Many people have lied for personal gain. In fact, the motivation of most lies is some perceived benefit to oneself. What could Jesus have hoped to gain from lying about his identity? Power would be the most obvious answer. If people believed he was God, he would have tremendous power. (That is why many ancient leaders, such as the Caesars, claimed divine origin.)
The rub with this explanation is that Jesus shunned all attempts to move him in the direction of seated power, instead chastising those who abused such power and lived their lives pursuing it. He also chose to reach out to the outcasts (prostitutes and lepers), those without power, creating a network of people whose influence was less than zero. In a way that could only be described as bizarre, all that Jesus did and said moved diametrically in the other direction from power.
It would seem that if power was Jesus’ motivation, he would have avoided the cross at all costs. Yet, on several occasions, he told his disciples that the cross was his destiny and mission. How would dying on a Roman cross bring one power?
Death, of course, brings all things into proper focus. And while many martyrs have died for a cause they believed in, few have been willing to die for a known lie. Certainly all hopes for Jesus’ own personal gain would have ended on the cross. Yet, to his last breath, he would not relinquish his claim of being the unique Son of God. New Testament scholar, J. I. Packer, points out that this title asserts Jesus’ personal deity.