In a recent trip to the Middle East, I was asked that question by a very charming seat mate while discussing the similarities between Islam and Christianity. The question took me back; for the worship of things or people is inherently idolatry. What logical basis did I have to believe Jesus was in fact God?
After all, people have used the claim of being divine repeatedly over the centuries as a means to control populations. Pharaoh was God. Caesars’ were Gods. The Persians, Mayans, Incan rulers and Marx’s “People” were all gods; great for crowd control but not acceptable in accordance with monotheism. Why then was Jesus different from the others?
The first indication was the number and the nature of the miracles attributed to Jesus. They were not big and “splashy”. They tended to be small and personal in nature, curing the sick, allowing the lame to walk etc. They came with few if any obligations. You did not have to purchase your miracle like you did at Delphi. The “cost” was never more than simple belief.
Secondly, the association between Jesus and his followers was voluntary, and the dynamic was servile in nature. Jesus did not demand his followers serve him. He served his followers providing food, miracles, teaching, preaching, washing feet. Fail to worship Jesus, there was no immediate consequence. All he asked for was their love. Failing to worship Caesar had deadly consequences. All Caesar demanded from his worshipers was their money and their obedience.
Thirdly; the fate of the Apostles, almost universally martyred for their belief in Jesus. It has been claimed by some, that Peter, Paul and the other apostles were doing nothing more than setting up a church for their own financial benefit. That argument is belied by their martyrdom. People may go to their death for what they believe but they do not go to their death for money. Those who knew Jesus best, those who spent time with him while he was on earth (both before and after the crucifixion) believed deeply Jesus of Nazareth was The Christ.
Do I believe Jesus was God? The logical evidence does seem to point that way. But ultimately it is a matter of choosing to believe. I believe Jesus was and is one of the three persons of God; wholly, man and wholly God all at the same time.
I understand that concept is difficult for my Muslim friends. It is difficult for me. But the ant does not need to fully understand the sun to know it is there. This ant does not need to fully understand the son to know he is there.