'Where did Jesus say, "I am the Messiah"? is a common argument of those who argue against Jesus being the Messiah (Christ) in reality rather than merely in the veneration of the church.
While we're on the subject, Jesus did not even say "I am a prophet". Why not?
The Gospel of John: Extended discourse on testimony to Jesus
Actually, the question "Why not?" was covered at some length in the fourth gospel.
If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. (John 5:31)Jesus was citing the common legal practice of the people among whom he lived: testifying on your own behalf was considered meaningless. The Talmud records this legal principle:
No one may testify concerning himself. (Kethuboth 27b, Mishnah)This is even today considered somewhat common sense: it is foolish to believe everything that a man may say about himself. If Jesus had said "I am the Messiah" or "I am God" or even "I am a prophet" or "I am the messenger of God", it would provide no real reason for believing it. What someone says about himself may be merely self-serving to glorify himself. Jesus, continuing the earlier conversation, provides several lines of witnesses that testify about him:
- John the Baptist (John 5:33-35)
- The works Jesus is doing (John 5:36)
- The Father's own testimony (John 5:37-38)
- Scripture (John 5:39-40);
- Moses (John 5:45-47).
Here you are, appearing as your own witness. Your testimony is not valid. (John 8:13)Jesus' reply covered reasons why his self-testimony is valid, beginning with how they were judging by human standards and how his Father's witness adds to his own to establish matters on the testimony of two witnesses according to rules set forth by the Torah. He continues with the point that he is speaking only what the Father has taught him to speak. This thread continues for some length on the topic as Jesus rebuts the charge that he is a glory-seeker and that his testimony would be dismissed by a judge.
I am not seeking glory for myself, but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. (John 8:50)The series of exchanges comes to a climax when Jesus is asked whether he is the Messiah and ups the stakes, saying words that the hearers understand as a claim to equality with God. Again, follow the thread of where the testimony comes from and what witnesses speak on his behalf:
The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to him, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If he called them 'gods' to whom the Word of God came -- and the Scripture cannot be broken -- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." (John 10:24-38, emphasis added)
Sign as testimony: Is Jesus the one, or should we expect another?
The Gospel of John is not the only gospel to show Jesus using this same logic. John the Baptist, in prison, sought confirmation beyond what he had from seeing God's sign at Jesus' Baptism. He sent messengers to Jesus:
"Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Jesus replied: Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Matthew 11:3-6; see also Luke 7:18-35)Again Jesus lets his signs testify for him: we should not expect another to come after him; the prophecies are fulfilled in him.
Sign as testimony: Who can forgive sins but God alone?
Jesus uses the same line of argument when he is challenged for claiming authority reserved for God when he forgave the sins of a paralytic man, an account which is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke:
He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, "your sins are forgiven', or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Sonof Man has authority on earth to forgive sins ..." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying "We have never seen anything like this." (Mark 2:5-12, see also Matt 9 and Luke 5).
Witnesses and credibility
When it comes to credibility, what do we think? Is it possible for a human to serve as a second witness to corroborate a claim as to whether another person is a prophet, or the Messiah, or the Son of God? How would they know? Jesus performed miracles to testify for him. His miracles were blessings for the people who received them and signs for the world proclaiming God's goodness, foretastes of the blessings God has promised in the world to come. Many have proclaimed a role for themselves in the world. As for Jesus being the one who was to come, it is hard to imagine a more credible or powerful testimony to Jesus' place in the kingdom of heaven than when God raised him from the dead. For those who do not believe that miracles are possible, belief in Jesus will always be a mystery. For those who do believe that God performs miracles, the miracles are testifying and are the witnesses Jesus called as to the truthfulness of his words.