Jesus said quite a few odd things about Himself. He said that if you’ve seen Him then you’ve seen the Father, that He existed before Abraham, that He can forgive sins, that He is the source of salvation, that He was unique in His relationship to the Father, and that He was equal with the Father. He also used many powerful titles for Himself, and in a couple of places even refers to Himself with the divine title “I AM”. His divinity claims were so obvious to the people who were present that they picked up stones to stone Him to death for blasphemy. Once evaluating this evidence, it seems clear that Jesus referred to Himself in ways that show He did in fact consider Himself to be God.
Jesus’ relationship with the Father
Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus talking about God as His “Father”, which might not seem odd to us, since many people today use this kind of language. However, the way Jesus spoke about the Father is often very unique, as if He was trying to tell people something about who He is. You might ask why Jesus wasn’t direct, simply stating His divinity outright, but as I’ve mentioned in a previous article “Jesus told the Sanhedrin that He is divine”, Jesus deliberately avoided being direct, and even told His disciples so. His reasoning for this was that people who want to disbelieve won’t believe, but He will say just enough so that people who want to have faith will be able to reasonably have faith.
You have likely heard of “the Lord’s Prayer”, which opens with “our Father who art in heaven”. You’ll notice that Jesus told His disciples to refer to God as “our” Father, treating God the Father as being the Father of humanity in a collective kind of way. However, when Jesus referred to the Father Himself, He would say things like “my” Father, in an individualistic sense, rather than a collective sense. Jesus referred to God the Father in a unique way that others wouldn’t have dared. His overall point in doing this seems to be that He was saying there was something unique about His relationship to the Father.
The best example of this that we find in Scripture is found in John 5:17-19, where Jesus says “My Father is working until now, and I am working”. It goes on to say that when Jesus spoke this way, the Jews actually wanted to kill Him. It also clarifies that they wanted to kill Him specifically because He was making Himself equal with God. In our context we might think it’s not a big deal that Jesus called God His Father, but the Jews who were present understood what He was saying, and it was a big deal. Jesus was making a claim that His relationship to God the Father was in some way special, and the people considered this to be an insult against God.
To elaborate on this idea of Jesus being the Son of God in a unique way that others are not, we can look at when Jesus is called the “only begotten” Son of God (John 3:16). Some people, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, use this to try and prove that Jesus was a created being, since He was “begotten”, and thus cannot be God. However, the point of this word (“monogene” in Greek) is to describe the unique relationship between the two, rather than to say the thing was created. As an example of this point, we can look at Hebrews 11:17-19, which says that Isaac was the “monogene” son of Abraham. Some translations word this as being the “one and only” son, and others say Isaac was the “only begotten” son. However, Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s only child! Abraham also had Ishmael. The point of using this word was to express that Isaac was the “unique” or “special” son of Abraham, in the sense that he received the birth right blessing, and the prophecies would be fulfilled through him.
So when we look at Jesus being called the “monogene” Son of God, it confirms what we already saw in how Jesus referred to Himself; Jesus considered Himself unique in His relationship to God the Father.
Jesus claimed equality with the Father
For every human person, God is so far beyond us, that for us to consider ourselves to be “equals” with God is quite literally blasphemous. However, Jesus said things that inferred He believed He and the Father were equals. To begin, Jesus said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), as though Jesus somehow represented the Father. We also see a really extreme statement from Jesus in John 17:5, where He said, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” If Jesus is not God, this is an extremely blasphemous statement! Jesus was saying that He should be glorified along with God the Father, and that He had this glory with the Father, even before the creation of the world. It goes without saying that no one shares in God’s glory. Additionally, Jesus was saying that He existed with the Father before anything else existed. A similar claim to this was made by Jesus in John 8:58 where Jesus says He existed before Abraham, which means that Jesus somehow existed before He was born. In these passages we see Jesus claiming pre-existence, having the glory of God, and being equal with God.
Jesus made another very powerful and strange comment when He said, “I and my Father are one”, in reference to God (John 10:30-33). When Jesus said this, once again, the Jews who were present wanted to kill Him. Jesus then challenges them on this, asking why they’re going to try and stone Him to death. What was their response? They tell Jesus they want to kill Him “for blasphemy, and because You, being a man, make Yourself God.”Notice here how extreme of an accusation this is; they were accusing Jesus of making Himself to be God. Once again, the audience that was present for Jesus’ words understood what He was saying. If Jesus wasn’t actually trying to make Himself out to be God, He could have very easily corrected their misunderstanding. Additionally, if that’s not what Jesus was saying, he should have corrected them, because a righteous man wouldn’t want to be falsely accused of something so horrible as blasphemy. Why didn’t Jesus correct them? Because they had an accurate understanding of what Jesus was trying to say; when Jesus said “I and my Father are one”, He was telling them He is God.
Jesus said He can forgive sins
Another way to evaluate what Jesus thought of Himself is to look at the titles that Jesus used to refer to Himself. There is a list of names for Jesus, referred to as “the seven I am statements”. If interested, check out the article I wrote on those statements found here “The Titles Jesus Gave Himself”. The basic point behind these statements is that Jesus was saying that He is the way to salvation. That might not sound too important, but there’s a valuable clarification to make. Jesus wasn’t merely a prophet or angel who was pointing to salvation, or telling people how to get closer to God, or giving any other type of instruction. Jesus was saying that He, as a person, is the means to which we are saved. He is the power that allows us humans to have salvation. That’s a far more intense claim to be making. Scripture says salvation only comes from God (Psalm 68:19; Micah 7:7; Isaiah 12:2; Jonah 2:9; and many others). For Jesus to be very deliberate and obvious, saying many times that He is the source of salvation, is another way that He claimed to be God.
If that isn’t obvious enough to show that Jesus considered Himself to be God, who is the savior of humanity, Jesus even went so far as to say that He can forgive sins (which is the nature of salvation from God). This is found in the story where Jesus heals the paralytic man who is lowered down through the roof (Mat 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Lu 5:17-26). In this story, Jesus meets the paralytic man and tells him his sins are forgiven. Jesus then realizes that the religious leaders are judging Him, because only God is able to forgive sins, so they think Jesus is saying something blasphemous (you should notice a trend here where Jesus makes claims about Himself, and people accuse Him of blaspheming). Jesus then responds to this judgment by telling everyone present that He would prove He has the power to forgive sins by healing the man, which He then does. Again, the religious rulers thought Jesus wasn’t God, so for Jesus to say He can forgive sins must be blasphemous. Jesus doesn’t correct them in any way, but instead, He proves that what He’s saying is accurate.
He doesn’t back away from the charge that He is considering Himself to be God, and instead, He drives the point home by proving that He has the power of God to forgive sins.
But what exactly did Jesus “mean” by these statements?
As I’ve shown a few times here, the Jews who were present understood many of the things Jesus said to be blasphemous, that He was claiming equality with God, and even that Jesus was making Himself God. This was the entire reason that the religious leaders eventually got Jesus crucified (Mat 26:62-65; Mark 14:61; Luke 22:70-71; also see John 10:31-39). If we want to understand what someone meant when they said something, the best way to do this is to look at how it was interpreted by the immediate audience.
In this case, the immediate audience absolutely understood that Jesus was claiming to be divine, and Jesus not only didn’t correct them, but He confirmed it, making His divinity claim even more obvious.
Even though these statements Jesus made about Himself seem quite clear, there are still different types of interpretations of what Jesus said (like how Muslims or Jehovah’s Witnesses accept the words of Jesus, but deny that Jesus is God). In order to figure out what exactly Jesus meant by these statements, we should understand how the original audience understood what Jesus said. In these cases, the original audience understood Jesus to be “making Himself God”, and not only did Jesus do nothing to correct that (which would have been easy for Him to do), but He continued to make claims that infer His divinity. Because of this they kept getting angrier and angrier until they finally arrested Him for this “blasphemy”, and during the trial Jesus even admitted that He is the Son of God (Mark 14:61-62). If Jesus wasn’t making divinity claims, and He knew that’s how people were understanding it, why would He deliberately allow people to continue to believe false things about Him? Personally, I think it’s obvious that Jesus allowed people to think He was “making Himself God” because that’s exactly what He was doing. That’s why He made such strong statements about who He is, and His purpose on earth. When we look at what Jesus said, and how it was interpreted, the logical conclusion is that Jesus considered Himself to be divine, and He said this quite openly, even though He knew the Jews would kill Him for it.
This article is a part of a series of arguments on the deity of Christ. Here is the full list of arguments: