Jesus Christ made claims about his identity that have implications for everyone. His claims were unique and separate him from every other figure in history. As we examine the claims of Jesus Christ it is important to ask ourselves whether he demonstrated the authority and validity of his claims – did Jesus back up his claims with action?
In addition to the claims Jesus made, there are many features of his life that make Him unique. His many miracles included healing the sick, miraculously feeding the hungry, calming storms and raising the dead. He also performed many other supernatural signs that authenticate the fact that He had a special message for mankind. He is said to have been the greatest moral teacher the world has ever seen with no-one being able to surpass his wisdom or ethical and moral teaching. He delivered an uncompromising message of salvation for mankind – those who had an encounter with Jesus were either compelled to follow him or offended by him. It seemed impossible to remain neutral about who he was. He never committed any act of wrongdoing and lived a perfect unblemished life. Furthermore, Jesus is the ONLY person ever to have been recorded in history as being resurrected from the dead, never to die again. This all makes Jesus absolutely unique. Whatever we feel about him, his life is worthy of special attention and investigation.
If we accept that Jesus’ life was unique it is very important for us to explore the made about Himself. His actions definitely grab our attention and cause us to sit up and take notice. Anyone who lives a life like Jesus must surely be considered a credible witness of who he says he is. We would be crazy to hear of a guy who authenticates his message in such amazing ways, unparalleled in history, attracting millions of followers throughout two millennia (many to die on account of him) and then not take a deeper look.
So, who did Jesus Christ claim to be? Let’s have a look (in no particular order) at some of the many statements Jesus made regarding His own identity.
The “I AM” claims
There are seven statements that comprise the well-known “I AM” statements of John’s gospel. They form a comprehensive picture of Jesus being the only means of salvation. Jesus uses many different descriptions, but all with the same message – man can only be saved and have everlasting life by turning to and following Him:
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35 NIV, emphasis added)
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV, emphasis added)
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep… I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:7, 9 NIV, emphasis added)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– (John 10:11, 14 NIV, emphasis added)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; (John 11:25 NIV, emphasis added)
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV, emphasis added)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. … I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1, 5 NIV, emphasis added)
It is clear that Jesus claimed to be the ONLY way of salvation for mankind and that eternal life was only possible through Him. Either Jesus’ statements are true or they are false – there can be no neutral ground. These statements also remove the possibility that salvation or life after death can be found in somebody else – Jesus claimed exclusivity! He claims to be the “bread of life”, the “light of the world”, the “good shepherd”, the “door of the sheep”, the “resurrection and the life”, the “way, the truth and the life” and the “true vine”. These are all amazing claims that cannot be shared with another person – Jesus clearly claims them only for Himself.
The claims to be God
One of the most provocative statements of Jesus comes also in John’s gospel:
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:58-59 NIV, emphasis added)
This statement comes at the end of a very strong worded exchange with the Pharisees in which Jesus claims to be the “I AM THAT I AM” that appeared to Moses:
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation. (Exodus 3:14-15 NIV)
The fact that the Pharisees picked up stones to attack Jesus demonstrates how serious this claim was – they knew Jesus was claiming to the God which was blasphemy if not true.
The same claim is made by Jesus in a similar way a little later in John’s gospel:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:27-33 NIV)
Both these statements were clearly understood to be a claim by Jesus of being God. This is also evidenced by the Pharisee’s reaction to Jesus crying “blasphemy” and intending to stone Him. They were clearly incensed and were unable to contain their anger. It is often very helpful to look at the reaction of those around Jesus to understand the nature of the claim Jesus made.
The claim to be Creator of the World
Jesus also makes direct claims in the book of Revelation:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8 NIV)
See also Revelation 1:11, 1:17, 21:6, 22:13 and 22:16 for similar claims. These again are claims made directly by Jesus Christ as it is Jesus who appears to John in this vision (see Revelation 1:1-2). Here, Jesus claims to be the source of everything that is in existence. This is an outrageous claim and is further confirmed by Paul in Colossians 1:
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:16-18 NIV)
Here, Jesus claims to be the creator of everything that exists. He also claims that His own existence has always been eternal – Jesus existence had no beginning and will have no end.
The claim to possess all power in heaven and earth
In the following quote, Jesus makes the claim that He has ALL power in heaven and on earth. Again, this position of having all power cannot be shared with any other figure in history if the claim is true. Here, there is also the claim that all nations should follow His commands – extraordinary claims if Jesus were not who he said he was.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)
If we are to take these claims seriously, we would have to study the words of Jesus throughout the gospel accounts to discover what Jesus requires of His followers.
The claim to be able to forgive sins
One of the most divisive claims made by Jesus is that He can forgive sin. This would have considerably upset the Jewish leaders in His day as they correctly understood that only God could forgive sin:
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:48-49 NIV)
He also makes this claim in Mark 2:3-12. Here we are also told that God is the only person who can forgive sin – another example of Jesus claiming to be God:
“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7 NIV)
The claim to be the judge
Jesus also claims to be a judge. Read the following passage where Jesus reveals He has been given authority to execute all judgment:
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:22-27 NIV)
His status as the judge is further confirmed by Paul in one of his letters to the church of Corinth:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV)
In addition to these direct statements from Jesus, there are many other claims that are indirectly made by the words of Jesus Christ:
- Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (John 9:35-37). In fact during both Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration, God Himself declared Jesus as the “Son of God”. If this was incorrect, you imagine Jesus would have corrected this immediately (Matthew 3:17 and 17:5)
- Jesus claimed to be the Messiah (Matthew 26:63-66, John 4:25,26)
- Jesus claims that we are to love Him more than even our closest family members (Matthew 10:32-37)
- Jesus claims He will come in glory with the angels to reward men for their works (Matthew 16:27)
- Jesus often accepts worship and in the process he claims to be God (Matthew 14:33, Matthew 28:9/17, Luke 24:52, John 9:38)
How will you respond?
This brief study is not exhaustive and is far from a complete survey of all the claims made by Jesus. It should be sufficient to demonstrate that He was no ordinary man! If Jesus claims are untrue, they are actually either outrageous lies or they demonstrate that He was totally deluded. He did, however, authenticate these claims with amazing signs, wonders and ultimately by defeating death itself in His resurrection. In addition to this, His followers and witnesses loyally forsook everything on account of His claims and often faced execution as a result – surely they would not do this for a liar or a madman? Would you die for a lie?
Others suggest that Jesus was just a prophet or simply a very good man. This cannot be true though – for Jesus to make these kinds of claims about Himself, He is completely stepping outside the territory and remit of just a mere prophet. He clearly was a prophet, but MUCH more than that! We believe it is also impossible to accept that Jesus was a good man without accepting the claims He made. No “good man” would deceitfully lie about who he was. Either Jesus was a good man AND His claims are true or he simply was not a good man!
The big question now is how you are going to respond to these claims? Jesus provided us with plenty of evidence to authenticate His claims and he could not be accused of not living a life in keeping with these claims. Who else lived a perfect life, performed an array of miracles and was then resurrected from the dead, to finally ascend into heaven – all to be witnessed by many hundreds (if not thousands) of other people? The fact that some of these witnesses would subsequently face torture and death for their testimony of Jesus is very powerful evidence of the accuracy of Jesus claims. What else could Jesus have done to command our attention?
A neutral response is impossible – sitting on the fence is not an option. You may reject the claims of Jesus and do nothing. You may decide to accept these claims as true but still decide to do nothing. This would be very foolish – if someone told you to get out of your house because it was burning down and you accepted their claims as true, would you then stay in the house? Of course not – if you do accept the claims of Jesus it is an insult to Him not to respond and foolish to reject His offer of salvation. The third option is to accept the claims of Jesus and respond to Him in faith.
How will you respond today? See our How to be saved page for the best response!
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you–I am he.” (John 4:25-26 NIV)