Did Jesus Claim to be God?

Claiming Oneness with God

Those who listened to Jesus, observed his moral perfection, and saw him perform miracles, wondered if he was the long-promised Messiah. Finally his opponents surrounded him at the Temple, asking:

“How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered,

“Jesus replied, “I told you and you do not believe. The deeds I do in my Father’s name testify about me. But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one” John 10:25-30.

If Jesus had meant that he was merely in agreement with God, there would have been no strong reaction. But, the Jews again picked up stones to kill him. Jesus then asked them, “At my Father’s direction I have done many things to help the people. For which one of these good deeds are you killing me?”

They replied,

“The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God”—John 10:33.

As Jesus was preparing his disciples for his upcoming death on the cross and departure, Thomas wanted to know where he was going and the way there. Jesus answered Thomas:

“ Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be content.”  Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” —John 14:5-9.

They were confused. Philip then speaks up, asking Jesus to “show us the Father.” Jesus’ answers Philip with these shocking words:

“Philip, don’t you even yet know who I am, even after all the time I have been with you? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!”

In effect Jesus was saying, “Philip if you want to see the Father, look at me!” In John 17 Jesus reveals that this oneness with his Father had existed in eternity past, “before the world began.” According to Jesus, there has never been a time when he did not share God’s very glory and essence.

God’s Authority

The Jews always regarded God as the ultimate authority. Authority was a well understood term in Roman-occupied Israel. At that time, Cae­sar’s edict could instantly launch legions into war, condemn or exoner­ate criminals, and establish laws and rules of government. In fact, Caesar’s authority was such that he himself claimed divinity.

Prior to leaving earth, Jesus explained the scope of his authority:

“Jesus said, ‘I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth’” (Matthew 28:18, NLT).

In these remarkable words, Jesus is claiming to be the supreme authority, not just on earth, but in heaven also. John Piper observes,

“This is why Jesus’ friends and enemies were staggered again and again by what he said and did. He would be walking down the road, seemingly like any other man, then turn and say something like, ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ Or, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’ Or, very calmly, after being accused of blasphemy, he would say, ‘The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ To the dead he might simply say, ‘Come forth,’ or, ‘Rise up.’ And they would obey. To the storms on the sea he would say, ‘Be still.’ And to a loaf of bread he would say, ‘Become a thousand meals.’ And it was done immediately.”[14]

Some might argue that since the authority came from his Father, it has nothing to do with Jesus being God. But God never gives His authority to a created being in order that they are to be worshipped. To do so would be to violate His Command.

Accepting Worship

Nothing is more fundamental to the Hebrew Scriptures than the fact that God alone is to be worshipped. In fact, the first of the Ten Commandments is,

“You shall have no other gods before me” —Exodus 20:3 NLT.

Thus, the most terrible sin a Jew could commit was to either worship another creature as God, or to receive worship. So if Jesus is not God, it would be blasphemy to receive worship.

After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples told Thomas they had seen the Lord alive (John 20:24-29). Thomas scoffed, telling them he would only believe if he could put his fingers on the nail wounds of Jesus’ hands and into his pierced side. Eight days later the disciples were all together in a locked room when Jesus suddenly appeared in front of them. Jesus looked at Thomas and told him to “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side.”

Thomas needed no more proof. He instantly believed, exclaiming to Jesus:

 “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas worshipped Jesus as God! If Jesus is not God, he certainly should have reprimanded Thomas right there. But instead of reprimanding Thomas for worshipping him as God, Jesus commended him, saying:

“You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.”

Jesus accepted worship on nine recorded occasions. In context of Jewish belief, Jesus’ acceptance of worship speaks volumes about his claim to divinity. But it wasn’t until after Jesus ascended to heaven that his disciples fully understood. Before Jesus left earth, he told his apostles to “baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19), putting both the Holy Spirit and himself on the same level as the Father.[15]

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Endnotes

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