Oh No… I’m God

My wife and I sat our four-year-old daughter down between us and read from the journal we created titled, “Stef’s Life.” It contained memorable happenings from her first two years. A diary of sorts. We loved to review it together.

Event #1: We had a distinguished visitor for Sabbath lunch today from the General Conference. After he left, we took you aside and said, “Stef, you should not have passed gas in front of Mr. ___________.” You replied, “I didn’t do it in front of him. I was standing right beside him.”

Event #2: After visiting Santa at the local Mall, we took you out for pizza. Coincidently, we had been studying the Old Testament ark and flood from Your Bible Story books. While we were waiting to be served, you walked from table to table telling people, “I just saw Noah!”

Event #3: Mom took you to Cradle Roll Sabbath School at church. The teacher asked the children if anyone had a dog. Your hand shot up. She came over and inquired, “So what’s your doggy’s name?” You replied, “My daddy calls him “D_ _ _ Dog, but I call him Tinker.”

I can easily imagine a similar scene in Nazareth with four-year-old Jesus sitting between Mary and Joseph as they recount happenings from His earliest days.

“You were born in the strangest of places… a barn surrounded by sheep and cows and chickens and donkeys. They formed a very unusual welcoming committee.

Jesus chuckles at the thought.

Joseph adds, “The next night, some shepherds walked right into that old, creaky, leaky, barn and said they’d been looking everywhere for our little family. Isn’t that amazing? Out of all those thousands of pilgrims in Bethlehem. They told us that they had just seen a huge choir of angels, singing way up in the sky, as high as the clouds. Hundreds of them. They were singing about (he pokes Jesus on the shoulder) You. So You must be very special. Don’t you think?”

Mary looks at Joseph and says, “Please get those three boxes on the shelf.” She holds the first one in front of Jesus. He reaches out and runs His little fingers over it. “This blue, inlaid box held the pieces of gold that the men from the East gave us. We had to sell all the gold in Egypt for food and shelter. This fancy six-sided box with the paintings of birds still smells a little like the Frankincense that was inside. And then this box for the Myrrh. We had to sell all that incense and oil for our journey back home and to get your father’s carpenter shop going again. Here, smell inside for yourself.” Jesus leans forward and sniffs, then smiles.

And more stories tumble out over time and are repeated. The angel appearing to Mary. Joseph’s dreams. The blessing of Simeon and Anna at the temple. The wisemen from the East. Zacharias’ inability to speak.

As Jesus grew, I can’t help but wonder how Mary and Joseph told Him about being “born of a virgin.” No one ever had to explain such a thing to their child before or since. The standard “birds and bees” analogy did not apply. Christ’s parents must have pondered long and hard about how to explain the unexplainable.   

“You see Son, babies are usually made when… But that’s not what happened with You…”

I can hear Christ eventually replying, “So let me see if I’ve got this straight…”

Then, at age twelve, came the momentous, life-altering visit to Jerusalem during Passover. A fifth or sixth grader in today’s terms, Jesus navigates the immense crowds, making a beeline for the Harvard Divinity School of His day. He runs past offices and classrooms to the largest lecture hall where several distinguished professors have made themselves available. People are pouring in. Luckily, the Savior finds a seat in the front row.

Christ raises His hand often, asking provocative questions that leave the old men stroking their coiffured beards and mumbling among themselves.

At night, Christ and His family head back to their tent on the hillside, carefully stepping along temporary planks across the Kidron River now swollen to several times its normal size with the continuous flow of blood that drains from the hectic Temple altar.[1] Lying awake at night, wondering, puzzling it all out into the wee hours.

The next day, on His way back to the lecture hall, the precocious pre-teen looks out across vast flocks of sheep that stretch into the horizon. Countless thousands. He sees them being led, one by one, to slaughter. Over and over and over again. All day, every day, the killing. New insights immerge. Painful possibilities begin to stir.

At the end of their stay, Christ is so completely absorbed in thought and conversation with the elders that he forgets to go home. He is focused like a laser on His Father’s business and His unexpectedly central role.

How did the fullness of Jesus’ self-understanding develop? How do you discover that you are God? No maps exist for such a fantastic journey within the human family. I cannot imagine that the full answer to the question “Who am I?” came to Him with suddenness and clarity. Most likely bit by challenging bit.

There were so many mental hurdles for Jesus to overcome regarding His place in the world. All His life He had been taught to say the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is ONE” (Dt 6:4). How could there now be Two? His close examination of the Old Testament actually indicates Three. Clearly impossible.

At some point, after putting all of His parents’ stories and all the evidence from scripture together, Jesus comes to the astounding, very personal, conclusion, “I am GOD!!”

Did He think, “Who can I tell? They’ll think I’m crazy.” Did He confide in His mother? Certainly not His brothers or the priests. How do you keep making furniture and taking out the garbage when you know that you are God?

I try to imagine how I would react if my very best friend from childhood, Charlie, came to me and whispered, “I can’t sleep at night. I have this growing conviction that I just can’t shake.”

“What is it Charlie?”

“Well… I… I think… I think I’m… God.”

“Ya. Great. And I’m Superman.”

Comprehending the mystery of the incarnation had to have been an obsession for Jesus. He experienced the most complex, wrenching search for identity of any human who ever lived. It is certainly much more than a quantum leap to go from “I’m special and unique” to “I’m God. I created everything. I created those mountains over there, those animals, humankind, earth, the oceans, the moon, the sun! I must have all power and all knowledge somewhere deep inside me.”

How did He avoid testing such an outlandish proposition prior to His public ministry, just to be sure? Why not try to work some little miracle out in nature as confirmation where no one else could see? Levitate a stone? Create a handful of juicy figs? He somehow knew not to engage in such a misuse of His creative energy, not even as a comeback when others treated Him like dirt.[2]

Whenever it was that Jesus finally came to the firm, unshakable conclusion that He was, in fact, divine, it could not have been entirely good news for Him as a human, not at all. I suspect that a big part of Him was absolutely horrified.

Contrary to popular thought, being God was the greatest problem, the greatest burden, of Jesus’ life. As the Savior walked this earth, divinity was actually a tremendous liability.

Ellen White shares this rather startling insight:

“It was a difficult task for the Prince of life to carry out the plan which He had undertaken for the salvation of man, in clothing His divinity with humanity. He had received honor in the heavenly courts, and was familiar with absolute power. It was as difficult for Him to keep the level of humanity as for men to rise above the low level of their depraved nature, and be partakers of the divine nature.[3]

I don’t know about you, but rising above the low level of my depraved nature is the central struggle of my life.

Unlike me, Christ struggled with immense inner forces and was faced with infinitely greater consequences. He eventually came to understand that there was enough power within Himself to create an entirely new universe! Far from being locked away in some inner mental vault with a complex combination, it was always just under the surface, as near and accessible as a single thought.

Avoiding any misuse of that titanic divine ability was an enormous challenge. Ellen White indicates that it took “the strength of all His faculties” to hold back.[4]           

The Devil knew all about the Savior’s inner struggle with His dual nature and exploited it to the full.

I think of Satan’s temptation in the Wilderness for Christ to turn stones into bread. That would be no temptation at all for me. I’m quite sure there’s no divinity inside.

But of course, Christ could do it. He could make a billion loaves at the snap of a finger. Problem is, if He misused His divine power just once, just one single time, the entire plan of salvation would have failed. The entire human race would die forever and the universe would be thrown into utter chaos. All from a single loaf of rye. No pressure.

The author of the book of Hebrews describes the Savior’s inner turmoil as He wrestled with the forces of evil,

“For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18 NKJV).

F.F. Bruce comments, “He endured keen trials and temptations Himself, not only the trials incidental to our human lot, but those… temptations that attended His Messianic calling.”[5]

The book of Hebrews adds,

“Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death” (Hebrews 5:7-8 NKJV).

The ever-present possibility of taking the easier way out added an enormous weight to the struggle.

Of course, the worst temptation to use His divine power, by far, came at the cross. Satan spoke through bystanders who did his bidding and shouted, “Come down from the cross and we’ll believe in you! If you truly are the Son of God, free yourself. Jump down here Mr. Messiah and we’ll give you a raucous ovation. It’s not that far really!”

Satan hoped that such insult and sufferings would call forth from the Son of God some complaint or murmur; or that he would manifest His divine power and wrench himself from the grasp of the multitude, and thus the plan of salvation at last fail.[6]

Enduring suffering courageously when you can’t do anything to stop it is one thing. To endure excruciating physical and spiritual torture knowing you have the power to stop it whenever you choose is quite another. That is, without doubt, exponentially more difficult.

It took every fiber of Jesus’ being to stay put on the cross and endure it all. It was a moment by moment mental affirmation to go on. The nails had nothing to do with it.

His severed nerves shot waves of hot, searing voltage along His arms and up His legs, but He refused to budge.

His torso convulsed so hard His wrists almost pulled through the nails, but He stubbornly remained.

His mind nearly shut down from shock when the Father seemed to leave Him forever, but somehow, some way, Christ persisted.

He remained right there, cemented in place by love, until all was finished and He had exhaled for the final time on that fearsome wooden altar.

 

Notes & References:

[2] EG White, Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1940) 72

[3] EG White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957) 930.

[4] EG White, “The Temptation of Christ,” The Review and Herald, April 1, 1875.

[6] EG White, Spiritual Gifts Vol. 1, p. 49.

 

Kim Allan Johnson retired in 2014 as the Undertreasurer of the Florida Conference. He and his wife Ann live in Maitland, Florida. Kim has written a number of articles for SDA journals plus three books published by Pacific Press: The GiftThe Morning, and The Team. He has also written three sets of small group lessons for churches that can be viewed at www.transformyourchurch.com (this website is run by the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists). He is also the author of eight "Life Guides" on CREATION Health.

Photo by Timeo Buehrer on Unsplash

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10689
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Question: What’s wrong with this essay? (And I do mean wrong.)

If EG White thought plagiarism did not disqualify her as a prophet, why should we care what she wrote (copied)?

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Thanks, Kim Allan Johnson.

This is an engaging piece of conjecture. What it make me think is that there may be a very good reason why the scripture is so void on the details of Christ’s childhood.

Indeed, there is a lot about Christ’s first-person, subjective, Earthly experience that we do not know, and/or might not comprehend.

For example, I can’t believe Jesus had a dawning realization that He, in an earlier, divine state, had created mountains, or the world. I’m not clear what the purpose of such arrest would be.

HA

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Perhaps we all somehow missed the “I was shown” prefix
opining that plagiarism was fine for a profit, provided it returns a high enough prophet.

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I agree that this is conjecture, however, there may be somethings better left alone. God tells us in His Word all He seems to want us to know. No matter how hard we may over-think some things in the Bible, we still just don’t know for sure. I personally don’t think the young man Jesus had magical thinking about himself. He was raised with a good religious belief system and a mother that knew something more about her son that other mother’s did about theirs; Seems that he had inklings but they didn’t take vivid shape until the 40 days in the Wilderness. He spoke with his Heavenly Father there and got “caught up” so to speak about his past, present and future. From there Jesus evidently knew what his mission was and he proceeded on target knowing that his Heavenly Father would always be with him, just as he taught us to believe the same.

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I don’t think we have adequately dealt with Jesus as “the son of man”; and the implications that might have on who we might be. Jesus is also called the “first fruits”. He continuously calls God his FATHER, this is a relationship we humans can understand, especially within the Jewish culture where the first-born son has a special standing and relationship with the father.

We like to see God in human terms. Obviously we have no other metric. It all means we have to keep an open mind and simply go with what we have been given as to relationships - both, Jesus to God; and us to both Jesus and God. J.B. Philips describes Jesus as “God, focused” and the aperture through which we see God. We have also been told that “God is Spirit”. We, humans, don’t do well dealing with SPIRIT as a reality. We need a skin and bones example.

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Thank you for nudging us to think more about the mystery. SDA’s have had a tendency to be so busy preaching that we have tended to forget to spend time contemplating - at great loss.

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This tries to explain the mystery, and quantify it in ways the NT never really does. It also comes close to making it sound as if Jesus’s humanity was just a cloak for his divinity. I don’t think that’s what incarnation means. God didn’t just cloak himself…God became human. How that is so, and how humanity and divinity interacted within the man Jesus is a mystery that is beyond us.

Thanks…

Frank

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On the same principle or argument, Sunday sabbath neither disqualify any one for heaven! (William Miller willfully rejected the seventh-day).

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According to Desire of Ages, Jesus was conscious of his divinity even as a child (probably by the age of 12). And he did use his miraculous powers for others!

He made no exhibition of His miraculous power.” (DA, p. 74). This means he knew his divine powers.
Jesus was the healer of the body as well as of the soulNone could say that He had worked a miracle; but virtue—the healing power of love—went out from Him to the sick and distressed. Thus in an unobtrusive way He worked for the people from His very childhood. And this was why, after His public ministry began, so many heard Him gladly” (DA, p. 92).
Of course, the bible is absolutely silent about his childhood. We can find these in the Apocryphal writings.

A very thoughtful article with a catchy title. I saw the title just before I went to bed, so did some real thinking–or imagining on my own.

Kim Johnson may have been playing with our imagination, but he shed fresh light on texts like Hebrews 2:18.

Do you believe that under the New Covenant that Christians are still required (or should) keep the Saturday Sabbath?

Yes…these types of musings go far beyond the explicit texts of the gospels, and also the point of their messages. The seven sign/miracle accounts in the fourth gospel have a specific theological point to which they crescendo, and have little to do with how conscious Jesus was of his divinity as a child, or whether or not he used his power for others then. In this gospel, Jesus is messiah, bringing the eternal life of the age to come into the present, totally conscious of who he is and what he is doing. The miracles are signs all testifying to this. And, by believing in him as Messiah, and following him, we have this life in his name…now!

But, we would rather indulge in all kinds of speculation based in the writings of EGW, rather than dwell on the explicit message and power of the gospel right there in the NT.

Thanks…

Frank

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I sincerely believe it so.

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Adventists never finish that sentence -" We are to keep the Sabbath is not enough". The missing part is the word “holy”. Do we keep it holy. Aben? What makes our “keeping” the day, holy? I believe the Bible outlines the holy part, but no one abides by that. The church has made up its own protocol and calls it holy.

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Same book also exhorts us to keep our marriage beds holy…is there a link?

I doubt it was “exponentially more difficult.” To the contrary I would propose it was a lot easier knowing that the torture would very soon end and life will return. The hope of seeing your Heavenly Father in a short period of three days and then to live forever would be more than enough to shoulder the short-term “excruciating physical and spiritual torture.” After all, instilling hope is what makes bereavement lighter to bear here on earth. Just ask any of our mental health professionals or ministers.

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Where did that come from - connection?

Well, according to the accepted beginnings myth, that first friday night was the wedding, ergo, sabbath the likely consummation and honeymoon. A perpetual celebration of a holy relationship-for eternity! They are linked forever-by God. Sabbath, the seal of “the Perfect Groom” and his bride. Sabbath, in Genesis. Center book of that collection-the Song. Then the final book-a wedding feast forever.

I guess we can spin the story into anything we want. I hadn’t heard that one.