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 God “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. And hath made of one blood all nations….” (Acts 17:25-26); and David writes: “thou hast possessed my reins; thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…..My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect…… (Psalm 139:13-16). 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 was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). And the apostle Paul writes of Jesus: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross!” (Phil 2:6-8).
And his birth was announced to some shepherds by an angel from heaven: “the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid” (Lk 2:9). The angel told them: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ 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, “thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, 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 “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD (i.e. Jehovah), make straight in the desert a highway for our God….say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the LORD God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall 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 unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…..And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:3-6).
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 hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught 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 be poured out 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. “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 undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine 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 unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee” (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 reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (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. “But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of God hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, 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 which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him; for she is a sinner” (verse 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, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven”. Even those who were also dining there recognised what Jesus was claiming and they said “Who is this that forgiveth sins also?” (verse 49). So Jesus reiterates what he had just said to the woman, and thus emphasises his claim by saying to her again, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (verse 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 also of the sabbath” (Lk 6:1-6).
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 ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (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 shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God……wherefore 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. “And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you…..And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of the covenant between me and the earth…..and I will look upon it, that I may 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 spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you…..It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever….” (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 was come, he (Jesus) sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God…… And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (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
“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases….and they departed, and went through the towns, 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, “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me; That ye 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, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh 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 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, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (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 say they that Christ is David’s son? And David himself saith in the Book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?” (Lk 20:39-47). 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. “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the curtain was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” (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).
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, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, To day shalt thou 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 are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him” (Lk 10:22).
Ashamed of Jesus
When Jesus said, “whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, 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 shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Lk 21:25-28). It will be the fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14).
In delivering this prophecy, Jesus spoke with the authority of deity: “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall 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 goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto 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, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:26). And later, to the rest of the disciples, he said, “These are the words I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (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 whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God….” (Acts 1:3), “he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him…..” (Lk 24:50-52).
Gentiles acknowledge Jesus to be the Son of God
The centurion whom we see at the cross in Matt 27:54 and Mark 15:39 and declaring Jesus to be the Son of God at the moment of his death, here in Luke declares “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Lk 23:47). Why does Luke have the centurion saying something different to Matthew and Mark? John Calvin explains it this way: “The centurion had not undergone such a change as to dedicate himself to God for the remainder of his life, but was only for a moment the herald of the divinity of Christ. When Luke represents him as saying no more than ‘certainly this was a righteous man’, the meaning is the same as if he had plainly said that he was the ‘Son of God’, as it is expressed by the other two Evangelists. For it had been universally reported that Christ was to be put to death, because he declared himself to be the Son of God. Now when the centurion bestows on him the praise of righteousness, and pronounces him to be innocent, he likewise acknowledges him to be the Son of God; not that he understood distinctly how Christ was begotten by God the Father, but because he entertains no doubt that there is some divinity in him, and, convinced by proofs, holds it to be certain that Christ was not an ordinary man, but had been raised up by God” (Calvin 2009, 327-328).
Many of the incidents in one of the Synoptic Gospels are recorded in one or both of the others; and the above list of claims to deity either by Jesus or by the author of the Gospel can be found in the others. I’ve been selective in the examples given, and one could spend many happy hours considering other possibilities. This list also gives the lie to the claims of Muslim apologists, among many other enemies of Christ, who confidently say that Jesus never claimed to be God; only that he claimed to be a prophet and nothing more.
“And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a king. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the king of the Jews? And he answered him and said. Thou sayest it. Then Pilate said to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man” (Lk 23:1-4).