I have always thought that Jesus only claimed to be a human prophet but thanks for sharing with me the last time the many instances when Jesus claimed to be God. I wonder whether the Jews understood Jesus when he claimed to be God?
Yes, definitely. When the high priest asked Jesus whether he claimed to be the son of God and Jesus said “yes”, the high priest tore his clothes and accused Jesus of blasphemy. You see, the Jews were familiar with the Old Testament teaching that the son of God is God himself. The book of Isaiah says “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and his name is called wonderful counsellor, mighty God.
Many people have difficulty accepting the fact that Jesus claimed to be God. They think that Jesus only acted as if he was God’s representative and they believe he was only a holy man.
Jesus said and did many things during his lifetime that left us with no doubt that he claimed to be equal with God. For example, Jesus claimed to have the power to forgive sins. We could always forgive the sins of someone who did something wrong to us but we can never forgive the sins of someone who is not related to us, who has broken the laws of God. Yet Jesus did exactly that and the people immediately accused him of blasphemy.
It’s true we can only forgive those who have wronged us.
On another occasion, Jesus taught that God the father judges no one but has left all judgment to his son. The bible clearly teaches that God is the judge. Therefore, Jesus could never have made a statement that the father judges no one and leaves all judgment to him unless he considers himself God.
The things you just mentioned are new to me. I did not know that Jesus made all these claims. I thought that he was constantly pointing to his God.
Jesus did point to God the father but in pointing to God, he also pointed to himself, not something a mere prophet of God would do. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life.” Can you imagine a prophet of God saying this? A prophet of God would point to God and say, “This is the way, this is the truth, this is the life.
I didn’t realize these claims were too outrageous to be made by a mere prophet of God.
Jesus did not just proclaim these things about himself, he proved it. Because Jesus is the life, he was not only able to resurrect others who were dead, he was able to resurrect himself after people killed him. Once he told the people that if they were to destroy his body, he himself would be able to raise it up in three days. It is one thing to die and be resuscitated back to life by someone else but Jesus proved his claim that he could resurrect himself back to life. This is possible only because Jesus is the life.
If Jesus was God, did Jesus accept worship from others?
Yes he did. When Thomas the disciple said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God”, Jesus did not rebuke him. Instead Jesus said that it would be even better for someone who had not seen him with his own eyes and still believed this about him.
You mentioned that the people during Jesus’ time tried to kill him because they interpreted his teachings to be blasphemy and claiming equality with God. Could the people have misunderstood what Jesus said when Jesus did not actually claim to be God?
The people in Jesus days understood the cultural context and spoke the same language as Jesus and they understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. That is why they tried many times to kill him for blasphemy. It is strange that people living in the21st century, far away from Jesus hometown, who do not speak the language of Jesus nor live in that culture would conclude that the Jews have understood it wrong after all.
How about the early followers of Jesus? Did they believe that he was God? I thought that it was only much later in the third century AD at the council of Nicea that the church introduced the teaching that Jesus is God?
Definitely not. Right from the birth of Jesus, the wise men came from the east to Jerusalem and when they saw the baby Jesus, they worshipped him. When Jesus performed the miracle of walking on water, defying the very laws of nature, the people were astonished and worshipped him. We earlier saw how his disciple Thomas also declared Jesus to be his Lord and his God.
I see. People worshipped Jesus right from the start.
That’s right. Therefore, what happened in the third century was simply the church defining its beliefs formally and in creed in order to combat heresy or wrong beliefs which had started to creep into the church. They did not invent something new that the church had not already believed in for centuries.
If Jesus had wanted to tell the people that he was God, why didn’t he just say to them directly, “I am God”?
That is a good question. This has to do with the broad use of the word “god” during biblical times. This word was used to refer to the almighty God, pagan gods, human judges, God’s ambassadors and even angels depending on the context. So even if Jesus were to say, “I am God”, it would not have communicated the entire message. The people listening could choose to interpret that to mean that Jesus was simply proclaiming to be a human judge, God’s ambassador or even an angel. But Jesus made the claims I shared with you earlier which leave us with no doubt that he was claiming to be God Almighty.
Jesus not only claimed to be the son of God, he claimed to be the Christ or Messiah didn’t he?
That’s right. Again, that is also a claim to be God. The Jews knew that the Messiah would come from the town of Bethlehem and he was to be God himself. The bible says that this Messiah’s origin would be from the “ancient of days.” This term “ancient of days” is used exclusively to describe God and his eternal origin. That was why when Jesus said he was the Messiah, the people accused him of blasphemy.