Matthew 11:27. "All things have been handed over to Me by my Father: and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." In this verse, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in an "exclusive and absolute sense," having a unique and personal relationship with the Father. It is helpful here to make a momentary digression into the Jewish conception of the father/son relationship, as expressed by Harvey [Harv.JesC, 159-161]. Being a son to a father required the following:
- Obedience. The son was expected to be totally obedient to the father in all matters. (See Prov. 4:4.) In identifying Himself as God's Son, Jesus indicated that He was obliged to be in perfect obedience to the divine will. But what human could accomplish this? It would be the claim of one who was either a massive egotist, insane -- or truly divine.
- Learning. A son was expected to learn the father's trade, his skills, and his experience. Jesus is therefore saying that he has taken up God's work and learned what He knows directly from God. Finally:
- Agency. A son was expected to act as the father's agent when called upon, and would be considered to have the father's legal authority in such situations. Jesus was therefore saying that He was appointed as God's direct agent.
This all implies divinity, inasmuch as the OT describes God as one who will not share His glory with another.
Matthew 12:28; parallel in Luke 11:20. "If I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." E.P. Sanders says that these words "show that Jesus thought that the presence of the kingdom was attested to by his exorcisms." (Sand.JesJud, 134; see also With.JQ, 114)
Sanders does not believe that this necessarily indicates a claim to divinity, for he speculates that this was not a unique claim by Jesus, though no hard proof of this assessment is offered. If it is unique, of course, it demonstrates that Jesus considered His presence to be a harbinger of God's kingdom, indicating a very special relationship with God - to the point of divinity.
Now of course, we may note the obvious objection that apostolic exorcisms do not imply the deity of the apostles. Paul and Peter casting out unclean spirits does not equate them with God. This is true, but it should be remembered that the later apostolic actions were linked to Jesus through a gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it was still Jesus who performed the apostolic exorcisms. The apostles did use the name of Jesus to cast out demons.
Matthew 23:34. "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes..." In Jewish belief, it is God that is responsible for sending prophets. In saying that He will send prophets, Jesus is equating Himself with God - once again, assuming a role reserved for God alone.
Matthew 24:5; parallels in Mark 5:23, Luke 21:8. "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ: and shall deceive many." This statement would be meaningless if Jesus did not perceive Himself as Christ. The title "Christ," of course, is a Greek equivalent to the Jewish term "Messiah," both meaning "anointed." Therefore, this can be considered to be a claim to divinity if it is shown that Christ/Messiah is a divine title. (For more on this, again see the work on Messianic Expectations.)
Mark 9:42. "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin..." Miller observes that Jesus is hereby endorsing Himself as an appropriate object of religious faith! This is thus a rather important clue as to deity (cf. Jer 17.5 "This is what the LORD says: 'Cursed is the one who trusts in man.' ").
Matthew 28:18; similar quotes in Luke 24:25, 46. In this post-resurrection address, Jesus says that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to Him - in short, power that only God has.
Luke 12:8-9. "I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man shall confess him also before the angels of God: but he who denies me before men shall be denied before the angels of God." Here Jesus indicates that what men say about Him will be the focal point of their judgment. Certainly this directly implies some divine influence! (This applies even if we argue that "Son of Man" is used here to refer to a third person.)
Matthew 26:64; parallel in Mark 14:61-4. The high priest asks Jesus directly if He is the Christ, and Jesus answers in the affirmative. (See here.)
Mark 12.1-11 This is the parable of the Tenants and the wicked husbandmen. In this passage Jesus "identifies himself...with the beloved Son, the final envoy of God in a succession of divine messengers, the prophets." [deJ.CC, 60]. Miller adds that Jesus here:
...differentiates Himself from the religious leadership of Israel (i.e. "the wicked tenants"), with a claim to a UNIQUE Sonship-Heirship. So "He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, 'They will respect my son.' "But the tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard...He interprets this messianically in v.10-11, as does His enemies around Him (v.12). He is the UNIQUE Son and Heir of God--a rather high claim!
Matthew 16:16-7. Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ. Jesus does not rebuke Peter, but proclaims him blessed for having had the information revealed to him.
Mark 14.27 Here, Jesus applies a messianic passage, Zechariah 13:7, to himself.
Mt 25:17-46 This is the "sheep and the goats" judgment passage, where Jesus says of Himself, as Son of Man, that he "comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." These he will then judge and send on to their respective eternal destinies. Jesus claimed to be able to determine people's eternal destiny!
Lk 19.43ff Miller observes: "The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." Notice: They did not recognize "GOD'S" coming to them. YHWH was supposed to come to His temple (OT prophecy), which of course happens in the NEXT section of Luke. Jesus is making a clear claim to deity here.
Lk 21:14-15. "But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict." Again, Miller writes: Notice: in this version of the end-time persecution prophecy, Jesus says that HE will give them the words to say, but in Mt 10 it has 'Spirit of your Father' and in Mr 13 it was 'the Holy Spirit'. This is a rather clear and close association (besides a statement of supernatural power to be able to do that, and omnipresence to BE there!)
Lk 22:29f. "And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me." Here Jesus claims the authority to "confer a kingdom" in the same way as His Father -- indicating equality of action and authority.
Matthew 9:2; parallels in Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20 and 7:48. Jesus tells people that "their sins are forgiven." This may not seem significant to Western eyes, so an illustration is needed.
If John does something bad to Joe, then Joe can forgive John. But it would be ridiculous for Jake - unless he were somehow related to Joe - to forgive John for what he did to Joe. Forgiveness requires the RIGHT to forgive; therefore, Jesus' forgiving the sins of others that He had no personal connection with indicates that He believed that He was the only One who was offended by all sins and therefore had the right to forgive them: God, the author of all moral law.
Moreover, this is particularly a noteworthy claim in the context of Judaism, for as Charlesworth notes, "The faithful Jew...acknowledged that only God can forgive the sinner." [Chars.Jes, 49] So in effect, Jesus was assuming the place and role of the entire Temple sacrificial system authorized by God [Wrig.Who, 50] and claiming to be God's broker for forgiveness.
There have been counter-arguments to this interpretation. Sanders [Sand.JesJud, 273] believes that here Jesus was not claiming to be God, but was "presumably speaking for God" as an OT prophet would. He also says, "We have no reason to think that the Pharisees thought that priests could not announce forgiveness on God's behalf."
There are three problems with Sanders' counter-argument.
First, it is an argument from silence.
Second, it violates the plain implication of the text. If Jesus had been simply speaking for God, then we would expect that He would have prefaced His remarks with something like "God says..." as was done by OT prophets. We may speculate, of course, that this was what Jesus did and it was simply not recorded, but as the text plainly reads, at the very least Jesus was being extremely presumptuous and thinking of Himself being in God's appropriate place. Indeed, this was the very core of the objection made by the Jews, in Mark 2:6-7:
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Third, of course, if the capability to forgive sins generally HAD been a practice of priests in that time, then readers of the Gospels would naturally object that Jesus was not thereby doing anything unique or upsetting to the Pharisees. If the Gospel writers knew this, why did they feature this story?
Fredrikson [Fred.GI, 105], meanwhile, regards Jesus as only saying that the man's sins were forgiven in the sense that the sin causing the sickness was forgiven, and Jesus was going to "forgive" the man's sins in healing him. In support of this she cites the Prayer of Nabodinus, where that king of Babylon speaks of a Jewish healer pardoning his sins.
Naturally, Fredrikson must see the situation illustrated by Mark as "contrived" in order to maintain this interpretation. She must deny the veracity of most of the account, ignore the objections of the Jews in Mark 2:6-7, and contrive her own application of the claim in order to emasculate it.
Also, in the case of the Nabodinus prayer, we may note that Nabodinus, unlike the paralytic with Jesus, would have done something to offend the Jewish healer - namely, keep his people as captives after attacking their land. As with our illustration above with Jim and Jake, there must be something to personally forgive for someone to have the ability to extend forgiveness.
Matthew 8:21-2; parallel in Luke 9:59. "Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.' " It has been popular to interpret this verse in other ways; but E. P. Sanders believes that the disciple's father here was truly dead, and that a burial was planned. Thus Jesus was telling this disciple that for the sake of His mission, he should disobey the commandment to honor his parents - Jesus' mission was far more important. [Sand.JesJud, 252]
It is not a conclusion that Sanders comes to, but we may ask where Jesus would have the nerve to tell someone to violate God's commandments for the sake of His mission, unless He were God (or at least was "in" with God's divine identity), and thereby had the power and privilege to authorize exceptions to His rules.
In this case, if the interpretation is correct, Jesus was speaking with the authority of God. Consider that the only parallel situation we have to this denial of a father is in the command to the High Priests in the OT, that out of commitment to YHWH as highest, he was not allowed to defile himself with a dead body--even of his father and mother:
Lev 21:10-12 The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt or tear his clothes. He must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother, nor leave the sanctuary of his God or desecrate it, because he has been dedicated by the anointing oil of his God. I am the LORD.
This would suggest, then, that Jesus was claiming the very priority of the YHWH who dwelt in the Holy of Holies.
Luke 5:22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
This verse (and parallels) is often read as just a miraculous act of mind-reading, but it is far more than that. As Malina notes in The New Testament World [66-7], persons in the ancient world did not "know" each other as individuals, as we do today. To know the heart of another was solely the prerogative of divinity. Hence, for Jesus to claim knowledge of such, or to act as though having it, is in itself an indirect claim to divinity.
We close here by summarizing from Miller's trinity series - of which, we have not used ALL the cites directly:
Summary: The claims of Jesus in the Synoptics:
- To be the Messiah, the King of the Jews, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah
- To be the divine, eschatological Son of Man of Daniel 9 (considered blasphemous)
- To be the UNIQUE Son of God (considered blasphemous)
- To be Lord of the Sabbath
- To be able to forgive sins (considered blasphemous)
- To be an appropriate object of religious faith
- To be the Heir to God
- To be greater than King David, Solomon, Jonah, the Temple
- To be 'owner' of the angels and the Elect
- To speak eternally binding and existent sayings--own His OWN authority
- To be "able" to abolish the OT scriptures
- To be the authoritative interpreter of the OT
- To be the issue upon which the eternal destinies of humans depend(!)
- To be worth higher loyalty and commitment that the family
- To have EXCLUSIVE knowledge of the Father, and the SOLE 'dispenser' of that knowledge
- To send prophets
- To be omnipresent
- To be of equal status with the Father and the Spirit, and to share 'the Name' with them
- To be able to grant derivative authority over evil spirits
- To be able to grant kingdom authority IN THE SAME WAY the FATHER does(!)
- To be "God" visiting them (as promised in the OT messianic prophecies)
- To be co-operative/interchangeable in some operations with the Spirit
- To have special knowledge of heavenly events
- To have ALL authority in HEAVEN
- To have authority over the Holy Spirit(!)
Conclusion: The Synoptics, often considered to portray an "earthly Jesus" and not the "divine Christ", provide ample data for both! The claims above are simply TOO NUMEROUS, TOO 'HIGH', TOO consistently understood as being claims to deity (and hence, deserving the term 'blasphemy' by the Jewish religious establishment of the day) for us to make this Jesus a 'mere man--noble, sublime, wise--but still JUST a man'.
No, the data is quite clear--Jesus reflected a self-consciousness of being God. There are times, predictably, in the economy of redemption, in which His humanity and servant-nature revealed itself, but those passages CANNOT 'explain away' the import of the above mass of data. The Synoptic gospels consistently portray a Jesus who understood Himself as the divine Son of God and eschatological Son of Man, and one totally consistent with the early creedal/liturgical forms of the church.