The first thing we need to establish here is that Jesus was, is, and will always be God. Jesus is a part of the triune God, consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” Jesus was there when time, physics, and everything in the universe was created (John 1:1-2). Jesus is an eternal entity who chose to become a limited human being in physical form to benefit all who believe in Him (John 1:1-2; John 3:16).
When Jesus took human form (also called the "incarnation") through being born of a young virgin woman named Mary (Matthew 1:18), He voluntarily gave Himself certain physical, intellectual, and social limitations (1 John 1:14). In this way, Jesus had to "grow up" the same way every human being does, attaining knowledge over time and growing spiritually as well (Luke 2:52). The apostle Paul described Jesus in this way: "...Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).
Jesus' childhood is not mentioned much in the Bible, so it's hard to say exactly when He "knew" He was God, but we do have one snapshot of Him when He was twelve. Joseph and Mary had taken their young son Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, just as they did every year. After the festival, they spent a day traveling with their friends and family, heading toward home, before they realized Jesus was not among their group.
They went back to Jerusalem in a panic and found Jesus in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions. When Mary asked why He would disappear and make her worry, Jesus answered, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” His earthly parents were confused by this, but it's clear now that Jesus was aware at this time that He was the Son of God and had godly work to do. (For the whole story, see Luke 2:41-52.)
As an adult, Jesus definitely He knew who He was, and we can find references to this throughout the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. John 17:5 records Jesus praying, "Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." In another account, the high priest of the Sanhedrin demands of Jesus, "Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God." And Jesus, under threat of death for committing blasphemy, says, "You have said so... But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." He was beaten and spit upon for this, which is a great evidence that He believed what He said was true. (See Matthew 26:57-68.)
The question of when exactly Jesus realized He was the Son of God is an interesting one, but the Bible doesn't give us an exact answer. We only have this little flash of 12-year old Jesus, then we see Him as an adult, fully aware of who He is and ready to do the work He was put on earth to do. After Jesus was baptized and "the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:22), we can be sure Jesus was not surprised.
Jesus is an eternal entity who chose to become a limited human being in physical form to benefit all who believe in Him (John 1:1-2; John 3:16). He had to "grow up" the same way every human being does, attaining knowledge over time and growing spiritually as well (Luke 2:52). Jesus' childhood is not mentioned much in the Bible, so it's hard to say exactly when He "knew" He had always been God. We do know He was aware of being the Son of God at twelve years old (Luke 2:41-52). As an adult, Jesus was fully aware of who He was and ready to the work He was sent to earth to do.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.