Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Having Eyes He’s Still Unable To See Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue from where we left off by picking up on Williams’ denial that Jesus’ miracles provide supernatural, divine confirmation that he is God in the flesh.


Yahweh Almighty Has Come!

The NT writings, especially Mark, ascribe to the Lord Jesus certain functions and roles which the OT prophets routinely attribute to Yahweh God alone. For instance, Mark records Jesus miraculously silencing the raging winds and seas just by his powerful word, a power which left his followers frightened and baffled:

“On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? HOW IS IT THAT YOU HAVE NO FAITH? And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” Mark 4:35-41

The Gospel also reports Jesus walking on water:

“Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I (ego eimi – I AM); do not be afraid.’ Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For THEY HAD NOT UNDERSTOOD about the loaves, because THEIR HEART WAS HARDENED.” Mark 6:45-52

These passages raise a few important issues for us to consider.

First, we again see the disciples’ failure to comprehend the signs which they were witnessing with their very own eyes. This provides further confirmation of our exegesis that Jesus deliberately chose to restore the blind man’s sight gradually as a way of illustrating the rather slow and long process it took for the disciples to overcome their spiritual blindness and deafness.

Second, the miracles which Jesus performed and the words he used to reveal himself to the disciples in Mark 6:50 (cf. Matthew 14:27), i.e. “I am; do not be afraid,” are actually ascribed to Yahweh in the Old Testament.

For instance, it is Yahweh alone who treads upon the waves of the seas and silences the winds as a display of his sovereign power and control over creation:

“He removes the mountains, and they do not know When He overturns them in His anger; He shakes the earth out of its place, And its pillars tremble; He commands the sun, and it does not rise; He seals off the stars; He alone spreads out the heavens, And treads on the waves of the sea; He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, And the chambers of the south; He does great things past finding out, Yes, wonders without number.” Job 9:1-10

By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas; Who established the mountains by His strength, Being clothed with power; You who still the noise of the seas, The noise of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs; You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice.” Psalm 65:5-8

"The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; The skies sent out a sound; Your arrows flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; The lightnings lit up the world; The earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known." Psalm 77:16-19

“O Lord God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.” 89:8-9

“Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, They see the works of the Lord, And His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, Which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, They go down again to the depths; Their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. HE CALMS THE STORM, SO THAT ITS WAVES ARE STILL. Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders.” Psalm 107:23-32

And Yahweh is the One who reveals himself as the “I AM” as a way of encouraging his people to not be afraid since he is with them to deliver them from all their calamities:

“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you… Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, And gather you from the west… Let all the nations be gathered together, And let the people be assembled. Who among them can declare this, And show us former things? Let them bring out their witnesses, that they may be justified; Or let them hear and say, “It is truth.” You are My witnesses,’ says the Lord, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He (LXX – ego eimi). Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, And besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses,’ Says the Lord, ‘that I am God. Indeed before the day was, I am He; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?’” Isaiah 43:1-3, 5, 9-13

It is therefore clear that these signs serve the purpose of revealing Jesus’ identity as Yahweh Incarnate, the divine Son who is essentially coequal with the Father. As noted reformed Christian scholar and pastor John F. MacArthur puts it:  

“… Mark reports that, long with their great amazement, the men were also ‘very much afraid’ (4:41). They were now more afraid of the one who had stilled the storm than they had been of the storm itself. Many of them had encountered dangerous storms, but none had encountered such supernatural power as Jesus here displayed.

“After God had declared His great power and majesty, Job exclaimed, ‘I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:5-6). When Isaiah ‘saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple,’ he declared, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’ (Isa. 6:1, 5). After Daniel beheld the Lord, he testified: ‘No strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words, and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground’ (Dan. 10:8-9). When Peter saw Jesus miraculously provide the great catch of fish, ‘he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”’ (Luke 5:8). When Paul encountered the risen Christ on the Damascus road, ‘he fell to the ground … And though his eyes were open, he could see nothing’ (Acts 9:4, 8).

“God's majesty is so overwhelming that when He displays Himself in even a small part of His glory men cannot stand in His presence. These disciples suddenly realized that God was standing in the very boat with them, and they were terrified by His power and His holiness. On a similar and later occasion Peter walked on the water. But when the wind came up, he became afraid, and Jesus not only held up His faithless disciple but also caused the wind to stop. ‘And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God's Son!”’ (Matt. 14:29-33)… The same Christ who stilled the Sea of Galilee is the Christ who keeps every atom and every star in its orbit. He keeps the universe in balance and provides for each plant and animal. One day He is coming to restore the world that sin defiled, to make completely new the heavens and the earth. Even now He is the God who gives eternal life to those who trust in Him, and who will calm their every storm and give strength for their every tragedy.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series: Matthew 8-15 [Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 1987], pp. 36-38; bold emphasis ours)

Since MacArthur may well be too conservative for Williams’ tastes here is what the translators of the rather liberal Catholic New American Bible say concerning Mark 6:50:

* [6:50] It is I, do not be afraid!: literally, “I am.” This may reflect the divine revelatory formula of Ex 3:14; Is 41:4, 10, 14; 43:1–3, 10, 13. Mark implies the hidden identity of Jesus as Son of God. (Bold emphasis ours)

And this is what they write in regards to Matthew’s version of Jesus silencing the winds and sea:

* [8:26] You of little faith: see note on Mt 6:30. Great calm: Jesus’ calming the sea may be meant to recall the Old Testament theme of God’s control over the chaotic waters (Ps 65:8; 89:10; 93:3–4; 107:29). (Bold emphasis ours)

Another rather highly liberal and critical source, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, concurs:

“… commanded the sea: Jesus’ ability to control the sea is an implicit statement about his divine power, for God alone can rule the sea (see Ps 74:13-14, 89:10-12). Jesus addresses the sea, not the disciples. be quiet, be still!: A similar formula in 1:25 (where Jesus performs an exorcism) suggests that here Jesus is manifesting his control over the powers of evil. great calm: This feature indicates the completeness and effectiveness of Jesus’ action in controlling the sea… who is this … ?: Since only God could control the wind and sea, the disciples’ question carries an implicit confession of Jesus’ divinity, at least to the extent that he does the works customarily predicated of God in the OT.” (Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J., Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm. [Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey], p. 607; bold emphasis ours)   


“… The approach to this story as an epiphany/theophany is most consistent with Mark’s presentation. The twin focus is Jesus and the disciples: (1) The divine identity of Jesus is suggested by his walking on the waters, his passing by them, and his words, ‘it is I.’ (2) The disciples run a gamut of emotions, ending in their astonishment and Mark’s comment about their failure to understand the true identity of Jesus… Mark meant ‘on the water,’ not simply ‘by the shore’; a naturalistic explanation cannot be built on the preposition epi here (see 6:47). The OT portrays walking on water as a divine function (see Job 9:8; 38:16). The representation of Jesus as walking on water thus carries an implicit claim about his divinity. He wanted to pass by them: The implicit christological claim is strengthened by the use of the vb. parelthein, which was linked with the theophany tradition in the LXX (see Exod 33:19, 22; 34:6; 1 Kgs 19:11). Its appearance in the LXX of Amos 7:8; 8:2 also suggests that Jesus desired to help his disciples in their difficulty… I am he: In the context of self-disclosure and theophany, this phrase must allude to the OT revelation formula (Exod 3:14; Deut 32:39; Isa 41:4; 43:10) applied to Yahweh, thus contributing to the implicit christological message of the whole text…” (Ibid., p. 611; bold emphasis ours)

These aren’t the only wonders that Jesus did which point to his divine identity. Other miracles include his healing the lame, the mute, the deaf and, as we have already seen, the blind:

“When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there. And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, ran through that whole surrounding region, and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard He was. Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.” Mark 6:53-56

“Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’” Mark 7:31-37

Once again, these are the very wonders which the OT says Yahweh will do when he comes to save his people and judge the wicked!

“Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever, Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down. The Lord shall reign forever—Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 146:5-10

“The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, The excellency of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, YOUR GOD WILL COME with vengeance, With the recompense of God; HE WILL COME AND SAVE YOU.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert.” Isaiah 35:1-6

We are not through just yet since we have more examples in the third part of our rebuttal.