Did Jesus Really Claim to be God?

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Matthew 21:10
Mark 4:41
John 8:58

The only Jesus we can know is the one revealed in the Gospels, and they all express his amazing consciousness of oneness with God.

I’m delighted to think with you about the case for Christian faith. It’s a faith I believe, cherish and feel moved to share with other people wherever I go. Now here’s a basic question relative to this faith: Did Jesus really claim to be God? I deeply believe that it’s the most significant question ever asked, the question “Who is Jesus?”

The answer we give will shape our character and even determine our destiny. It was asked in the days of Jesus when he was coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The bewildered, amazed crowd said, “Who then is this?” (Matt. 21:10)

And when Jesus had calmed the storm after the frightened disciples were afraid they were going to drown, when He had spoken to the winds and the waves and told them to be still, the disciples marveled: “Who is this who even stills the winds and the waves?” (Mark 4:41)

When Jesus spoke the word of forgiveness to a woman in Simon’s house, they said, “Who is this that forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49)

It’s still asked today. You’ve perhaps heard of the book entitled, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus.” That question has been circulating and that quest has been going on ever since Jesus lived here among us. There have been literally thousands of books written about who Jesus was. You’d think that all the ground was worked over, but authors keep coming back to that question.

They ask it about Jesus in a way they don’t about anybody else in the history of the world. Nobody says today, “Who was Julius Caesar?” or “Who was Alexander the Great?” as a basic question of faith in the way they ask that question about Jesus. Now what I want to do is ask Jesus himself this question. I want to say to him, “Who do you say that you are?”

Jesus Answers

Jesus answers that question in several ways. He answers by the way he relates to other people. He’s about to choose his disciples. He calls from the larger group certain ones to come and be with him, and he appoints them (Mark 3:13-14). He acts as though he is the master of their destiny. He is the one with the right to command and teach. He talks about John the Baptist as a man superior to all the rest of the human race, but this John is the one who said about Jesus that he, John, was not worthy to stoop down and untie his sandals. (Matt. 11:11).

Jesus says that authority is his. “He speaks with authority and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29). He speaks as though he has a history that goes way back before Abraham. “Before Abraham was, I Am. At that they picked up stones to stone him” (John 8:56-59). It was clear in their minds that he was identifying himself with God. Would we ever take seriously words like those from any other person?

Notice the way Jesus sees himself as fulfilling the Scriptures. This is Israel’s greatest treasure God’s Word the law, the prophets, the writings. If you truly understand them, Jesus said, you would see that all Scripture is related to me, my ministry, my saving work. Such a claim was unheard of!

In the synagogue in Nazareth after he reads from Isaiah 61, he says to the people, “This day, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). And that’s the scripture about the Messiah, the one who was anointed by the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s ministry. He is the one about whom it’s being spoken, says Jesus.

And then, when he talks to the people about how they search the Scriptures because they think that through them they have eternal life, he says, “They are the very ones that testify of me” (John 5:39). Imagine that! Imagine any one other than Jesus saying that!

And then on the way to Emmaus, as we saw in my previous message, Jesus opens the Scriptures, and he explains to them in the law, the prophets and the psalms all the things about himself (see Luke 24:27, 44). Imagine him presenting himself as the heart of what the Scriptures are about! Think of how he describes his relationship to the Father. He calls God “my Father.” He apparently knows all about the Father’s house and the rooms there. He had a glory that he shared with the Father before the world was. He knows the Father. He does always the things that please the Father. He speaks the Father’s words. He and the Father are one. All knowledge of God, according to Jesus, comes from him, the Son. Can you imagine a closer relationship between Jesus and God than this?

He shows it by the way he speaks of what he can do for us. The world is a dark place. Jesus says, “I am its light. If you follow me you won’t walk in the darkness” (John 8:12). I was in Uganda a few months ago. My wife and I went out one night to the only toilet facility. It was about fifty yards from where we had been sleeping. We had one flashlight. When we got out there and were ready to come back, the flashlight flickered out. The only way I could get any light at all was by pushing the switch quickly. Then it would give a little burst of light, only to go out again. Step by small step, we made our way back.

Jesus says that he shows us the right path. He’s the light of the world. When we follow him we won’t walk in the darkness. Further, he said that he’s the resurrection and the life in a world of death (John 11:25).

He said that he’s the only real sustenance where people hunger and thirst. “I’m the bread of life” (John 6:35). He gives the living water. “If anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink,” he says (John 7:37-38). “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I’ll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me and you will find rest for your souls.”

Could anyone else in the world’s history have said those things and been taken seriously?

Then by the authority that he claims and assumes, he answers the question of his identity. He claims the authority to forgive sins (which his enemies get upset about because they say only God can do that). He claims the power to judge the whole human race and is to be honored in the same way as people honor the Father (John 5:22-23). He claims just before his ascension that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to him.

And Jesus claims for himself supreme loyalty. Now imagine this. Just before he is crucified, he’s before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest. Unable to find witness against him that will be conclusive, the high priest asked Jesus directly, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed one?” Now Jesus knows that if he answers it truly it will cost him his life but he doesn’t hesitate. He says, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13ff). Imagine that! The Almighty, the Eternal One, in a human life!

And also Jesus answers the question by the way he links our relationship to God with our response to him. If we don’t honor Jesus, we don’t honor the Father. If we don’t know him, we don’t know the Father. If we don’t see him, we don’t see the Father. If we don’t believe in him, we don’t believe in the Father. If we don’t welcome him, we don’t welcome the Father. And if we hate him, God forbid, we hate the Father.

Our Possible Responses

Now, what are our possible responses to these claims of Jesus? We can say, “He never made such claims.” The only problem with that view is that there’s not a shred of evidence for it. In every one of the Gospels, Jesus talks like this.

Extreme critics like those of the Jesus’ Seminar dispute the genuineness of many verses in the Gospels. But even the 20% of verses that they think belong in the Bible still imply these claims. There is no other Jesus, friends, no real Jesus besides the one who spoke like this. When the authorities sent police to arrest him, they came back and said, “No one ever spoke like this.”

You might respond by saying, “He was a great teacher but . . . and not the Son of God and these things.” The remarkable thing about Jesus’ teaching was, as we’re seeing is that it’s about himself. He is the messenger, and he’s the message. If he is flat-out wrong about who he is, how reliable a teacher can he be? To say Jesus is a great teacher, but he’s not the Son of God just misses the whole point. The same person who did the teaching taught about himself!

What are the implications of this? Carlisle said, “Had this doctrine of the deity of Christ been lost, Christianity would have vanished like a dream.” As the poet Browning said, “Christ the illimitable God or lost.” “But he could be deluded,” says someone, “or a deceiver.” Really? You think that’s likely? The one who loved truth, hated hypocrisy and died for his convictions? Not very probable.

What If His Answer is True?

How much depends on the answer we give? As John Stott said once, “The question is fundamental. If Jesus is not God in human flesh, Christianity has exploded. Its unique distinction is gone.”

But, friends, what if Jesus’ answers are true? Then we know for certain what God is like, because Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Paul writes, “We see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

So, friends, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. If his claim is true, we know beyond all doubt that the Lord of this universe has the heart of a Father. God’s face is seen in Jesus. So the life, the death, the resurrection of Jesus are the pivotal events in all history. The end of the ages has come. The fullness of time has come. The word was made flesh. He’s the Lord of all, the Savior of the world. And every time you hear the gospel preached as you’re hearing now, Jesus the Lord is speaking to you. Your response to him will make all the difference.