Recently I bumped into an old friend that I had not seen for many years. Our friendship began in church where his father would regularly bring him to participate in the youth events at that time. Upon catching up with each other, he mentioned to me that he is no longer a Christian but had decided to convert to Islam due to the “false” information found in the Bible. When I asked him what was one of the leading points that drew him away from Christianity he quickly answered that “Jesus never claimed to be God.”
I was a bit perplexed and taken back with his response because I believe that are so many sources made readily available to the public to easily understand that belief to be false. I asked him to study the Gospel of John believing that he would see that what drew him away in reality was incorrect. He quickly responded with the notion that “those were John’s words writing about Jesus.” He was simply stating that we could not verify that Jesus actually said those words since that was written by someone else rather than Jesus Himself, therefore they could not be proven true.
Clearly, someone who has read and studied the Bible would not claim such a thing. I was saddened to see how my old friend’s answers were so unjustifiably wrong and naïve and even more saddened to see that he would allow himself to be so easily deceived into accepting claims without conducting the right research through reliable, unbiased sources. If one truly studies scripture, they will see that Jesus never denied His identity but rather further confirmed his deity in many ways.
Jesus: The Great I AM
When Moses was before the burning bush and asked who should he say sent him to free the Israelites, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM…Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me.” (Genesis 3:14) In fact, in the next verse, God tells Moses that I AM will forever be His name and even until today, God’s people identify Him as I AM. It is a name that is considered extremely holy and reverent.
Now with that in mind, let us consider what occurred in the gospel of John 8. In this passage, Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders of his time, questioning His authority:
53“Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:53-58, emphasis added)
Jesus did not answer in a manner to hide His identity. By Jesus stating that Abraham was waiting to see His day, He was explaining that His existence did not begin with His physical birth but instead specified His eternality. In verse 58, He uses “I am” not to show some existence in a particular time, but rather His identity, the same I AM that was used by God to reveal Himself to Moses and the Israelites. In this part of scripture, we can see how Jesus identifies Himself as the Great I AM, the eternal name of God.
Jesus: One with the Father
The disciples walked with Jesus for approximately 3 years. During this time, they witnessed the many miracles performed by Christ (yet, another proof of His deity). On one occasion, Jesus spoke to His disciples telling them that if they know Him, they know the Father. Phillip responds with a request asking Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9) Many have taken this verse and given it a meaning that is not a correct interpretation. Some have said that Jesus is simply telling His disciples that His actions give a better understanding to God’s nature. Jesus’s humility, goodness and mercy are those that the Father has and therefore, the disciples can see the Father in Him. That is partially true but not the main point found in the verse. Jesus is once again asserting His identity by showing, not only His relationship with the Father, but even more His divine nature as God.
In John 10, Jesus states that He gives eternal life, something that all Israelites knew that only God could do, and those that receive this eternal life are in His Father’s hands. But in verse 30, Jesus says, “I and My Father are one.” It is plain to see that Jesus is claiming that He and the Father are equal, similar and the same. These verses, and many more, show that Jesus never hid His identity but would make it known through His words and actions that He is God. The Jews clearly understood what Jesus meant when purposely using such words. In fact, in John 8:33, the Jews intended to stone Jesus for clearly understanding His claim of deity, His claim to be God.
John: An Eyewitness to Jesus
When I was told that these verses do not provide any justification because it was John who wrote them in his gospel and not Jesus, I found that to be a very big contradiction on his part. First, if my friend could not believe John, being an eye witness to Jesus’s life, ministry and miracles, then how could he believe another source that had no encounter with Christ? John’s gospel was written about 40 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection while the Quran was believed to have first been revealed 600 years later and then written a few decades after by a number of people who claim to have memorized different parts of Mohammed’s revelation.
Second, John, along with the other disciples and witnesses, were all willing to die for what they believed. All of the disciples, except John, are believed to have all been martyred for their faith. Why would someone die for something they knew was a lie? Even more, this does not explain why the many disciples and other followers were willing to die (and many did die) for their belief. If it were not true, many would have denied Jesus knowing that it would save their lives and the lives of their families and friends. So why admit to it, knowing that it would certainly lead to death? It had to have been true if they were willing to die for it.
Jesus himself said that He is the Bread of Life, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the Light of the world. The Jews knew that such descriptive claims were only unique to and reserved for God the Father, so as Jesus used these metaphors as declarations about Himself, He was not shying away from telling others who He was but rather giving a clearer description of who He is and why we should believe in Him as God.