The Identity Evidence

Who Did Jesus Claim to Be?

Who Did Jesus Claim to Be?
  • "The question of what Jesus thought about himself is a critical issue. Some professors maintain that the myth of Jesus’ deity was superimposed on the Jesus tradition by overzealous supporters years after his death. The real Jesus these professors believe, would roll over in his grave if he knew people were worshipping him. If you strip away the legends and go back to the earliest material about him, they say you’ll find he never aspired to be anything more than an itinerant teacher and occasional rabble-rouser" (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, p.176)
  • But is the evidence of history on their side?
  • If we want to figure out whether Jesus thought he was the Messiah or Son of God – or merely considered himself to be a rabbi or prophet – we need to look at:
    • What he did
    • What he said
    • How he related to others
The Word was God
  • Before we examine what Jesus said and did concerning his identity, we should note that Jesus’ biographers (the authors of the four Gospels) did indeed view Jesus as God come in human flesh.
  • At the same time the Gospel writers also clearly portrayed Jesus’ distinctness from other the other two members of (what later in church history came to be called) the Trinity.
  • John, the Gospel writer who was closer to Jesus than any of the others (“the disciple whom Jesus loved”), opens his gospel with this description of Jesus:
    • In the beginning was the Word [= Jesus, see verse 14], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1, NIV)

    John in this one verse tells us that Jesus (the Word):

    • Was with (therefore distinct from) God
    • Was God.
Son of God?
  • Many (such as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses”) will tell us: “Jesus never claimed to be God, he only claimed to be the Son of God.”
  • Those who make this claim fail to recognize that in Jesus’ day, a son was considered equal in power and authority to his father. So by claiming to be the Son of God, Jesus wasn’t denying his equality with the Father, he was asserting it! The Jews of Jesus’ day understood this all too well:
  • Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:17- 18, NIV)

  • Jesus answered . . . “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 5:25- 33, NIV)

  • By referring to himself as the Son of God, Jesus was teaching his distinctness from and yet his equality with the Father. Jesus was, in fact affirming his role in the Trinity.
Son of Man?
  • Karen Armstong, the former nun who wrote the best-seller A History of God, said it seems that the term “Son of Man” “simply stressed the weakness and mortality of the human condition,” so by using it Jesus was merely emphasizing that “he was a frail human being who would one day suffer and die.” (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, p.75)
  • Contrary to popular belief, “Son of Man” does not primarily refer to Jesus’ humanity. The term is a direct allusion to Daniel 7:13-14
  • 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. (Daniel 7:13-14, NIV)

  • For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27, NIV)

  • Here we see the “Son of Man” is someone who approaches God himself in his heavenly throne room and is given universal authority and dominion. Thus, in effect, the claim to be the “Son of Man” was in effect a claim to divinity.
Jesus Received Worship as God
  • Jesus affirms the Old Testament teaching that only God and God alone is to receive worship
  • Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'“ (Matthew 4:10)
  • Jesus received worship as God and accepted it.
  • A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." (Matthew 8:2)
  • Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. (John 9:38)
  • Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." (Matthew 14:33)
  • Jesus stands in sharp contrast to others who refuse worship.
  • The centurion Cornelius fell at the feet of Peter and “worshipped him” and Peter reproved him saying, "Stand up, I am only a man myself.“ (Acts 10:25-26)
  • John fell at the feet of an angel in the book of Revelation to “worship him” and the angel said to John, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10)

Jesus is Jehovah

Of Jehovah

Mutual Title or Act

Of Jesus

Is. 40:28


John 1:3

Is 45:22; 43:11


John 4:42

1Sam 2:6

Raise Dead

John 5:21



John 5:27, cf. Mat. 25:31-46

Is. 60:19-20


John 8:12

Ex 3:14

I Am

John 8:58, cf. 18:5-6

Ps. 23:1


John 10:11

Is. 42:8 cf. 48:11

Glory of God

John 17:1,5

Is. 41:4; 44:6

First and Last

Rev. 1:17; 2:8

Hosea 13:14


Rev. 5:9

Is. 62:5; Hosea 2:16


Rev 21:2, cf. Mat. 25:1ff

Ps. 18:2


1Cor. 10:4

Jer. 31:34

Forgiver of Sins

Mark 2:7, 10

Ps. 148:2

Worshipped by Angels

Heb. 1:6

Throughout O.T.

Addressed in Prayer

Acts 7:59

Ps. 148:5

Creator of Angels

Col. 1:16

Is. 45:23

Confessed as Lord

Phil. 2:11


Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?

Who was Jesus?

  • I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claims to be God.” That is one thing we must not say. 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 . . . Or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a mad-man 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. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.55-56)
  • "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15)