I've seen this question asked over and over on so many forums, and considering it's one of the most important points of the Bible, I figured I should answer it. There are so many people out there who say "Jesus never claimed to be God" or "The disciples only made that up later", or various other excuses. However, I doubt that any of these people have ever read the Gospels or they would see it is very clear.
Jesus Questioned By The High Priest
Jesus does give many definite answers about who He was/is. The clearest example of this is in Mark 14:61-63. Here Jesus has been arrested after being betrayed by Judas, and is being questioned by the high priest in court. This would be equivalent to going in front of a very important judge in our culture - someone to be highly respected and who has a lot of authority. The high priest asks Jesus "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the glorious God?", and Jesus responds "Yes, I am!". He didn't hesitate or try to say "well, no I'm actually just a prophet...", even though Jesus knew that admitting this would cause the high priest and pharisees to want to kill him. In that time anyone saying they were God was blasphemy, which was punishable by death. Most people in a court today (unless they're mentally unstable) would never enthusiastically admit to something that would lead to their death. And crucifixion was an especially painful death too, so while perhaps someone who was suicidal would maybe want to receive lethal injection, it's very unlikely that they would admit it if they were going to be whipped, beaten, and then nailed to wood and hung up to die slowly.
Jesus didn't try to defend himself when brought to Pontius Pilate, who was the leader of the local Roman authorities. In Mark chapter 15, it say that Pilate asked Jesus "Don't you have anything to say? Don't you hear the crimes they say you have done?", but Jesus doesn't say anything. Normally in this situation someone brought to the Romans would have probably been begging and pleading to get out of punishment (as Romans were known to be very brutal with their beatings, and had the authority to crucify someone). But Jesus didn't try to defend himself because he was telling the truth.
The Disciples Made It All Up
Some people get around this argument by saying "Oh, the disciples just made this up and wrote it into their Bible manuscripts to give themselves legitimacy.". These people sometimes also claim the disciples invented the whole story about Jesus coming back to life. However, there is no reason that the disciples would promote something which would have made them targets to the pharisees and other leaders. When Jesus was being arrested and tried, Peter was waiting outside and was questioned by people who asked if he was one of Jesus' disciples. Peter was so scared that he would get killed that he denied he knew Jesus three times! (Mark 14:66-72). Later, many of the disciples were thrown in jail (Acts 5:18, 8:3, 12:4, 16:23), stoned (Acts 7:54-60, 14:5, 14:19), chased out of cities (Acts 13:50), whipped (Acts 16:22), and beaten (Acts 21:32). In Acts 21:13, Paul says he is willing to die for spreading the truth about Jesus. Many of the disciples were killed for their faith . It seems ridiculous to think that they would go through all of this knowing that they were lying about what they were saying.
More Biblical Evidence
There are many other places in the Bible where Jesus or the disciples repeat that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. Some of the more notable quotes are:
- "I tell you for certain that before Abraham was, I was, and I am." (John 8:53). This shows that Jesus admits to living before Abraham (implying he is immortal), and that he calls himself "I am", which is the exact same way that God identified himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15 : "I am the eternal God. So tell them that the Lord, whose name is 'I Am' has sent you. This is my name forever, and it is the name that people must use from now on.".
- "What if you should see the Son of Man go up to heaven where he came from?" (John 6:61). This shows that Jesus claims he came from heaven. Most normal people would say "I'm from Jerusalem", or some other location on earth, and would not claim to be from heaven.
- "The only one who has seen the Father is the one who has come from him. No one else has ever seen the Father." (John 6:46). Compare this with the proof that Jesus really did come from God as shown when he was baptized (Luke 3:21-22) and a voice from heaven said "You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you.".
- Even demons knew who Jesus was. In Luke 4:41, it tells the story of Jesus forcing demons out of people, and the demons yelled "You are the Son of God!". Jesus never denied this, but instead told the demons to be quiet because they would give away who he was too soon.
- The Pharisees admitted that Jesus thought he was God. In Luke 5:21, after Jesus tells a crippled man that his sins are forgiven, the Pharisees said "Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.". To which Jesus replies "Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.", after which he promptly tells the crippled man to get up and walk, which the man does. Jesus forgives sins on many other occasions as well - so if only God can forgive sins (even according to the Pharisees, who knew the Jewish law inside and out), and Jesus told others their sin is forgiven, it clearly shows he did think he was God.
- At the beginning of the book of John, there is a metaphorical description of God/Jesus. It says "In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God. From the very beginning the Word was with God." (John 1:1-2). Also "The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father." (John 1:14). This statement shows that Jesus was not an angel, and was not created by God - he IS God.
- "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. How can you ask me to show you the Father? Don't you believe that I am one with the Father and that the Father is one with me? What I say isn't said on my own. The Father who lives in me does these things." (John 14:9-11). Jesus clearly states here that he is one (equal to, part of) the Father (God). It doesn't get any more clear than this that Jesus believed he was God.
Liar, Lunatic, or Lord
This post does not address the proof that Jesus was truly God. It only proves that Jesus and his disciples claimed that Jesus was God. This leads to an interesting dilemma, best explained by the popular Christian writer, C.S. Lewis. In Lewis' book "Mere Christianity" , Lewis claims that we must address Jesus' claims of being God, and are left with only 3 alternatives:
- That he was a liar and was purposely misleading people about who he was.
- That he was insane.
- That he really is God.
Through Lewis' analysis, he gives evidence that the first two cannot be correct. Jesus was not a liar because it goes against his character, and someone who is a sinful human could not act perfectly sinless and make up the morally sound truths that Jesus proclaimed. Liars always contradict themselves, and are eventually caught, but in 2000 years of study no one has found clear evidence that Jesus lied or contradicted himself. Jesus was not a lunatic because he argued logically with the teachers of the law (Luke 20:1-8, and 21-26), and someone who is insane would most likely not be able to argue against the best theological leaders at the time and win. So the third seems to make the only logical sense. There are critics of this argument, saying there are other alternatives , however I don't see what else they could be. As stated earlier, the disciples didn't just make up Jesus' claims because no one would be willing to die for a lie they created.
So now you must also decide what you believe about Jesus. If He really is God, and is going to determine your eternal destiny, then it would make sense to accept His free offer of forgiveness and to believe in Him. If you want, you are perfectly free to not decide, or to ignore what He says, but it's at your own risk, and one day you will be held accountable to the Creator of the Universe for your decision. It's up to you.