Did Jesus Claim to be God?
By Pastor Tom Anderson
Many New Age thinkers consider Jesus to be an enlightened teacher but not God. In 1996 a group of Biblical scholars called the “Jesus Seminar” held a vote and decided that Jesus was not God. This position is the consensus of progressive theology today. The notion that Jesus is God is dismissed as a product of the imagination of the later church.
Let’s survey the evidence that Jesus did indeed claim to be God.
The writings of the first Christians--such as Paul and Peter--demonstrate that they proclaimed Jesus as God. Less than twenty years from the death of Jesus, Paul says, “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation...in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” Hebrews begins, “Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
In the gospels themselves, Jesus spoke in ways that an audience of first century Jews unmistakably heard his claim to be God. John 5:18 states, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because...he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” Jesus claimed the divine authority to forgive sins; authority over the Sabbath and all the laws of Moses. Jesus announced that he himself would judge the world; that he came down from heaven, that he was older than Abraham and that he pre-existed creation. Jesus took upon himself the divine name, “I Am”; demonstrated power over nature, even death itself. He accepted the worship of Thomas who said “You are my Lord and my God.”
Why do people have difficulty in acknowledging Jesus’ claim to be God? There are two reasons: 1) Many have pre-determined ideas about God and they can’t fit Jesus into them and 2) Many have pre-determined ideas about Jesus and they can’t fit God into him. But Jesus came to define God for us. No other religion makes the claim that God has come to us. The challenge of the gospel is to rethink our ideas about God in light of Jesus.
The cross is not just about sin. It is a statement about the nature of God. God has actually entered into the suffering of the world. He is present in the pain of the human condition. No other religion has this idea of a God in the flesh who suffers with us. Jesus blows up preconceptions of God as some distant higher power who needs to be approached with care or the right techniques.
Jesus claimed to be the only way to know God. “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus will not let us fit him into our preconceptions. To the atheist he declares God is real. To the agnostic he declares that God can be known. To the polytheist he declares that God is one. To the rationalist, he declares that God is Trinity. But most importantly he declares that God is love. No other religion offers such a statement.
Everything we think about God that isn’t centered on Jesus is misguided and will lead us astray. Will you look to Him? The New Testament is adamant that humans cannot save themselves and that only Jesus can. The salvation of Jesus is not just about rescuing individual souls from hell but in fact it is about transforming the entire world into a Kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy. No other religion holds out such a promise.
The question remains for our generation: will we let Jesus transform our ideas about God and our vision of human destiny?