Did Jesus claim to be God?
Many who deny the deity of Jesus say that he never claimed to be God. It is true that there is no record of Jesus ever saying the words, “I am God,” but many of the things he said were in face assertions of his deity.
For example, there is this statement in his Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
He equated being persecuted for righteousness’ sake for being persecuted for his sake. Only God, the source of all righteousness, could make such a claim. And what about this statement near the end of the sermon?
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?”And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
In saying that he will decide who enters the kingdom he is claiming to be God, just as the Father is.
He claimed to have the authority to forgive sins.
And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:3-7)
The scribes were correct. Only God can forgive sins. Jesus was claiming to be God, and he backed up his claim by what he did next.
And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But 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, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:8-12)
There was one time when Jesus plainly said that he was God.
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:56-58)
To understand the significance of what Jesus said we must look at what God said to Moses in their first encounter.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the 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 forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 3:13-15)
Jesus was declaring that he was the God who spoke to Moses.
Jesus did make one statement which some say was a denial of his deity.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:18,19)
It sounds as if Jesus was telling the ruler he shouldn’t call him good because only God is good, but in fact he didn’t say the ruler was wrong in what he said. He was asking him if he understood. The conversation ended with Jesus again saying he was God.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)
The ruler had asked how to inherit eternal life; Jesus said that the way was to follow him.
When we read the gospels in English it might not always be clear that Jesus said he was God, but those who heard him had no trouble understanding.
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:17,18)