Jesus Thought He Was God
Did Jesus of Nazareth claim to be God?
The evidence in the Gospels suggests that Jesus did in fact claim to be God. He did so, however in a very Jewish way. Jesus performed signs and wonders intended to reveal his identity. However, the full meaning of parables can only be fully understood in the context of ancient Jewish Scriptures.
Is Jesus Divine in the Synoptic Gospels?
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to the gospel of John whose content is comparatively distinct.
Let us focus on three of Jesus’ most startling deeds – (1) the stilling of the storm, (2) the walking on the water, and (3) the Transfiguration – in which he acts precisely as if he is the God described in the Jewish Scriptures.
The Stilling of the Storm: “Who Is This?”
The Stilling of the Storm is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:35-41)
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”. Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41)
What would the stilling of the storm have meant to Jesus’ disciples? And what does this episode reveal about Jesus’ identity? The Old Testament emphasizes how the God of the universe displays his power by controlling the wind and the sea. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke depict Jesus as possessing God’s own power over the sea and water. “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). Jesus displays a power that the Old Testament repeatedly attributes to God alone. Jesus does not pray to calm the wind and the sea, instead he himself simply commands the wind and sea, and they obey him.
The Walking on Water: “I Am”
The Walking on Water is recorded in three gospels: (Matthew 14:22-33), (Mark 6:45-51) and (John 6:16-21).
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed. (Mark 6:45-51)
Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee amid wind and waves (Mark 6:48). When the disciples see him and become afraid, he says to them: “I am, do not be afraid” (Mark 6:50). What is the meaning of this miracle? Why does Jesus say “I am” to the disciples? He was simply identifying himself to them. In the Old Testament, “I am” is often used for the divine name of God (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is revealing his divine identity to them.
Jesus “meant to pass by” the disciples when he was walking on the water (Mark 6:48). Where was Jesus going? In the Old Testament, “passing by” is repeatedly used to describe what God does when he appears to human beings.
Then the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord;] the Lord will pass by. (1 Kings 19:11)
The Transfiguration on the Mountain
The Transfiguration on the Mountain is recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:2-9)
A cloud overshadows them and a voice from heaven identifies Jesus as God’s “Son” and commands the disciples to listen to him. Afterwards Jesus commands the disciples not to tell anyone about anything they have seen or heard.
In the Old Testament Moses and Elijah experience theophanies — visible displays to human beings that expresses the presence and character of God – in which God comes to them on Mount Sinai and reveals his glory, but neither Moses nor Elijah sees God’s face. On the Mountain of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah see the unveiled face of God, and Jesus’ identity is revealed.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)