DID JESUS CLAIM TO BE GOD?

cross.pngThere is a common misconception that Jesus did not claim to be God. C.S. Lewis, however, in Mere Christianity (Chapter 3 of Book 2), almost takes for granted the fact that Jesus claimed to be God.

I am trying here to prevent anyone 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 claim to be God. That is the 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 — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — 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 madman 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 (from here)

Why? I can think of three reasons.

  • The Apostles clearly thought Jesus was God, and Jesus did not deny that belief.  John the Baptist made it apparent to some of Apostles (see John 1:35-42) that Jesus was the Messiah.  Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30 and Luke 9:18-20 mark the point where the Apostles manifested that understanding directly to Jesus.
  • The Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy.  In addition to healing the faithful, Jesus forgave their sins.  In these two examples, Matthew 9:1-8 and Mark 2:1-12, Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic man.  In this passage, Luke 7:36-50, Jesus forgives a sinful woman.  The Jews understood that only God can forgive sins.  The Jews knew Jesus either blasphemed or He must be God.  Many of the Jews, particularly their leadership, chose to believe Jesus blasphemed.
  • Jesus actually did claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God.  Even before his crucifixion, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah (see John 10:22-42).   This claim was in fact the “blasphemy” for which the Jews and Gentiles crucified Him.  See Matthew 26:62-67, Mark 14:60-64, Luke 22:66-71, and John 19:1-7.

Why is this important?   Lewis discusses Jesus’ claim of divinity in chapter 3 of Book 2 of Mere Christianity.  Because Jesus claimed to be God, Lewis reached the conclusion that Jesus was either nuts or He is God.

Of course, there is another option. Perhaps the Bible is full of lies. Perhaps Jesus never existed. Perhaps Jesus never performed miracles. Perhaps He never taught the religion that revolutionized our civilization. Perhaps the Romans never persecuted the faithful, just the deluded. Perhaps, even though Jesus never lived, people died refusing to recant their faith in Jesus’ divinity.  Yet all that seems even more unlikely than the possibilities of Jesus’ divinity or madness.

So why do people persist in saying Jesus never claimed to be God.  It seems that that has to do with the reason why Jesus chose to be born as a man, live among humankind, die a horrible death, and experience resurrection.  Jesus does not demand our adoration.  He shows us how to be humble.  Instead of proclaiming to be God and demanding to be treated like God, Jesus taught that we must love both God and each other.  To give us an example, He showed us how to be the servant of both God and man.

When we imagine ourselves with God-like powers, what do we imagine?  Do we perceive ourselves washing the feet of others (John 13:1-17).  Nonetheless, unlike any God we would choose to imagine, Jesus gave us an example of uncompromising  humility.  Finally, in perfect obedience to the Father, He laid down His life for us.  This He explained at the Last Supper.

Matthew 26:26-29 (New International Version)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  (see also Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:14-20)

So He has blessed us more than we know.  The prideful God of our imagination does not exist.  God exists in holiness beyond our expectations or understanding.

If we but look about us, we have confirmation.  Thanks to a God who has scrupulously considered every detail on our behalf, we thrive in the midst of an otherwise almost wholly sterile universe. In ways we do not understand, we are born, we grow, and we learn to think.  And if we are wise, we will apply that understanding in obedience to our Creator.   We will do as He has commanded.   We will love Him.   We will love each other.

4 thoughts on “DID JESUS CLAIM TO BE GOD?

  1. You left out one other option. As the song goes, lord liar or lunatic. If he wasn’t lying, and he wasn’t really God, (and the Bible is true), then he must have been a lunatic to believe himself to be God.

    No person in history changed so many lives for the better. I know, I KNOW, “the church” and christians all through the ages have been imperfect. But some of the most perfect have been Christians. Mother Theresa, all those missionaries who go into the darkest recesses of the world, all those hospitals and good will trips. IF Jesus were a mere lunatic, we need more such lunatics. And if the Bible is “full of lies”, we need more such books.

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  2. John Doe – It is a curious thing is that so many do not recognize the importance of religion, particularly Christianity. We live in an era that condemns the religious for being warlike. Yet, atheists create the most tyrannical societies and commit the worst bloodlettings.

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  3. Yup. If I wasn’t “religious” I’d still admire Christianity. And condemn Islam. Sorry to be controversial, but “the proof is in the pudding.” Everywhere there are Moslems, there are also problems. The war-like, women hating, murdering terrorist Moslems give the other 10% a bad name.

    And no, it isn’t a logical response to say, “Yeah, but the Christians used to do bad things, too.” That was hundreds of years ago, by those who perverted the Christian religion. Those who are peaceful Moslems now-a-days are those who don’t take their religion and the Koran literally. Besides, I am alive now, and I judge religions by their effect, and the effect of Islam on the world is TERRIBLE. If all you peaceful Moslems out there don’t enjoy such criticism, TAKE BACK YOUR “RELIGION OF PEACE” from your warring brethren.

    And no, I am not just being Christian-centric. Mormans are not “Christians” but I have nothing but respect for their peaceful, good for society effect on the world. I would never dream of condemning peace-loving Buddhists.

    Oooops. Way off topic. But I think that the main reason so many do not recognize the importance of Christianity is because they feel personally attacked by some of the chief precepts of Christ. The Ten Commandments and all that. “Hmmmm. If I recognize all that stuff, there are a lot of things that I must cease doing, and other things that I don’t want to do I’ll have to start doing! Easier to just condemn that stuff!”

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    1. John Doe – We humans are naturally busybodies. We are easily threatened by any example that is contrary to our own. Moreover, we like to exercise power over others. It builds up our pride and makes us feel god-like. So we enthusiastically try to make others do as we do.

      In at least two ways, Christianity counteracts our tendency to be wrathful busybodies.

      • –Jesus taught two great commands: to love God above and to love our neighbors. Love puts God before our pride. To be saved, we must become humble and put God before the self. We must seek to become his hands and feet and serve our neighbors as we wish to be served.
      • –Jesus did not force anyone to love Him or to adopt His religious teachings. Since Jesus set the example Christians must follow, Christians have no business forcing our beliefs on anyone else.

      So it is that although Christians have much to do before they become perfect, they do tend be relatively peaceful.

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