Sunday, December 21, 2014

Countdown to Christmas Conversations: An Invitation to Consider the Character of the Christ – Part Two – Mighty God

Is Baby Jesus the "Mighty God?" Well, He glows in the dark.

This is the third in a series of posts discussing my belief in Jesus as the Messiah, in hopes of fostering understanding of my spirituality, and encouraging others to share their own perspectives on spirituality (defined broadly as the means by which we derive meaning from life and assign value to its elements). For more about why I find the discussion of our spirituality to be so important, especially as we countdown to Christmas, please see the initial post in the series. (Found here:

Like the Messiah’s title from Isaiah 9:6 that I discussed in my last post (Wonderful Counselor), the title Mighty God is another one in which both words are very important.

More glow-in-the-dark Baby Jesus - So, "Mighty God?"
The historical reality of a Rabbi named Jesus is all but universally accepted. The few who would deny or distort the historical record would never imagine doing so for other, less-well-documented historical figures. Seems like spiritual problem to me, but I can understand a reluctance to face the implications of His radically unsettling life and teachings. I have less sympathy, however, with those who would claim that the scripture teaches that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was something other than “God Himself, come to redeem His people.”

Here it's just a flashlight beam, but still a nice effect.
One of the arguments they offer involves recasting the translation of the title. Instead of accepting Mighty God as a title of the Messiah, they point to the incorporation of Hebrew names for God into the names of particular human beings. For example, “Yah” (from Yahweh, one pronunciation of the name behind “Jehovah”) appears in names like Zechariah (meaning “Yahweh remembers”) and Hezekiah (meaning “Yahweh strengthens”). Likewise, “El” (from Elohim, the singularly plural term that strongly suggests one God eternally existing in three persons) finds its way into Daniel (“God is my judge”) and, combining both names, Elijah (meaning “Yahweh is my God”). Thus, instead of the Messiah coming as Mighty God, they would suggest that the Hebrew Gibbor-El, or El-Gibbor should be considered as a person’s name, just as the examples above would be. But the same term, used by the same prophet (e.g., Isaiah 10:21) clearly describes the divine person, rather than a human being. This Messiah, whom Isaiah is describing, is indeed God.

Here's where my mind goes with "Mighty God."
Why is it of such great importance that I understand Jesus as being God? With Anselm of Canterbury, I see myself owing a 100% obligation as a human being created to bear the image and likeness of God. But I have sinned, and fallen short of the glory God seeks to reveal in and through my life. Since I sinned (even if only at some point in the past), pursuing my own desires, fears, and aspirations, took away a portion of the time and energy I owe to my Creator. Therefore, I am in need of repaying that debt. But even if I were to fulfill every obligation today, I would have no time left over with which to make up for any previous deficiency. I owe a debt, in Anselm’s elegant explanation, that only I should pay, but that only God could pay. Enter Jesus Christ. He is the 100% human and 100% divine “propitiation,” that which satisfies my debt to God from the past, in the present, and throughout the future.

If it is important to see the Messiah as God, then it might seem redundant to emphasize Him as “mighty.” In fact, it is not the ability of Jesus Christ that I most frequently question. I struggle to remember that He does choose to love, to bring justice, to accomplish righteousness, and so much more in my life. For others, however, there is little question that He wants to love and bless them. They would raise the question of His ability to fulfill His own desires to protect and provide for those who come to Him. Thus, it is as essential as understanding Jesus’ divinity, that He is God, as it is to remind ourselves that He is the Mighty God.

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