John 5:18 tells us that “… the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him (Jesus), because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
What a wild claim! Equal with God! What sort of arrogance does it take to claim equality with God? No wonder the Jews – fiercely protective of the ‘oneness’ of God – wanted to shut Jesus up.
Every good Jew knew that God is one – and only one. The verse sometimes known as the ‘Sh’ma’ says it plainly; “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” [Deut 6:4].
There had been plenty in the past who had the audacity to claim to be what they were not – prophets, messiahs, saviours of the people. And each one ended in disappointment at best, captivity and slaughter at worst.
In fact, this desire to be like God goes back a long way. Back to the Garden of Eden, in fact, where the devil enticed Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit with the promise “… when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” [Gen 3:5].
So, for another to come along declaring Himself to not only be the Messiah, but claiming to be equal to God Himself was just going too far for them.
Jesus’ claim that He is God in the flesh is, then, an audacious claim. And it’s a claim that led to His execution as a heretic, a blasphemer, executed like a common criminal.
But in John 5, Jesus not only stands by His claim before His accusers, He ‘ups the ante’ by making more claims to prove His Godhood.
And each claim enraged the religious leaders more.
So, what are some of those claims?
- As the Father works even on the Sabbath, so the Son works also, because He is Lord of the Sabbath [John 5:17, Luke 6:1-5].
- Whatever the Father does – even raising the dead, the Son does also, for the Son has the same power and authority as the Father [John 5:19].
- The Father withholds nothing from the Son because of their relationship of love [John 5:20].
- As the Father gives life to the dead, so the Son can give life to anyone He wants to [John 5:21].
- There is such unity of purpose, of mind, of essence between the Father and the Son that the Son is entrusted with all judgment – present day judgment and eternal judgment [John 5:22].
- To honour the Son is to honour the Father; to dishonour Him is to dishonour the Father likewise.
As we read the gospels, we see Jesus making many more strong claims about His identity. He is the True Bread from heaven, the Good Shepherd, the Gate, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Light of the World, and much, much more.
Jesus says of Himself in John 8, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him…” [John 8:54-55].
But God has declared that He will share His glory with no other [see Isa 42:8 & 48:11]. So either Jesus is God, as He claims to be, or He is a liar, a blasphemer, and He deserves to be rejected by every generation and He deserved to be put to death by that generation.
Jesus Christ is nothing less than God in the flesh. He is not one god amongst many. He is not just one way to get to God. He is the only God, and He is the only way to God.
If you reject His claim to be God, what hope is there for your salvation? For just to claim you believe in God is not enough if you reject His Son, and His Son’s claims. The Jews thought they worshipped God, but apparently, if you reject Jesus “… you have not known him (God).”
If Jesus is who He claims to be, then you and I both have a serious decision to make. Will we reject Him and His claim on your life as your Creator? Or will we put our trust in Him to rescue us from our rebellion, our sin?
The choice is yours. But bear in mind, one day, He will be judging you. I hope and pray you decide to put your trust in Him before it is too late.