There’s a good chance we’ve heard the story of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus so many times in church that we’ve failed to actually pay attention to what happened. Somehow in someway, God has just baptized God with God—that is to say that the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to the Son.
Because of our Trinitarian beliefs, we often think that Jesus was able to do all of the supernatural things He did simply because He was God. But that’s not what our Bible is communicating to us. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was known to give people inspiration and power and He was God’s presence among His people. Jesus had now been baptized with that Spirit and so those themes are now embodied in Him—God’s inspiration, power and presence is now on Jesus. And because of that, He can now walk in similar ways of supernatural power that the Holy-Spirit-infused Old Testament prophets did.
If we conclude that the Son was able to heal people, cast out demons, and raise the dead only because He was God-in-flesh, then the rest of our Bible turns into blasphemy. After all, many of the things Jesus did were also done by others in the Bible both in the Old and New Testament. Just as Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed the masses, so did Elijah tell a widow that her jar of flour and jug of oil would not empty until a set time (1 Ki 17:14-16). Just as Jesus casted out demons and healed people, so He gave His twelve disciples the “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Mt 10:1). And since healing is a spiritual gift given to us by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:30) and Jesus casts out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:28), we can gather that Jesus gave them this authority by imparting to them the Holy Spirit’s power.
We can even note that as amazing as it was that Jesus raised the dead, He was not the only one to do so. We see Elijah (1 Ki 17:17-24), Peter (Ac 9:36-41) and Paul (Ac 20:8-12) all raise people from the dead. Furthermore, we also see others outside of the Bible raise people from the dead.
All of this to say that if Jesus did miracles simply because He was God, then we’d have to apply the same ideology to all of these other people—and that’s blasphemy, for they are not God. Rather than try to devise a whole new theology to understand Jesus’ power, it makes a whole lot more sense to simply believe what the Bible is communicating: Jesus is fully God and fully man and the Holy Spirit’s role in His life was to empower Him, just as the Holy Spirit had done to others throughout history in the Old Testament.
If we understand that Jesus and His followers operate in the power of the Spirit, we won’t be super confused when we see people do even greater things than Jesus did, just as He said we would (Jn 14:12). Granted, we don’t even know everything Jesus did (Jn 21:25), so who even knows for sure when we’re doing things that He didn’t?
In Jesus’ time the Spirit did not empower everyone who followed God. The Spirit had always chosen specific people to anoint and in this case, it was God’s own beloved Son. The crowd saw it all happen at his baptism—the skies were torn open and the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. Those who witnessed this happen should have therefore concluded that Jesus was an important person.
But though he was human and operating in the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples also realized that He was God in human form. It wasn’t necessarily all of His supernatural powers that gave it away—again, they had read the stories of prophets of God who had done similar things through the power of the Holy Spirit. But the disciples started to catch onto the fact that He was God Himself when they saw Him walk on the chaotic waters of the sea and when He was temporarily transformed into a shiny being in gleaming white clothes during the transfiguration. How He looked in that moment was exactly how the people of His time described heavenly beings. His true nature that He had set aside in order to become fully human was being revealed in that moment.
Want to continue the conversation? Take the long journey with my book/audiobook, The Rush and the Rest, or take a shorter path with my condensed version, Fantasy IRL.