Is there an easy way to explain that Jesus is God? I witness to a person who can’t seem to accept that fact. He says, "If Jesus is God, then how did He die? God can’t die! So Jesus is not God." I have shared some Scripture with him, but I need help explaining it.
This is a question that most Christians struggle with at some point. Where do people’s ideas of God come from? Generally, there are three sources. The first is from religion. In a debate with William Lane Craig, the Muslim theologian Jamal Badawi argued that Jesus cannot be God because there were things He did not know. For him, a God who experienced states of ignorance was not worthy of that title.
The second source is our innate sense of what a god should look like. The medieval theologian Anselm believed that when one reflected upon a concept of God, the idea of perfection would emerge as the central core of who God was. If it is a good thing for a being to know truths, then God, being perfect, would know all truths. A third source is an individual who claims to be God, and using that person as the basis for developing our concept of God.
These sources overlap. For example, in order to assess a person’s claim to divinity, one must have some idea of what it means to be God to begin the examination. But if the person passes, shouldn’t that individual bring something to the table that modifies or completes our initial concept of God?
We have the person of Jesus Christ claiming to be God. How were the Jews in the first century able to assess this claim? Jesus used several means to show how He fit into their idea of the divine: He claimed to be eternal (John 8:58); He applied the divine name to Himself (John 4:26); He exercised the authority to forgive (Mark 2:5); He demonstrated power by calming the sea (Mark 4:39); and He can meet our basic needs, like the God in Israel’s history (Mark 6:41–44). For these reasons, some of the Jews followed Jesus as the visible incarnation of God. But others rejected Him, partly because He did not fit their preconceived ideas of God. How can a God of absolute holiness associate with known sinners? What kind of God violates His own Sabbath laws? And most significant of all, how can the mighty Creator of the universe experience pain and suffering, even to the point of death?
This is the crossroad. Either my preconceived notions of God invalidate Jesus’ claim to divinity because I am absolutely sure that God cannot die, or my initial conception of God must be revised to include this new information that God can die. Everyone who names the name of Jesus Christ as their ultimate source of hope must take the latter route. They submit their notions of divinity at the foot of the cross, and allow their experience of Christ to modify not only the way they view the world and themselves but also the way they view God. This does not mean that I comprehend the depths of this new information. But it does give me a real picture of the profoundness of His love for me. To the degree that I find it utterly incomprehensible that God can die, that is the degree to which my heart is called to worship the One who did the incomprehensible.