WHO DO YOU SAY I AM? ~ 7/15/10

Here is the final question I was asked to respond to in the aftermath of the "Grill Bill" series at Neighborhood Church. There was a lot more I wanted to say here, but... sometimes simpler is better. It's also possible even my pared down response wasn't simple enough. We'll see. Your feedback is welcome!

Q: How do we know Jesus was who he said he was?

Thanks for the great question! There are plenty of excellent Christian books out there that tackle the empirical, scientific, evidence-based side of corroborating the story of Jesus' identity and claims, such as author and former atheist Lee Strobel's book, The Case for Christ. There are also ‘outside,’ non-Christian, ancient extra-Biblical sources that talk about Jesus as an actual, historical figure that walked and breathed on our earth, many sources that even tell about the things he did or supposedly did in his life. But as many of these sources as you read and study, they will not be able to prove for you definitively that Jesus was who he said he was. That's because Jesus made claims about Himself that go beyond the scientifically and historically answerable, and in my experience, these are the issues people want proved the most. Because of this, these other tools that examine His life can set the table for you, but they cannot make you eat. What I mean is that it will always be necessary for faith to be part of the equation when it comes to Jesus; you will always have to choose to believe or not believe what you've heard or read-- no amount of proof is a substitute for faith. That’s why I believe the only answer to this question is found by spending time in the Bible’s account of who Jesus was. Here are some of the claims Jesus made about Himself in the Bible. Who did He say He was? This sets up your question of ‘how do we know it’s true?’

In the pages of the gospel of John alone, through action and word,


1) Divine Identity

a. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

2) Divine State of Being

a. 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' (John 1:30)

b. Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)

3) Divine Origins

a. I have come down from heaven… (John 6:38)

b. You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23)

4) Divine Prerogatives

a. The authority to forgive (John 5:24, John 8:10,11)

b. The authority to give eternal life (John 5:24, John 17:2)

c. The authority to raise the dead to life (John 5:21,25; John 11:38-44)

d. The authority to judge the world (John 5:22,27)

e. The authority to Abrogate/modify Sabbath regulations (John 5:16-18)

f. The authority over disease (John 9:6,7)

g. The authority over laws of nature (John 6:16-21)

h. The authority to lay His own life down and take it up again (John 10:17,18)


1) The worship of His followers (John 9:38)

2) The title of Messiah (John 4:24-26)

3) The outrage of His enemies (John 8:59)


1) Opportunities to extricate himself from trouble that came out of his identity claims (John 18: 33-37)

In these many ways in this single gospel, we see Jesus’ clear claims to deity, His claims to be the fulfillment of all Messianic prophecy, His claims to be the only hope for salvation and abundant life. So ‘how do we know Jesus was who he said he was?’

In one of his most famous quotes, Christian author and apologist C.S. Lewis stated his answer this way--“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 said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a 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 His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or He was the LORD He claimed to be. Who do you say He is?

In the Bible, in Matthew 16, there is a very interesting conversation between Jesus and His followers about this very topic: 13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" 14They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

How could Peter know this for sure? He knew it because he was close to Jesus, because he was listening to Him speak and watching Him live. He knew it because God the Father spoke for Jesus, testifying through the integrity and power of His life, confirming and revealing in the heart of Peter that this was no normal man but the promised Son of God.

If we want to know, if we want to be sure, that Jesus was who He said He was, we’ll have to do what Peter and the rest of the disciples did; we’ll have to stop basing our beliefs about Him on what other people are saying and go to the source to investigate for ourselves. We’ll have to start spending time with Jesus— which for us means reading the Bible’s stories about Him—so that God the Father can again speak on His behalf to our hearts, through His Holy Spirit, until we too are able to confess that He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

In the end, “knowing” that Jesus was who He said He was will always require FAITH. When it comes to Jesus, there will never be enough proof to make faith obsolete-- and faith requires risk. There are no 'safe' ways to really test the claims of Jesus, you can’t prod at Him with the 30-foot pole of science and reason and expect Him to show you signs of supernatural life. There are no 'safe' ways to test the claims of Jesus, only risky ways. You must take off the sterile gloves of fear and handle Him. You have to climb out of the echoing canyon of secondhand information and go listen to Him. You need to get out from behind the telescope of caution and draw near to Him, until you can see His life up close with the naked, seeking eye. Stop theorizing about the Bread of Life on the table and instead, “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8). Only then will you be able to fairly, adequately answer the question that Jesus asks every last one of us at some point in our lives-- "What about you? Who do you say I am?"

Surrounded By Grace,

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*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~