About a year after Christ coming to me, during the summer before my freshmen year in college, I found myself on a short term mission trip to Hawaii (I know pity me). During a bus ride in Oahu a few in our group struck up a polite conversation with an outgoing group of college aged girls. When the dialogue turned to why we were there the discussion turned to spiritual matters. One girl claimed boldly:
“Jesus never once claimed to be the Son of God”
A leader in our group then brought up Matthew 16. In that passage Jesus asks Peter “Who do you say I am?” Peter responds “You are the Messiah, Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus in turn responds to Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in Heaven.”
I thought to myself, well that is a strange way for Christ to NOT claim divine Sonship. If He weren’t the Son of God He should have rejected Peter’s confession. But instead Christ not only calls Peter “Blessed!” he says in effect, “This is not fabricated in your own mind, rather it is a revelation from God Himself.”
If I asked a student in my math class, “Who do you say I am?” and he/she responds “The very Son of God.” How certifiably crazy would it be for me, merely a man and math teacher, to refute that by saying: “Blessed are you, for God Himself has revealed and confirmed that to you!”
A few months later into my freshmen year of college I found myself conversing with a pleasant group of Jehovah Witnesses. One of the proof texts JW’s use (and skeptics in general) to prove Christ denied His own deity is Mark 10:18, where Christ responds to the inquiring young ruler:
“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God.”
Apparently to some Jesus was not only calling Himself not God here, he was also calling Himself not good. But He is clearly doing neither (Christ calls Himself the “Good Shepherd” in John 10:11). Read the context of the story all the way through. It is a bit ridiculous for Christ to command the Rich Young Ruler to forsake everything and follow Him in obedience in verse 21 if He just called Himself not good. To the contrary, Christ is teaching by questioning as He commonly does. By this question Jesus is actually inviting the prideful man to consider the fullness of who He really was. The young man initially calls Christ “good teacher”, yet the chap clearly doesn’t affirm His deity. Christ is in effect saying, don’t call me “good” unless you’re ready to accept the full implications of such a claim. I’ll show you how good I am when you make me Lord of your life and forsake everything holding you back from believing on me (Mark 10:21) Mark 10:18-21 shows that both goodness and God-ness dwell in the person of Christ. Unfortunately, it is clear the only goodness the young man affirmed was his own inherent goodness (10:19).
This shows that Christ doesn’t just want to be called a mere “good teacher”, He wants to be the absolute sovereign Lord over our whole lives (another claim to deity).
To The Ancient Jewish Ear He Claimed Deity
A casual reader of Scripture would concede that the firsthand followers of Christ claimed Him divine (like John in John 1:1, or the skeptic Thomas in John 20:28). Even God Himself claims the Son to be “God” in Hebrews 1:8 (there is no greater endorsement than that!). But skeptics of the doctrine want Christ to literally have said “I am God.” Well, interestingly He doesn’t say “I am Jewish” or “I am man” either. He also never said “I am actually the archangel Michael” (as JW’s do) or “I am actually a manifestation of the pagan myth of Mithra-ism” (as skeptics do). So I’m glad He cleared those modern day claims up for us too, right?
Actually, Christ still claimed deity, and He did it in a way that would have left no wiggle room of objection for those listening.
In reality, even the uneducated peasants and fishermen of Israel knew exactly what Christ was claiming; and He didn’t keep it much of a secret at all.
I would say in terms of ancient Jewish law, the charge of blasphemy (claiming himself to be equal to God) was one of the very reasons Jesus Christ was put to the Roman cross. The Jews had no moral or legal grounds to charge Him with, save for that one claim.
For example in John 10, Christ says: “I and the Father are one.” The leaders of the Jews were ready to kill Him right there. Why? “Because you,” they said, “a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).
It’s interesting that Christ never rebukes them of this charge though it comes up again and again in the gospels.
On another occasion (this may be the most scandalous one), Christ used the personal name of Israel’s God–the sacred name revealed to Moses (“I AM that I AM” in Exodus 3:14)–to refer to Himself. And He even used the Torah for context, so no one would misunderstand Him. Christ said: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). Not only is Christ claiming to pre-exist the ancestral father of the Jewish nation, He is claiming equal divinity with the God of Israel, the Lord of heaven and earth. The utterly shocked Jewish leaders knew exactly what He was claiming, because after bowing in reverence to the personal holy name of God, they then “took up stones to kill Him” (John 8:59)
This would be about as crazy as telling a Muslim, “I am your God, Allah.”
Again, Jesus never rebukes the charge of blasphemy.
“Son Of Man” Is a Claim To Deity
Jesus claimed to be the “Son of Man” numerous times in the gospels which was a claim to deity itself (Matt 26:63-64) . Son of Man is an OT reference that comes from Daniel 7:13-14, just read the insane implications of Christ’s deity from that reference :
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Jesus says He was the One given this authority, glory, and sovereign power in this Old Testament verse, and the Jews of the day, even the common man knew what “Son of Man” meant: He was identifying Himself as the divine Messiah figure of Daniel 7.
Consider the case before the Sanhedrin high court, where Jesus is being questioned right before His execution (Mark 14:60-63)
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy.”
The High priest and everyone in attendance knew what Christ was claiming. Christ’s message about His own divinity is clear and simple in the gospels. Those who would persist otherwise have revealed they would rather cherish a lie than find truth.
This isn’t really even the tip of the iceberg
We could go on all day with Christ’s divine claims. On top of regularly receiving public worship and never rebuking the people for it (Luke 5:20-24) Jesus also personally claimed:
He is the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28) Blasphemous!
He is “Living Water” (John 7:38) Blasphemous!
He is “The Bread Of Life” (John 6:35) Blasphemous!
He is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life” (John 14:6) Blasphemous!
He has God’s authority to “forgives sins” (Mark 2:10) Blasphemous!
He is “The resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) Blasphemous!
One of His more audacious prophetic claims to deity that Christ made was that though man may destroy His body “in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) What mere man promises to raise Himself from the dead? And most importantly, He made good on that promise (post forthcoming as to why I believe that).
Either this was a deluded blasphemous insane schizoid or lying possessed demoniac…OR He was who He said He was: The divine Son of God. There is nothing “good” or “moral” about making such claims if they are all patently untrue. I’ll defer to the words of the indispensable CS Lewis in conclusion:
“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 the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take 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 patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”