Was Jesus Really God?

Who Do YOU Say He Is?

Many years ago when I was a City administrator, a salesman walked into my office and looked at the crystal Cross on the bookshelf and the prints with the scriptures on the wall. He sat down and said, “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Who do you say I am?’” The salesman then looked at me and said, “Who do YOU say He is?” I told him that Jesus was and is exactly who He said He was. He is God. I understood why this Christian man, who later became a good friend, asked me that. It’s the decisive litmus test of our Christian faith. If we cannot believe that Jesus was who He said He was then, no matter what we call ourselves, we cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ – a “Christian.” 

Mormons, Muslims and Jehovah Witnesses all believe in the person or spirit of Jesus but deny that He was/is God. Today even many pastors and church leaders in the liberal mainline denominations downplay His divinity or reject it altogether. The Presbyterian USA church, ELCA Lutherans, Episcopalians and others have set aside historical Christian teachings to conform their doctrine to the progressive culture of our times and have found that some of what Jesus said and taught are embarrassingly offensive. The problem with Jesus is that if He truly is God, then every one of those offensive teachings must be the Gospel truth. But if we can de-emphasize His divinity and promote His humanity, then we can also ignore Jesus’ mistaken “human” beliefs that there are only two genders and that marriage is intended by God to be between a man and a woman. Genesis 5:2; Matthew 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-8

So, let me ask you the same question that was asked of me. Who do YOU say He is? But before you answer that, perhaps we should fetch our Bible and take a closer look at who Jesus said He was... 

After Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” John 5:18

Jesus said “I and my Father are one” and it was understood by the Jews that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically or claiming to be in unity with God, but was making the statement that He and God were one and the same. That’s why the Jews immediately took up stones to kill Him and Jesus asked “For which of my good works do you stone me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” John 10:30-33

Jesus told the Jews that He had spoken with Abraham who had died many thousands of years ago. The people said, “How can you say you have seen Abraham?” and Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!”  That was as clear as Jesus could have possibly made it and.. “At that point they picked up stones to throw at Him..” John 8:52-59 NLT  Here’s the backstory: In Exodus, Moses had met God in the burning bush and God told Moses His personal name. “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14  When Jesus called Himself “I AM” He was referring to Himself with the personal name of God.

Another time Jesus was talking to the people and said, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM,* you will die in your sins.” John 8:23 NLT Jesus had just made it disturbing clear that their salvation depended on them believing that He was God. Jesus also told them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM He (God)..” John 8:28 NLT  “Then many who heard Him say these things believed in Him.” John 8:30 NLT  (*some Bibles add the words “the one I claim to be” or the word “he” but those are not in the original Greek and were added later by translators)

"Jesus had just made it disturbing clear
 that their salvation depended on them
believing that He was God."

One time there was a group of Pharisees and teachers of the Jewish law listening to Jesus preach. When His disciples brought a paralyzed man to Him, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, ‘Young man, your sins are forgiven.’ But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, ‘Who does He think He is? That's blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” Luke 5:20-21 NLT; Mark 2:5-7

In the Garden of Gethsemane, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, He asked them “‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I AM.’”* The soldiers fell back in astonishment at His answer that He was God. John 18:4–5  (*here also, translations add the word “He” but the original Greek simply was “I AM.”)

Let’s look at some statements Jesus made about Himself that would be outrageous and laughably impossible if He were not God:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35 

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9 Jesus is our salvation! 

“I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:14–15 

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die..” John 11:25-26 Jesus has power over life and death! 

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 Jesus states that He is the exclusive way to God and then He said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” John 14:7 Jesus was telling His disciples that when He is truly known, then He is known to be God, and when they look at Jesus they are seeing God. There is no ambiguity or uncertainty in His statement, His days on earth were coming to an end and He needed to emphasize to His disciples that when they were gazing into the face of Jesus they were looking at God Himself.

John 5:22-23 is one of the troubling verses to those who are religious but agnostic about Jesus. Jesus told the Jewish leaders (who were trying to kill Him for calling Himself God), “..that all should honor (revere, venerate, worship) the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” It is impossible to worship God the Father unless you are also worshiping God the Son – they are one and the same.

Matthew and John were eyewitnesses and recorded the words they heard first-hand from the lips of Jesus. Luke was the biographer who lived with the apostles and Mary and recorded their memories of the teachings of Jesus and the words He used. Mark was the scribe who recorded Peter’s words. If what these disciples wrote about the divinity of Jesus in the Gospels is intentionally or inadvertently false, then there is nothing in the Gospels that is trustworthy. If that were so, then our entire Bible is truly, as the Atheists say, just a book of delusionary and fictitious stories without any meaning.

If it is because of our church’s teachings or our own personal doubts that we question the divinity of Jesus, we need to listen to the eyewitness testimony of His closest disciples, but perhaps even more so, we should give credence to His religious enemies who had no reason to promote or favor Jesus in His claim to be God. It may have been easy for a susceptible crowd of uneducated followers to misunderstand what Jesus was saying about Himself, but the Pharisees, Scribes (lawyers) and Chief Priests were the most learned and intelligent of the Jews and they clearly understood what Jesus was saying. His repeated statements about His divinity to the Jewish leaders had convinced them that He was claiming to be God and they killed Him for that blaspheme. 

But could there be even the slightest possibility that Muslims, other religions and some of today’s liberal Christian churches have it right? Could Jesus have simply been a good, kind, wise and loving human prophet? If I, John Hickman, claimed that I was the great “I AM” (God) using the same words to describe myself that Jesus used to describe Himself, you’d know without any doubt that I was having a psychotic break from reality and urgent medical intervention was necessary. It is clearly stated in scripture that Jesus spoke of Himself as God many times, and yet if that was not true – if He was not actually God – that would be evidence that Jesus was simply a deluded human being with a serious mental illness that we today call Dissociative Identity Disorder. If that’s the case, then we are unable to believe any of this poor man’s deranged rants that directly caused His death upon the cross! 

And if we sincerely believe that Jesus was not God, but was simply a wise and wonderful good teacher, how do we reconcile the fact that, according to the statements Jesus made about Himself, that would be the immutable evidence that our good but delusional teacher was psychotic and suffering from a severe mental disorder that causes abnormal thinking. Would that be a man that we would truly want to listen to, take advice from and follow? 

And if we believe Jesus was just a human being, that means that Christmas and Easter really are just about Santa Claus and a bunny. No human was born to a virgin and no human teacher has ever been raised from the dead. And is it not disingenuous and perhaps even a little creepy to be singing hymns and praise and worship songs as we worship a human man at church? And then we pray in the name of this guy and during Mass or Holy Communion we take the “body and blood” of an ordinary human because he was a “good teacher?” And because we are “Christians,” we sincerely believe that this human dude “Jesus” is the one who saves us and gives us eternal life? Just some things to ponder...

Finally, please join me in prayer that those churches and pastors who are uncomfortable with the divinity of Jesus will repent and return to the historical Biblical doctrines that were once the foundational teachings of their denominations. 

So, back to you and me.. because our faith, religion, spirituality, beliefs and salvation, really do all hang on this one question:

 Who do YOU say He is?

1 comment:

  1. Jesus asked, "Who do you say I am"? He didn't ask the world, He asked His followers. I'm pretty sure this is what you're getting at. Because the answer gets to the core of our earthly purpose, winning souls to Christ! The State of being resolute in our relationship with Christ serves as the greatest magnet to Christianity that exist.