This is perhaps a common question that people may ask when reading the New Testament, especially if they are not familiar with the Old.  Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate; God the Son; the third Person of the Trinity.  The Bible clearly teaches this.  But where in the Gospels does Jesus Himself specifically make the claim that He is God?  At first glance, it may appear that He never does so; He certainly never says the exact phrase “I am God”.

It is important for Christians to be confident and prepared to give an answer to this question, because Jesus absolutely does make this claim; many times, and in many ways.  If a sincere seeker of truth asks us where Jesus claims to be God, it is important for us to be able to give them an answer to help them along on their journey towards the truth.

What you will notice very quickly is that many of Jesus’ claims to be God are linked in to the teaching of the Old Testament.  This is just one reason why the Old Testament, even in the days of the New Covenant, remains vital.[1]  The Old Testament is just as much the Word of God as the New, and indeed the Old Testament is essential in gaining a full, rich understanding of the New.

I must credit Nabeel Qureshi, and his book No God But One [2], from which some of this material is based.

Calming the Storm

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but [Jesus] was asleep.  And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”  And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”  Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men marvelled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27).

This is a famous account of a miracle that Jesus performed; the calming of the storm (see also Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25).  But this was much more than just a miracle and a demonstration of His power.  It was also a proof that He was God, direct from Scripture.  We read in Psalm 107:

For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,

    which lifted up the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;

    their courage melted away in their evil plight;

they reeled and staggered like drunken men

    and were at their wits’ end.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

    and he delivered them from their distress.

He made the storm be still,

    and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,

    and he brought them to their desired haven (Psalm 107:25-30).

Forgiving Sins

And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?   Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:3-12).

Jesus demonstrates many times throughout the Gospels that He has the power to heal sickness and cast demons out of people, but here, He announces something different, and something far more significant; that He has the authority to forgive the sins of men (See also Matthew 9:1-8 and Luke 5:17-26).

Psalm 103 says:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

    and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

    who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:2-5).

The doubting scribes are correct in stating that only God can forgive sins; for anyone else to make this claim would have been blasphemy.  But they are blind to the truth that Jesus can indeed make this claim, because He is God.

The miraculous healing of the paralytic proves Jesus’ authority, and causes the crowd to glorify God, but presumably it does nothing to soften the hearts of the doubting scribes.  For them, like for so many doubters and scoffers, no sign will be enough to convince them.  For this reason, elsewhere Jesus states: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4).[3]

The Son of Man

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need?  You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death (Mark 14:61-64).

Here, Jesus is identifying Himself as the Son of Man from Daniel’s vision:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Further, Jesus is identifying Himself as the messianic Lord of David, from Psalm 110:

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Psalm 110:1).

As Nabeel Qureshi explains, “sitting at the right hand of God… implied sitting on the very throne of God, and it was tantamount to claiming to be… someone who shared sovereignty with God”.[4]

A few days earlier, before His arrest, Jesus also questions the Pharisees about Psalm 110:1:

Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”  He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?  If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions (Matthew 22:41-46).[5]

We note the response of the high priest in Mark 14:63-64; the Jewish authorities understood exactly what Jesus was saying to them; that He was claiming to be God.

Lord of the Sabbath

And he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5).

By stating that He is Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is making a very big claim.  The fourth of the Ten Commandments reads:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

By claiming to be the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is identifying Himself as the God who delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses.  From the passage in Exodus, we can also see that this identifies Jesus as the One who made heaven and earth and all that is in them (see also Hebrews 1:1-2).

In John’s Gospel, we also read the account of Jesus, on the Sabbath, healing a man who had been an invalid for decades.  As He does with the paralytic in Mark 2:3-12, Jesus tells the man to “Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8).  The Pharisees, seeing the man carrying his mat, object, accusing him of breaking Sabbath laws.[6]  They demand to know who told the man to pick up his mat, but Jesus has slipped away from the crowd:

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”  The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.  And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.  But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”  This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:14-18).

Before Abraham was, I am

[Jesus] said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:23-24).

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’  But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple (John 8:54-59).

In these passages, Jesus is identifying himself as “I AM”; the God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush:

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:13-15).

Once more, the Jews were in no doubt about what Jesus had said; they knew He was claiming to be God, and so they picked up stones to stone Him for blasphemy (as per Leviticus 24:16).  Indeed, for anyone else to say what He had said would have been blasphemy, and deserving of such a punishment.  But as Jesus is God, He alone can rightly make this claim.  As His time had not yet come, He vanished from their sight and slipped away.

Jesus and the Father are One

[Jesus answered them]… “I and the Father are one.”  The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.  Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”  The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God” (John 10:30-33).

Once more, an angry crowd picks up stones to stone Jesus; they understand fully that He has claimed to be God.  Once again, however, He escapes from their clutches, because it is not yet time.

Whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves (John 14:6-11).

In this passage, not only is Jesus claiming to be the only way to God, but He is also claiming that if anyone has seen Him, they have seen the Father.  As with the passage in John 10:30-33, Jesus’ words leave no doubt that He is claiming to be God Himself.

Thomas’ Faith

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:26-29).

This account takes place after Jesus’ resurrection, which has proved that all He has said about Himself is true.  It is notable in that Jesus claims to be God by what He does not say.  Thomas specifically calls Him “Lord” and “God”, but Jesus does not rebuke him for this.  If Jesus were not God, this would have been the perfect opportunity to correct the disciples in their understanding.  But, of course, Jesus does not do so, because Thomas has declared the truth about who He is; Jesus is both Lord and God.

I hope this article (while not providing a comprehensive account of every instance Jesus identifies Himself as God) has been both interesting and useful in equipping you to better understanding the Scriptures, and what Jesus tells us about Himself.

[1] Any teaching which seeks to minimise the importance of the Old Testament for Christians today is false and dangerous; we need the whole Bible; Old and New Testaments.

[2] Nabeel Qureshi, No God But One (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016).

[3] Jesus is referring to His death and resurrection.

[4] Qureshi, No God But One, pp.219-220.

[5] See also Luke 20:41-44.

[6] It is important to note that there is nothing in the Old Testament that prohibits carrying a mat on the Sabbath.  The laws the man is accused of breaking are the later, legalistic rules laid down by the Jewish authorities, specifically in this case as found in Mishnah, Shabbat 7.2.  [Cited in: Andreas J. Köstenberger, ‘The Gospel According to John’, in the ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), p.2031.]  According to Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activities_prohibited_on_Shabbat), Mishnah, Shabbat 7.2 prohibits “Transferring something from one domain type to another domain type,” as this is considered ‘work’.

Categories: FaithTheology

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