The divinity of Our Lord and Savior is manifestly evident in every page of the four Gospels and most especially so in that of Saint John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
From the word of God given to Mary by the holy angel at the Annunciation, from Our Lord’s public life of stupendous miracles, and from His self-testimony and His sublime doctrine, for anyone to conclude that Jesus, the Son of God, was anything less than equal to God is to deny the Incarnation itself and the divine revelation of all holy scripture. It is to make Jesus into a deceiver, a blasphemer, and a magician, an agent of Beelzebub, as the scribes and pharisees of His own time accused Him of being. So, too, all of those heresies from the Cerenthians of the first century, to the Arians of the fourth, to the thousands of anti-Trinitarian sects spawned mostly in English speaking countries over the past two hundred years (who even dare to call themselves Christian), these also follow the Jews in denying in our time the Name of God to the Person of Christ.
Since their birth in the seventh century, Mohammedans, too, have always abhorred the truth of the Blessed Trinity in God. Our teacher, Brother Francis, who, as most of our readers know, was from Lebanon, told us that at the entrance to their mosque facing directly across from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem there is an inscription in Arabic that reads a little different than their battle cry, commonly translated as “God is Great!” a slogan which terrorists have made so painfully familiar. Brother said that the Arabic Allah Akbar actually means “God is Greater!” or “God is too Great!” “Too Great for what?” one may ask. And the Mohammedan will readily answer: “Too great to have a Son!” “Too great to become a Child!” The Bethlehem mosque was built where it was so as to be, no doubt, an affront to the Nativity. They will take Jesus as a “prophet,” but not as the Son of God.
I remember arguing with a zealous Mohammedan many years ago. He ran a restaurant as I recall. After some pleasantries about how they respected Jesus as a prophet and his holy mother “Mariam” he suddenly became belligerent when I said that in order to be saved he must believe that Jesus was more than a prophet, indeed that He was the Incarnate Son of God. I added as well that he must become a Catholic as were his ancestors for several centuries before Mohammed was born. I believe the man was Syrian. The one point he kept insisting on was that Jesus never said He was God. I countered that He most certainly did, affirming the same before the high priest who, in response to that affirmation, rent his garments and accused Jesus of blasphemy.
You won’t believe what the Moslem shouted next? “No, no,” he roared, “Jesus said, ‘You say that I am’ to the high priest.” The man was actually quoting from Saint Luke. He was not ignorant.
This brings me to the subject of this column.
The account of the exchange between the high priest and Our Lord is in all four Gospels. Saint John, however, omits the high priest Caiaphas’ direct question to Our Lord as to whether or not He is the Son of God. In the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Our Savior’s answer to the direct question is emphatically affirmative.
First, I give you Saint Mark. In this account Jesus did not answer Caiaphas’ questions right away, but for a time held His peace. Then the question concerning His divinity was repeated by Caiaphas, and forcefully so: “Art thou the Christ the Son of the blessed God?” And Jesus opened His mouth and answered: “I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Mark continues, “Then the high priest rending his garments, saith: What need we any further witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy” (Mark 14:61-64).
In Saint Matthew’s Gospel the text reads almost identical with Mark except that Matthew includes the words Jesus gave to the question of the high priest before uttering “I am,” namely: “Thou hast said it!” Matthew then continues as we have it in Mark “Nevertheless I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven” Matthew 26:64).
In Saint Luke’s Gospel, Christ is interrogated not only by the high priest Caiaphas but by the whole council, the ancients and the scribes and the “high priests,” as one body. “High priests” is in the plural here because the previous high priest, Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, is also present. “Then said they all: Art thou then the Son of God? Who said: You say that I am” (Luke 22:70). And the whole cohort replied “What need we any further testimony? For we ourselves have heard it from his own mouth” (Luke 22: 71).
The Moslem who had challenged me on this had convinced himself that Jesus (whom He held to be a prophet, mind you) was equivocating, i.e., neither affirming nor denying His divinity. But this is not how the leaders of the Jews understood His answer. “You have heard the blasphemy!” they raged. And the high priest “rent his garments,” by which action he knowingly broke the law of Moses that forbade the high priest to rend his garments (Leviticus 21:10). But this was done prophetically, to anticipate the rending of the veil of the holy of holies in the temple by the angels at the coming ninth hour when the Lamb of God should shed all His blood and die on the Cross and thus establish the New Covenant in this most efficacious blood.
Finally, to demonstrate again that the expression, “Thou hast said it!” in the Hebrew (or Aramaic) tongue, meant rather “Yes, indeed!” than some non-committal dissimulation, note how Our Savior uses the expression in replying to Judas’ real dissemblance at the Last Supper after the Savior announced that one of the twelve would betray Him. The astonished Apostles were extremely troubled at this word and they began to ask, “Is it I, Lord?” Jesus had, like a servant, washed their feet and they were inwardly clean, all but one. With that cleansing of soul must have come a good degree of humility, for each of the Apostles was sincere in wondering if he might not fail and turn traitor under fear of death. Judas, however, was not sincere. He pretended to be innocent, having already agreed with Christ’s enemies to lead them to Him, and yet he dared to ask his Master if it were he that would betray Him. It was condign that when Judas asked the question “Is it I Lord?” that his words were not swallowed up with those of the others. So, it seems to me, from Saint Matthew’s account, that there was enough of a rumbling at the paschal table when the traitor answered that few paid notice to Judas (except Saint John perhaps) nor did they take note (until after the fact) when Jesus answered him so distinctly in the affirmative: “Thou hast said it!” (Matthew 26:25). Nevertheless, immediately after the traitor received his sacrilegious Communion, and Satan entered into him, all the Apostles did hear Jesus say, “That which thou dost, do quickly” (John 13:27).
The Incarnate Word of God is Truth Incarnate. Therefore, when He was asked if He were the Christ the Son of the living God, Jesus could not be anything but true to Himself. Did He not instruct His disciples with these words: “[L]et your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil” (Matthew 5:37)?
“Thou hast said it! I am!”