By James L. Morrisson
Scripture clearly says that Jesus was and is God. John 1:1 says that the Word (Jesus) "was God." Philippians 2:6 says that Jesus was "in very nature God." Colossians 1:19 says that "God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him." Titus 2:13 refers to him as "our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." (See also Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20.) Scripture says that Jesus created all things and holds all things together (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2-3). It says that he is Lord over all things in heaven, on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:9-11; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:17-18). The Father has put everything under him (Hebrews 2:8). Jesus now sits at the right hand of God and lives forever to intercede for us (Roman 8:34; Hebrews 7:25, 10:12)' He will come again to judge all men (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). (All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise stated.)
It is sometimes asserted, however, that "Jesus never claimed to be God." The implication is that the concept that Jesus is God was invented by others. It is true there is no record in the gospels that, during his earthly ministry, Jesus, in so many words, said, "I am God." He did not use that particular verbal formula. To have done so would have invited his immediate execution for blasphemy, and a premature termination of his ministry. But I believe that when we examine the things Jesus did say about himself we can only conclude that Jesus, during his earthly ministry, understood fully that he was God come to earth in human form, and that he was, indeed, "Immanuel" which means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). In this paper I shall look at the evidence, and let it speak for itself.
It is also sometimes asserted that Jesus never said he was the Messiah. He clearly said that he was. Indeed, a major emphasis of his teaching was that he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament messianic prophecies. I shall address this issue also.
I believe that C.S. Lewis had it exactly right when he wrote, "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him, 'I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse." ("Mere Christianity", Macmillan, 1952, pp. 55-56.)
A. WHO JESUS SAID HE WAS
Thomas called Jesus "My Lord and my God." Jesus acknowledged it as true, and commended Thomas for perceiving it, saying, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:28-29). Jesus expressly acknowledged that he is God, and said that he expects all believers to recognize that he is God.
Jesus told some Jewish leaders, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58 KJV). This is a statement that Jesus is eternal, and I shall discuss that aspect of it later. But it is much more than that. God had identified himself to Moses as I AM (Exodus 3:14). I believe, as do many scholars, that Jesus was deliberately identifying himself with that designation and saying that he is also God. This is evidently how his hearers understood him, for "they picked up stones to stone him" (John 8:59).
Jesus predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed (as it was in 70 A.D.) "because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you" (Luke 19:44).
Jesus often spoke of himself on terms of equality with God. I shall discuss those statements later.
2. SON OF GOD
Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (Son of Man was one of his names for himself.) They replied that some say John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then he asked "Who do you say I am?" Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven" (Matthew 16:13-17). On several other occasions people declared in his presence that he was the Son of God and he did not question the statement. The disciples said to him, "Truly you are the Son of God" (Matthew 14:33). Martha also said to him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world" (John 11:27). Nathaniel said, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God" and Jesus commended him for believing (John 1:49-50; see also Matthew 27:54).
Before the High Priest, Jesus, under oath, declared that he was "the Christ, the Son of God" and it was on the basis of that declaration that the Sanhedrin declared him guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death (Matthew 26:63-66; see also John 19:7).
On other occasions Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God (John 5:25, 10:36, 11:4, 17:1). He also referred to himself as "the Son" in a context that clearly meant that he was the Son of God. For example, in John 5:19-20, referring to himself, he said, "the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does." (See also Matthew 24:36; Luke 10:22; John 6:40, 8:36, 14:13). I suggest that the parable of the tenants (Matthew 21:31-44) is both a prediction of Jesus' crucifixion and a statement that he is the Son of God.
Twice the voice of God declared of Jesus in his presence and in the hearing of others, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17, 17:5).
There is a sense in which all who believe in Jesus can be called children of God. He told his disciples to pray, "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9). Scripture says that all who believe in Jesus can become God's adopted children (John 1:12, Romans 8:14, 23). But it is obviously not in this general sense that these scriptures are speaking, but rather in the sense of a unique relationship. That relationship is clearly expressed in John 3:16 and 18, in which Jesus referred to himself as God's "one and only son." It is in this same unique sense that God spoke when he referred to Jesus as his beloved Son. The religious leaders of the Jews clearly understood Jesus' meaning, for they threatened to stone him because "he was calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18), and they demanded that he be crucified "because he claimed to be the Son of God" (John 19:7).
3. ONE WITH THE FATHER
Jesus said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). The Jewish religious leaders understood his meaning; they sought to stone him "because you, a mere man, claim to be God" (John 10:33). Again, he said "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father", "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me" (John 14:9,11; see also John 8:19, 10:38, 12:45).
4. THE MESSIAH
Jesus clearly said that he was the Messiah.
When the Samaritan woman said she knew that the Messiah was coming, Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he" (John 4:26). He twice acknowledged that he was "the Christ", that is, the Messiah (Matthew 16:17; 26:64). His disciples recognized him as the Christ (Matthew 16:17). When John the Baptist sent to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else", Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see" Matthew 11:3-4). Reading the whole passage it is clear that he was saying, "Yes, I am he."
A major emphasis of Jesus' ministry was that he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. He preached, "The time is fulfilled" (Mark 1:15 KJV). He read Isaiah 61:1-2 and then said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). He declared that his crucifixion was the fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 26:24,54). "This has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled" (Matthew 26:36). "Everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled" (Luke 18:31). (Among other scriptures, he was doubtless referring to Psalm 22 and Isaiah chapter 53).
When he walked with two men on the road to Emmaus, "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). He declared to his disciples, "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" (Luke 24:44).
B. ATTRIBUTES OF GODHOOD
Jesus said many things about himself that could only be said about one who is God. Individually, and in their cumulative effect, I think they compel the conclusion that Jesus knew that he was God come to earth.
1. ALL AUTHORITY
Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). "All things have been committed to me by my father" (Luke 10:22). "All that belongs to the Father is mine" (John 16:15). . Jesus gave his disciples "authority... to overcome all the power of the enemy" (Luke 10:19). John's gospel says, "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power" (John 13:3). John the Baptist understood this. He said "The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands" (John 3:35).
2. AUTHORITY TO JUDGE MANKIND
Jesus has authority to judge all men. "The Father... has entrusted all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22, see also verse 27). "A time is coming and has now come when all who are in their graves will hear his [Jesus'] voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned" (John 5:28). Jesus said that he will "sit on his throne in heavenly glory" and will judge all nations, sending some to "eternal punishment" and others to "eternal life" (Matthew 25:31-46). He said that at the end of the age, "The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:40-43; see also Matthew 13:49-50; 7:22-23)
3. SOURCE OF SALVATION AND ETERNAL LIFE
"My Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life" (John 6:40). "The Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:15). Whoever believes in Jesus Christ "shall not perish but have eternal life... whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" (John 3:16,18). "I give them eternal life" (John 10:28; see also John 4:13-14, 5:21,40; 6:27,54, 10:28). "You granted [your Son] authority over all people so that he might grant eternal life to all those you have given him" (John 17:2). "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10). Jesus came "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
John the Baptist recognized this when he said of Jesus, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and "Whoever believes the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36). God told Joseph in a dream that Jesus "will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The angel called him "Savior" and Simeon called him "salvation" (Luke 2:11,30). Peter, very shortly after Jesus' death, said of Jesus, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven and earth given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
No one but God could do this. No man could overcome the curse of sin that resulted from Adam's fall in the garden. As Paul says, "What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering" (Romans 8:3).
4. AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS
According to Jewish teaching only God could forgive sins. Jesus shocked the "teachers of the law" by declaring that "the Son of Man (his name for himself) has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Mark 2:10; see also Luke 7:48-49).
5. CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN
Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world" (John 8:23). He said, "I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me" (John 6:38). "I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own, but he sent me" (John 8:42). "I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father" (John 16:28). "I am going to the Father" (John 14:12). "The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world... I am the bread of life" (John 6:33, 35; see also John 3:13,17, 6:46, 16:5, 17:8). Clearly, "Jesus knew that he had come from God and was returning to God" (John 13:3).
At one point the disciples said "This makes us believe that you came from God.' 'You believe at last! Jesus answered" (John 16:30-31).
Jesus repeatedly said that he was "sent" by the Father (see, for example, John 5:36-38; Luke 4:43). He declared, "The work of God is this, to believe in the one he sent" (John 6:29).
6. BROUGHT THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO EARTH
Jesus' entire preaching was about the kingdom of God. He began his preaching by declaring, "The time is fulfilled; and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15 KJV). He said, "If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). It was Jesus' coming that made the kingdom of God a reality here on earth.
7. LIVES ETERNALLY
Jesus' words declare that he lives eternally and has no beginning or ending in time. They confirm his statement in John's vision in the Book of Revelation that he is, "the First and the Last," and lives forever (Revelation 1:17-18).
Jesus had no beginning. In a prayer the night before he was crucified, Jesus asked the Father to glorify him "with the glory I had with you before the world began" (John 17:5). Earlier Jesus had declared, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58 KJV). Jesus was saying that Abraham was born, lived, and died in time, but Jesus is timeless, he always is. This is a confirmation of the statement in John's gospel that Jesus was "in the beginning," before the creation of the physical universe (John 1:1-2).
He has no end. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus told his disciples, and by implication all who follow him, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He said, "Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them" (Matthew 18:20). He told the Sanhedrin, "From now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God" (Luke 22:69; see also John 14:3).
Jesus also declared that he lives in every believer. "Remain in me and I will remain in you". "If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit" (John 15:4,5; KJV says "abide").
8. INSTITUTED A NEW COVENANT
Jeremiah 31:31 had announced that God would institute a new covenant in which he would write his laws on men's hearts. At the Last Supper Jesus declared that the wine "is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20). Hebrews chapters 8 and 9, after referring to Jeremiah's prophecy, confirm that "Christ is the mediator of a new covenant" (Hebrews 9:15).
9. WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORY
Jesus told the High Priest, "In the future you will see the Son of Man [his name for himself] sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). He told his disciples, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory" (Matthew 25:31). He will come "on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory", and with his angels (Matthew 24:30-31; see also Matthew 16:27; Luke 17:24). He will come to rule and to judge (Matthew 19:28, 25:31).
C. JESUS DECLARED HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD
One of the charges the Jewish leaders made against Jesus was that he made himself "equal with God" (John 5:18). He did, quite often. He always recognized that, within the Godhead, the Father has primacy, but he often said things that emphasized how like God in power Jesus was. Let me simply list some examples and allow them to speak for themselves.
D. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF ETERNAL GIFTS
"I am... the life" (John 14:6). "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10; KJV says "more abundantly"). This is a promise, not only of future life, but of a full life on this earth. He referred to himself as "he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6:33).
"I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace" (John 16:33). "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives" (John 14:27).
"I have told you this that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11). "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy... Your joy will be complete" (John 16:22,24).
"I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). "I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40).
5. THE HOLY SPIRIT
"Whoever believes in me... streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:38-39). Jesus will send us the Holy Spirit (John 15:26, 16:7, 20:22).
"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). Our spiritual freedom comes from continuing in Jesus' words (John 8:31-32 KJV).
"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5; see John 3:19, 8:12). "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness" (John 12:46).
"If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
9. THE ONLY WAY TO THE FATHER
Jesus declared that he is the only way to the Father. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). He said that he is the gate for the sheep, and that anyone who does not enter in by the gate is a thief and a robber (John 10:1,7,9; see also Luke 10:22).
In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus told us to enter through the narrow gate and travel on the narrow road that leads to eternal life, and avoid the wide gate and road that lead to "destruction". Reading that passage together with those cited in the previous paragraph it is clear that Jesus is the narrow gate and the narrow road that lead to life with God.
There is more. Jesus said many amazing things about himself. But I think what I have written should be sufficient to show that Jesus knew who he was, and that he knew that he was God who came to earth in human form to save mankind from their sins. To try to make him anything less is to deny the Scriptural record.
2002 by James