“Who Do You Say That I AM?”
How does Jesus compare to other major figures of popular world religions? Is Jesus LORD, or just “a great teacher”? Is Jesus God manifested in the flesh, God incarnate as Christians claim? Or just another “prophet” like so many others. What separates Jesus from the rest of the “holy men” of history? Were there prophecies about His coming, that He alone fulfilled? Did He do the works that only God can do, testifying to His divinity? Did His followers acclaim Him as Lord, and worship Him? Did He accept worship? What evidence if any is there for this?
Some say that Jesus never claimed divinity – that this divinity of Jesus was a later invention. But what do the historical records say? Do His words demonstrate that He claimed divinity, or that He was just “speaking in metaphors“? If He was not claiming divinity, then why did they accuse Him of blasphemy, attempt to stone Him on several occasions, and eventually crucify Him? Could it be because they knew exactly what He was claiming – to be the divine Son of God?
Is Jesus LORD? Lets Examine the Evidence
The prophets of the Hebrews told of a coming Messiah or “anointed one” who would be “the God/Man”. This unique individual would bridge the gap between sinful man and his Creator, repair the broken relationship that occurred as a result of the actions of the first man and woman, and bring peace to the world. Hundred of years before the birth of Jesus the prophet Isaiah wrote the following words:
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder, And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Is Jesus the Son of God as foretold by Isaiah? Is Jesus God manifested in the form of a man? Let’s examine the evidence:
- The Claims of Jesus vs. Others. Did Jesus make unique claims that set Him apart from these other figures? How do His claims compare with those of Muhammad, Buddha, and others?
- The Life of Jesus vs. Others. Is the life of Jesus just another example of holy men throughout history, or do the characteristics of His life elevate Him above the rest? Is there anything unique about Jesus? Only the Creator God can intervene in space and time and deliver genuine miracles. If Jesus was God manifested in the flesh, was His life accompanied by miracles. What about the others?
- The Message and Teachings of Jesus. Most all religions are an attempt for man to reach out to God in order to gain an explanation for his existence. Did Jesus teach something different about how man could become “connected” with his Creator?
- The Testimony of His Followers. How did the followers of Jesus see Him? Did they worship Him as God come in the form of a man, or just a great moral teacher?
- The Role of Prophecy. Elsewhere in this site we talk about the “fingerprint of God” – the fact that God alone, being outside of space and time, can predict future events with 100% certainty. To what extent did Jesus fulfill predictions that would testify Him as being the promised “Son of God”? How do other figures of world religions compare?
- The Record of History. No other figure in all of history compares to Jesus. He literally split history in two — B.C. and A.D. An estimated 8 million Christians were persecuted during the first three centuries A.D., for no more than believing in Jesus and refusing to worship the emperor of Rome. No other figure in history even comes close.
William Lane Craig: Is Jesus the Only Way to God?
The Claims of Jesus vs. Others
Jesus made claims unlike any other person who ever lived, and His actions testified of His claims – for example:
- Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh. He said “I and the Father are one”. In another place “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”. Most of all, in Mark 14, 61-64 He responded to the interrogation of the High Priest directly:“Again, the high priest asked Him: ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am”. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Jesus claimed indirectly and directly on many occasions to be God in human form. That is why they took up stones to stone Him – they knew exactly what He was saying.
- He claimed that He was the only way to God. He said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”
- Jesus claimed that He was without sin: “Which of you convicts me of sin”. His apostles and followers also testified to His sinless life.
- He said that He was “the good shepherd that lays down His life for his sheep”, and then He did just that – laid down His sinless, perfect life so that mankind could have a way back into a relationship with his creator.
- He claimed that faith in Him was the way to eternal life: “I and the Resurrection and the Life. He that lives and believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And he that lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
How do others compare? Did they make similar claims? Let’s consider the claims of Jesus as compared to those of Muhammad, Buddha and others.
- The Claims of Muhammad – although Muhammad claimed to be “the prophet of God”, he did not claim equality with God (Jesus, by contrast, identified himself as being of the same substance as the Father – “I and the Father are one”). He certainly made claims to be the greatest prophet, and to point the way to God — even to the exclusion of any other “ways”. Like Jesus, did Muhammad claim to be without sin? No. Like Jesus, did he lay claim to being the only intercessor between God and man. No. What’s the fundamental difference? Jesus claimed to be the living way to a relationship God, a living mediator between God and man; while Muhammad claimed no mediating role, but rather pointed to a style of life (as documented in the Quran) as the way to God.
- Buddha’s Claims – Buddha lived his life as an example, and pointed to the “eight fold path” as the way to reach enlightenment. Although he certainly was an example to many, He made no claims such as Jesus. Buddhism, Hinduism — these religions differ fundamentally from the teachings of Jesus and the Christian faith. They represent a “pantheistic” world view — a belief in an impersonal God the is literally “the universe”. To pantheists, God did not “make” the universe — He IS the universe. The universe in their view “always existed”. Pantheists believe God and the universe are the same – God is the tree, the sky, the water, you, me, etc. Christians, on the other hand, believe in a personal, all powerful God that made the universe out of nothing – a God that is thus separate and distinct from His creation. Furthermore, they live in a personal relationship with their Maker.
- Claims of Science – It’s interesting to note that 21st century science supports the claims of Christianity, while contradicting the claims of Buddhism, Hinduism, and modern New Age religions. Modern science maintains that all matter, space and time was created out of nothing some 14.7 billion years ago (in a “big bang”). This matches precisely with the Bible Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth”.
The Life of Jesus Compared to Others
What can we say about the life of Jesus compared to other “holy men” of history? How does He compare to others? Consider the evidence:
- Only Jesus was born of a virgin. Other holy men of old were conceived in the usual way. This is an important distinction, because the sinless, unblemished Lamb of God of necessity must not have the “sin nature” of Adam passed on to Him. Only an unblemished sacrifice could serve as man’s redeemer. According to the Scriptures, the Spirit of God “overshadowed” Mary, and she conceived and bore a son (Luke 1:31). It is also very important to be clear — there were no sexual relations involved. God is a Spirit, and the conception was a supernatural event. Said the Hebrew prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (which means ‘God with us’) Isaiah 7:14
- Only Jesus claimed to live a perfect, sinless life. He said “which of you convicts me of sin?” In contrast, none of the other holy men of history lay claim to be without sin. Not Muhammad, not Buddha, not any of the others. All were indeed sinners in many ways, and at many times. Jesus alone claimed to be without blemish, living in perfect harmony with God’s will. He said “I always do the will of the Father.”
Why is this a critical point? Because the prophets wrote of a coming, sinless Messiah who would give His life as a ransom for mankind, to bring God’s created back into relationship with their Creator. John the Baptist exclaimed “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.” Only a perfect redeemer could fulfill what was called for – the redemption of all mankind, for all time. Only Jesus qualifies as that sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
- Only Jesus performed many miracles that testified of His Godhood. The miracles of Jesus are recounted in the historical recordings of Luke, Mark, John, Matthew and the other followers of Jesus. They are described very matter-of-factly, without any of the usual fantastic elements that you find in other mythical legends. And there is not just one, but many. — He walked on water — Turned water into wine — Fed five thousand people — Healed the sick, lame and blind — Raised people from the dead — Calmed the raging seas — Finally, He rose from the dead!A characteristic of the Creator, since He was the One that created all matter, space and time, (as well as the physical laws we live by), is that He obviously has the power to intervene in nature and produce miracles. Jesus clearly demonstrated that He had the power to suspend natural laws and perform miracles. And He used that power to demonstrate to the people that He indeed was who He claimed to be – of one substance with the Father. Contrast this to the record of Muhammad, Buddha and others. Muhammad did not claim to be a miracle worker – he pointed to the Quran as the miracle given by God. And Buddha performed no such miracles.
- Only Jesus foretold the future consistently on numerous occasions, demonstrating the “fingerprint of God”. The ability to predict a thing with 100% accuracy before it happens is a fingerprint of God, and another piece of evidence that Jesus was indeed God in the flesh. Jesus knew what the future held. Why? Because He had the mind of God, as well as the mind of a man. For example, Jesus told His followers many times that He would be put to death, but rise again: “For He taught His disciples and said to them, ‘The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” (Mark 9:31) “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after that I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Mark 14:27-28).Jesus also predicted with amazing accuracy the fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the great template. He told the crowd that “not one stone would be left standing upon another”. The Jewish leaders could not understand this, as it had taken decades to build the great temple, and they could not understand how such as prediction could come true. But that is exactly what happened. In 70 A.D., the Roman armies sacked and burned Jerusalem, including the temple. Because the template contained much gold and silver, the precious metal melted down between the stones. The soldiers were ordered to take the temple down stone by stone to recover the precious metal. These are just a few examples — there are many others recorded in the Bible He foretold that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crew. He foretold that a soldiers daughter was healed, and the Bible records that in that same hour the girl was made well of her afflictions. (See the Bible for more examples).
- Only Jesus rose from the dead. How many others have accomplished this? Zilch. None. Nada. Muhammad, Buddha, and others are still in the grave. It was recorded in the Scriptures that only God has the power to give and take life. Numerous times it is recorded in the Bible that Jesus healed – and raised people from the dead – the raising of Lazarus was a case in point. At that time Jesus told His followers: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25) At another time Jesus told His followers: “...I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18) And that is exactly what He did – He rose from the grave to justify the sins of many, just as the Scriptures foretold. His death, burial, and resurrection are corroborated by many infallible proofs. No other event in history has so much evidence supporting it. For more, see our article on the resurrection of Jesus.
The Message and Teachings of Jesus vs. Others
- Jesus claimed authority unlike any other in history. In fact, He said “I and the Father are one.” In the book of Matthew, while teaching the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed His authority by saying repeatedly “You have heard… but I say to you…” And so it is record in Matthew’s gospel: “..the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29).
- Jesus claimed to be the ONLY way to reconciliation with the Creator. Not a way, not one of many ways. He did not teach “an eight fold path”, or a formula to reach God. He did not say that He was “pointing to a truth – He claimed to BE THE TRUTH in human form, He stated that a relationship with Him WAS knowing God and eternal life. “I am the door” “I am the way, the truth, and the life – no man comes to the Father but by Me.” “He that lives and believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”
- In contrast, the other holy men of old pointed to a book or a practice of living: practice these sayings and eventually, hopefully you will reach God. Jesus taught that only by receiving Him into one’s heart could an individual be transformed from darkness into light – which is why He said “You must be born again”. Its not about religion — its about a relationship with God your Maker through His one and only – Jesus.
The Testimony of His Followers and the Early Church
Some popular fiction novels — namely “The Da Vinci Code”, by Dan Brown, try to maintain that the followers of Jesus merely revered Him as a great moral teacher. That only much later was He declared to be divine. Is this the truth, or did the followers of Jesus believe that He was God come in the flesh, and worship Him as such? Clearly they did. Consider the evidence:
- Only God rightfully accepts worship, and the earliest documents — the gospels — record that Jesus on many occasions accepted worship4…- a healed leper (Matt 8:2) – a ruler whose son Jesus had healed (Matt 9:18) – the disciples after a storm (Matt 14:33) – a Canaanite woman (Matt 15:25) – the mother of James & John (Matt 20:20) – a Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:6) – a healed blind man (John 9:38) – all the disciples ( Matt 28:17) – Thomas (John 20:28)
- The Gospel of John proclaims in Chapter 1 that Jesus was “the Word”, eternally existent with the Father: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.. and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
- Peter’s second epistle proclaims “..our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1)
- Thomas clearly worshipped Jesus as God in human form. When Jesus appeared to Thomas and the other disciples after His resurrection, Thomas placed his hands into the side of Jesus, and into His scarred hands. He then said to Jesus: “My Lord and my God.” Thomas was not “swearing” as some maintain — such a practice was simply not allowed. He was in fact acknowledging that Jesus was God in the form of a fleshly man.
- Paul, the great apostle of the early church, proclaimed Jesus as God come in the flesh: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: “God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” (I Timothy 3:16). “..Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen” (Romans 9:5)
- Early church leaders in the 1st and 2nd centuries (long before Constantine) declared their belief that Jesus was God come in the form of a man: “You have been granted light both by the will of Him who willed all that is, and by virtue of your believing in Jesus Christ, our God, and of loving Him.” (“Letters of Ignatius: Romans”3)
The Role of Prophecy
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39).
- The fact is, the record shows that the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus was predicted hundreds of years before He arrived on earth. The first five books of the Bible — the Torah — have many prophecies or predictions concerning the coming Messiah or Redeemer of mankind. The Hebrew Prophets and the authors of the Psalms also recorded predictions about the future “anointed one”. In fact, there are hundreds of prophecies in the Bible about Jesus, and He literally fulfilled them all! Some say that He arranged His life purposefully to fulfill these prophecies. But the fact is, He couldn’t have arranged many of them – when He was born, where, under what conditions. He had no control over these circumstances.
What are the chances that one person could fulfill so many prophecies? The chances are — to put it bluntly — astronomical. That is why this evidence is SO powerful. It is a statement by God Himself that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.
- The other holy men of history do not compare when it comes to the testimony of prophecy. And this is a characteristic “fingerprint of God” — to foretell of something before it comes to pass.
- A very few examples of prophecies concerning Jesus (there are hundreds in the Bible)4:
Genesis, Chapter 3:13 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (God speaking to the the evil one in the Garden, telling him that the see of a woman would ultimately crush him. There is no seed of a woman – unless of course you have a virgin birth!)
Jeremiah, Chapter 23: 5-6 – “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, That I will raise to David a Branch of Righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgement and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell in safety; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (the Messiah will be a son of David, and will be called God.)
Micah 5:2, 730 years before Jesus – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from old, from the days of eternity.” (Messiah, who is eternal, will be born in Bethlehem)
Isaiah, written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus, is a picture of His suffering on behalf of mankind:
Chapter 49: – “I will also give you as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (v 6, describing the Messiah’s mission)
Chapter 50: – “I gave my back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out My beard; I did not hid My face from shame and spitting.” (v 6, describing the beating and abuse that Jesus endured for our sakes.”
Chapter 53: – “He was wounded for our transgressions” (v 5, depicting His suffering) – “By His striped we are healed” (v 5, telling of His scourging) – “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth” (v 7, describing how Jesus was silent during his interrogation) – “They made His grave with the wicked, but with the rich at His death” (v 9, Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea, a rich man) – “He shall bear their iniquities” (v 11, referring to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross)
Is Jesus God Manifested in the Flesh … or Just a Great Moral Teacher?
C.S. Lewis, a popular British theologian, reflected,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.)
Christianity presents one who is unmatched in history – a Jesus who
really lived, taught unlike any other, performed miracles that testified of His authority, really died, and really rose from the dead to be seen by literally hundreds before His ascension. God loved us so much that HE took on the form of flesh, lived a sinless life, then died in our place so that we could become one with Him again!
Either He existed, and was who He claimed to be – of one substance with the eternal Creator God; or not.
If He did exist, fulfill prophecy, perform miracles, die in our place, and rise again, then you, I — we all — have to deal with the ramifications of this.
If Jesus is Who He Claimed to be, What Then?
The truth is that we are all created to be in relationship with our maker. We all have a “God-sized” hole in our hearts – a hole that we try to fill with all sorts of things – possessions, success, money, sex, etc. But in the end none of this truly satisfies. And no other religious figure can bring you into a personal relationship with the LORD – because as it is written, “there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved”.
None of these things will bring you into a relationship with your Creator – the One who has loved you from all eternity and created you to have a personal relationship with Him. In reality there is only thing that can fill this void: Jesus. Why? Because He is UNIQUE – only Jesus bridges the gap between Man and Maker.
Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? If you do, then you have everything to look forward to – in this life, and in the life to come. Peace with God, joy in your daily life, fulfillment of God’s purpose while here on earth, and life eternal. You were made for a purpose, and your daily walk with Jesus will help you come to realize His purpose in your life and fulfill it. If you don’t have a relationship with your Creator, you can! Give Jesus a chance! Don’t put it off. Allow Him to come into your life and make you “a new creation”! You have nothing to loose everything to gain. Here is a link to Billy Graham’s web site that can show you how you can invite Jesus into your life and be the creation He has always intended you to be …
Take Me to Steps to Peace With God ==> http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp
1. “The New Evidence that Demand a Verdict”, by John McDowell. Nelson.
2. “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.)
3. “Early Christian Fathers”, Richardson, Simon & Shuster. P 103.
4. “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Athiest”,by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek