Who - and What - Was Jesus Christ?

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“None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8 1 Corinthians 2:8Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
American King James Version×
, New Revised Standard Version).

The Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, faced a difficult situation when Jesus was brought before him. Apprehensively, he attempted to dismiss the picture that was emerging in front of him. When Pilate heard the accusation, it struck fear into his heart. “He has claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7 John 19:7The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Pilate’s next question betrayed his fear that he was not dealing with an ordinary man. He had just been given a message from his wife, who received a warning in a dream not to have anything to do with this innocent man (Matthew 27:19 Matthew 27:19When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, Have you nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
American King James Version×
). Pilate himself knew that Jesus had been delivered to him because the chief priests were jealous of and despised Him (Matthew 27:18 Matthew 27:18For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
American King James Version×
). Yet Pilate couldn’t avoid his date with destiny.

He next asked Jesus, “Where are You from?” (John 19:9 John 19:9And went again into the judgment hall, and said to Jesus, From where are you? But Jesus gave him no answer.
American King James Version×
). Pilate already knew He was Galilean. But what geographical area this Jewish teacher came from was not the question. Where are you really from is what Pilate wanted to know. Jesus was silent. His claim to be the Son of God had already answered this question. But Pilate did not have the courage to deal with this answer.

Accepting the real answer would have made all the difference. The apostle Paul said that none of the rulers of this world knew who Jesus was, where He came from and His purpose for coming, “for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8 1 Corinthians 2:8Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
American King James Version×
).

Pilate could not face this issue. He knew what was right in this instance, but he feared losing power. He feared Caesar’s reaction if it were reported that he did not deal with someone who posed a threat to Roman control in the region (John 19:12 John 19:12And from thereafter Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend: whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.
American King James Version×
). He feared a popular uprising if he did not agree to the Jewish leaders’ political demands. He also feared Jesus, because he was not quite sure with whom he was dealing.

Avoiding a difficult choice

In the end political expediency won out. The stage was set to both indict all mankind of guilt and make provision for their forgiveness. Pilate gave the order for Jesus to be crucified. The reality was denied, left for all to confront at a later time.

Most of us tend to ignore unpleasant realities and make choices that we think are beneficial to us. Confronted with evidence as to who Jesus really was, would you face a reality that is too difficult for you to accept? Deep down, maybe we intuitively realize it would change life as we know it. So perhaps it’s better, we reason, not to look into this matter too deeply to leave ourselves an out. That’s the route Pilate took.

But this is where we have to begin. Who, really, was Jesus of Nazareth? Where did He really come from? If we understand that, it explains everything He did and said.

Most see Jesus as a teacher, a wise man, a Jewish sage who died an unjust and horrible death and founded a great religion.

Is there more to it than that? One of the most controversial topics is the true identity of Jesus Christ—and at the same time it is perhaps the most crucial. It lies at the heart of the Christian faith. What this entails is the understanding that Jesus was not simply an extraordinary human being, but that Jesus was actually God in human flesh.

But if He was God in the flesh, how was He God? This is the part that is often neglected in many explanations—and, as a result, many have difficulty grasping how this could be.

Jesus certainly regarded Himself as much more than only a man, prophet or teacher.

Some say that Jesus made no claims to be God. Some scholars even insist that, years later, leaders of the Christian Church concocted and edited into the record the titles Jesus used, the miracles and His claims and actions that showed He believed He was God. In other words, the argument is that the record has been fabricated and the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament is a legend, a theological product of the early Church.

However, this is historically impossible for several reasons—not the least of which is that immediately after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Church grew explosively based on the conviction that He was God. There was no time for a legend to develop around exaggerated claims of who Jesus might be.

Peter immediately preached that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead and that He was indeed the Christ and Lord and equated Him with God (Acts 2:27-35 Acts 2:27-35 27 Because you will not leave my soul in hell, neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you shall make me full of joy with your countenance. 29 Men and brothers, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32 This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he said himself, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, 35 Until I make your foes your footstool.
American King James Version×
). The disciples and the Church knew who Jesus was, as the powerful growth of the Church shows.

The fact of the matter, staggering though it is, is that Jesus of Nazareth was God in the flesh. This fact, which we will further explore, is what makes Christianity unique and authoritative. If Jesus was not God, then the Christian faith doesn’t differ in kind from other religions. If Jesus was not God, those in the early Christian Church would have had no basis for their beliefs—beliefs that, in the words of their enemies, “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6 Acts 17:6And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brothers to the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come here also;
American King James Version×
).

Jesus, the I AM

Perhaps the boldest claim Jesus made about His identity was the statement, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58 John 8:58Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
American King James Version×
). Translated into English, His statement may appear or sound confusing. But in the Aramaic or Hebrew language in which He spoke, He was making a claim that immediately led the people to try to stone Him for blasphemy.

What was going on here? Jesus was revealing His identity as the actual One whom the Jews knew as God in the Old Testament. He was saying in one breath that He existed before Abraham and that He was the same Being as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Anciently when the great God first revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:13-14 Exodus 3:13-14 13 And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say to them? 14 And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.
American King James Version×
, Moses asked Him what His name was. “I AM WHO I AM,” was the awesome reply. “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Jesus clearly claimed to be this same Being—the “I AM of Exodus 3:14 Exodus 3:14And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.
American King James Version×
, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:15 Exodus 3:15And God said moreover to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial to all generations.
American King James Version×
).

“I AM is related to the personal name for God in the Old Testament, the Hebrew name YHWH. When this name appears in our English Bibles, it is commonly rendered using small capital letters as LORD. It is transliterated as “Jehovah” in some Bible versions.

When Jesus made this startling statement, the Jews knew exactly what He meant. They picked up stones to kill Him because they thought He was guilty of blasphemy.

“I AM and the related YHWH are the names of God that infer absolute timeless self-existence. Although impossible to translate accurately and directly into English, YHWH conveys meanings of “The Eternal One,” “The One Who Always Exists” or “The One Who Was, Is and Always Will Be.” These distinctions can apply only to God, whose existence is eternal and everlasting.

In Isaiah 42:8 Isaiah 42:8I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
American King James Version×
this same Being says, “I am the LORD [ YHWH ], that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.” A few chapters later He says: “Thus says the LORD [ YHWH ], the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6 Isaiah 44:6Thus said the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
American King James Version×
).

To the Jews, there was no mistaking who Jesus claimed to be. He said He was the One the nation of Israel understood to be the one true God. By Jesus making claim to the name “I AM,” He was saying that He was the God whom the Hebrews knew as YHWH. This name was considered so holy that a devout Jew would not pronounce it. This was a special name for God that can only refer to the one true God.

Dr. Norman Geisler, in his book Christian Apologetics, concludes: “In view of the fact that the Jehovah of the Jewish Old Testament would not give his name, honor, or glory to another, it is little wonder that the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth drew stones and cries of ‘blasphemy’ from first-century Jews. The very things that the Jehovah of the Old Testament claimed for himself Jesus of Nazareth also claimed” (2002, p. 331).

Jesus identified with YHWH

Dr. Geisler goes on to list some of the ways Jesus equated Himself with YHWH of the Old Testament. Let’s notice some of these.

Jesus said of Himself, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11 John 10:11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
American King James Version×
). David, in the first verse of the famous 23rd Psalm, declared that “The LORD [ YHWH ] is my shepherd.” Jesus claimed to be judge of all men and nations (John 5:22-27 John 5:22-27 22 For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son: 23 That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life. 25 Truly, truly, I say to you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
American King James Version×
). Yet Joel 3:12 Joel 3:12Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
American King James Version×
says the LORD [ YHWH ] “will sit to judge all …nations.”

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 John 8:12Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
American King James Version×
). Isaiah 60:19 Isaiah 60:19The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you: but the LORD shall be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.
American King James Version×
says, “The LORD will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.” Also, David says in Psalms 27:1 Psalms 27:1The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
American King James Version×
, “The LORD ( YHWH ) is my light.”

Jesus asked in prayer that the Father would share His eternal glory: “O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5 John 17:5And now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was.
American King James Version×
). Yet Isaiah 42:8 Isaiah 42:8I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
American King James Version×
says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another .”

Jesus spoke of Himself as the coming bridegroom (Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
American King James Version×
), which is how YHWH is characterized in Isaiah 62:5 Isaiah 62:5For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you: and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
American King James Version×
and Hosea 2:16 Hosea 2:16And it shall be at that day, said the LORD, that you shall call me Ishi; and shall call me no more Baali.
American King James Version×
.

In Revelation 1:17 Revelation 1:17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
American King James Version×
Jesus says He is the first and the last, which is identical to what YHWH says of Himself in Isaiah 44:6 Isaiah 44:6Thus said the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
American King James Version×
: “I am the First and I am the Last.”

There is no question that Jesus understood Himself as the LORD ( YHWH ) of the Old Testament.

When Jesus was arrested, His use of the same term had an electrifying effect on those in the arresting party. “Now when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6 John 18:6As soon then as he had said to them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
American King James Version×
). Notice here that “He” is in italics, meaning the word was added by the translators and isn’t in the original wording. However, their attempt to make Jesus’ answer more grammatically correct obscures the fact that He was likely again claiming to be the “I AM of the Old Testament Scriptures.

“I and My Father are one”

The Jews confronted Jesus on another occasion, asking Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If you are the Christ [the prophesied Messiah], tell us plainly” (John 10:24 John 10:24Then came the Jews round about him, and said to him, How long do you make us to doubt? If you be the Christ, tell us plainly.
American King James Version×
). Jesus’ answer is quite revealing: “I told you, and you do not believe” (John 10:25 John 10:25Jesus answered them, I told you, and you believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
American King James Version×
). He had indeed confirmed His divine identity on a previous occasion (John 5:17-18 John 5:17-18 17 But Jesus answered them, My Father works till now, and I work. 18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus adds, “The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me” (John 10:25 John 10:25Jesus answered them, I told you, and you believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
American King James Version×
). The works He did were miracles that only God could do. They could not refute the miraculous works Jesus did.

He made another statement that incensed them: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30 John 10:30I and my Father are one.
American King James Version×
). That is, the Father and Jesus were both divine. Again, there was no mistaking the intent of what He said, because “then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (John 10:31 John 10:31Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus countered, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews responded, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:32-33 John 10:32-33 32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me? 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God.
American King James Version×
).

The Jews understood perfectly well what Jesus meant. He was telling them plainly of His divinity.

The Gospel of John records yet another instance in which Jesus infuriated the Jews with His claims of divinity. It happened just after Jesus had healed a crippled man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. The Jews sought to kill Him because He did this on the Sabbath, a day on which the law of God had stated no work was to be done (which they misinterpreted to include what Jesus was doing).

Jesus then made a statement that the Jews could take in only one way: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Their response to His words? “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath [according to their interpretation of it], but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18 John 5:16-18 16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. 17 But Jesus answered them, My Father works till now, and I work. 18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus was equating His works with God’s works and claiming God as His Father in a special way.

Jesus claimed authority to forgive sins

Jesus claimed to be divine in various other ways.

When Jesus healed one paralyzed man, He also said to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven you” (Mark 2:5 Mark 2:5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the sick of the palsy, Son, your sins be forgiven you.
American King James Version×
). The scribes who heard this reasoned He was blaspheming, because, as they rightly understood and asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:6-7 Mark 2:6-7 6 But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why does this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
American King James Version×
).

Responding to the scribes, Jesus said: “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?…But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic—”I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home” (Mark 2:8-11, NRSV).

The scribes knew Jesus was claiming an authority that belonged to God only. Again, the LORD ( YHWH ) is the One pictured in the Old Testament who forgives sin (Jeremiah 31:34 Jeremiah 31:34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, said the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
American King James Version×
).

Christ claimed power to raise the dead

Jesus claimed yet another power that God alone possessed—to raise and judge the dead. Notice His statements in John 5:25-29 John 5:25-29 25 Truly, truly, I say to you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
American King James Version×
:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live…All who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

There was no doubt about what He meant. He added in John 5:21 John 5:21For as the Father raises up the dead, and vivifies them; even so the Son vivifies whom he will.
American King James Version×
,”For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” When Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead, He said to Lazarus’ sister, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25 John 11:25Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
American King James Version×
).

Compare this to 1 Samuel 2:6 1 Samuel 2:6The LORD kills, and makes alive: he brings down to the grave, and brings up.
American King James Version×
, which tells us that “the LORD [ YHWH ] kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.”

Jesus accepted honor and worship

Jesus demonstrated His divinity in yet another way when He said, “All should honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23 John 5:23That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent him.
American King James Version×
). Over and over, Jesus told His disciples to believe in Him as they would believe in God. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1 John 14:1Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus received worship on many occasions without forbidding such acts. A leper worshipped Him (Matthew 8:2 Matthew 8:2And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.
American King James Version×
). A ruler worshipped Him with his plea to raise his daughter from the dead (Matthew 9:18 Matthew 9:18While he spoke these things to them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay your hand on her, and she shall live.
American King James Version×
). When Jesus had stilled the storm, those in the boat worshipped Him as the Son of God (Matthew 14:33 Matthew 14:33Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth you are the Son of God.
American King James Version×
).

A Canaanite woman worshipped Him (Matthew 15:25 Matthew 15:25Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
American King James Version×
). When Jesus met the women who came to His tomb after His resurrection, they worshipped Him, as did His apostles (Matthew 28:9-17 Matthew 28:9-17 9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then said Jesus to them, Be not afraid: go tell my brothers that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. 11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed to the chief priests all the things that were done. 12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money to the soldiers, 13 Saying, Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. 14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. 15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. 16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
American King James Version×
). The demon-possessed man of the Gadarenes, “when He saw Jesus from afar …ran and worshiped Him” (Mark 5:6 Mark 5:6But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
American King James Version×
). The blind man whom Jesus healed in John 9 worshipped Him (John 9:38).

The First and Second of the Ten Commandments forbid worship of anyone or anything other than God (Exodus 20:2-5 Exodus 20:2-5 2 I am the LORD your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
American King James Version×
). Barnabas and Paul were very disturbed when the people of Lystra tried to worship them after their healing of a crippled man (Acts 14:13-15 Acts 14:13-15 13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 15 And saying, Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach to you that you should turn from these vanities to the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
American King James Version×
). In Revelation 22:8-9 Revelation 22:8-9 8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. 9 Then said he to me, See you do it not: for I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
American King James Version×
, when John the apostle fell down to worship the angel, the angel refused to accept worship, saying, “You must not do that!…Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8-9 Revelation 22:8-9 8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. 9 Then said he to me, See you do it not: for I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Yet Jesus accepted worship and did not rebuke those who chose to kneel before Him and worship.

Jesus’ instruction to pray in His name

Jesus not only tells His followers to believe in Him, but that when we pray to the Father, we are to pray in Christ’s name. “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13 John 14:13And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
American King James Version×
). Jesus made it clear that access to the Father is through Him, telling us that “no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
American King James Version×
).

The apostle Paul states of Jesus: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 Philippians 2:9-11 9 Why God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
American King James Version×
).

Paul is telling us that God the Father Himself is upholding the fact that Jesus is God, by exalting His name to the level of the One through whom we make our requests and the One before whom we bow. Jesus also assures us that He will be the One who will give the answer to our prayers (“…that I will do,” John 14:13 John 14:13And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
American King James Version×
).

In so many ways Jesus revealed Himself as the God of the Old Testament. The Jews saw Him do many things that only God would or could do. They heard Him say things about Himself that could only apply to God. They were angered and responded with outrage and charged Him with blasphemy. They were so infuriated by His claims that they wanted to kill Him on the spot.

Jesus’ special relationship with God

Jesus understood Himself to be unique in His close relationship with the Father in that He was the only One who could reveal the Father. “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27 Matthew 11:27All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
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).

Dr. William Lane Craig, an apologist writing in defense of Christian belief, says this verse “tells us that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in an exclusive and absolute sense. Jesus says here that his relationship of sonship to God is unique. And he also claims to be the only one who can reveal the Father to men. In other words, Jesus claims to be the absolute revelation of God” ( Reasonable Faith, 1994, p. 246).

Christ’s claims to hold people’s eternal destiny

On several occasions Jesus asserted that He was the One through whom men and women could attain eternal life. “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40 John 6:40And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
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; compare John 6:47 John 6:47Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me has everlasting life.
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and John 6:54 John 6:54Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
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). He not only says that people must believe in Him, but also that He will be the One to resurrect them at the end. No mere man can take this role.

Dr. Craig adds: “Jesus held that people’s attitudes toward himself would be the determining factor in God’s judgment on the judgment day. ‘Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God’ (Luke 12:8-9 Luke 12:8-9 8 Also I say to you, Whoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: 9 But he that denies me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
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).

“Make no mistake: if Jesus were not the divine son of God, then this claim could only be regarded as the most narrow and objectionable dogmatism. For Jesus is saying that people’s salvation depends on their confession to Jesus himself” (Craig, p. 251).

The conclusion is inescapable: Jesus understood Himself as divine along with the Father and as possessing the right to do things only God has the right to do.

The claim of Jesus’ disciples

Those who personally knew and were taught by Jesus, and who then wrote most of the New Testament, are thoroughly consistent with Jesus’ statements about Himself. His disciples were monotheistic Jews. For them to agree that Jesus was God, and then to give their lives for this belief, tells us that they had come to see for themselves that the claims Jesus made about Himself were so convincing as to leave no doubt in their minds.

The first Gospel writer, Matthew, opens with the story of the virgin birth of Jesus. Matthew comments on this miraculous event with the quote from Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah 7:14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
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, “ ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew 1:23 Matthew 1:23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
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). Matthew is making it clear that he understands that this child is God— “God with us.”

John is likewise explicit in the prologue to his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-14 John 1:1-14 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
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).

Some of them called Him God directly. When Thomas saw His wounds, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 John 20:28And Thomas answered and said to him, My LORD and my God.
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). Paul refers to Jesus in Titus 1:3 Titus 1:3But has in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior;
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and Titus 2:10 as “God our Savior.”

The book of Hebrews is most emphatic that Jesus is God. Hebrews 1:8 Hebrews 1:8But to the Son he said, Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom.
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, applying Psalms 45:6 Psalms 45:6Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of your kingdom is a right scepter.
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to Jesus Christ, states: “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” Other parts of this book explain that Jesus is higher than the angels (Hebrews 1:4-13 Hebrews 1:4-13 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For to which of the angels said he at any time, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he brings in the first-begotten into the world, he said, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he said, Who makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But to the Son he said, Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. 10 And, You, Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of your hands: 11 They shall perish; but you remain; and they all shall wax old as does a garment; 12 And as a clothing shall you fold them up, and they shall be changed: but you are the same, and your years shall not fail. 13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool?
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), superior to Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6 Hebrews 3:1-6 1 Why, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who has built the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by some man; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses truly was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
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), and greater than the high priests (Hebrews 4:14-5 Hebrews 4:14-5
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:10). He is greater than all these because He is God.

He left us no middle ground

The renowned Christian writer C.S. Lewis observes: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m 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 …

“You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” ( Mere Christianity, 1996, p. 56).