Answering Our Culture
#6 – “Jesus Was Just a Good Teacher – He Did Not Claim to be God.”
September 1, 2002
Note: some of this outline is from Norman Geisler’s book, "Christian Apologetics."
Let me ask you a question:
What do most people who do not follow Jesus say about Him? Generally I hear that He was a good man, a good teacher, or that He was a holy man, possibly the most holy man who ever lived.
Most people are in agreement that Jesus was a good man. They are also in agreement that Jesus had many good things to say, especially in the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount.
But that’s where they stop. They are not willing to declare that Jesus was the divine Son of God, who was the very nature of God who came to earth in the body of a man.
Well, what does the Bible say, and specifically, what did Jesus say about Himself?
Today I want to show you that not only was Jesus a good teacher – in fact, the best teacher ever, because He revealed the Father to us; but that He claimed to be God Himself.
“Imagine if you will that among the Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. . . Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of god. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.”
(Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 99)
Our focus today will be mainly on the claims of Jesus from the Bible. My intention is to show the large amount of evidence about Christ’s claims about Himself, and my hope is that this will give you something to seriously consider in your seeking after God.
I’m going to be reading a ton of Scripture today, and in the outline in the bulletin, you will see page numbers that correspond to the Bibles in the seats here at the church.
If you are listening to this on tape or CD, and don’t own a Bible you can easily read, please contact us here at the church, and we will gladly give you one at no charge.
Let’s move in and take a look at what Jesus claimed for Himself. First,…
I. He Claimed the Name of God.
Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did, indeed, declare Himself to be God, and in a number of places.
We begin by looking at John 8:52-59 (p. 758):
JN 8:52 At this the Jews exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"
54 Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
57 "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
Allow me to set the context here.
In the Old Testament, specifically in Exodus chapter 3, we find the story of Moses and the burning bush. God, in the bush, was telling Moses to lead the Hebrews out of the slavery of Egypt.
Moses asks God, “Who shall I say is sending me to them?” And God replies by saying that His name is “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.”
In the Hebrew Old Testament, the name “I AM WHO I AM” is abbreviated, by the consonants YHWH, or JHVH.
Because the Jews held the name of God with the highest degree of sacredness, they removed the vowels, no one could utter the name of God.
The initials we have form the basis for our names of God, Yahweh or Jehovah; but the fact is that both of these are our best guesses as to the real name of God. No one really knows the name of God in Hebrew.
When addressing God, many Jews would address Him not as God, but as “The Eternal One.”
Speaking of spelling the name of God, three people from different parts of the country passed away at the same time. All were met at the gates by St. Peter. The first was an architect from California. Peter said, "You’ve built beautiful buildings and served men on earth, but before you come in you have to pass one small test, spell ’God’". "G-O-D," replied the architect and St. Peter waved him through.
The second person to approach was a rancher from Texas. Peter looked at him and said, "You’ve served man upon the earth by providing food through the cattle you’ve raised but before you come in there’s just one small test, spell ’GOD’". "G-O-D", said the rancher and Peter waved him through.
The third person was an attractive businesswoman from New York. Peter said, "You’ve served the world of commerce, but before you come in you’ll have to pass one small test." At this the woman interrupted, "Oh come on now Saint," said the woman, "I’ve had to fight for every promotion I’ve ever gotten. I’ve had to take lower pay for the same job as a male colleague, and I’ve been continually harassed by bosses and peers for one reason, my gender. And now here I am and you’re giving me a hard time too; what kind of test? Let’s get it over with."
Peter thought for a moment and said, "Spell Czechoslovakia" (Source unknown)
Fast forward to New Testament times. The Old Testament in use in the Roman Empire, including Palestine, was a Greek translation called the Septuagint. Don’t worry – there’s not going to be a test on that later, okay?
In the passage we just read in the gospel of John, Jesus, in describing Himself, takes up the Greek form of the holy name and applies it to Himself. In essence, He was saying to the Jews, “I am Jehovah.”
And you can see from the reaction that they knew exactly what He was saying, even if we here in our limited western understanding, don’t.
It is true that Jesus never used words that when translated directly into English from Greek say, “I am God.”
But remember Jesus was not speaking to English-speaking people. He was speaking to Palestinian Jews. Keep that in mind as we read this next passage, John 10:25-33 (p. 760).
JN 10:25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one."
31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
33 "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
It seems they got the idea of Jesus’ words, wouldn’t you say? Again, Jesus was being very explicit in His claim to be God.
Let’s move on to the last book in the Bible, and look at Revelation 1:8, 17 (p. 867).
REV 1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
REV 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Revelation 22:12-16 (p. 879).
REV 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
14 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."
Jesus Christ is claiming to be “The Eternal One.”
Jesus declared Himself to be God, and it was very clear to the people He was addressing.
So let me ask you a question: would a good teacher claim to be God if He was not truly God? The answer is no.
II. He Claimed the Functions of God.
I want to look at six incidents of Jesus claiming the functions of God. I will also read a supporting passage of Scripture to show where He makes these claims.
The first is that Jesus…
Claimed to be the ultimate judge of mankind.
JN 5:25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
Demanded devotion above love for family.
MT 10:37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Hard words from someone who was just a good teacher, right? Next, Jesus…
Claimed to be the Messiah-God.
MK 14:61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64 "You have heard the blasphemy.
Blasphemy was a charge that generally related to God, and the penalty was death – which the religious leaders made sure would happen before the day was done.
He accepted worship.
The Bible forbids worship of anyone but God. Yet Jesus accepted worship on at least nine occasions without rebuking worshipers. Let me highlight just two.
MT 14:32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
MT 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him…
He requested that men pray in His name.
JN 14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
He was claiming that He was the agent of answered prayer.
He claimed divine authority.
-To forgive sins:
Mk 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, 11 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"
The term “Son of Man” was a reference to a vision in the book of Daniel, in which Daniel describes someone called the “son of Man.” Let me read that to you very quickly, so you can gain the context.
DA 7:13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
So you see that the term “Son of Man” is not a reference to human weakness, but rather a reference to His coming dominion.
He claimed authority to forgive, and he claimed to have…
-Authority over all creation.
MT 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Before we move on, let me just answer another charge that I have in discussing this. In John 14:28, Jesus declares, “The Father is greater than I.”
On the surface, this sounds like an admission that Jesus is not God, because God is greater than He is.
However, when we look at it closer, we see that is not the case. Jesus is not saying that the Father is greater in essence than He is. He is declaring that the office of the Father’s role is greater than that of the Son.
For example, President Bush is not a greater man than I am in essence. He is the same flesh and blood type of guy, with weaknesses, emotions, doubts, and joys.
But there is no doubt that his office as the President of the United States is higher than mine, at least in a political and governmental sense.
Jesus was using that context for His comments regarding the Father’s greatness.
Regarding the issue of whether Jesus understood who He really was, I once heard a story about Jesus and Moses on the golf course.
They were going along the course fairly well, but then Jesus began hitting some shots way off the mark.
Moses began questioning Jesus about the technique he was using, and Jesus replied, “That’s how Arnold Palmer always does it!”
They continued for a few more holes, and came to a water hazard, where Jesus shot the ball into the water. Moses parted the water and retrieved the ball, telling Jesus to try something different. “But that’s how Arnold Palmer always does it!”
Jesus hits the ball again, and it goes back into the water. Moses says, “Okay, you go get it this time.” So Jesus walks on the water and retrieves his ball.
About this time, 2 other golfers come around the bend, and see Jesus walking on the water. One of them yells, “Who does that guy think he is, Jesus Christ?” And Moses replies, “No! He thinks he’s Arnold Palmer!”
Folks, Jesus did not have an identity crisis – He knew who He was, and He proclaimed it throughout the Scriptures.
Let’s move on to the last section, where we turn from the claims of Jesus to look at other parts of the Bible that declare Jesus as God.
III. The Bible Declares He is God.
I want to just look at two passages very quickly. The first one is…
Colossians 1:15-20 (p. 833)
COL 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
The second is found in John 1:1-3, 14 (p. 750).
JN 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Can there really be any doubt that Jesus and the Bible declare Jesus to be God?
He was a good teacher – but His teaching is based on His unique position as the Son of God – Immanuel, God with us.
As we conclude, I want to read two quotes – one from the Bible, and one from a former agnostic.
Philippians 2:6-11 (p. 831)
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
C. S. Lewis –
"I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "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 the level with the 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 a 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 with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Your choice: call Him “Lord” now or call Him “Lord” later.
D. M. Stearns was preaching in Philadelphia. At the close of the service a stranger came up to him and said, "I don’t like the way you spoke about the cross. I think that instead of emphasizing the death of Christ, it would be far better to preach Jesus, the teacher and example."
Stearns replied, "If I presented Christ in that way, would you be willing to follow Him?" "I certainly would," said the stranger without hesitation. "All right then," said the preacher, "let’s take the first step. He did no sin. Can you claim that for yourself?"
The man looked confused and somewhat surprised. "Why, no," he said. "I acknowledge that I do sin."
Stearns replied, "Then your greatest need is to have a Savior, not an example!
The Bible says that all who call on Jesus as Savior and Lord will have a home in heaven.
You can call on Him in prayer, by admitting your need for forgiveness of your sins (and we all have sins to be forgiven), believing that Jesus died for you on the cross and rose again from the dead, and asking Him to make you a new person in Christ, clean in heart, a child of God with a home in heaven.
Won’t you do that today?
Lowell is going to lead us our closing chorus, then I’m going to pray. And you will have the opportunity to make Jesus Christ, God Almighty, the Lord and Savior of your life.