While people from all walks of life may dispute if God exists, it is uncommon for anyone to question if Jesus Christ really walked the land of Israel over 2,000 years ago. Almost every major religion includes stories of Jesus, describing Him as a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man. But it is not the reality of His existence that is the biggest subject of debate, rather it is whether or not Jesus is who He said is: God.
The problem with saying that Jesus was only a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly human being is the fact that Jesus said some things which, if He were not truly God, would make Him truly insane. The great author and theologian C.S. Lewis may have expressed this conundrum best:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: '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 a level with a 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 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 up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”
—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
So what proofs do we have that Jesus was (and is) God? What did He say about Himself? What did others say about His identity? Let's find out what the Bible tells us about the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus made some claims that got the Jews really upset. The way He phrased some things implied that He claimed to be God, which was considered blasphemy and punishable by stoning to death. In John 10:10, Jesus says, "I and the Father are one." The Jews grab stones from the ground and accuse Jesus of blasphemy, saying, "...you, a mere man, claim to be God" (John 10:33). Jesus never corrects them or tells them they misunderstood. No, He was clear, and they understood exactly what He was saying.
Another example is found in John 8:58, when Jesus is talking to the Jews and says, "I tell you the truth...before Abraham was born, I am!" This "I AM" name was a direct use of the Old Testament name for God (Exodus 3:14). You can imagine how enraged this must have made the Jews—for someone they believed to be a mere mortal to claim the name of their One True God was unthinkable. So they picked up their stones to kill Jesus (John 8:59), yet He did not correct them. Jesus stood by what He claimed. Either He really is God, or He was just a crazy person.
One of the most beautiful descriptions of Jesus (IMHO) is at the beginning of the Book of John. The apostle John describes the creative utterances of God as separate yet same entity: "the Word was with God...the Word was God" (John 1:1). He goes on to describe how this Word has always been in existence with God (v. 2), that the Word is a living being and contains the light of men (v. 4)—a light that shines in the darkness (v. 5). John then describes how he would be a witness to this Light coming into the world, that the Light would give those who received Him the right to be called children of God (John 1:6-13). Then he specifies that "the Word became flesh" (v. 14), which confirms that Jesus IS this Word, this Light, and was sent to earth to be born as a human among mankind.
When the disciple Thomas cried to Jesus, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28), Jesus never corrected him. Jesus' divinity was clear at that point though; He had just come back to life after they'd seen Him crucified on the cross days before. His resurrection was an indisputable proof of His divine nature. If Jesus were NOT God, then He was the greatest liar and magician there ever was.
The Bible has many more references to Jesus' divine nature. The apostle Paul called Him "our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). Peter refers to Him similarly when he refers to "our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1). God the Father says of Jesus, "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom" (Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 45:6). When the Old Testament prophets proclaimed the Christ, they said, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
As C.S. Lewis argued, to say that Jesus was a mortal human—merely a good teacher and a godly man—is completely illogical. Jesus claimed to be God! Either He IS God, as He claimed, and we can believe everything He said is true...or He is NOT God, and He is a blasphemous, lying madman. Liars are not prophets or good teachers or godly men. Either we believe ALL He said was true, or we can't believe anything, because madmen can't be trusted.
Why is it important that Jesus is who He said He is? Why does it matter so much that we believe Jesus is God? Because if He is NOT God, then His death would have never been enough to pay the penalty for our sins (1 John 2:2). Only God, who is utterly blameless, could pay such an infinite price (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus had to come to earth to pay our debt with a mortal life. Jesus had to be God to be resurrected after His death. Jesus is the only way of salvation for humankind. This is why Jesus made it clear, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
Jesus claimed to be God (John 10:10; John 8:58). John 1:1-13 describes Jesus as "the Word" and "the Light" who would shine into the darkness of the world and give those who received Him the right to be called children of God. The Bible has many more references to Jesus being God. Jesus needed to be both God and man so He could pay our debt with a mortal life and then come back to life as an indisputable proof of His divinity (1 John 2:2; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Acceptance of Jesus is the only way of salvation. As Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
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.