by Rob Lundberg
Jesus was not without critics back in the First Century nor is He without in the Third Millennium. Some say He was a great moral teacher, but He never claimed to be God. People making this statement argue that His followers created the legend of His deity after He was dead, risen and ascended. However, this charge raises several question: What did Jesus say about Himself? What difference does this make if He said He was God? And what are the alternatives that rise about His identity if He was not God?
When a person makes the claim that they are God, it reduces the options as to what he truly is. If he’s not Lord, the God man, second Person of the Trinity, then only two options are possible. Let me share with you these two options. After that, I would like to give you three pieces of evidence from the Gospel records regarding what Jesus believed about Himself.
First, someone who is not God, and claiming to be God would be classified as a lunatic. Many people in mental hospitals and a few on the streets claim deity. However their lives and character soon reveal something to the contrary. Jesus’ life and character supported His claim to deity.
Second, someone who is not God, and claiming to be God would be classified as a liar if they could not support their claim. Religious charlatans are common. They are as common today as they were in ancient times. However religious charlatans are exposed as frauds eventually. Jesus’ miracles, good deeds, and sacrificial life and death argue that He was genuine. But did Jesus say that He was God?
The gospels claim three kinds of evidence that reveal Jesus’ belief in His own deity. Let’s look at them shall we?
First, Jesus directly said that He was God. We see this in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” This statement alleges more than prior existence — “I am” was the special name God gave to identify Himself when speaking to Moses at Mt Sinai in Exodus 3:14. Those who heard Jesus use it thought He was claiming deity because they took up rocks to stone Him — the penalty for committing blasphemy.
He also admits His deity in Luke 22:70 during His trial for His life: “they all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.'” Here, Jesus uses the phrase, “I am.” This could be used in the same manner of John 8:58 or it could be just a statement of affirmation in response to the Pharisees. Whichever the case, Jesus is admitting being the Son of God, which is a connection to His divine nature.
Second, Jesus made statements and did several things to equate Himself with God. Let me share a few examples:
- In John 5:17-18 He presumed as special relationship. “He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”
- In Matthew 5:21-22, He also modified God’s law. “You have heard that it was said. . . .but I tell you. . .” Then in Matthew 24:35 we read Him saying, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”
- In John 14:6, we see Him declaring that He is the only way to God the Father. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” So much for all religions saying the same thing. No religion as vast as they are makes the claim that Jesus made.
- He even forgave sins. “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven'” (Luke 7:48). There are numerous places in the gospels where Jesus is declaring a person’s sins forgiven.
- He claimed to be the final judge in eternity. “The Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). What does this say about some of the judgments being made under a banner of personal autonomy?
Third, Jesus accepted others’ statements of His deity, to include even their worship. We see this fact in a few passages:
When the disciples worshiped Him, He never refused worship or told them to stop. At the last moment and one more post-resurrection appearance, just before Jesus commissions them and ascends to heaven we see them in Matthew 28:17, “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him.”
He tells the disciples that they are going to be praying to Him and He will answer them. John 14;14, “You may ask me for anything in my name sand I will do it.”
Jesus received the worship of the disciples after a miracle. Matthew 14:33, “Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'”
I think it is pretty clear that Jesus saw Himself as deity, the One through whom God entered the human race and through whom God spoke and acted. Could Jesus have been wrong? That’s highly unlikely given the evidence of His miracles and resurrection. We can be sure of one thing — He did see Himself as God, and if He was not, He was no great, moral teacher. He left us only three options: He was either a raving lunatic, a devious liar, or the Lord of the universe.
C. S. Lewis once penned in his classic Mere Christianity,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” — C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity.
Whoever you or I believe He is will set the path of our lives and our eternities. Please take time to consider what I have written, and will you place your trust in Him alone as your only Savior for your sins and your eternal life? The choice is your responsibility, not God’s. He just presents you His case through His diplomats of which I am one.
 Only God does miracles. But Jesus did miracles. So Jesus is who?
 In Mark 2:1-11, there is the incident of Jesus healing the paralytic friend of four men who brought them to Jesus, could not get near the house; so they dug a whole in the roof to lower him down to Jesus. The first thing that Jesus does is “forgives the sins of the man on the stretcher, which makes the whole room “go ballistic.” But then Jesus says, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hears? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say ‘Get up and pick up your pallet and walk?’ So that you may know that the Son of Man has to authority on earth to forgive sins.” and then He heals the paralytic.
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Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a chaotic, “brave new world.”
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If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.