In our survey of the divine claims of Jesus recorded throughout the Synoptics and the Gospel of John, we note a rather strange exclusion: nowhere in the Gospel accounts do we see Jesus saying “I Am God.” Is this proof that Jesus did not believe He was God or were His followers simply mistaken?
When we examine the divine claims made by Jesus in the Gospels we quickly come to realize that at no point does He explicitly tell His followers that He is “God.” Why leave such a crucial title out if He was the God of the Old Testament? This objection is often used by critics as a “gotcha” trap towards the unsuspecting believer but at a closer look, the objection really amounts to nothing more than making a mountain out of a molehill.
We can address this by attempting to understand the identity of each person in the Trinity. In the Trinity and throughout the Old Testament Jesus is described as the Wisdom of God. He is called the Son of God, the Wisdom of God, and the Word of God. If Jesus were to designate Himself as “God” it would only confuse His hearers who already associated the title “God” with God the Father, the first person in the Trinity. Jesus is the second person in the Trinity which ontologically makes Him co-equal with God. He is one with God the Father but He has a different role to play, like how a light bulb and the light it illuminates share different roles in the same body.
What we see throughout the Gospel accounts is Jesus using more specific titles that would leave no doubt in the minds of His hearers. He uses titles that mirror those attributed to God the Father in the OT (“I AM,” “Saviour,” “Son of God,” “The Way, The Truth, the Life”). We could imagine how ambiguous such a title would be to the people of ancient Israel had Jesus simply said: “I am God.”
Why do we believe we should see such a claim made by Christ today? It comes down to the devlopment the title of “God” has seen over the decades in accordance with our understanding of who Jesus is. What was at once an exclusive title that referred to the Father alone has taken on a much broader meaning today; where it includes both God the Father and the Son. Since God the Father had revealed so much of Himself in the Son it became common to use the title in a more general sense. However, such an understanding wouldn’t have been known by those who were witnessing the ministry and work of Jesus for the first time. As we look back today we can see that such a title would be generally correct, but the ancients needed something more precise. This is why we see Jesus preferring more specific titles to make known to His hearers that He was, indeed, divine.