Did Jesus every say he was God? For some reason many people state that Jesus never made the claim. A simple reading through the Gospels makes it clear that Jesus did in fact claim he was God on several occasions. One of the most startling takes place in John 8. John records a debate with Jesus and the religious leaders. Towards the end of debate we are told the following:
“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 8:56-59
I am amazed at the boldness of Jesus. After a vicious debate with the religious leaders, Jesus makes the most startling claim. He says he is God. The full weight of this is often missed if one does not have a good understanding of the Old Testament. Notice that Jesus does not say that ‘before Abraham was, I was. He uses the present tense, “I am”. Jesus not only declares his pre-existence, but actually takes the sacred name of God onto himself. Yahweh, or I am, is the name God used to reveal himself to Moses in the burning bush. Yahweh is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. He is the one true God. He is the God the religious leaders claim to be following. Yet, Jesus in this passage declares that he is greater than Abraham and the great I Am that brought the Jewish people out of Egypt.
This is absolutely astonishing. The Religious leaders were blown away at such a blasphemous statement. Their religious zeal and passion for right doctrine filled their hearts with righteous exasperation. This man, Jesus, standing before them claimed that he was the God in whom they worship. The bastard carpenter from Nazareth (so they thought) claims he is the one true God. The religious leader’s anger quickly bubbles into a murderous mob. We are told that after Jesus said this, that the jews began to pick up stones to kill him. They were going to give him a death by stoning, but Jesus’ time had not yet come so he was able to sneak out. How do we know that Jesus claimed to be God in this passage? The response of the leaders is revealing enough. They were going to kill him on the spot for such a blasphemous claim.
Also, notice where this whole conversation is taking place. Jesus is departing from the Temple, we are told. This conversation is happening in the house of God. These religious leaders were ready to commit murder in the temple of the Lord because of what Jesus said. This is truly astonishing, and reveals how offensive Jesus calling himself the great “I Am” is to the hearts of these religious leaders. They had been so blinded by their self-righteousness that they were unable to see, yet even unwilling to see, the Messiah standing before him. The God whom they claim to worship was standing before them, yet they did not recognize him. Rather, they seek to kill him in the Temple of the Lord. The Jews picked up stones to murder Yahweh in his own house.
Did Jesus ever say he was God? You better believe it. He claimed it. That’s how he got himself killed. That’s why the religious leaders were so eager to kill him. Jesus’ perceived blasphemy along with the Religious leader’s envy of Jesus brewed the perfect concoction for Jesus’ brutal execution.
One cannot accurately say that Jesus never claimed to be God. This puts us in the trilema that C.S. Lewis gives us in his work Mere Christianity:
“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 patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”
Jesus claimed to be God. He is either a liar, a lunatic, or the son of God. Jesus is the great “I Am”. He is the one God who took on flesh and dwelt among us. He is Lord and he is King and he has made a way for us to be saved through his death on the cross. Trust in him as savior and king.