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Among the religious leaders who have attained a large following throughout history, Jesus Christ is unique in the fact that He alone claimed to be God in human flesh. A common misconception is that some or many of the leaders of the world’s religions made similar claims, but this is simply not the case.
Buddha did not claim to be God; Moses never said that he was Yahweh; Mohammed did not identify himself as Allah; and nowhere will you find Zoroaster claiming to be Ahura Mazda. Yet Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, said that he who has seen Him (Jesus) has seen the Father (John 14:9).
The claims of Christ are many and varied. He said that He existed before Abraham (John 8:58), and that He was equal with the Father (John 5:17, 18). Jesus claimed the ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:5–7), which the Bible teaches was something that God alone could do (Isaiah 43:25).
The New Testament equated Jesus as the creator of the universe (John 1:3), and that He is the one who holds everything together (Colossians 1:17). The apostle Paul says that God was manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16, KJV), and John the evangelist says that “the Word was God” (John 1:1). The united testimony of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament is that He was more than mere man; He was God.
Not only did His friends notice that He claimed to be God, but so did His enemies as well. There may be some doubt today among the skeptics who refuse to examine the evidence, but there was no doubt on the part of the Jewish authorities.
When Jesus asked them why they wanted to stone Him, they replied, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33, NASB).
This fact separates Jesus from the other religious figures. In the major religions of the world, the teachings—not the teacher—are all-important.
Confucianism is a set of teachings; Confucius is not important. Islam is the revelation of Allah, with Mohammed being the prophet, and Buddhism emphasizes the principles of the Buddha and not Buddha himself. This is especially true of Hinduism, where there is no historic founder.
However, at the center of Christianity is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not just claim to be teaching mankind the truth; He claimed that He was the truth (John 14:6).
What Jesus taught is not the important aspect of Christianity, but what is important is who Jesus was. Was He the Son of God? Is He the only way a person can reach God? This was the claim He made for Himself.
Suppose this very night the President of the United States appeared on all the major networks and proclaimed that “I am God Almighty. I have the power to forgive sin. I have the authority to raise my life back from the dead.”
He would be quickly and quietly shut off the air, led away, and replaced by the Vice-President. Anybody who would dare make such claims would have to be either out of his mind or a liar, unless he was God.
This is exactly the case with Jesus. He clearly claimed all these things and more. If He is God, as He claimed, we must believe in Him, and if He is not, then we should have nothing to do with Him. Jesus is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.
Yes, Jesus claimed to be God. Why should anyone believe it? After all, merely claiming to be something does not make it true. Where’s the evidence that Jesus is God?
The Bible gives various reasons, including miracles and fulfilled prophecy, that are intended to convince us that Jesus is the one whom He said He was (John 20:30, 31). The main reason, or the sign which Jesus Himself said would demonstrate that He was the Son of God, was His resurrection from the dead.
When asked for a sign from the religious leaders, Jesus replied, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40, RSV).
In another place He said, when asked for a sign, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up… but he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:19, 21, KJV). The ability to raise His life back from the dead was the sign that separates Him not only from all other religious leaders, but also from anyone else who has ever lived.
Anyone wishing to refute the case for Christianity must explain away the story of the resurrection. Therefore, according to the Bible, Jesus proves to be the Son of God by coming back from the dead (Romans 1:4). The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus did rise from the grave, and it is this fact that proves Jesus to be God.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev. ed., Here’s Life Publishers, 1979
Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, Tyndale House, 1977
Arlie J. Hoover, Dear Agnos, Baker Book House, 1976
Michael Green (ed.), The Truth of God Incarnate, Eerdmans, 1977
Sir Norman Anderson, Mystery of the Incarnation, Inter-Varsity Press, 1978