Perhaps we are familiar with Matthew 16:13 when Jesus asks Peter “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Peter’s answer showed that even in the first century there was confusion regarding who Jesus was. Some thought that He was John the Baptizer, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or some other Prophet. However, Peter rightly understood that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16).
If you were to go today and find out what people think about who “the Son of Man is” you would get varying answers. Despite differing public opinion, Jesus has made it clear who He is through the Bible. During Jesus’ ministry, perhaps the confusion surrounding his identity was a little more understandable, but now that we have the completed Word of God, God has done everything He can to give us a reasonable amount of evidence to get a good understanding of Jesus.
There are large, growing religious movements which misunderstand who Jesus is. Including Mormons who believe that Jesus was created as Satan’s “spirit brother” (Martin 219), and Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe that Jesus was “God’s first creation” and is actually Michael the Archangel (Watch Tower 41, 219).
Also, It’s been my experience that those with no religious affiliation usually have positive things to say about Jesus. They will admit that He was a good teacher, a nice guy, a good role model, or a strong spirit. Perhaps they’ll see Him as a freedom fighter, or a religious reformer who got dragged down by the system. However, I want to know what Jesus said about Himself.
Surprising to some, the Bible does not teach that Jesus was created, that He is Satan’s spirit brother, that He is Michael the archangel, nor that He was merely a good teacher comparable to Confucius or Aristotle. While we know who “people say that the Son of Man is” let’s look at who the Bible and Jesus Himself say that the Son of Man is.
Jesus: God Since the Beginning
John 1:3 states that all things were made by Jesus. But if Jesus was a created being, it would be impossible for all things to be created by Him, for He is something and could not create himself. In Genesis 1:26 we can read that singular “God” said, “Let us make man in our image.” This is one of the first references to the Godhead (plural nature of God). We see that while God is one, He is still able to say “let us make man” because of the unity of essence between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Revelation 22:13, Jesus states that He is the beginning, end, first, and last. The question is then: how can Jesus be first if there was one before Him?
Jesus: the Great I Am
In Exodus 3:13-16 we read of an exchange between God (Yahweh/Jehovah) and Moses. In this exchange, God tells Moses to tell the people of Israel that “I AM” has sent you. In John 8:58, Jesus told the Jews on that occasion that “before Abraham was, I am.” Not only was Jesus describing His eternal nature, He was quoting Yahweh (Jehovah) from Exodus 3—a passage which those Jews would have been familiar with, thus giving them a perceived reason to stone Jesus (Jn. 8:59; cf. Lev. 24:11-14).
Based off of Exodus 3:13-16 and John 8:58 we can see that God = “I AM” = Yahweh (Jehovah). Therefore if Jesus = “I AM” (as He explicitly stated in Jn. 8:58) then Jesus = God = Yahweh (Jehovah).
Jesus: Completely God
Jesus is not a little bit of God, or part deity, or a lesser deity. Paul told the Colossian church that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily in Jesus (Col. 2:9). Likewise, Jesus would tell a Jewish crowd that He and the Father are one (Jn. 10:30). Once again, the Jewish crowd sought to stone Jesus after such a claim (Jn. 10:31). They understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. Not an angel, not a spirit creature, not a good man—but fully deity.
Jesus: Acted Like God
This is important to realize because if Jesus accepted worship and was a mere man, or even an angel, those worshiping Him and He Himself were wrong in their doing. Jesus Himself said that only the Lord God ought to be worshiped (Mt. 4:10). Likewise, in scripture, we have examples of good men refusing to be worshiped, and even the worship of angels being condemned (Acts 10:25-26; Col. 2:18). So, only the Lord God is to be worshiped, men are not to be worshiped (not even good ones), and worshiping angels can “disqualify” us for salvation. Yet, Jesus accepted worship multiple times (Mt. 14:33; Mt. 28:9; Lk. 24:51-53; Jn. 9:37-38).
The logical implications of Jesus accepting worship are vast. If Jesus was an angel and accepted worship, He was rebelling against God. If Jesus was a mere man and accepted worship, He was sinning. And, in both cases, He would be contradicting Himself (and therefore a liar) for accepting worship after saying that God alone can be worshiped in Matthew 4:10. Either Jesus is God, or He was a sinner.
Ultimately, the evidence is ours to chew on and conclude from. If Jesus said “I AM” and He wasn’t—He isn’t worth following. Either Jesus was right when he said that “the Father and I are one,” or He wasn’t. If Jesus states that He is God, our options are the following: 1) Jesus is not God and Jesus was willingly being deceptive by saying things that aren’t true and therefore is a liar. 2) Jesus said and believed that He was God, but He actually wasn’t—He was a lunatic. 3) Jesus wasn’t lying, nor was He crazy. He is God, Lord of lords, King of kings, Eternal Creator of all things. Which option seems more plausible?
What we believe about Jesus matters. The Son of Man said the following in John 8:24: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am you will die in your sins.”