Many who claim that there is no God, or that they do not believe in God will also state their belief that Jesus was a great teacher, a good person, and enlightened soul, or some other positive view of Christ. They profess belief that He is a real historical person, yet they may not believe that Jesus was the Son of God or Immanuel, God in the flesh. Many folks like this will categorically state that Jesus did not claim to be God. That is certainly not accurate. Jesus did claim equality with God in the Scriptures.
In Exodus 3:14, God told Moses that His Name was אהיה אשׁר אהיה, ehyeh ahser ehyeh, or I Am That I Am. In Exodus 3:15 and 6:3, God told Moses His Name was יהָוֹה, Yehowah, which is transliterated Jehovah in many translations and is now pronounced Yahweh by many Christians. It means The Existing One, or The Eternal One, or simply I Exist. In other words the plain fact is that God exists, therefore He Is. In the first person, Yahweh is synonymous with “I Am.” Yahweh and I Am can be used interchangeably. God, the Creator of all, is The Great I Am.
In John chapter 8, Jesus was on the Mount of Olives; people were gathered around Jesus and He told them that He was the light of the world and if they would follow Him, they would no longer walk in darkness because they would have in Him the light that leads to life. There were Pharisees in attendance and they disputed Jesus’ claims to be the light of the world. They told Jesus that he could not testify of Himself thus His claim was invalid. Jesus told them that in order for a claim to be true two people had to agree to the truth of that claim. Jesus then told them that He was one witness and the Father who sent Him was the other. They asked Jesus, “Where is your Father?” Jesus told that if they knew Him, they also know His Father (John 8:19, NLT, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who My Father is. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father”). Jesus was basically saying that He was one with the Father, thus claiming to be equal with God.
Later in the same conversation, The Pharisees claimed that their father was Abraham, but Jesus told them that their father was the Devil. He also told them that if they would obey Jesus’ teaching, they would never die. They said, “Now we know You are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but You say, ‘Anyone who obeys My teaching will never die!’ Are You greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do You think You are?” (John 8:52-53, NLT). Jesus answered them and said that Abraham looked forward to Jesus coming to the world. They were incredulous, saying, “You are not even fifty years old so how can you claim that You have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I Am.” Then they picked up stones to throw at Jesus to kill him. Why? Because Jesus claimed the actual Name of God as His own; they thought He committed blasphemy by claiming that He was God. The punishment for blasphemy was stoning to death (Lev 26:16).
To back this up, let us review a portion of John chapter ten. Jesus was in Jerusalem at Hanukkah and had this conversation with the people:
The people surrounded Him and asked, “How long are You going to keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe Me. The proof is the work I do in My Father’s name. But you don’t believe Me because you are not My sheep. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me, for My Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” Once again the people picked up stones to kill Him. Jesus said, “At My Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone Me?” They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:24-33, NLT)
Jesus claimed to be God in three different places in the above passages, I have underlined those places.
After the Last Supper, Jesus was talking with His disciples. “Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9 NKJV). Here again, in the underlined portion, Jesus claimed equality with the Father.
Shortly after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus addressed the crowds: Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me (John 12:44-45). Again, Jesus claims equality with God in the underlined portion.
Additionally, there are a number of places where Jesus uses the Name of God “I Am.” In English Bible versions they have added the pronoun “he” after these repetitions of “I Am” in John’s Gospel. Those pronouns are not in the original Greek. The King James Version, New King James Version, New American Standard Version, and several other versions italicize the pronoun, indicating it is not in the original text.
The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, completed around 200 BC, uses the Greek phrase, εγω ειμι, ego eimi, to translate “I Am” in Exodus 3:14,15, & 6:3 where God tells Moses that His name is “I Am.” That is the same phrase used in the Greek Gospel of John where Jesus uses the Name of God. Thus the Name of God in the Greek is Ego Eimi (Εγω Ειμι).
John 4:26 (YLT) Jesus saith unto her, `I am he [ego eimi], who am speaking to thee.’
John 6:20 (YLT) and he saith to them, `I am he [ego eimi], be not afraid;’
John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he [ego eimi], ye shall die in your sins.
John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he [ego eimi], and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
John 13:19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he [ego eimi].
John 18:5-8 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he [ego eimi]. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. (6) As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he [ego eimi], they went backward, and fell to the ground. (7) Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. (8) Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he [ego eimi]: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:
In the Gospel of John, Jesus also said:
“I am the Bread of Life”
“I am the Bread from Heaven”
“I am the Light of the World”
“I am the Good Shepherd”
“I am the resurrection and the life”
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life”
“I am the true vine”
“I am the vine, you are the branches”
In each of these cases, the words ego eimi are used and translated “I Am.”
In conclusion, Jesus absolutely did claim that He was God on Earth, God with us, Immanuel or Emmanuel. In fact, I agree with what C.S. Lewis said about Jesus:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone 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 patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” —Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, from The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., p36-37