One year in (Christian) high school, our class was sent into the neighbouring town to knock on people's doors, hand them a tract and initiate discussion about Jesus. The one couple I found most interested in discussion was Jehovah's Witness and after we had talked at length, they invited me to return and continue our conversation. I was young and naive and so confident about my faith and biblical knowledge that I had genuine hope of converting them. They, older and wiser, had the same design on me and were better equipped. After meeting weekly for some time, they successfully planted a kernel of doubt regarding Jesus' divinity--a doubt that continues to haunt me.
Yesterday's study time focused on this. In an attempt to wrap my mind around three paragraphs from Augustine's On the Trinity I did some googling and came across the following statement:
“... there would have been no cross without Jesus’ claim to be equal with God the Father...”*
Is this true? I wondered. Since my time with the Jehovah's Witnesses, I have found many passages that leave no doubt that Jesus is God but I would like to look at that quote in light of John 8. The Jews were asking Jesus who he was. After a lengthy discourse with them in the temple, Jesus said, "before Abraham was born, I am!" The Jews were so incensed at this statement, they picked up stones with the intention of killing him but he snuck away. Why was this sentence of his so incendiary?
When Moses asked God at the burning bush who he should say sent him, God answered, "This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has sent me to you.'" [Exodus 3:14] "I am" is the name God gave to himself. When Jesus used it to describe himself, the Jews recognized his statement as a claim to being God. This was blasphemous and the law had only one instruction about blasphemy: Kill the blasphemer!
This is why they were ready to stone him; this is why, in the end, they insisted he be crucified: He claimed to be God. Dare we believe otherwise?
*Allen Ross in "The Son of God, Begotten, Not Made." http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=166