25 Aug Conveying the Gospel in Today’s Culture: Jesus’s Divinity
I’m sure that you’ve heard people say as I have that Jesus never said that he was God. Although this is true in one sense in that the words, “I am God” were never recorded as coming from his lips; however, did Jesus make statements that indicate that he is God? Let’s take a look.
There are a number of ways that we can examine Jesus’ life, ministry, and words that give us clear indication that he was more than a mere man. In fact, Jesus’ opponents, the Scribes and Pharisees, seemed to understand the meaning of what Jesus did and said such that they repeatedly accused him of blasphemy – equating himself with God.
Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5) and to further demonstrate this Jesus healed on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:10-12; Mark 1:29-30; 3:1-4; 6:5; Luke 4:38-41; 6:6-7; 13:10-17; 14:1-5; John 5:9-17; 9:1-17) and on many of these occasions the Jewish leaders were there and questioned him about breaking the Sabbath which was supposedly breaking the Jewish law. In fact, the Jews repeatedly accused Jesus of blasphemy (9:3; 12:31; 26:65; Mark 2:3; 3:28-29; 14:64; Luke 5:21; 11:14; 12:10; 22:65; John 10:33, 36). Why would they make this accusation unless Jesus said or did things to equate himself with God.
Jesus’ words can be broken down into a few different categories, however, we will look at his teaching and his claims. Jesus taught that anyone who heard and acted on his words would be like the wise man who built his house on the rock, while the one who didn’t listen and act would be like a man who built his house on sand only to have rains and floods cause it to crash down. The account concludes: “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:29). Luke records that after teaching the crowd responded, “they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority” (4:32).
One of the most familiar examples of Jesus’ authoritative teaching is the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) in which Jesus recalls the Law, “you have heard it said of old,” and then added his teaching to it, “but I say to you.” How does one refine the Law unless one has the authority to do so? Jesus claimed to have possessed that authority.
Jesus also made statements which were understood to be claims to deity. Jesus equated himself with the Ancient of Days from Daniel 7:9, 13, 14. Daniel writes:
“I kept looking / Until thrones were set up, / And the Ancient of Days took His seat; / His vesture was like white snow / And the hair of His head like pure wool. / His throne was ablaze with flames, / Its wheels were a burning fire.
“I kept looking in the night visions, / And behold, with the clouds of heaven / One like a Son of Man was coming, / And He came up to the Ancient of Days / And was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, / Glory and a kingdom, / That all the peoples, nations and men of every language / Might serve Him. / His dominion is an everlasting dominion / Which will not pass away; / And His kingdom is one / Which will not be destroyed.
Compare what Daniel wrote to what Jesus said about himself at his trial.
But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Tearing his clothes, the high priest *said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Mark 16:61-64
Jesus clearly equates himself to the Son of Man spoken of by Daniel the prophet. Compare this account to another statement Jesus made to the Jewish leaders. In speaking to them about Abraham, Jesus said to them, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” When questioned how Jesus, being less than 50 years old could have known Abraham, Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:56, 58). Notice that Jesus didn’t say “before Abraham was born, I was”, rather, he said “I am”. The Jews understood that Jesus was saying that he was the “I am” who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3) because they picked up stones to stone him for blasphemy (making himself out to be God).
Jesus made other claims to deity, like in John 10:30 when he said, “I and the Father are one.” He was saying that he and the Father were one in essence. This too was understood by the Jews as a claim of deity as once again they picked up stones to stone him. Earlier in John’s gospel Jesus claimed to be Messiah while talking to the woman at the well. The woman, in speaking with Jesus, said, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He” (4:25-26).
Each of these claims is clear and though Jesus didn’t come out directly in these or other passages and say the words, “I am God”, the implications of his words are clear and drew the same response from the Jewish leaders.
I won’t look at all of Jesus’ actions just as we didn’t look at all of his claims to deity, however, the one of the clearest examples of Jesus being God is his acceptance of worship, something that would have been strictly forbidden for a mere Jewish man (or angel).
To demonstrate this fact, in Acts 14, the people of Lystra began to worship Paul and Barnabas, calling them Hermes and Zeus, to which Paul replied, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God” (v.15). And, in Revelation 22 John fell down at the feet of the angel who had delivered the vision to him to which the angel replied, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.”
Yet, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, the people worshipped him, crying “Hosanna!” (save now!) and Jesus never rebuked them (Mark 11, Matt. 21, Luke 19, John 12). Rather, when the “Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples”… Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Finally, after Jesus was raised from the dead he appeared to his disciples in the upper room. Thomas was not present for the first appearance and doubted that Jesus had risen until he saw Jesus when he appeared again eight days later. Jesus told Thomas, ““Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas’ response was to bow down and proclaim, ““My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28) Jesus didn’t stop him or correct him.
There are many other claims and examples of how Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated his deity. Yet the purpose of these statements isn’t just so we would know who Jesus is, but that we would believe or trust in who he is – the Messiah, the Savior. Jesus responded to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” I encourage you to investigate Jesus; find out who he is, what he did, and why he came. His own words make that clear, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus can and wants to give you abundant life.