I have been asked this in the very same formulation many times before. I hope this response brings out some of the issues I think are important in this regard.
Nowhere does Jesus say “I am God, worship me.”
Suppose a man does indeed come up to you and does says,
“I am God, worship me.”
Would you believe him?
Would you worship him?
The immediate reaction of any decent monotheistic believer
would be to call the person making such a claim an impostor
and a blasphemer. If that is your reaction too, then why would you demand something from Jesus which you aren’t going to
accept anyway ? Most would declare insane anybody who would make such a statement.
Jesus knows about this natural reaction as
well as anybody else and saw no reason to make his claims in
such a foolish way. But he did make the claim in indirect ways
and those are just as clear.
Maybe you are cautious and open and don’t want to completely
dismiss such a claim … after all, saying that God is not
able to come and appear in the form of a man does restrict his
power, and you believe in an all powerful God, … but you would
at least demand conclusive proof for such a claim, wouldn’t you?
After all, if you do worship somebody who is not God you are
guilty of idolatory. But refusing to worship God when he demands
so is just as great a sin.
What matters in the end is not the existence of this literal
statement, but whether there is clear evidence that he is indeed
God, no matter in which form he issued the claim. If there is clear proof for his divine identity, then you have to worship Him even if the wording of his commands is not precisely the way you may think they should be. We cannot prescribe for God how he has to reveal himself before we accept it.
For example, in the Gospel according to John, (speaking of
eternal life) Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”
(John 11:25). He makes the offer of eternal life conditional on
faith in his own person. This would be blasphemous for anybody other than God. This is an incredible claim. Does he give any
evidence for his authority to make such claims ? The record
gives many details of what happened at this particular day, but at the end we read, “When he had said this, Jesus called in a
loud voice, `Lazarus, come out!’ The dead mean came out, his
hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around
his face. Jesus said to them, `Take off the grave clothes and
let him go.'” (John 11:43-44).
When you read the Gospels carefully you will find that
*Jesus talks like he is God,
* Jesus acts like he is God,
* Jesus gives evidence for claiming this authority rightfully by performing miraculous signs.
After 3 years with his disciples we read how one of them
asks Jesus and wants to be “shown the Father (God)”. Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time ? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. …Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:10-11).
Jesus expected the disciples and the people around him to
recognise his true nature and identity from his words which
are only appropriate for God to speak and from his deeds.
Jesus does give enough proof and then lets you draw your own
conclusions. Everybody could make the claim to be God. And
many have made claims to be (a) god throughout history. Only
the true God can give true evidence for it and if you have
the evidence there is no need for the explicit command to
The statement “I am God” adds nothing of
substance to the question regarding his identity. His real
identity is established by the proof he gives, not by claims
each and everybody can make.
After he has given the evidence,
there is no more need for the statement. Those who are open
for the truth will recognise the evidence, those who ignore
the evidence won’t be convinced either if he adds this
specific statement you seem to demand from him. And if you
have recognized his true identity, worshiping him is only
proper and will nearly be an “automatic” response.
I know this is an incredible thought, it is unbelievable.
That is why it took even the disciples themselves such a
long time to really understand it. They have really only
started to comprehended the meaning of it all after Jesus’
own death and resurrection, after they meet the risen Lord.
He never said these very words. But he makes his claims very clear in many other ways. Open your eyes and you will see that the right
way to read this statement is
Now, HERE -Jesus says “I am God …”