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But one thing Jefferson didn’t answer: If Jesus falsely claimed to be God he couldn’t have been a good moral teacher. But did Jesus really claim deity? Before we look at what Jesus claimed, we need to examine the possibility that he was simply a great religious leader.
Surprisingly, Jesus never claimed to be a religious leader. He never got into religious politics or pushed an ambitious agenda, and he ministered almost entirely outside the established religious framework.
When one compares Jesus with the other great religious leaders, a remarkable distinction emerges. Ravi Zacharias has studied world religions and observed a fundamental distinction between Jesus Christ and the founders of other major religions. All religions provide instruction for a way of living. But it is only Jesus who offers deliverance, forgiveness for sin, and transformation. “Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was identical with His message.” However, he has made a mistake by saying this about Jesus. Because, Jesus never said God should forgive, he actually wanted man to forgive man and not punish in the name of god. He always suggested that man has no right to replicate God. In other religion for example, Islam prophet Mohammad clearly says that Allah forgives if you do such and such thing. In many instances, Jesus suggested that you would pay for what you do. That means he clearly suggests that God or Nature's Laws do not permit anything as unnatural as forgivens. Concept of pardon is essentially a human idea to attract masses.
In The World’s Great Religions, Huston Smith observed that of all religious leaders only Jesus claimed to be divine.
In addition, that leads us to the question of what Jesus really did claim for himself; in fact specifically, Jesus never claimed to be God.
So what is it that convinces many scholars that Jesus claimed to be God? Author, John Piper explains that Jesus claimed power, which uniquely belonged to God.
Jesus’ friends and enemies were staggered repeatedly by what he said and did. He would be walking down the road, seemingly like any other man, and then turn and say something like, ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ Or, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’ Or, very calmly, after being accused of blasphemy, he would say, ‘The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ To the dead he might simply say, ‘Come forth,’ or, ‘Rise up.’ And they would obey. To the storms on the sea he would say, ‘Be still.’ And to a loaf of bread he would say, ‘Become a thousand meals.’ And it was done immediately.”
But what did Jesus really mean by such statements? Is it possible Jesus was merely a prophet like Moses or Elijah, or Daniel? Even a superficial reading of the Gospels reveals that Jesus claimed to be someone more than a prophet. No other prophet had made such claims about himself; in fact, no other prophet ever put himself in God’s place.
Some argue that Jesus never explicitly said, “I am God.” It is true that he never stated the exact words, “I am God.” However, Jesus also never explicitly said, “I am a man,” or “I am a prophet.” Yet Jesus was undoubtedly human, and his followers considered him a prophet like Moses and Elijah. Therefore, we cannot rule out Jesus being divine just because he did not say those exact words, anymore than we can say he was not a prophet. From what we get of that time, it is clear that Jesus only wanted to improve working of Jew priesthood.
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