Who was Jesus really? Some consider him divine, others a good moral teacher, and some say he never existed. While the most liberal of historical scholars would agree that Jesus was a real person who died by Roman crucifixion, his deity or claim to be God remain in question for many.
A common approach is to evaluate the direct claims of deity found in the Bible. Statements like “I am the way the truth and the life,” or “the father and I are one,” or simply saying “I am,” which was considered blasphemous for daring to link himself with God, are all good examples of Jesus’ claim of divinity. Yet a lesser known evaluation is witnessed in his indirect claims of deity: the moments were Jesus acted in a way that only God was known for. These claims, though different from direct, declarative statements, are just as powerful—if not more. Let’s look at a few.
Jesus forgave sins
Forgiving sins is easily one of the most radical demonstrations of Jesus’ deity. As Jesus is building up a reputation in Palestine for his healing and speaking ministry, people are coming in droves to witness the modern-day prophet. While experiencing healing was rare, it was not unheard of given the history of the Jewish people. However, the manner in which Jesus brought healing is unlike the other prophets who came before him. Namely, Jesus, on a number of occasions, circumvents the traditional way of healing a person by offering forgiveness for sins. Take the paralytic man while Jesus was in Capernaum. The building had become so overrun that a group of people had to lower their paralytic friend through the roof in order to be seen by Jesus. When confronted with the paralyzed man, Jesus breaks from the script by saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Lk. 5:20). It is an odd statement that seems off kilter considering the paralytic was seeking healing. The Jewish leaders picked up on the strange choice of words and aptly said, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus was a source of life
The Judeo-Christian perspective believes that God is the source of all life. Outside of God, things will eventually run down. Yet in Jesus’ ministry, he associated himself with being the source of life. Perhaps the best example of this comes from John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus’ very essence is life-giving, a quality that is only found in God.
Jesus accepted worship
Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples locked the doors and hid from the Jewish leaders for fear of experiencing a similar fate. Suddenly, a resurrected Jesus appeared before them. All of the disciples were stunned, but one of the disciples, Thomas, was not present. When told of this fantastic story, Thomas refused to believe unless he could see and touch Jesus where he was mortally wounded. A week goes by and once again the disciples are in a locked house when Christ appears. Thomas, stunned by what he is seeing, is told to witness the resurrected Christ for himself by touching his body. Not a moment goes by before he utters, “My Lord and my God!” Worship was only reserved for God. There are several instances in the Bible when worship was wrongly displaced on an angel or object. In each of these instances, the people were rebuked (e.g., Matt. 4:9-10; Acts 10:25-26; Rev. 22:8-9). Thomas’ direct pronouncement of his deity and the praise and worship that accompanied it was not rebuked by Christ but was affirmed. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29).
Jesus will judge the world
John Stott writes, “To be excluded from heaven on the last day, it will be enough for Jesus to say to them, quite simply, ‘I never knew you.’” Perhaps the most sobering, indirect claim is seen in Jesus as judge. No other person has the power, except God, to decide the fate of an individual’s destiny. How wonderful is it to know that salvation comes to anyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21)? That though God is judge, he is a good judge and offers true justice.
More can be said on the indirect claims of Christ, but the list above is a good starting place into a larger subject. Still, it will not be enough for many. There will always be people, no matter how good the evidence, that will question the person of Christ. There is an element of faith, after all, to believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be.