If Jesus did not claim to be God, why did the Jews accuse him repeatedly of blasphemy?
It is strange that people in the 20th century read the words of Jesus in a translated language and say that Jesus never claim to be God when we are told clearly that the Jews of Jesus’ time, who heard the original sayings of Jesus in their language and in their context, understood that he was claiming to be God. Many times the Bible tells us that the Jews tried to kill Jesus precisely because they knew that he was claiming to be God.
(John 10:33) “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
(Luke 5:21) The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
(Mat 26:65) Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.
Therefore a person today who insists that Jesus did not claim to be God fails to appreciate the force of Jesus’ statement during the time it was spoken.
Muslims have argued that the Jews may have misunderstood Jesus. They have interpreted his claims to be one of claiming equality with God when actually Jesus did not. But could the Jews have interpreted wrongly? We have to examine the cases one by one.
In John 10, the Jews tried to kill Jesus because he claimed to be the Son of God (see verse 36). This is not a misunderstanding because we have seen above that Jesus’ sonship is no ordinary one and it carries the trademarks of deity. And the Jews understood this.
In Luke 5, the Jews tried to kill Jesus because they understood his claim to be able to forgive sins to be a claim of equality with God. Again this is a valid interpretation. The Bible portrays God as the only One who can forgive sins. I am sure Muslim will agree that Allah is the only One who has the authority to forgive sins. Sure, we can forgive others for the wrong they did to us but we do not have the authority to forgive others for the wrong they did towards others and towards God. This is exactly what Jesus did. Is Jesus only proclaiming that person’s forgiveness in accordance with what the Father has instructed him? (John 12:49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.) No, according to the text, this is not the case. Jesus was not merely proclaiming that person’s forgiveness. He said he possess the authority to actually forgive that person’s sins. (Luke 5:24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.)
Matt 26 is another case where Jesus was accused of blasphemy, this time because Jesus prophesied that at a future time, he would come back from heaven in as glorified a position as God. Again the Jews were not wrong in interpreting this to mean that he was claiming equality with God.
(Mat 26:64) “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”