Why Didn’t the Jews Believe Jesus Was God?
Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. We’re going through Dave Hunt’s book When Will Jesus Come? in this first segment of our program, and the book is subtitled, Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ.
Now, Dave, last week we were discussing chapter 6 of your book, which you titled “Victory in Defeat.” And you noted that because of their own preservation and ambition, the Jewish religious leaders were so blinded to what the prophets had to say regarding the rejection of the Messiah, they actually were major players in the fulfillment of that rejection.
Dave: Well, Tom, if we turn to . . . I can quote it, but let’s just turn to it—if we turn to Acts 13 (this is Paul’s first recorded sermon, if you want to call it that), and listen to what he says to the Jews. He’s in the synagogue, and he says, “For they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.” How about that?
They didn’t know what they were doing, but they were actually fulfilling what the prophets said when they condemned Him. And they thought—we mentioned last week, you know, “What are you doing on that cross? If you’re the Messiah, come on down!” That’s what the thief said also. They thought they were going to get rid of this impostor (they wanted to imagine him to be). Actually, everything they did was precisely what the prophets had foretold. They paid Judas thirty pieces of silver. That’s exactly what Zechariah the prophet said! And then when he came back, he wanted to give the money back to them, and they refused to take it, self-righteously, and that caused him in anger to throw it down in the temple, exactly what the prophets said. And then they picked up that money, and, again, very self-righteously, wouldn’t take it for their own enrichment . . .
Tom: Because they were doing this “all for God,” right?
Dave: Of course, of course! They bought a field to bury strangers in, exactly what the prophets said. They used that money. And, of course, when they had Him crucified, when they cried, “Away with him!,” when they condemned Him, “led as a lamb to the slaughter; as a sheep before the shearers is dumb, he opened not his mouth.” So, I love the way Paul said it (of course, he was inspired of the Lord). Let me just read it again: “Because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.”
Now, you remember the rabbis would have stoned him. That was what Jewish law required: stoning. It did not require crucifixion. But they realized they couldn’t get away with that. And they acknowledged to Pilate in John 18, when he said, “You take him and judge him according to your law,” and they said, “We can’t. It’s not lawful.” They had lost the right to do that. And so they insisted that He be condemned by the Romans, and that caused Him to be crucified, exactly as David had foretold, Psalm 22: “They pierced my hands and my feet,” and so forth.
And then, Paul goes on, “When they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a sepulcher, but God raised him from the dead,” and so forth.
Tom: Dave, that didn’t stop them from looking for something that they could really—no pun intended—really nail Him with. And certainly the fact that He claimed to be God—now they believed they had something. And, of course, if He was lying, they really did have something. But the fact that it was true . . . and that’s kind of what I want to go over. Last week you mentioned some of the “I AM” verses. You know, we start with John:8:24: “Jesus said, ‘I said therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins, for if ye believe not that I am.’” Of course, in italics we find he, but as you mentioned, “he” is in italics. It should not be there, because He was claiming to be God. “Ye shall did in your sins.” If you don’t believe that Jesus is God, you’re going to die in your sins.
Dave: That’s what He said. Is this some wild claim that He just came up with? No, if you go back to Isaiah:9:6, it very clearly says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Okay, the child born is the babe in Bethlehem; the “son given” is the eternal Son of God, who became a man through that virgin birth. “The government will be upon his shoulders.” So this is . . .the Jewish rabbis reading this should know that this must be the Messiah! He is the one who will govern Israel: “Out of thee shall he come forth who will be the governor over my people Israel,” Micah:5:2 says.
So this is the Messiah, okay? “And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God.” Now, if you talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, they’ll say, “Oh, well that’s ‘mighty God’; that’s not Almighty God.”
You go to John:1:1 . . .
Tom: Well, in fact, then they don’t believe in just Jehovah God; they believe in more than one God.
Dave: Of course they do! If you took them to John 1: 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,” big “G.” You ask them, “Who is that?”
“Well, that’s Jehovah God.”
“And the Word was God.” But their New World Translation says, “ . . . was a god,” with a little “g,” and you say, “Who was that?”
“Well, that's Jesus.”
“Well, so for all your claims that there’s only one God, you’ve got two Gods. One with a big G and one with a little ‘g.’ Now, a little ‘g’ always means a false god. Is Jesus a false god?”
And the Jehovah’s Witnesses say, “Oh, no, no, no! He’s not a false god.”
So you’ve got two gods in this verse, okay? So, anyway, I’ve had them say to me, “Well, that’s not Almighty God; that’s the Mighty God.”
Well, I’ll give you thirty-seven verses in the Old Testament where Yahweh is called the Mighty God, okay? But then, you can’t escape this: the next phrase says, “The everlasting Father,” or the Father of eternity! Isaiah very clearly said that the babe born in Bethlehem would be Father God, okay?
When Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (this is what you’re coming to here, Tom), they think they’ve really got Him. “He’s claiming to be God! He’s claiming to be one with the Father!”
Yes, that’s what Isaiah said. The name of that babe! It’s incredible, Tom, because we have to go to the Trinity, and we’ve already done that. You can’t escape it! The babe born in Bethlehem is both the Son and the Father, because there are three persons, one God. Remember? We went to Deuteronomy:6:4: “Hear, O Israel, Yahweh our Elohim is one Yahweh,” and the word for “one” is echad. It means a unity.
So, Jesus is saying exactly what the prophets had said, what their Old Testament says, but they don’t know the prophets. Why? I mean, they may have much of it memorized, but they are blinded.
Tom: Dave, that blindness has come down to many who profess to be Christians, and profess to go with the Bible. I mean, many would say, “Wait a minute! Jesus never claimed to be God.” But you went over the verses, and this is so critical—this is why I want to talk about it in this first segment—because . . . I just read it: Jesus said, “If you believe not that I AM [that I am God], you shall die in your sins.” So this is a doctrine, a teaching, from the Lord that if somebody’s going to come to salvation, they have to come to Jesus as God.
Dave: Well, if you don’t, you are looking to someone less than God to be your savior. And all through the Old Testament—we could turn to many scriptures—you could get it in Isaiah 43, for example; many other places. Yahweh says, “I am the Savior.” He says, “Beside me there is no Savior.” So if Jesus is not God, He cannot be the Savior. I mean, the Bible just ties it up in so many knots with ribbons around it, you cannot escape it.
Now, when you go to John 10, where Jesus said in verse 30: “I and my Father are one,” that’s exactly what Isaiah said. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.”
Tom: Now, it’s interesting, based on what you said earlier, because on the one hand, their reaction was to stone Him, but then when it came to going to Pilate and so on, and they say, “Well, wait a minute! We’re not allowed to do this.” But they try to do it and they failed.
Dave: Tom, it’s . . . well, we don’t have time, but it really is fascinating. You study this whole thing leading up to the crucifixion of Christ—the rabbis actually said, “We’re going to kill him. We’re going to get him!” And here are their words (I’m quoting it exactly): “ . . . but not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people,” okay? But Christ had to be crucified on the feast day, because if you went . . . the feast we’re talking about is the Passover. If you went to Exodus:12:6, it’s talking about a lamb. There is a lamb coming. And it says, “The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall take it (this lamb), and kill it in the evening—that’s the evening of the 14th of Nisan. That lamb was taken out of the flock on the 10th of Nisan. That's the very day Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He’s been hiding out. It says, “He walked no more in Jewry, for the Jews sought to slay him” (John 11). But now, suddenly, here He comes! The Lamb of God! They’re taking the lambs out of the flock, and here comes the Lamb, the Lamb of God that all of these are a picture of, and suddenly He comes out of hiding, and He presents Himself to Jerusalem as the Lamb of God. That’s the tenth. But the 14th, that lamb—the lambs that they’re taking had to be slain. It says, “The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall slay this lamb in the evening.”
So, Christ had to be on the cross the very time when they were killing the lambs for the Passover feast. Well, that alone would tell you that the Last Supper was not the Passover (and we won’t get into that). It was the night before. They were preparing for the Passover. It was called The Day of Preparation, it says, “when the lamb must be slain.” And the Day of Preparation was also when they . . . it’s also called The Day of Unleavened Bread, because they had . . . all unleavened bread had to be gone by the evening that began the 15th, after the 14th ended at sunset, beginning the 15th, that’s the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It’s also the Passover. Luke:22:1 says, “The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover,” okay?
So, now, if, from that moment, after sunset, on the 14th of Nisan, it begins . . . they eat the Passover at night. (If we went two verses after verse six to verse eight, it says, “They will slay the lamb in the evening, and they will eat it that night after sunset.” All right? Am I being to complicated here? I’m sorry.)
So, all I’m trying to say is if there must be no leaven at all in the house, or whatever, from the very beginning of the 15th, which begins after sunset, then you’ve got to take that leaven out on the day before, okay? So this is the Day of the Preparation of the Passover, when the lamb must be slain. It is also called The First Day of Unleavened Bread, because that’s the day you must take the leaven out so that there won’t be any there at the time of the Passover.
And this is what the scripture said, and the rabbis said, “No, no! Not on the feast day, you know. We have too many people here. And that would arouse the crowd, and they just hailed Him coming in on that donkey, and they’ve called Him the ‘Messiah.’ We dare not do it now. Let’s let this kind of settled down, and then we’ll get him afterwards.”
Well, what happened? Judas comes to them. At the night of His betrayal was the Last Supper. Another reason we know this was not the Passover, because Jesus said to Judas, “Whatever you’re going to do, do it quickly.” And he went out into the night. And the disciples wondered, it says, What’s he going out for? Must be maybe he’s buying something that we’ll need for the Passover.
But if it was the Passover, and the Last Supper was the Passover, no stores are open. You couldn’t buy anything. It’s the highest holiday that there is. So, Judas comes to them right in the midst of the preparation for the Passover, and he says, “Guys, I know where He goes every night. You don’t have to worry about the mob. There’s nobody around. I can take you to the very spot in the Garden where He sleeps at night!”
And they were very glad, and they bargained with Him. Probably Judas thought . . . or I don’t know, maybe they said, “We’ll give you five, or ten, or, . . .” You know, I think he bid it up. And finally, when he got them to thirty pieces of silver, I think Judas thought he had his retirement nest egg. And he takes it, and that’s why Jesus was crucified at the very moment that the lambs were slain, when He had to be.
So, they were ignorant. They didn’t know. They didn’t know the prophets, and not knowing them, they fulfilled it in what they did to Him.
I’m sorry! I took too long on that, Tom, but I think it’s of some interest.
Tom: Yeah, well, Dave, I want to bring that back to today. As I mentioned, there are some who profess to be Christians but don’t believe that Jesus is God. And, you know, we could go to the scripture that says it so clearly, so, you know, there’s no excuse. For example, you quoted Isaiah, saying that there’s no savior but God.
Tom: So I’m looking at Titus:2:10: “Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” So that’s consistent with Isaiah: “God is our savior,” right? But let’s look at verse 13: It says, “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” So, wait a minute! If God’s our Savior, and Jesus Christ is our Savior, and there’s only one God, and there’s only one Savior . . . Peter says the same thing, Dave. Second Peter chapter 1: “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ to those who have attained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
How much clearer could it be?
Dave: That’s pretty clear. First Timothy 1:1: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.” They’re one and the same, but it’s even clearer in 2:3: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”
So, there are other verses but it’s very clear that if we are to be saved, only God can do it, and that’s what He says. If Jesus is the Savior, He must be God. And the verse you quoted from John:8:24: “Except you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” And of course, the translators added “he,” but they put it in italics. They thought they were helping us understand. No. “Except you believe that I am you will die in your sins.” And then if we went on further in chapter 8 of John, He said to the Jews: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”
And they say, “You’re not yet 50 years old, and Abraham? You knew Abraham?”
And He says, “Before Abraham was” (he didn’t say, “I was”) . . . before Abraham was, I AM.” And there they took up stones to stone Him.
In other words, the Jews knew very clearly what Jesus was saying. He was declaring that He is Yahweh! That He is God! And they crucified Him, literally, for claiming to be God. And yet we have people today who say, “Jesus never claimed to be God.”
Tom: I know. Dave, and as we’ve talked about—you mentioned it last week—only God could be our Savior, because only He could pay the infinite penalty for our sins.
Dave: Exactly. Exactly. Well, Tom, we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, as our Savior. If you went to the New World Translation, for example—it’s very dishonest. They don’t know Hebrew.
Tom: That’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses Translation.
Dave: Right. Right. They don’t know Greek. But one place you could look, for example: how many times does it say in the gospels that they worshiped Jesus? When He stilled the waves, those that were in the ship fell down and worshiped Him? It is the same word, the same Greek word, that is used many times in the New Testament, worshiping God. But they change it in the New World Translation, and they change it to “did obeisance.” And I say to them, “Wait a minute! How can you take the same word, the same Greek word, and you change the meaning?”
“Oh, well, because that’s Jesus, so it couldn’t mean ‘worship.’”
No, that’s because of your prejudice, because you do not acknowledge Him as God, and if you do not, you are lost in your sins, because He said, “Except you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins. And where I go you cannot come.”