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Miracle Working "God" John was near the end of his life, siting nervously in Herod's prison. He was wondering if he had made a mistake in seeing Jesus as the one he was to be the "forerunner" of. So he sent two disciples to ask Jesus:

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him, "Are you he that should come, or do we look for another?" (Matthew 11:2-3; Luke 7:18-20)

Instead of a direct answer, Jesus replied to the disciples, telling them to observe the miracles, and report back to John what they saw:

Jesus answered and said unto them, "Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them (evangelized)! (Matthew 11:4-5)

But we find in Isaiah's prophecy that Isaiah tied in a "coming of God" with these same working of miracles:

Be strong, fear not! Behold your God shall come...then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing... (Isaiah 35:4-6a)

Is it good exegesis to deduce that Jesus is declaring obliquely to John that He is indeed "God come in the flesh" because the miracle-working power is being fulfilled in front of his eyes? (or the eyes of his disciples).

Scriptural Confirmation This declaration that Jesus is "God" does not seem to be far-fetched, since Jesus turned to the crowd and quoted the prophet Malachi:

This is he (John) of whom it is written, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee." (Malachi 3:1)

But, here again, the very next line in the same verse read:

And the Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant whom you delight in...(Malachi 3:1b)

John's ministry is tied in with the coming of the Lord in this prophecy! Would John's disciples and the crowd also interpret this comment by Jesus as a declaration that He is God (Lord)? Did Jesus intend for them to "catch on" as to His divinity?

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  • Jesus lived his life obeying his God. He himself said he does what the Father commands him to do John 14:31. How can Jesus, if he's the Almighty God, say or imply that he as God Almighty does as he is commanded? Mar 10 at 2:00
  • @Alex Balilo - The dilemma you raise applies to many other uses of anthropomorphisms in the N.T. as well, necessary to present the Incarnation of Christ in a way mankind could understand it. This in no way detracts from His divinity. There are plenty of other scriptures that speak of Christ's deity (e.g. the Creation of the universe by God=Jesus...John 1 cf Genesis 1)
    – ray grant
    Mar 11 at 21:24
  • Genesis 1 does not say Jesus is the Creator. Jesus himself ascribed creation to his God, Mark 13:19. No verse in the Bible shows that the apostles taught that Jesus was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.Acts 3:13. How could Jesus be not involved with his people especially in the old testament if he was the Creator from the beginning? Mar 12 at 0:05

5 Answers 5

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Many interpreters have seen the same allusion of Matt 11:4, 5 to Isa 35:6 such as:

  • UBS5/NA28 appendix "Index of Allusions and Verbal Parallels"
  • Gill
  • Meyer
  • Cambridge
  • Matthew Poole
  • Expositor's Greek New Testament

For example, let me quote Gill:

Our Lord here, has reference to several prophecies concerning the Messiah, in Isaiah 35:6 and which having their accomplishment in him, John and his disciples might easily and strongly conclude, that he was he that was to come, and that they should not look for another.

Most of these same commentators also see a parallel with Isa 61:1 as well.

Now to the OP's rather vexing question: Would those listening to John have understood that Jesus was effectively claiming to be God?

That is difficult to say - none present said so - at least that has been recorded.

However, could we say so? Perhaps! Now, while I am a strong believer in the inalienable deity of Christ, in this case (Matt 11:4, 5) the evidence is less compelling than in other case, but still present. Arians simply claim that Isa 35:6 is simply claiming that God would send a representative and work miracles among the people as per the prophets of old, like Moses and Samuel.

If one seeks such OT to NT evidence of Christ's divinity of this sort, then see the list in the appendix 1 below. For a list of other places where Jesus claimed divinity, see appendix 2 below.

APPENDIX 1 - OT quotes about YHWH applied to Jesus

Here is a brief list of a few OT quotes about Jehovah that are applied by NT writers to Jesus as evidence of His divinity:

Old Testament New Testament
Deut 32:43 (LXX) Heb 1:6
Ps 31:5 (Eccl 12:7) Acts 7:59
Ps 34:8 1 Peter 2:3
Ps 45:6, 7 Heb 1:8, 9
Ps 68:18 Eph 4:8
Ps 102:25 – 27 Heb 1:10 – 12
Isa 8:13 2 Peter 3:15
Isa 40:3 Matt 3:3 (cf v11), Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23
Isa 45:23 Phil 2:10, 11, Rom 14:11
Isa 52:6 John 4:26
Jer 9:24 1 Cor 1:31
Joel 2:32. (See also Gen. 4:26, 12:8, 13:4, 21:33, 26:25, 1 Kings 18:24, 2 Kings 5:11, Ps. 116:13, 17, Zeph 3:9) Rom 10:9-13, Acts 2:17-21. (See also 1 Cor 1:1-3)
Zech 12:10 Rev 1:7

APPENDIX 2 - Jesus' Claims to Divinity

  1. Woman at the well

John 4:25, 26 - The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” Jesus answered, “The one speaking to you, I Am.”

This “I Am” declaration serves a dual function:

  • to positively identify Himself as Messiah
  • to affirm that Jesus is the “I Am” of the OT (see above OT references).

Thus, in the incident recorded in John 4, Jesus is introduced as a man who is tired and hungry (V6), but who is actually, God.

  1. John 5 - Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

The healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda followed by an extended discussion between the Jews and Jesus in John 5 is a special event where Jesus makes repeated claims about His divinity and equality with the Father; thus, it deserves special attention.

[NOTE: Jesus performed seven miracles on the Sabbath: Mark 1:21-28, 29-31, 3:1-6, John 9:1-16, Luke 13:10-17, 14:1-6, John 5:1-18. In several of these, Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath and had to defend His actions. The differences in His defense are significant. In Mark 3:1-6, John 9:1-16, Luke 13:10-17, Jesus defends His actions on the Sabbath by essentially claiming He was doing good, etc.]

However, in John 5, Jesus heals the man at Bethesda on Sabbath; but, Jesus makes no attempt to defend Himself by claiming that He was excused because He was doing good. Rather He claimed that this was part of His regular job of working continuously just as the Father does (compare Col 1:17) and thus was not guilty of Sabbath breaking.

This is significant; Jesus’ defense in John 5 was essentially His divinity as He states several times in the subsequent discussion in John 5. Thus, Jesus' defense is unique here - He claims equality with the Father and the need to uphold the universe (Col 1:17), and thus, was not guilty of breaking the Sabbath.

The great problem that the Jews had in John 5, against which Jesus defends Himself, appears to have at least two facets:

  • God (as they understood Him) is Almighty, Grand, Majestic and distant (despite the above). It was precisely this idea that the Gospel of John was written to dispel because in its opening prologue, we read: (John 1:18) - No one has ever seen God, but the one and only God, the One being in the bosom of the Father, has made Him known. Compare v1 where the Word is God.
  • Jesus calls God the Father, “my Father” (V17), ie, His personal Father making Jesus equal with God. [I pause to note, and am surprised to observe that the Jews did not object to this based on strict monotheism!!] This was acknowledged and unchallenged.

Jesus then goes on to say specifically in what aspects He was equal with the Father:

  • V17 - Both the Father and Jesus must “work” continuously (See Col 1:17)

Ellicott observes: This was familiar to the thought of the day. Comp., e.g., in the contemporary Philo, “God never ceases working; but as to burn is the property of fire, and to be cold is the property of snow, thus also to work is the property of God, and much the more, inasmuch as He is the origin of action for all others” (Legis Allegor. i. 3. See the whole section. The English reader will find it in Bohn’s Ed., vol i., p. 53).

  • V17, 18 - Jesus claims the Father as his own personal Father
  • V19 - The Father and Jesus work together in complete unity (not unison)
  • V21, 26 - The Father and Jesus both have life in Themselves and can raise people from the dead at will
  • V22 - The Father has committed all judgement to the Son
  • V23 - All must honor the Son as they honor the Father
  • V24, 25 – Jesus’ “word” is the key to eternal life

Jesus then summons legal evidence that His testimony about Himself (as outline above) is valid under Jewish law because:

  • V31-38 - He has a second, very weighty, witness in His Father.
  • V39, 40 - Jesus claims to be the fulfillment of the Scriptures as Messiah
  • V41-47 - Jesus comes in the Name of the Father and they do not believe Jesus; this, despite the fact that they believed other people who come in their own name.
  1. John 8, Multiple Claims

John 8 is also significant because there are multiple claims made by Jesus:

  • V12 – “I am the Light of the world” (Compare John 1:9, 9:5) - a direct allusion to Ps 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation”, and, Micah 7:8 “the LORD will be my light.”
  • V23, 24 - Then He told them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you would die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
  • V28 - So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am, and that I do nothing on My own, but speak exactly what the Father has taught Me.
  • V58, 59 - “Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to throw at Him. ...

Thus, Jesus makes a triple claim to be the great “I AM” of the OT in this chapter. Further, Jesus’ claim about being the “I Am” of the OT is couched in three ways: In the past (V58), in the present (V24), and in the future (V28). That is, Jesus always was, is, and always will be the great “I Am”. Compare the same title of God in Rev 1:8 - “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

  1. John 10 – the Good Shepherd

V11, 14, 15 “I am the good Shepherd … I am the good Shepherd … there will be one flock and One Shepherd.” (Compare Ps 23:1, “The LORD is my Shepherd”; and Ps 28:9, 78:52, 53, 79:13, 80:1, 95:7, 100:3; Eze 34:11ff, Isa 40:11)

V24-27, So the Jews gathered around Him and demanded, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” “I already told you,” Jesus replied, “but you did not believe. The works I do in My Father’s name testify on My behalf. But because you are not My sheep, you refuse to believe. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. (Compare 1 Peter 5:4.)

V30, 31, 33, “I and the Father are one.” At this, the Jews again picked up stones to stone Him. ... “We are not stoning You for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God.”

This claim that “I and the Father are one” appears to be an allusion to the famous “Shema” of Deut 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.” This explains the Jews’ accusation about a man claiming to be God as blasphemous.

  1. Peter's Confession

Matt 16:16, 17 - Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven."

Note the dual title of (1) Christ/Messiah, and, (2) The Son of God

  1. Trial before the Sanhedrin

Mark 14:61-64 - Again the high priest questioned Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” At this, the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “Why do we need any more witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What is your verdict?” And they all condemned Him as deserving of death.

In this instance, Jesus effectively claims several things, namely:

  • That He was the Christ/Messiah
  • That He was The Son of God
  • That He was The “I Am”
  • That He was The Son of Man (see Dan 7:13)
  • That He was the legitimate King of Israel, both literal and spiritual
  • … and thus, that He was both fully human and fully divine

Note that claiming to be a human messiah was nothing new. However, explicitly claiming to be both human (a son of man) and divine (“The Son of Man”, see Dan 7:13, and “The Son of God”, compare Dan 3:25) and Messiah all at once, was (to them) quite blasphemous; but only if it was not true! This was confirmed by the High Priest illegally tearing is robes as a symbol of his horror of blasphemy.

  1. Arrest in the Garden

John 18 records the arrest of Jesus in the Garden and the exchange between Him and the mob:

4 Jesus, knowing all that was coming upon Him, stepped forward and asked them, “Whom are you seeking?”

5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered.

Jesus said, “I Am.”

And Judas His betrayer was standing there with them. 6 When Jesus said, “I am,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

7 So He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered.

8 “I told you that I Am.” Jesus replied.

In this instance, the “I Am” of Jesus clearly serves a dual function:

  • to positively identify Himself as the Jesus of Nazareth whom they are seeking to arrest
  • to affirm that Jesus is the “I Am” of the OT, as confirmed by the fact that this declaration of His divinity made the arresting mob fall backwards.
  1. The Thomas' Confession

John 20:28 - Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’ [literally, The Lord of me and the God (ho theos) of me].

Jesus then commended Thomas for finally arriving at this conclusion (contrast Acts 10:25, 26, Rev 19:10, 22:8, 9).

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The OP makes a number of theological presumptions that need to be unpacked to answer properly. But one thing is clear at the outset: in the context of first century Judaism, the crowd would not interpret Jesus' comment as a declaration of his divinity. The messiah was understood to be a human being, the son of David, not God. Later Christian interpretation of Isaiah did point to Jesus' divinity, but it would be an anachronism to think that this is what Jesus was teaching here.

In addition, Jesus' saying about miracles and the poor having good news preached to them is not a reference to "the Gospel" per se (although a minority of translators interpret it this way) - and definitely not to Isaiah 38. Rather, it refers to the prophecy of Isaiah 61 that Jesus quoted in his first public sermon in Nazareth:

Luke 4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

The issue here was not Jesus' divinity, but his messiahship. John had denied that he was Elijah (John 1:21) and had apparently stopped testifying to Jesus, even doubting if he was "the one to come." This became a serious problem as Jesus endeavored to gain support. Thus his disciples - who were not well versed in the scriptures - asked him: (Matthew 17:10) “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus' answer let them know that John was the prophesied Elijah even though John himself had denied it. If Jesus had an OT scripture in mind for John to think about, it would be Malachi 4:5-6

Look, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord arrives. He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers: lest I come, and strike the earth with a curse.

John - who was equal to "the greatest of those born of women" (Matthew 11:11) - was chosen for a crucial mission, but he was unable to fulfill it and died doubting whether Jesus was the messiah. Jesus, even at this late date, hoped to help John overcome his doubts and renew his testimony.

Conclusion: Jesus was not intending that John should reference Isaiah 35. The peaching of "good news" was a reference to Isaiah 61. The real problem was that John had failed to act effectively as Elijah, not that he did not understand the Jesus to be God.

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  • @ Dan Fefferman - Recall Jesus's use of the Scripture saying the Messiah was a Son of David yet he called him "Lord" which was a perplexing dilemma for the rabbis! If the Messiah be his Son, how then did he call him "Lord"? All this pointing to Deity. So Jesus was trying to get them to acknowledge Divinity!---As well note, from my studies over the years, I've seen the rabbis' literature recording the rabbis arguing over this same dilemma. Some expected the Messiah to be a glorified King David type, other to be Divinity. Thanks for your input.
    – ray grant
    Mar 11 at 22:01
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Confusion can arise if the different Greek words for "signs" and "miracles" are not understood. Several words can be involved.

The word teras occurs 16 times in the Greek new testament. All translators seem to have consistently, and correctly, rendered it as "wonder". It means a prodigy, a marvel, or a portent.

Then there is dunamis - occurring 150 times. Alarmingly, there are 15 different translations in English for this one Greek word! These are: Ability; abundance; meaning; might; mighty deed; mighty work; miracle; power; strength; violence; virtue; wonderful work; worker of miracles; mighty. When it is used of God dunamis means power. That is, supernatural power. Our words dynamo, dynamic and dynamite derive from it, but when applied to God, it means something far greater than anything we can suppose.

In connection with dunamis, there is ergon, a work, or works. It has been variously translated as: Deed; doing; labour; work (152 times) and this is fine. But of note is than not once in the apostle John's four-time usage in his Evangel where it means 'work', does it have any sense of 'miracle'.

"When used of the Son it is virtually always with reference to his putting forth his 'power' - dunamis - to accomplish the 'work' - ergon - given to him by his Father...

This fourth and last word, semeion, which occurs seventy-seven times in the Greek, has been translated in the English Bible as follows: Miracle, twenty-two times; sign, fifty-one times; token, once; and wonder, thrice...

Seventeen times the word semeion occurs in John; but this is hidden from the reader. The translators take the most significant occurrences of seimeion 'sign', and render these - thirteen times out of seventeen occasions - 'miracles'!" John chapters 1 to 12 - The First Six Signs, John Metcalfe, pp. 94-95 http://www.johnmetcalfepublishingtrust.co.uk/contact_us.htm

I have laboured this because a sign points to something. It is not 'the thing' itself - it is designed in scripture to cause one to look to what God is bringing to our attention as most important. In this question, it is the person of Jesus Christ that is what John the Baptist was pointing to at the start of Jesus' ministry. "Look! The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." "That one must increase, but I must decrease." And so forth.

At the start of fulfilling the scriptures about him being the one to prepare the way of the Lord, to prepare his people to receive him as the foretold Messiah, John did that task, standing still after Jesus walked away, two of John's disciples going after Jesus. John knew his ministry would fade and end while Jesus', as the Messiah, would power on.

Yes, when in prison, John sent to enquire of Jesus if he really was the promised one. Why? Because of misunderstanding about miracles. Just about everyone kept looking to Jesus' miracles and wondering about them, when those should simply have been signs causing them to look to Jesus Christ himself, to discover just who he really was. Isaiah had foretold some of the miracles Messiah would do, but it is not degree of, or extent of miracle-working that proves whether anyone is the Messiah or not. Others had raised the dead, but they were not the Christ. They died themselves, but when Jesus died, he arose in triumph from the grave on the third day, by the power - dunamis - of God and the Holy Spirit. He also was involved in his own resurrection, foretelling that he would do it. All three were involved in that stupendous miracle that proved Christ to the the sinless only-begotten Son of God, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Nobody back then, or today, can 'see' the full deity of the risen Christ for as long as they just keep reading about his miracles. Those are but signs pointing to the person of Christ in his glory. Only the Holy Spirit can open spiritually blind eyes to 'see' just who Jesus really is.

Answer to Main question: If Jesus had wanted John the Baptist to connect his miracles to Isaiah 35 and his deity, he would have said something about that. He did not. He reminded John that his miracles were signs that should keep John on track with his faith in Jesus as one who had come before John despite coming after him; as the one to deal with sin as a sacrificial lamb; as the one upon whom he had seen the Holy Spirit alight - that this Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit. John had been faithful to his prophetic ministry, which would soon end with his beheading. Jesus spoke to encourage him to hold on to what he had.

Answer to Secondary Question: Those who heard Jesus say that would wonder at the meaning, and the significance of the miracles, but it would not be until Jesus' stupendous resurrection from the dead that the penny would finally drop as to his deity, as it did with Thomas who exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" at the risen Christ miraculously standing in their midst in a locked room. There was no 'catching on'. There was miraculous revelation to those whose hearts had been prepared by John's ministry.

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Yes, all correct. Who can work miracles by himself, without prayers, as somebody holding authority? Angel?- No. Man?- No. Then who? Only God, on the basis of exclusion of all other possibilities. For how does Lord act a miracle, by asking God or by doing it on His own accord? Of course the second is correct, for He orders and it is done, like in case of the resurrected girl in Mark 5:41, when Lord simply says to her: "Little girl, I say you, rise".

And also His disciples are instructed to act miracles by invoking His name (Luke 10:17), which means that He is the very principle and fountainhead of any miracle-working, beyond whom there is nobody higher, for He has all authority from the Father, so addressing Him has absolutely the same effect as addressing the Father Himself.

0

Jesus' divinity is revealed by the apostles after his death, saying he wanted it unspoken in his life. They are adding an element to gain greater power with the multitude, Trump like free style fabricating. I suspect that other than references to messiah, which is very different from deity, the supporting passages for godhead are intrusions that should be able to show through linguistic analysis.

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