The deity of Yeshua – the idea that Jesus is God – is a stumbling block for some, particularly religious Jews who believe the messiah will be human only.
Here’s an example from the other week, where well-known Jewish blogger DovBear objected to the idea that Yeshua has turned gentiles to the God of Israel. Why? Because he believes gentiles don’t worship the God of Israel, they just worship Jesus:
(I didn’t continue the conversation; Twitter is not a great place for theological digging.)
Many religious Jews see Christians this way: not worshiping the God of Israel, Judaism’s God; instead they worship Jesus!
If the divinity of Messiah is such a stumbling block to Jews, is there budging room in Messianic faith to allow for a non-divine Jesus? Are we misinterpreting the New Testament, retroactively reading into it the deity of Messiah?
The Messiah's relationship to God is, I think, largely mystery, with the gospels giving us only hints of understanding.
But there are some things we can say for sure:
- Messiah is called 'God' in the gospels. The apostle Thomas, upon seeing Messiah raised from the dead, says to Yeshua, “My Lord, and my God!” If Messiah was not divine, but only a human prophet, this was the time for Messiah to rebuke Thomas for erroneously calling him “God”, yet Messiah instead said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.”
- Messiah is worshiped in the gospels by his disciples. If Yeshua was not God, he would have objected to being worshiped.
- Messiah is worshiped in heaven by all creation, according to Revelation. Again, Messiah/God doesn’t object to being worshiped. Contrast this with Revelation 22, where John bows and worships an angel, who rebukes him saying, “Do not! I’m only a servant like you. Worship God alone!”
- John’s mystical introduction in his gospel calls Messiah “God”: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [Messiah] was with God in the beginning, and through Him all things were made.”
- Paul’s epistles are more silent on the matter, much to the chagrin of Jewish anti-missionaries who often claim Christianity was invented by Paul. But we do have evidence of the deity of Yeshua in Paul’s letters: he records that every knee will bow to honor Messiah, and every tongue confess that Messiah is Lord, and again that “In Messiah is the fullness of the Godhead in human form.”
- In Revelation, the Messianic throne of the Lamb and the throne of God are one and the same. Worship is directed to “Him”, singular.
Bottom line: the New Testament supports the idea of Messiah's deity; including worship directed to Messiah.
Either that's idolatry, or Messiah is God.
We cannot be faulted for worshiping Messiah; it’s intrinsic to the New Testament. We cannot be faulted for putting an unnecessary stumbling block in front of Jewish people; it’s actually a necessary part of our faith!
In fact, the issues of the deity of Messiah is a crux of Messianic faith: if Yeshua is not God, and we worship him, then it’s idolatry. But if Yeshua is God, and we refuse to worship him, then it’s blasphemy. Getting this understanding right is crucial, then: veering off to the left being a form of blasphemy, off to the right being a form of idolatry. The gospels show a proper path, one that includes worship of Messiah.
Simply put, according to the New Testament, Messiah is God.
Is Messiah part of God? All of God? Fully God in human form? One of 3 persons of God? One God but many forms? I think that's where it gets fuzzy/mystical, and the New Testament is largely silent; the term “trinity” doesn’t appear in the New Testament. I don't believe we should take hard positions on issues where the Scriptures leave wiggle room.