Deity of Christ in the Gospel According to St Luke

The Virgin Birth of Jesus declares his deity

Luke opens his account of Jesus Christ with the miraculous birth of John the Baptist (1:5-25).  He then goes on to announce that Jesus, the One whom John was to precede and announce, would be born in an even more spectacular and unique way, by being born of a woman, a virgin no less, without human father, conceived by God himself when the Holy Spirit, third Person of the Trinity, came upon her.  This was no physical sexual union between a human woman and a god, such as Zeus disguised as a bull or another creature; neither was it some kind of filthy, perverted sexual union, as Sheikh Ahmed Deedat falsely and blasphemously accuses.  No, the holy God would “overshadow” Mary the virgin, causing her to conceive.

The narrative doesn’t describe what this overshadowing entailed or how she conceived, but “The God who made the world and everything in it…..gives to all men life and breath and everything.  And he made from one every nation of men….” (Acts 17:24-26 RSV-CE); and David writes: “For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am wondrously made…..my frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes beheld my unformed substance…… (Psalm 139[138]:13-16).  So we don’t need to know the mechanics of Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary because we know that God gives life to everyone anyway; but this conception was unique.  In that womb, God took to himself a true human nature and irrevocably knitted it together with his own divine nature, God and man together as one; true God, true man, two perfect natures in one person – the Person of Jesus Christ.

The apostle John describes it thus: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).  And the apostle Paul writes of Jesus: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,  even the death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

And his birth was announced to some shepherds by an angel from heaven: “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore terrified” (Lk 2:9).   The angel told them: “….to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11).  Even though it was lowly shepherds and not kings and great men to whom the announcement was made, heaven itself was present at the birth of the God-man Jesus.

Furthermore, when Zacharias the priest, father of John the Baptist, in prophesying his son’s future role as the forerunner and herald of the Messiah, said, “…you will go before the Lord  to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:76-79).

This prophecy is nothing less than a statement that Jesus is Jehovah.  The Old Testament prophecy talks about one who will come before God, preparing the way before Him; the prophecy is from Isaiah.  In part, it says “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God….say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’  Behold, the LORD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.  He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isa 40:3, 9-11 cf Jn 10:1-18, 26-27; 21:16-17).  This prophecy identifies John the Baptist as the forerunner who precedes and prepares the way for Jesus, and identifies Jesus as being God, for whom the Baptist prepares the way.  It is fulfilled in Luke chapter 3: “…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…..and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’” (Lk 3:2-6).

The baptizer with the Holy Spirit

In chapter 3, Luke writes of John the Baptist doing what he was created and called by God to do, and that was to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.  In this passage, he points to the superiority of Christ, and that he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  Who else can baptize with God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, but God – in this case the second person of the Trinity?  God himself says, “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counsellor has instructed him?” (Isa 40:13).  If no living being can direct or teach the Spirit of God, how much less can they baptize with him”.  Only God can do this.  Furthermore, Isaiah writes, “….until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high…..” (Isa 32:15).  Who but God can pour out his own Spirit on people?

Thus, Luke is showing us that Christ is God, and confirms what Matthew and Mark said about John the Baptist, the forerunner, proclaiming the coming of the Lord Jesus who is God; and that it is God who is the one to come (Isa 40:1-11).

Power over the forces of nature

In chapter 5, when Jesus told the disciples to take their boat out again, even though they had been fishing unsuccessfully all night, they took their boat and dropped their net, and had a huge catch.  “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Lk 5:8).  Peter recognised deity standing right before him, and he was stricken with the sense of his own sinfulness; it is only the presence of God that can produce this conviction.  It is reminiscent of the prophet Isaiah when God appeared to him in the temple.  At the sight of God on his throne, Isaiah responded “Woe is me!  For I am lost; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lip;: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa 6:5).

Isaiah saw the Lord on his throne in glory and splendour and was stricken with a sense of guilt and uncleanness.  Peter didn’t have that same vision but what he had witnessed had the same impact, and as he recognised deity, he had the same sense of guilt and shame that Isaiah had; it only takes a glimpse of God to wake us up to who and what we really are.  When God reveals himself to us in even the smallest way, his holiness is so pure that it highlights all that is impure; and this sense of impurity in the sinner overwhelms him.  How much more overwhelming and terrifying will it be when unsaved sinners stand before God at his throne and must give account to him for everything they’ve ever done?  I’ve heard many unbelievers say that if they do stand before God, they’re going to be asking him some tough questions; some say they will defy him; others that he’ll let them in to heaven because they haven’t done anything really bad; and in fact, they’ve been quite good – certainly better than a lot of other people.  This is all bravado and utter stupidity, spoken in ignorance and vanity.  Those who reject God’s Son will themselves be rejected by God (Ps 2:1-12).

So we can well understand Simon Peter’s reaction when he saw Jesus, and the deity hidden beneath the skin and flesh of Jesus’ humanity.  Anyone who has ever felt the presence of God will identify with Peter.

Jesus claims the same power and authority as God

Power to forgive sins

In the account of the paralysed man who was lowered, still in his bed, through the roof of the house wherein Jesus was teaching (Lk 5:17-26), Jesus’ response was to deal with his spiritual need: “And when he saw their faith he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you’” (verse 20).

The scribes and Pharisees who were present rightly knew that forgiveness of sins is God’s prerogative alone.  “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this that speaks blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God only?’” (verse 21).  But Jesus didn’t try to argue the point that he is God; rather, he put it to the test and demonstrated it in a way far more effective than words.  “When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’, or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – he said to the man who was paralyzed – ‘I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home’.  And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God” (verses 22-25).  What better demonstration does Jesus need to give that he is indeed the divine Son of God?  He proved his claim to be able to forgive sins by healing the paralyzed man.

In another instance of Jesus claiming the right and power to forgive sins (Lk 7:36-50), we have him eating a meal at the house of a Pharisee named Simon.  As they were reclining at the table to eat, a woman, probably a prostitute, approached Jesus with a box of expensive ointment, washed his feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  This was an act of worship, repentance, faith, and sorrow for sins.  However the Pharisee was offended – at Jesus for not recognising what kind of woman this was and allowing her to touch him, and at the woman herself for daring to enter his house uninvited.  Luke writes, “Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (Lk 7:39).

Luke is indicating that Jesus knew the Pharisee’s thoughts but didn’t rebuke him for them.  Instead he told him a parable to help him see what was wrong with his thinking, and at the same time demonstrating that he has authority to forgive sins.  As a Pharisee, Simon would have known that Jesus was claiming deity.  He said to the Pharisee, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.  And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (Lk 7:47).  Even those who were also dining there recognised what Jesus was claiming and they said “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (7:49). So Jesus reiterates what he had just said to the woman, and thus emphasises his claim by saying to her again, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (7:50).

Lord of the Sabbath

On one occasion, when Jesus was walking through the cornfields with his disciples, the disciples picked some of the ears of corn and ate them.  The Pharisees saw this and challenged him because it was the sabbath, and picking the corn was regarded as work.  Jesus referred them to the scripture which talks about how David and his men, as they fled from Saul, ate the shewbread from the altar, having had permission from the priest.  Under normal circumstances this was unlawful but the present circumstance, as David gave it out to the priest, was urgent and needful.  Jesus finished his reply to the Pharisees with the statement, “the Son of man is lord of the sabbath” (Lk 6:5).

This was a significant claim because the Sabbath belongs to God.  It was instituted by him as the seventh day of the week.  “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God had rested from all his work which he had done in creation” (Gen 2:2-3).

Furthermore, when God gave the law to Israel, he incorporated the keeping of the sabbath in the Ten Commandments: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God……therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it (Exod 20:8-11).

So when Jesus said that he is Lord of the sabbath, he was making a very direct and specific claim to deity, and identifying himself with the Old Testament God of creation and he who gave the law to Israel, and thereby constituting them as a nation.

Jesus changes the Covenant

When God made a covenant with Israel, he gave them a tangible sign to assure and remind them of his faithfulness and of their obligation to be faithful to him.  For example, when God promised that he would never again destroy the earth by water, he gave the sign of a rainbow in the sky for all to see as an assurance that God had bound himself to keep it.  “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you…..that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’  And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth…..I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth….” (Gen 9:8-17).

Again, when God gave the law to Israel, he gave the Sabbath as a sign of his faithfulness and their obligation.  “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you…..It is a sign for ever between me and the sons of Israel….’” (Exod 31:12-17).  This covenant is what we now know as the First or Old Covenant, or Old Testament.  Nobody can abrogate or change this covenant; it was instituted by God and must stand until he changes it or it is fulfilled (See Hebrews chap 8 to 10).

At the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus revealed his deity by abrogating the Old Covenant and establishing the New Covenant.  Luke gives this account of it: “And when the hour came, he (Jesus) sat at table, and the apostles with him.  And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God’…… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me’.  And likewise the chalice after supper, saying, ‘This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’ (Luke 22:14-15, 19-20).

How much clearer does it have to be stated that Jesus is God?  Who else has the right to change the Covenant and the way God relates to his people.  Jesus unequivocally said that he was establishing the New Covenant; and his blood was the sign and confirmation.  Whenever we drink the wine at the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim his death (1 Cor 11:26), acknowledge his deity, and remind ourselves of our New Covenant relationship to him.

Jesus gives his apostles power over devils and sickness

“And he called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases….And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (Lk 9:1, 6).

What mere human being can give another human being power over sickness and devils?  This is the prerogative of God alone.  It is one thing to say you can give a person spiritual power – anyone can do that; but Luke records that the apostles then went out and did exactly what Jesus told them to do, thus demonstrating by their actions that Jesus does have authority to delegate such spiritual power.

Jesus appoints his apostles as judges over Israel

Jesus said to his apostles, “You are those who have continued with me in my trials; as my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Lk 22:28-30).

Here is another expression of deity.  Jesus claims authority to delegate his apostles to judge the nation of Israel.  The nation of Israel was the people of God, and who would dare usurp God’s rule over them?  But Jesus does – because he is God.  Israel is his people.  In a moving passage, Luke records Jesus’ sorrow as he contemplated the destruction that was about to come upon Jerusalem and the nation of Israel: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!  Behold, your house is forsaken.  And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Lk 13:34-35).

Jesus is here identifying himself with the God of Israel in the Old Testament, sending his prophets to his people Israel in his efforts to bring them back to himself – but they would not.  And in Isaiah, for example, we read of God pleading with Israel to avoid the judgment that would come on them if they continued in their sin and rebellion: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isa 1:18-20).

David’s Son is David’s Lord

On another occasion, when Jesus had exposed the folly and craftiness of the Sadducees, we’re told that the scribes, who had witnessed it, dared not ask him any more questions.  Nevertheless, he next turned the searchlight onto them.  He asked “How can they say that Christ is David’s son?  For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies a stool for your feet.’  David thus calls him Lord; so how is he his son?” (Lk 20:41).  This passage seems to many sceptics, ex-Christians, liberals, and Muslims, to be contradictory and irreconcilable.  But that’s because the true meaning of scripture is hidden from them, just as it was from the Sadducees, because of their unbelief.  But the answer is simple to those who read the scriptures with a right heart, and who have been enlightened by the Spirit of truth.  Christ, as God, was David’s Lord, but as Man, he was David’s son or lineal descendant.  He was both the root and the offspring of David (Rev 22:16).

Darkness at noon; creation acknowledges death of its Creator

When Jesus hung on the cross, the sun stopped shining and the land became dark.  This was not an eclipse of the sun because there was none due at that time; it was a supernatural darkness because the divine Son of God was dying.  “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’  And having said this he breathed his last” (Lk 23:44-45).

Luke records in his other book, “The Acts of the Apostles”, that God shed his own blood to redeem sinners: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28 KJV).

It was no ordinary man who died on that cross – Luke tells us that it was Jesus – God himself, God the Son, who shed his innocent blood and died, murdered by wicked men.

And as he hung on the cross between two thieves, one of them turned to him and, after vindicating Jesus to the other thief, said, “’Jesus, remember me when you come into kingly power.’  And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’” (Lk 23:42-43).

How could Jesus make such a promise if he didn’t have power to do so?  Was he just trying to make the man a bit more comfortable in his spirit before he faced God by giving him a false sense of security?  No – this would be a lie of the cruellest nature in its effects.  The thief recognised that Jesus was divine; otherwise he wouldn’t have asked him to remember him when he came into his kingdom; he recognised that Jesus had power beyond the grave.  He acknowledged his sin and asked for mercy from the only One who could give it to him.

Jesus identifies himself with the Father

Jesus said to the disciples, “Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me” (Lk 9:48).  Later, he said to the Father in their presence, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Lk 10:22).

Ashamed of Jesus

When Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Lk 9:26).  God doesn’t condemn a person for being ashamed to identify with another human being, or even of an angel; but to reject Jesus, the Son of Man, is to invite judgment upon one’s self.

Jesus is the fulfilment of prophecy

When Jesus made his great end-times prophecy, he put himself at the very centre of it, indicating his deity, and in control of cataclysmic cosmic events.  “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:25-28).  It will be the fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one which shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14).

In delivering this prophecy, Jesus spoke with the authority of deity: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Lk 21:33).  He’s not saying that his words are of such enduring and timeless value that humanity will never forget them but keep them enshrined forever, such as the writings of Homer or Buddha or Shakespeare – he speaks as God with his own divine authority.  His statement recalls that in the prophets: “so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I intend, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11).

In another example, when Jesus had risen from death and walked along the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples, and unrecognised by them, he said to them, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and to enter into his glory?  And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:26).  And later, to the rest of the disciples, he said, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled” (Lk 24:44).  And as I’ve shown, the things which were written in the scriptures of Moses and the prophets reveal Jesus to be God.

Jesus ascends to heaven

When Jesus had revealed himself to his apostles after his resurrection, “To them presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God….” (Acts 1:3), “…he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshipped him…..” (Lk 24:50-52).

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:46).

 References

Revised Standard Version Bible, Ignatius Edition, Copyright 2006, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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