WHY DIDN’T JESUS EVER SAY, “I AM GOD”? by Dan Warne for Core Christianity
Believing Jesus is God is no small matter. It goes to the heart of our hope as Christians—we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins! If Jesus isn’t God, there is no hope for sinners because no mere human could perfectly obey God’s law and sustain God’s infinite wrath against sin.
The Heidelberg Catechism, which for centuries has provided instruction and comfort for Christians, addresses the need for a mediator and deliverer who is not just a man but God himself. This is necessary “that he might, by the power of his Godhead sustain in his human nature, the burden of God’s wrath; and might obtain for, and restore to us, righteousness and life” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 17).
If it’s so important, why didn’t Jesus spell it out by saying, “I am God?” Though we can’t answer this question with certainty, I’m not sure we need to. Here are three places in the Gospel of John that Jesus clearly claims to be God:
1. Jesus claims to be the Son of Man.
In John 3, Nicodemus, a religious leader of the Jews, comes to Jesus inquiring about his teaching. Jesus tells him, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13) His point is that he can speak to Nicodemus about heavenly things because he himself has come down from heaven.
This title Jesus takes for himself—the Son of Man—is significant. In the Old Testament, this Son of Man is a heavenly figure who rules forever over his kingdom that will never be destroyed (Dan. 7:14). Throughout the Gospels, it emphasizes the incarnation—God taking human form. It’s important to note that in the very next breath, after claiming for himself the title Son of Man and thus claiming for himself heavenly origin and his coming eternal kingdom, Jesus turns and speaks of his coming crucifixion to give life to those who believe (John 3:14–15).
It’s because Jesus is God incarnate that his death can obtain life for those who believe in him.
2. Jesus claims to be one with the Father.
One winter day, Jesus was walking in the temple when he was surrounded by Jews asking him to spell it out for them: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). They wanted to know if he was indeed the long-awaited Messiah, whom the Old Testament prophesied would be God (Isa. 7:14, Isa. 9:6, Mic. 5:2).