Did Jesus claim to be God?
In a previous blog, I looked at Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler, and I suggested that the Lord was trying to get the young man to think more deeply about His identity. The Lord wanted the young man to reason to the conclusion that Jesus was not just another moral teacher, but God Himself.
The young man asked,
“Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus answered:
“Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God” (Luke 18:18-19).
I argued that Jesus was acting as a good Socratic teacher. The Lord did not deny that He was good. Moreover, He supplied the young ruler with another premise (“No one is good but God”), so that he should have been able to reason this way:
Premise 1: Only God is good.
Premise 2: Jesus is good.
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus is God.
But in reading Brant Pitre’s The Case for Jesus, I realize now that Jesus did something else to help the young man along in His thinking.
When the young man asked what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus recited several of the Ten Commandments (“you know the commandments,” Luke 18:20), which the young man then claimed to have kept from his youth (Luke 18:21).
But then Jesus did something striking—something I didn’t remark upon before—He adds to the Ten Commandments! He calls the young man to sell what he has “and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22).
Jesus does something stunning: he adds a command to follow him to the obligation to keep the Ten Commandments. In a first-century Jewish context, this would have been shocking. In Jewish Scripture, the Ten Commandments are written by the very “finger of God” (Exod 31:18). Yet here is Jesus adding the command to follow him as if that was on par with keeping the commandments (The Case for Jesus, pp. 151-152).
So what does that mean about Jesus’ identity?
Pitre quotes Simon Gathercole:
[W]hat is most striking is that having established the one good God as the one who defines what is required of human beings, in the final analysis Jesus is the one who defines what is ultimately commanded…If God alone is good and able to give commandments, then Jesus does so as well. By implication then, he is also good. And he is good not in the sense implied by the rich man, but in the absolute divine sense used by Jesus himself (The Case for Jesus, p. 152).
So the rich young ruler had even more information than I realized to come to the right conclusion about Jesus’ identity.
Premise 1: Only God defines what is good (i.e., the Ten Commandments).
Premise 2: But Jesus defines what is good (i.e., “follow Me”).
Conclusion: Who, then, is Jesus?