In a Hindu context, it would not be notable for someone to claim to be a god because the Hindus have millions of gods in their pantheon. Likewise, the Greeks and the Romans worshiped many different gods, and the Roman emperors were worshiped as deities. But, Jesus was a Jew and He spoke in the context of a Jewish culture. The foundation of the Jewish religion is monotheism: “Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6.4). Jews worshipped only one God. So, for Jesus to claim to be God was extraordinary. His claim instantly subjected Him to the closet scrutiny of the Jewish religious leaders. Did He in fact claim to be God?
1. Jesus used God’s name to speak of Himself. When Moses saw God in a burning bush, he asked, “Who are you?” God answered, “I AM who I AM.” Jesus used the same terminology when He said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
He also said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he is dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), “I am the living bread” (John 6:51), “I am the door” (John 10:9), “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11), “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), and “I am the Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1:7-8).
In using this terminology, it was clear to his listeners that He was equating himself with YWHW, God, as he revealed himself of the Old Testament. To His Jewish listeners, this was blasphemy. For Jesus to call Himself, “I AM” was the ultimate in hubris. The use of God’s name to describe Himself is proof that Jesus considered Himself to be God.
2. Jesus called Himself the “Son of Man.” Eighty times throughout the Gospels, Jesus refers to Himself as “the Son of Man.” When casual Bible readers hear this term they equate it with Jesus claiming humanity. But, the use of this term must be understood in the context of a vision that the Old Testament prophet Daniel saw:
I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
In Daniel’s vision, the “Son of Man” is much more than a man. He is the One before whom the whole world bows to worship. When Jesus said of his coming again, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27), He is clearly referencing this vision. When Jesus called Himself “Son of Man,” His listeners knew He was equating Himself with Almighty God.
3. Jesus called Himself the “Son of God.” When Jesus heard His friend Lazarus was sick, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). When the religious Jews heard Jesus use the term “Son of God” in speaking of Himself, they immediately knew He was claiming much more than to be a son of God. The Jews would not kill someone for claiming to be a son of God. But Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and therefore divine. It was for this reason they wanted to kill Him. They said, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7).
4. Jesus claimed to be one with God the Father. Jesus told his disciples, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7). In the next verse, Jesus says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” At another time, when He was speaking in the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). When the religious Jews heard Him say this, it is obvious that they understood Him to be claiming to be God because they immediately tried to kill Him: “The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God’” (John 10:33).
5. Jesus claimed to have ultimate authority. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). How could Jesus claim all authority unless he was also claiming to be God?
6. Jesus allowed others to worship him. The first of the Ten Commandments states: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Accordingly, the worst heresy for a Jew to teach was the worship of anyone other than the One True God. Yet, Jesus accepted the worship of His disciples. When Peter, responding to Jesus question of “Who do you say that I am,” said, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God,” Jesus did not stop him as any good Jew was instantly bound to do. Instead He says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16.15-17).
Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead and he demanded proof. He said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20.25). Eight days later, Jesus suddenly appeared where the disciples were gathered. Jesus offered His hands for Thomas to examine. Thomas responded by crying out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Thomas worshipped Jesus and Jesus did not rebuke him or tell him he was worshipping the wrong person, instead, Jesus accepts the worship as His rightful due.
7. Jesus claimed to be the Alpha and the Omega. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is revealed to the Apostle John in all His glory:
In the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. (Revelation 1:13-16)
John writes, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away…” (Revelation 20:11). The figure on the throne says to John, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 21:6). When Jesus claims to be the Alpha and the Omega, He is claiming to be the A to the Z and everything in between, the beginning to the end, the One who created the world, and the One who judges the world at the end. In John’s vision, Jesus is awe inspiring and deserving of all glory, and honor, and praise.
Jesus acted like God.
Not only did Jesus claim to be God with His words, He also acted in ways that only God could act.
1. Jesus forgave sins, an act only God can do. Jesus said, “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6). By claiming the ability to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be God. Once when a paralyzed man was brought to him, Jesus said to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” The religious Jews who heard him said to themselves, “Why does this man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Jesus who understood their thoughts, replied to them, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?” Then he healed the sick man as proof of his power to forgive sins (Mark 2.5-11).
2. Jesus controlled nature. He caused a storm to be stilled by saying, “Peace be still” (Mark 4:39). When was the last time a mere man could control the wind and the waves with his words?
3. Jesus raised the dead. He raised Lazarus from the dead by saying, “Come forth” (John 11:43). You try that at the next funeral you attend. People will think you are crazy. But they wouldn’t think so anymore if the dead person sat up.
4. Jesus promised to do what only God can do. He claimed that he would return to judge the world (Matthew 25:31-32).
The Biblical evidence is clear, not only did Jesus claim to be God, He also acted like God. But, even if someone claims to be God, while it’s possible that the claim could be true, it’s also very possible they could be lying or they might even be crazy. Which one was Jesus? Let’s take a look at these three options.
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About the Author: Dr. Daniel King is a missionary evangelist who has traveled to over seventy nations in his quest for souls. His goal is to lead 1,000,000 people to Jesus every year through massive Gospel Festivals, distribution of literature, and leadership training. Because of his experience and research on evangelism, he is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in mass evangelism. As an evangelist, he has a deep interest in using apologetics to convince skeptics that God is real.