lot less. The truth remains the same, they all hit the ground when they ran head on with the spoken declaration of Jesus stating that He was the great “I am”!
In this article I want to begin by examining Pilate, and his dealings with Jesus. Pontius Pilate was the fifth prefect of Judaea between the years of A.D. 26–36. He was well known for being ruthless in his dealings with the Jews. He seldom showed any sympathy for them and was responsible for the killing of many of them. Both Philo and Josephus wrote of his terrible demeanor, a man being cruel, wicked, and given to a violent temper. Seldom would anybody be relieved of their governing duties while serving Rome for excessive cruelty. However, Pilate just a few years later would be one who could make that claim! One could almost say that Pilate was at the head of the class when it came to being a tyrant! Because of these very well-known facts that Pilate was such a ruthless and callous man; some have claimed that the trial particulars between Pilate and Jesus have to be a products of fiction! They propose that, Pilate washing his hands of Jesus and his various attempts in trying to set Him free is so contradictory to his known character; it just could not be true! They have cried out “foul play” in regards to the authenticity of the gospel narratives! In the very least, as to the trial particulars in story as they are recorded! Yet for being a tyrant, and a callous man, I believe the Bible clearly tells us the reason for his discordant hand on characteristic actions. The Bible shows us that he was scared to death when he came face to face with the great I Am!
Let me start by explaining and pointing out a few things within Scripture that I believe has gone somewhat unnoticed. I’ll even go so far as to say he actually believed in Jesus. Now in saying that, I am not saying that he had a saving faith, or that he was going to become a follower of Jesus. But I do believe that when he examined Jesus, upon hearing the charges brought against Him, namely that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God … I believe Pilate was convinced that it could have possibly been true! Again I’ll state that I don’t believe that Pilate was exercising a saving type of belief and faith in Jesus! Yet I do believe he absolutely knew that there was something different about Jesus! Something other worldly! Let’s look at a few Scriptures in support of my proposition:
John 19:7- 12 (NKJV)
7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid,
9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”
Most people when reading this portion of Scripture overlook a very important detail about Pilate and his disposition towards Jesus! Did you catch it?! It stated that Pilate who we know was a ruthless tyrant, who had no reserve in killing anyone – was “THE MORE AFRAID”! The usage of the term “more afraid” absolutely implies that Pilate was afraid of Jesus before, prior, or previous to this point in the trial! He was afraid of the Lord from the onset of his dealings with Jesus! Yes, truly Pilate was AFRAID OF JESUS!!!!! (As a little Greek informational tidbit μᾶλλον ἐφοβήθη meaning “More afraid” are two words μᾶλλον meaning “much” or “more” but the second word ἐφοβήθη means to put to flight by terrifying! It comes from the word φόβος or φοβέω = phobos or phobeō from where we get our English word “Phobia”!)
Now remember that at this time, Jesus had already been scourged, beaten, punched and slapped many times, they plucked some of His beard out, mocked Him, spit upon Him, and a crown of thorns was weaved and beaten down onto His head. He stood there in front of Pilate a bloodied disfigured mess! Yet Pilate was afraid! Afraid of what? He was afraid of the fact that the charge levied against Jesus! The charge was that He made Himself to be the Son of God! Did Pilate believe that it might actually be true? Pilate knew all about the Jews and their worship. He understood their terminology. He most certainly had heard news of Jesus, of his miracles, and teachings before this time. Now face to face, Pilate was certainly intimidated by Him! Why wouldn’t he be, let’s face it, he was actually seeing God incarnate face to face! (1Tim.3:16; Rom.9:5; Titus2:13; Jn.1:1, 14)
The fact that the Jews claimed Jesus stated He was God scared the living hell out of Pilate! Notice what Pilate asked Him,–“Where are you from?” Wow! Did you ever stop to think of the power of that verse? Do you think that when Pilate asked Him where He was from, he was really asking Jesus from what city or locality He was from? He already knew that he was from Galilee, that’s why he pushed Him off to Herod! (Lk.23:5-7) I firmly believe that Pilate although never having a saving knowledge of who Jesus was … knew there was something other worldly about Him, and was in fact, terribly AFRAID of Him!
Notice how Pilate tried to assert his authority over Jesus; and Jesus stopped him dead in his tracks! Jesus let him know that he has no authority over Him except what had been granted to him from above! Did you notice from that point on Pilate sought to release Him? I think it’s safe to say that Pilate was scared half to death over Jesus!
I’m reading from the Gospel of John here, but remember that in Matthew’s account he gets word from his wife who in a panic over a dream she had, sends her husband a warning!
Matt. 27:19 (NKJV)
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”
Could it be true that Pilate being a Roman really understood what the term “Son of God” meant? I absolutely believe this is true. He in the very least had a concept of what it meant. Not to mention it was defined for him by the religious rulers plainly stating that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy according to their Law. By this time the fame of Jesus’ miracles and teachings were known, crowds came to Him from all over Judea, Jerusalem, Syria, Galilee, the Decapolis and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon. (Matt.8:16-17 Lk.6:17)
Do you remember the story of Jesus healing the centurion’s servant? (Matt.8:5-13 Lk.7:1-10) This man was a Roman soldier who sought out Jesus for healing. As a matter of fact, in this story Jesus makes a tremendous statement of this man’s faith! He stated, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel!” (Lk.7:9)
Remember the story of the Greek, Syro-Phoenician woman who asked Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter? (Mk.7:24-30) in the next several verses (Mk.7:31-37) Jesus heals a deaf man in the midst of the Decapolis (literallymeaning: “ten cities”). It was a place as the name literally implies, a region of ten Greek cities east of the Sea of Galilee. It was here that the demon possessed man that Jesus healed in the country of the Gadarenes (Mk.5:1-20) had traveled to proclaim to all what Jesus had done for him! Now for another quick proof text on the deity of Christ, notice what Jesus says to the demoniac:
“Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” (Mk.5:19b.)
So what did the healed demoniac do? “And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.” (Mk.5:20) so Jesus told him to go and tell everybody what God had done for him, and he goes out and proclaims what Jesus had done for him! In other words, Jesus is the Lord God! Luke makes this very clear by replacing the word “Lord’ with the word “God”:
“Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”
The news of Jesus had gone out and it started spreading to even to the Greeks and non-Jews! It was certainly becoming noticeable to the religious rulers of the day. They were furious and envious of Jesus because of the people flocking to Him! It was “envy” that was at the root of their cause to want to destroy Him, and Pilate knew this! (Matt.27:18) He was increasing and they were decreasing, and they could not allow this to continue!
“The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
Shortly after the trial of Jesus, the Centurion whose job it was to carry out the sentencing of crucifixion; would come to an understanding, if not even believe totally that Jesus was who He was! It is recorded for us that He actually proclaimed Jesus has the Son of God! (Matt.27:54b. ; Mk.15:39; Lk.23:47 ) Surely this man was witness to the trial; scourging, mocking, way of the cross, the charges of blasphemy placed against Him, and witnessed the entire crucifixion. Yet there was something that happened when Jesus cried out and breathed His last breath that made him believe in Jesus!
Matthew 27:50-54 (NKJV)
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
The phrase “after his resurrection” has been mistranslated in the Greek. The word there for resurrection is ἔγερσιν and it’s only used this one time in the entire New Testament, and it’s not the normal word for resurrection! (It’s also only used one time in the Old Testament Septuagient, and it does not mean resurrection there as well! Found in Ps.139:2)The normal word used for resurrection is ἀνάστασις and it is not the word used here . As I have already stated the word ἔγερσις is used and it’s not used in the rest of the Bible. I believe there’s a good reason for that, but I’m not going to go into it in great detail except to just give you the definition of this word. It is defined as: 1.) A rousing, excitation. 2.) A rising up. 3.) Resurrection as from the dead is actually a tertiary meaning. So in light of this fact, and due to the context, we can see that translating this as the word “resurrection” is really a tertiary rendering, and is really not the best suited word for this verse. (But again this is a study for a future time.)
I’m only making mention of this to show you that the bodies of the Saints who had previously died and were now raised and seen by the century was actually an event at the crucifixion scene, not three days later after His resurrection! Context demands it! This is important to our study because there were three signs that happened at the crucifixion scene that caused the Centurion and those with him to believe that Jesus truly was the Son of God!
They saw and heard Jesus Cry out with a great voice releasing His spirit? They saw the Veil of the temple tear in two from top to bottom. There was an earthquake, rocks split, and last but not least, (And certainly not 3 days later!) tombs (Rock tombs) of the nearby cemetery in plain sight of the crucifixion scene split open, and they saw bodies of saints coming forth and going into the Holy city of Jerusalem! They were able to view all of these things from where the crucifixion site was. These were rough roman soldiers, use to seeing death, carrying out orders of lethal punishment, yet all of these sights made them FEAR EXCEEDINGLY. (Oh, and guess what word is used here for “Fear”? You guessed it, ἐφοβήθησαν a form of φοβέω.)
The important thing to note is that these signs were visible right then and there at the time Jesus expired! There was no time delay! This was all in plain sight of the centurion and in the guards that accompanied him! It all happened at the same time, it was given as a witness to verify that Jesus was in fact who He said He was! I want you to also notice that it wasn’t just the Centurion who believed the signs, but also the other soldiers standing with him witnessing the same events … They all said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Let’s look at one more proof text for the Deity of Christ before we conclude this article. It is actually a blatant declaration that Jesus is God! It’s known as the confession of Thomas:
John 20:28 (NKJV)
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
The Greek here for “My Lord and my God” is ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου
I remember one time when dealing with a Jehovah’s Witness in a college debate; when I used this verse in defense of the deity of Christ; he tried to convince me that what Thomas was doing here was calling out to Jesus saying my Lord, but then looked up towards heaven and said my God! His contention was that the second part of this phrase was directed to God the Father in heaven! Honestly, I couldn’t hold in the laughter of that statement, and told him: “That’s one heck of a stretch and forced hermeneutic rather than just taking it for what it says!”
Let me point out something very simplistic about the Greek text here. It revolves around the word translated as “and” which is the word “καὶ”. What is really interesting about the word καὶ is that it means, and can be translated as the words: and, also, even. The translators chose to use the word “and”. I don’t think there’s anything wrong translating it that way. But what I want to point out as a matter fact is that if we supply the other two words in place of the word “and” what we find is that it does not change the meaning at all. In my opinion, you can actually say that it heightens the meaning more in the favor of showing and proving the Deity of Jesus! Thomas is absolutely proclaiming Jesus as Lord and God! Let’s put them all side-by-side to see if what I’m claiming is true or not.
“My Lord and my God!” “My Lord also my God!” “My Lord even my God!”
As you can see the other two variations of the definition actually make even a stronger connection. At least in my estimation! You can be the ultimate judge. Think this over and meditate on it, let it sink into your soul, and we will pick back up on this in my next article.
God bless you all, and thank you for taking the time to study this important topic with me.
© Joe Daniels
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