An Investigation: The Lofty Claims of Jesus
by Sheri Bell
Was Jesus Just a Man, or God?
No doubt about it, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of the western culture for almost twenty centuries. Talk about staying power! Equally constant: the debate about who He is.
Almost everyone who has heard of Jesus has developed an opinion about Him. That’s to be expected, as He is the most famous, and controversial, person in world history.
Was Jesus just a man — or, as Jesus Himself claimed, God in human form?
The controversy about Jesus extends to this core identity. On the one hand, Christians believe Jesus is the divine Son of God, the fulfillment of ancient biblical prophecies, the promised Savior of the world.
Skeptics, on the other hand, assert that Jesus was neither divine nor claimed to be. He was possibly a great teacher — just one among many who claimed to possess the truth. But Jesus’ claims of power and authority, they say, were proved exaggerated when the Romans nailed His body to a cross. Anyone who claimed to see Jesus alive afterward, they add, simply experienced grief-induced visions.
Heck, spend even five minutes reading any published book by a prominent skeptic, and you just might find yourself questioning if anything you believe about Jesus contains a nugget of truth. But that’s not a bad thing, if it motivates you to deeper study. If we’re going to call ourselves “followers of Christ,” we should have a solid basis for doing so. God calls to be committed, not lukewarm.
So which is it?
Was Jesus a mere mortal — the loving, peacemaking cult hero that many today make Him out to be? Was He a revolutionary, thwarted in His plans to set up a new political kingdom? Or was Jesus God, as He boldly claimed, despite knowing that He was courting retaliation by the Jewish leaders and Rome by doing so?
As Alister McGrath, Oxford professor of science of religion, writes: “The challenge posed to every succeeding generation by the New Testament witness to Jesus is not so much, ‘What did He teach?’ but ‘Who is He? And what is His relevance for us today?’”
To answer that, we need to look at some of the lofty claims Jesus made, as recorded by the New Testament writers…