One of the most important foundational doctrines of Christianity is the deity of Christ. Because it is so crucial to the truth of Christianity, it ends up being a subject that is hotly debated. This is especially true when a group affirms the New Testament as the Word of God, and yet also wants to deny the deity of Christ (for example, Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses). A complaint that usually comes up in these debates is that Jesus never explicitly said that He was God. After all, if Jesus is God, and this was important for us to know, then you would “think” He would tell His followers. However, much of Jesus’ teachings weren’t explicit and obvious, to the point that Jesus’ disciples even question Him about why He doesn’t say things directly, and instead uses parables (Matthew 13:10-15). Jesus’ point here is that He does speak the truth, but if people don’t want to hear it, then they won’t. The deity of Christ is actually a perfect example of this; Jesus does tell us that He’s God, but He does it indirectly. Because of this, those that don’t want to hear it, won’t.
When we look at what Jesus did say about Himself, we can quickly recognize that the sorts of claims He made could only be true if Jesus was in fact God.
This then becomes a cornerstone to the doctrine of the Trinity, because Jesus is God, and yet He’s not the Father or the Holy Spirit.
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God
A common complaint against arguments for the deity of Christ is that a lot of the points rely on the Gospel of John. Some people say that, since the deity of Christ is only found in John, and nowhere else, and John apparently came much later, then it must be that John’s Gospel is exaggerated, and shouldn’t be treated seriously. However, one of the most powerful verses showing Jesus’ divinity is found in Mark 14:61-64 (with the story also being found in Matthew 26:64). In this passage the high priest asks Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus then responds, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” When he hears this, the high priest tears his clothes, and says that Jesus is obviously blaspheming.
There’s a lot of interesting content in this passage, but first, it’s important to note what the high priest meant when he said “Son of the Blessed”. When we hear this in the 21st century, many automatically assume it’s a reference to Mary. However, no one was referring to Mary in this way during this time, and instead, the “Blessed” is actually God. We see this same story in Luke 22:70, and Luke phrases the question as being, “So You are the Son of God?” The high priest was asking whether Jesus believes He’s the Son of God. This claim was the real reason behind arresting Jesus, and was understood to be blasphemy (Mat 26:62-65; Mark 14:61; Luke 22:70-71; also see John 10:31-39). The reason the high priest even bothers to ask this is because this idea had been circulating among the people (for examples see Luke 1:35; 22:70; John 1:34, 49; 11:27; Mat 8:29; 16:15-17; 27:43, 54). Also, the people in those days understood what Jesus was saying as if He was claiming He was the Son of God (Mat 27:43; John 19:7). And just to solidify the case, in these moments where Jesus is asked whether He is the Son of God, Jesus affirms that they are correct. In other words, Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God. There are also passages like John 10:36 where Jesus referred to moments where He said He is God’s Son, and John 11:4 where He talks about “God’s Son”, with the obvious inference being that this is Him. With all of this combined, in all four Gospels we see evidence of Jesus claiming to be the Son of God, and we see that the complaint brought against Jesus was that He claimed to be God’s Son, and that this was blasphemy.
Therefore, in Mark 14:61-64, Jesus is asked whether He is the Son of God, which is blasphemous (unless it’s true), because the primary charge brought against Jesus was that He was claiming to be God’s Son.
Then, Jesus’ response to this ends up being an even more dramatic expression of His claim to be divine, which is our second point on this passage.
Jesus Claimed to be Fulfilling Prophecy
When the high priest asked Jesus if He is the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus’ affirmation is obviously important, but what He said after that made His divinity claim even more obvious. Jesus said that He was the Son of Man, that He will be seated at the right hand of Power, and that He will come with the clouds of heaven. Each of these statements are very important. Jesus called Himself the “Son of Man” quite often, and this is such an important term that I will write another article just on that topic. But for now, by linking these statements together in His response, Jesus was saying that He is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 7. Jesus refers to Himself as “coming on the clouds of heaven”, which is also found in Daniel 7. In Daniel 7:13-14 the prophecy says that the Son of Man will come to the Ancient of Days (which is God), and that God will give Him honor and a kingdom, so that all the nations will serve Him. It also says that the dominion of the Son of Man will be an everlasting dominion, which won’t pass away or be destroyed. This prophecy is holding the Son of Man in such high regard that it’s basically putting Him as an equal with God. Furthermore, when Jesus says He will come on the clouds of heaven, this was imagery that was only used of divine beings. To this ancient cultural context, the gods are the ones that ride on the clouds.
In Jesus’ response, He also said that He would be seated at the right hand of Power, which is a reference to Psalm 110:1. In this Psalm, David wrote that God (Yahweh) said to David’s Lord (Adonai) that He will sit at God’s right hand, and that God will make His enemies a footstool for Him. By Jesus claiming this passage to be referring to Himself, He was saying that He will be the one to sit at God’s right hand, and that He is David’s Lord, or Adonai. While “Adonai” (the Hebrew word for “Lord”) could be used in an ordinary sense, it was also used as a title for God Himself. The Jews had stopped using the true name of God (Yahweh or YHWH in Hebrew), and instead, would usually use the word “Adonai” when referring to God. Whether it was being used in a common sense, or a divine sense, depended on the surrounding context of when and where it was said. For Jesus to link these two prophecies together, and say that He is the fulfillment, was an absolutely incredible claim.
Jesus was referring to Himself as David’s “Adonai”, while at the same time saying He will ride the clouds of heaven, and that He will have an everlasting kingdom seated at the right hand of Yahweh God. By combining these ideas, He was using “Adonai” in the divine sense to refer to Himself, while also giving divine attributes to Himself.
Combine this with the fact that He was boldly admitting He is the Son of God, and it makes His divinity claim incredibly obvious.
The Response of the High Priest
The last aspect of importance from Mark 14:61-64 is found in the high priest’s response to what Jesus said. After Jesus gave His answer, the high priest tore his clothes (a sign of mourning), and said that Jesus’ blasphemy was obvious to everyone present because of what Jesus had said (Mark 14:63-64). For the high priest to say that Jesus was blaspheming is a crucial point for this passage. Blasphemy is specifically against God. For example, you cannot commit blasphemy against a human. For the high priest to claim that Jesus was blaspheming means he must have understood what Jesus was saying as being an insult against God. As I said earlier, other groups like Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses want to say that Jesus never claimed to be God. If they’re right about that, then what was Jesus saying to warrant being accused of blasphemy? There are actually quite a few places in Scripture where the people who heard Jesus understood Him to be blaspheming (Mat 9:3; 26:65; Mark 2:7; Mark 14:64; Luke 5:21; 22:71; John 5:18; 8:59; 10:30-33; 19:6-7).
When we interpret the Bible, one of the most important parts of the process is to understand how the original author, and the original audience, understood the passage. We are very removed from the context, both in time, location, and culture. So, instead of seeing how “we” understand what Jesus said, it’s crucially important to understand how those who were present understood what Jesus said. As we’ve seen in this passage, Jesus’ immediate audience understood Him to be committing blasphemy. The reason people accused Jesus of blasphemy is because they knew exactly what Jesus was saying; Jesus was claiming to be divine. If this was not Jesus’ intention, then He could have easily corrected them, but He did not. Jesus knew what He was doing, and everyone present knew what He was doing. He was claiming to be divine.
This passage in Mark that we’ve evaluated is just one of the places where Jesus says something quite valuable about His identity. There are many other important passages where Jesus gives us valuable details about exactly what He thought of Himself. You can find more on those passages here “What Jesus thought of Himself” .
What did Jesus think of Himself?
To summarize, the people around Jesus understood Him to be saying He was the Son of God, and Jesus even says this in some places. This claim to be the Son of God is the reason Jesus was crucified. In Mark 14, Jesus not only claims to be the Son of God, but He even says He is the fulfillment of Daniel 7, and Psalm 110. With these passages being combined, Jesus is claiming to be David’s Adonai, that He will sit at God’s right hand to reign over an everlasting kingdom, and that He will ride on the clouds of heaven like God. By combining the title of “Adonai” with these divine attributes, and by His claims to be the Son of God, Jesus was using “Adonai” as a divine title, and thus, was claiming to be divine. This was perfectly understood by everyone present, which is the whole reason Jesus was charged with blasphemy. In other words, Jesus’ opinion of Himself was that He is in fact divine. This is the cornerstone for the doctrine of the Trinity, because Jesus is divine, and yet He is not Father God, which means there must somehow be multiple persons within God.
While Jesus didn’t declare His divinity as directly as we would like, we need to remember that He deliberately spoke this way. As I said at the beginning, if someone does not want to see the truth of what Jesus said, then they won’t. However, if we truly try to understand the words of Christ in this passage, it quickly becomes obvious that He was declaring His divinity. If you can’t see that within this passage, then you should ask yourself whether you’re trying to force your own preconceptions into the text, or if you’re genuinely wanting to discover what Jesus said about Himself.
This article is a part of a series of arguments on the deity of Christ. Here is the full list of arguments: