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Did Jesus Claim to Be God?

We're told so many times in Sunday School that Jesus was the son of God, but did he really say that? Hank Hanegraaff, Doug Bookman and other theologians look at what the Bible genuinely says about Jesus' claims and how they apply to our lives today.

Christianity.com
Updated Feb 14, 2024
Did Jesus Claim to Be God?

First, Jesus claimed to be the unique Son of God. As a result, the Jewish leaders tried to kill Him because in "calling God his own Father, [Jesus was] making himself equal with God" (John 5:18 NIV). In John 8:58 Jesus went so far as to use the very words by which God revealed Himself to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). To the Jews this was the epitome of blasphemy, for they knew that in doing so Jesus was clearly claiming to be God. On yet another occasion, Jesus explicitly told the Jews: "'I and the Father are one.' Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' 'We are not stoning you for any of these,' replied the Jews, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God'" (John 10:30-33).

Furthermore, Jesus made an unmistakable claim to deity before the Chief Priests and the whole Sanhedrin. Caiaphas the High Priest asked him: "'Are you the Christ, 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'" (Mark 14:61-62 NIV). A biblically illiterate person might well have missed the import of Jesus' words. Caiaphas and the Council, however, did not. They knew that in saying he was "the Son of Man" who would come "on the clouds of heaven" he was making an overt reference to the Son of Man in Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 7:13-14). In doing so, He was not only claiming to be the preexistent Sovereign of the Universe but also prophesying that He would vindicate His claim by judging the very court that was now condemning Him. Moreover, by combining Daniel's prophecy with David's proclamation in Psalm 110, Jesus was claiming that He would sit upon the throne of Israel's God and share God's very glory. To students of the Old Testament this was the height of "blasphemy," thus "they all condemned him as worthy of death" (Mark 14:64-65).

Finally, Jesus claimed to possess the very attributes of God. For example, He claimed omniscience by telling Peter, "This very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times" (Matthew 26:34); declared omnipotence by not only resurrecting Lazarus (John 11:43) but by raising Himself from the dead (see John 2:19); and professed omnipresence by promising He would be with His disciples "to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). Not only so, but Jesus said to the paralytic in Luke 5:20, "Friend, your sins are forgiven". In doing so, He claimed a prerogative reserved for God alone. In addition, when Thomas worshiped Jesus saying "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), Jesus responded with commendation rather than condemnation.

Taken from "Did Jesus Claim to Be God?" by Hank Hanegraff (used by permission).

How Did Claiming to be the Son of God Make Jesus Equal with God?

Doug Bookman explains in one of his sermons how claiming to be the son of God meant claiming to be divine:

The phrase that is used again and again in the Bible is "Son of the Living God." Folks, it may be somewhere in your head, you're saying, "Well, wait a minute, son of God, is that the same as God?" You bet. Let me just say this: When you are reading the Bible, learn to read it in terms of the culture in which it was written. That's a Jewish culture. It's an Old Testament culture to you and me, because we are Greek thinkers. Son means first-generation male offspring, right? So the son is produced by the father. Here's an interesting thing In Hebrew culture. In Jewish culture . . . when you bear a male child, a family bears a male child, you would not refer to that boy as your son . . . Because there is a ceremony at which your boy becomes your son, honest to goodness. And you know [about it], it's called a bar mitzvah. Now the point is simply this: that when (here's a scary thought) when your boy is made a son, he becomes your equal. That is so big, so big in Jewish thought. When your son, boy is initiated to adulthood, more anything else, what's at stake is that he becomes your equal. . .

All throughout the scriptures, the word son is used to meet equal. Judas, is called the Son of Perdition. That got something to do with his parents? See the point? It means he's bound for perdition. He's one with perdition. Eli, the wicked priest, or the careless priest in the Old Testament had two sons, Hophni and Phineas, who were called "sons of Bilial." Remember that phrase? And Bilial means worthlessness. Now the point is, they were just worthless. They were just one with worthlessness again and again in the most spontaneous ways. When David is—remember when David is hiding his sin? And Nathan comes and tells him the story about the man with the one ewe lamb and so on. And David is so enraged and he says, "bring that man in here." Of course, it's an imaginary man. But the point is, he says, "bring that man in here," and this is what the English says: "As the Lord lives, he shall surely die." But this is what the Hebrew says: "As the Lord lives, he is the son of death now," in the most spontaneous ways.

And that's why when Jesus claimed to be the son of God, everybody who heard him understood him to be making himself equal with God. That's the phrase in John 15.

Taken from "Son of the Living God" published on Christianity.com on August 5, 2010.

Bookman gives a fuller explanation of these points in this video interview:

When Did Jesus Disciples Believe He Was the Son of God?

After two and a half years and Israel absolutely rejected Jesus' claims, Jesus began to move toward the cross. In that last year, I like to call private preparation. You see it on your chart there because during that last year, Jesus all of a sudden changes his tactics remarkably. And rather than going to where the Jews are, he is a non-Jewish territory. He's in Syrophoenicia, he's in the Decapolis. And we're saying, what's he doing there? And he refuses to do miracles. Have you ever noticed how sometimes in the gospels Jesus does miracles and says, "Go tell everybody," when other times he says, "Don't tell anybody." There's your answer right there. There was a season in Jesus' ministry when he was trying to avoid crowds. He was trying to get alone with his disciples because he had to prepare them for his coming death.

But the point is, in the interest of that, he took him to a place called Caesarea Philippi. Remember this in Matthew 16, and he got his disciples alone and he said, "Whom do men say that I am?" and so on. Then he said, "whom do you say that I am?"

And what did Peter say? And speaking for the disciples, "Whom do you say that I am?"

What?

"Thou art the Christ." That's Messiah. Christos Masiah. "Thou art to Christ, the Son of the living God." That's what Jesus claimed.

Now, my point is . . . I think Peter must have choked those words out of his throat. Honest to goodness, I think Peter must have stood there and said to himself, "Here I am, a Jew. I know I worship a God who is first of all holy and holy means separate or transcendent. And he is not part of this creation. He is not a man. But here is this one standing before me who claims to be God come in the flesh. And I have traveled with him. I have listened to him. I have taken his claims and measured them against the Old Testament. I have seen him do his miracles. I have done miracles in His name, and I have to bow the knee to this unspeakably difficult claim." And so I think Peter stands there and says, "thou art the Christ," [he's thinking], "That's a little easier. I can go with that. But thou art the . . . Son of the living God. You're one with God."

So my point is, for two and a half years, Jesus, everywhere he goes, he makes those two claims. They become formulaic. As I say, when Jesus says, "Whom do you say that I am?" "Thou art the Christ, the Son of living God." When Jesus appears to raise Lazarus from the dead, we'll talk about it in just a minute. And he says to Martha, "Do you believe?" She says very spontaneously, in this sort of emotionally supercharged situation, she says, "Master, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of Living God." Remember that John wrote a gospel in which he said, "these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of living God."

(First published on Christianity.com as "Who Did the Disciples Believe Jesus Was?" by Doug Bookman on August 5, 2010).

What Can We Learn from the Sonship of Jesus?

Jesus’ assertion that He was the Son of God incited fury in the religious leaders. Yet His explanation of all that His Sonship entailed helps us understand how we are to behave as God’s children.

He spoke His Father’s words to the world (John 8:26). Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave us the same assignment. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).

Christ did nothing on His own initiative (John 8:28). Sonship never implies weakness, but it does require surrender to the Father’s authority.

He spoke as the Father taught Him (John 8:28). Christians aren’t to depend on personal instinct but, rather, are to learn and rely on the truth of God’s Word.

Jesus always did what pleased the Father (John 8:29). God’s children no longer live for their own pleasures; rather, they seek the joy and blessings of living in obedience to their Father.

Christ did not pursue His own glory but honored the Father (John 8:49–50, 54). In the same way, we’re to humble ourselves and exalt the Lord in our thoughts and behavior.

He knew His Father and kept His word (John 8:55). Believers have the same privilege of intimacy with God and the same responsibility of obedience to His instructions.

The opportunity for us to be God’s children is possible only because of the faithful obedience of His Son. Christ opened the door for our adoption, showered us with family blessings, and demonstrated how we are to live in the household of faith. Now it is up to us to follow His example.

Taken from “Lessons in Sonship” by In Touch Ministries (used by permission).

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Ryan Rad

Learn more about the meaning and significance behind the Easter holiday and Holy Week celebrations:

What is Lent? and When Does Lent Start?
What is Ash Wednesday? and When is Ash Wednesday?
What is Palm Sunday?
What is Maundy Thursday?
What is Good Friday? and When is Good Friday?
What is Holy Saturday?

What is Easter? and When is Easter Sunday?
Easter Bible Verses
The Resurrection of Jesus 
Easter Prayers

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