Let’s imagine that it seems like everything in your life is falling apart. You literally embody the phrase “I am at the end of myself,” meaning that you have lost control and you can see no bright future ahead. At that point you just need answers, or maybe even just one single answer. You don’t know where to turn. Pastor Ed Taylor writes “man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. It’s not a Bible verse but a spiritual truth seen throughout the Bible. What it means is that until we come to the end of ourselves and our resources and our fleshly attempts to solve the issues in our lives, God is then given a platform to work on our behalf. God will often allow us to get to the very end of ourselves in our current situations. He will watch us fight and squirm. He will observe us struggle and wrestle until we come to the very end. He wants us at the place where we finally conclude it’s too much, where we just can’t take it anymore. It’s when we finally give up that God is given the opportunity to take over and do His work, showing His solution, revealing His salvation” [from “Ministry” Ed Taylor June 24, 2016]. That’s when many are ready to “come to Jesus,” accept the claims that He is their Lord.
Last week I commented on what John Stott calls Jesus’ direct claims for His divinity. He stated His life was a fulfillment of Scripture. I wrote about Simon Peter’s declaration of Jesus’ divinity. Jesus’ parable method of instruction was certainly meant to lead the Disciples to the conclusion that He was Divine. Finally when “doubting” Thomas had his first-hand experience of touching Jesus’ scars after the resurrection, that was Thomas’ defining moment: indeed, he saw Jesus was the Son of God.
Surely a Divine Savior should be able to provide all the needed answers one has to have to solve life’s problems and direct claims of divinity would surely be enough to sway a seeker.
But maybe direct claims need to be bolstered by indirect claims. Stott writes* that “the implications of His ministry were as eloquent as testimony to His person as His plain statements [direct statements]. On many occasions He exercised functions which belong properly to God” . Stott labels these functions as “indirect claims.” Don’t let the word “indirect” be misinterpreted. Indirect does not mean weak. Many times when Jesus made these types of claims, bystanders declared “Who is this who makes such claims?” “Who can do this but God alone?” and “What blasphemy is this?”
We have a cliché today that might apply: “it is not what you know as much as who you know.” In this case, Jesus claimed to know God.
First of all Jesus said that He could forgive sins. When a paralytic came to Jesus via a pallet lowered from the roof, He saw that the man’s problem was more spiritual than physical. He just said “My son, your sins are forgiven” and the paralytic was no longer paralyzed. One would think that this would be met with amazement but many in the crowd had questions; in Luke 5 verses 24 and 25 we see the following: “‘So that you may know the Son of Man has the right and the power on earth to forgive sins,’ He said to the man who could not move his body, ‘I say to you, get up. Take your bed and go to your home.’ At once the sick man got up in front of them. He took his bed and went to his home thanking God.” Another instance was the woman known to be immoral. Jesus was dining at a Pharisee’s home when the woman came behind Him. She washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. She kissed Jesus’ feet and anointed them with oil. He replied “Your sins are forgiven.” In both these examples Jesus was forgiving people as only God could.
Secondly, Jesus made the indirect claim of bestowing life. He certainly referred to Himself as the “bread of life,” “the life” and “the resurrection and the life.” He compared his followers’ dependence on Him as “sustenance derived from the vine by its branches.” He referred to Himself as the “Good Shepherd” who give up His life for His sheep. He said that He has authority over all flesh and even goes so far as to say in several places in the Gospels “the Son gives life to whom He will.” Stott admits that it is very unclear about this “life” that Jesus is referring to. Is it actual physical life or is it spiritual life? Does it matter? When He offers a Samaritan woman “living water” is it important if it is literal or spiritual? I think she gets the implication; look at the verses: “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I will not get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’” [John 4: 13-15].
Jesus claimed to teach the truth. Stott writes it is “not so much the truths that He taught as the direct and dogmatic manner in which He taught them which calls for notice” . Teachers of Jesus’ day did not teach without quoting their authorities, but Jesus claimed an authority on His own. Instead of saying “Thus says the Lord” Jesus said “Truly, truly I say to you.” Stott admits that Jesus describes His doctrine as His Father’s but He knew He could speak with personal confidence because He had Divine revelation. “He never hesitated or apologized. He had no need to contradict, withdraw or modify anything He said. He spoke the unequivocal words of God” [Stott, 31]. Instead of suggestions, Jesus spoke in commands: “Love your enemies,” “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” and “Judge not lest you be judged.” His words were law and they would never pass away.
Lastly, Jesus claimed to judge the world. Maybe this was the most audacious claim He made. Jesus claimed to not only be the Judge but He established the criterion of judgment. Judgment is based on how people treat His brothers and how they respond to His word. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” In addition, if you deny Jesus you will be denied. On a person’s last day, denial of Jesus will be met with Jesus saying “I never knew you.” Jesus uses several parables to instruct that He will be there at the final day of “reckoning” and He will be there to separate men one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. Some will be invited to inherit the Kingdom while others will hear the awful words “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire.”
Earlier I wrote “it is not what you know as much as who you know.” At second glance, I am not sure that this cliché applies. Jesus claimed to know God? We know that Jesus was God. Was it appropriate to claim the right to forgive sins, bestow life, teach the truth and judge the world? I think so, for He was God. When we get to the point in life when we are lost, it is good to know that Jesus is there to help us to hang on. When I looked up the origin of the expression “I am at the end of myself” I found several references to being “at the end of my rope.” I found one author who said when we are at that point, we need to tie a knot in the rope and hang on. It is a good image; let’s extend it a bit.
Maybe that Knot is Jesus Christ and his “indirect claims.”
Maybe I should add another well-known Christian expression about that Knot at this point…
*in his book Basic Christianity
***My first post on The Cross of Christ made reference to Basic Christianity so I am going to insert comments on that book in between posts on The Cross… I think readers may find this approach interesting. For my opening comments on Basic see the post “Studying Stott Again” on October 25, 2020. I have never worked on two books at a time but now is the time to do that.