“Jesus never said he was God.” People professing Jesus was only prophet or teacher often use this statement to support their arguments. I’ve been confronted with this comment many times. While I usually respond with John 8:58, I decided to study the gospels and learn other things Jesus says about himself. I’m only about halfway into Matthew, but the material has already deepened my knowledge of Jesus–God with us.
Point of View
Literature can be narrated from different perspectives. In first person point of view (POV), an individual tells his own story, describes himself, and emphasizes his own outlook. First person POV utilizes the pronouns “I” and “we.”
Third person POV occurs when someone outside the situation describes a person’s actions, thoughts, and motivations. Third person uses the pronouns “he,” “she,” “it,” and “they.”
What does this have to do with Jesus? Plenty.
Jesus was just a prophet.
To examine this claim, let’s first look at the words of a prophet, specifically Isaiah. In the following passage, his use of third person POV shows us three things: these are God’s words, it is God that is offended, and it is God who will bring judgment.
“For Jerusalem will stumble, and Judah will fall, because they speak out against the Lord and refuse to obey him. They provoke him to his face. The very look on their faces gives them away. They display their sin like the people of Sodom and don’t even try to hide it. They are doomed! They have brought destruction upon themselves.” Is 3:8,9
Now let’s examine this similar passage in Matthew.
“Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God…’And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.’” Matt 11:20,23,24
When Jesus uses first person in this passage, he declares his godhood, divine nature, and authority. These are Jesus’ words. It is Jesus who is offended, and it is Jesus bringing judgment. If Jesus were merely a prophet, he would point to God using third person as Isaiah did. Instead, Jesus chooses first person terminology, pointing to himself.
Jesus was simply a good teacher.
The same concept applies to Biblical teachers. Good teachers educate about God’s principles and attributes without claiming any of God’s nature. In this passage from Hebrews, the teacher describes God’s eternal plan for his children.
“For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world…So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.” Heb 4:3,7
Jesus, however, used the first person POV to declare his divinity as seen in this verse from Matthew. These words promise more than peace from earthly troubles. Jesus explains the path of salvation–release from the burden of sin, release from the weight of the law, and rest in the eternal hope that will come with his sacrifice. A teacher would never claim he could give “rest for your souls” because that is something only God can do.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matt 11:28-30
Jesus was a rabblerouser.
The religious leaders of the day denounced Jesus. In the instance below, they called him a blasphemer for claiming to forgive sins. Note the use of third person pronouns.
“But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” Matthew 9:3
However, Jesus knows their thoughts and responds with the use of first person. With a little one-letter word, he unreservedly declares he is God and backs up that declaration with action.
So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” Matthew 9:6
In these three examples, Jesus demonstrates his authority by speaking as God–delivering judgment, promising salvation, and forgiving sins. So the next time someone tells you, “Jesus never said he was God,” you can answer, “Yes, he did. Let me give you a literature lesson.”
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