When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:13-18
Who was Jesus? In Matthew 16:13-18, when Jesus asked the disciples who people said he was, they gave various answers: He was a prophet, John the Baptist, the second coming of Elijah. Essentially, the answer people came up with was that Jesus was a righteous man or a good prophet.
But, when Peter was asked about Jesus’ identity, he replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now we should understand that this was a very controversial claim, one which ultimately led to Christ’s execution. Consider how the Jews responded to Christ’s claim of God being his Father in John 5:17-18:
So he told them, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” For this reason the Jewish leaders were trying even harder to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God.
Jesus claimed to be equal with God, which was blasphemous to Jews. Likewise, in John 10:30, he claimed that he and the Father were one. His followers taught this also. In John 1:1-3, John said: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.
The “Word” was John’s favorite name for Jesus. Jesus was the very communication of God. He was with God in the beginning and was God. He created the earth. Likewise, in 2 Peter 1:1, Peter called Jesus “our God and Savior.” This is what separates Christ from many other founders of religions such as Buddha and Muhammad; he claimed to be God and his followers taught the same.
Who was Jesus? Though Jesus taught that he was the Son of God and died because of it and his disciples taught the same and were persecuted for it, most today would not answer the question the way they did. Like the early Jews, they would say Jesus was a good man, a wise teacher, or a prophet but not God. For example, a secular book published by Cambridge Press in 2013 called Who’s Bigger? ranked Jesus as the most significant figure in all of human history by using quantitative analysis.
Likewise, the Koran calls Jesus “the greatest above all in this world and in the world to come” (Imran v. 45) and describes him as “holy”—meaning without sin (Sura 19:19). However, when considering these high praises written about Jesus, both fall short of saying what Jesus and his followers said—that Jesus was God.
In this study, we will answer the question, “Was Jesus God?” We will do this by considering several evidences that point to his deity.
Jesus’ Teachings as Evidence of His Deity
As mentioned, the most commonly accepted view of Jesus is that he was simply a good man, moral teacher, or prophet from God. Something we must then ask: “Are these common conclusions about who Jesus was really feasible, considering all that Jesus said and taught?” Let’s reflect on a few controversial statements Jesus said:
1. Jesus’ Claim of Resurrecting Himself
Hypothetically, let’s say that during dinner time at a restaurant, a person stood on a table and started publicly declaring, “Shoot me! Shoot me! And, in three days I will raise myself from the dead!” What would everybody think? They would probably question, “Is this guy OK? Did he forget his medications?” People would think the man was crazy, immediately call 911, and try to get him help.
However, that scenario is very similar to something Christ did while alive. In John 2:19, he said to a crowd, “Destroy this temple [referring to his body] and in three days I will raise it up again.” When considering Christ’s words, it would be illogical to call Jesus a good man, or wise, moral teacher. Good, moral people don’t go around encouraging people to kill them and declaring they will resurrect themselves.
2. Jesus’ Claim of Forgiving Sins
In addition, consider another illustration about the same hypothetical man. Outside of the downtown courtroom, this man is now claiming to forgive people who have been charged with crimes. As robbers, prostitutes, and murderers are escorted to jail, the man continually says to them, “I forgive you.” This would be fine if he had a personal relationship with these criminals and they had harmed him in some way, but the man doesn’t know these people and hasn’t been harmed by them. Only a person hurt by another can forgive his or her sins. Again, this would be strange.
However, this again mirrors something that Christ did. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus forgave the sins of a paralytic, which angered the religious leaders who were watching. Mark 2:5-7 details this:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the experts in the law were sitting there, turning these things over in their minds: “Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
As mentioned, the religious leaders were baffled by Christ’s words and considered it blasphemy. Who can forgive sins but God?
Most of us would find a person professing to forgive our sins whom we have not harmed very strange. Again, this is exactly what Christ did. Is it really possible that Christ could be a great moral teacher and say ridiculous things like this?
3. Jesus’ Claim of Judging the World
In addition to the previous scenarios, this hypothetical man is now standing at a major intersection and declaring to all who pass by that he is going to judge the world—separating people like a shepherd separates sheep and goats. The sheep will go to heaven and the goats to hell. Again, wouldn’t this seem strange and possibly scary? To make this even worse, this man claimed to be the Son of God and that only those who follow him are sheep who will go to heaven. Because of his teaching, many left their friends, families, and careers to follow this man.
These are all things that Christ taught and did (Matt 25:31-46, John 14:6). Is it really reasonable to accept Christ as a good man, moral teacher, or prophet from God considering his teachings? This is what C.S Lewis, a former professor at Cambridge University, said in his book Mere Christianity:
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 claim to be God. That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing 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 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.
It is impossible to consider what Christ said and did and yet take the common view that he was a good man, moral teacher, or prophet from God. He is either God, like he said, or he was a liar, lunatic, or demon. There is no middle ground.
What Jesus claimed and taught is an evidence for his deity. By itself, it is not very convincing, but it is an important evidence, especially for those who reject Christ’s claim of deity and yet accept him as either a good man, moral teacher, or prophet from God. What Christ taught and did doesn’t leave those as reasonable options.
What does the Bible say about resurrection?
What we know for certain is that the Bible says everyone who has lived will live again, and there are only two types of resurrection, one for believers and one for unbelievers. The only variable in all this is the type of resurrection we will participate in. Jesus said we will either rise to live, or rise to be condemned, and it will all come down to what we believe about Him.
What Does Resurrection Mean?
Growing up in church, we hear about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Do we ever think about how if Jesus simply died, we would not have Christianity today? The resurrection is everything to our faith. The death of Jesus was the necessary sacrifice for our sins, but the resurrection was the victory. Today we are going to study what this key word, resurrection, means.
When we think about resurrecting something, we are bringing back to life. Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we were once dead in our sins, but then Ephesians 2:4-5 goes on to say, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!”
Adam and Eve lived in a perfect world, with perfect bodies, and there was no sin. When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they sinned and death was the consequence. Our sins lead to death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ. Jesus had to resurrect Himself; He needed to defeat death for us so we could be brought back and restored to the life God intended for us. Sin separates, but Jesus resurrects.
Anastasis is the word for resurrection in the Greek. Strong’s Concordance says that Anastasia is “a standing up, i.e., a resurrection, a raising up, rising.” Helps Word Study shares, “Christ’s physical resurrection is the foundation of Christianity, which also guarantees the future resurrection of all believers (see Jn 6:39,40,44).”
Resurrection Seen in the Old Testament
Although resurrection is mostly thought to be in the New Testament, the concept is intertwined throughout the entire Bible.
James Street from Masters Seminary shares “Job himself in Job 14:14 says, ‘If a man dies, will he live again?’” He shares Job 19:26, which says, “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God.” Street explains, “Job does not know how God is going to do it, but he believes in his heart that somehow God will raise him from the dead.” Street brings up the point that Psalm 91:16 references David’s belief in salvation and that in Psalms 49:15 and 103:4 he believers resurrection would come through the Redeemer.
Of all people, Hosea knew what it was like to show forgiveness and reconciliation. He was called by God to marry a prostitute named Gomer who was continuously unfaithful to him, however he remained faithful and pursued her. This was God’s way of showing His relationship and loyalty to us as humanity. Hosea 6:2 says, “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him.”
One of the most popular instances of Jesus’ foreshadowing is seen in the life of Abraham and Isaac. In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his one and only son of the covenant. Abraham believed that God would make a way, but was obedient to the point right before he struck his son dead on the altar. Jewish tradition holds that Isaac about around 25 years old. This meant that he was willing to allow His older father to slay him as a sacrifice for the Lord.
I cannot even imagine the pain and sorrow both father and son were going through. Thankfully, God stopped Abraham and provided a ram caught by the horns to be the sacrifice instead of Isaac. This moment of rescue represents the rescue that we have because of Jesus. This scenario did not play out the same way when God the Father sacrificed Jesus the Son on behalf of our sins. God gives us a glimpse into the pain and difficulty to send His one and only Son to the cross at Calvary to slay Him on our behalf.
Old Testament Verse about Resurrection
Isaiah 26:19 – “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.”
Ezekiel 36:26 – “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Daniel 12:2 – “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”
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