I have argued elsewhere that a central feature of Jewish expectation, and kingdom expectation at that, in Jesus’ time was the hope that YHWH would return in person to Zion. Having abandoned Jerusalem at the time of the exile, his return was delayed, but he would come back at last. Within this context, someone who told cryptic stories about a king or a master who went away, left his servants with tasks to perform, and then returned to see how they were getting on must—not “might,” must point to this controlling, over-arching metanarrative. Of course, the later Church, forgetting the first century Jewish context, read such stories as though they were originally about Jesus himself going away and then returning in a “second coming.” Of course, cautious scholars noticing this, deny that Jesus would have said such things. I propose that here at the heart of Jesus’ work, and at the moment of its climax, Jesus not only told stories about the king, who came back to Zion to judge and to save. He acted as though he thought the stories were coming true in what he himself was accomplishing. This is the context, at last, in which I think it best to approach the question with which this essay began.He summarizes his treatise with this:
What are we therefore saying about the earthly Jesus? In Jesus himself, I suggest we see the biblical portrait of YHWH come to life: the loving God, rolling up his sleeves (Isa 52:10) to do in person the job that no one else could do, the creator God giving new life the God who works through his created world and supremely through his human creatures, the faithful God dwelling in the midst of his people, the stern and tender God relentlessly opposed to all that destroys or distorts the good creation, and especially human beings, but recklessly loving all those in need and distress. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall carry the lambs in his arms; and gently lead those that are with young” (Isa 40:11). It is the OT portrait of YHWH, but it fits Jesus like a glove.I recommend you to this writing and to NT Wright's website. He is orthodox, balanced and a voice of Christian reason.
Let me be clear, also, what I am not saying. I do not think Jesus “knew he was God” in the same sense that one knows one is tired or happy, male or female. He did not sit back and say to himself “Well I never! I’m the second person of the Trinity!” Rather, “as part of his human vocation grasped in faith, sustained in prayer, tested in confrontation, agonized over in further prayer and doubt, and implemented in action, he believed he had to do and be, for Israel and the world, that which according to scripture only YHWH himself could do and be.” I commend to you this category of “vocation” as the appropriate way forward for talking about what Jesus knew and believed about himself. This Jesus is both thoroughly credible as a first century Jew and thoroughly comprehensible as the one to whom early, high, Jewish christology looked back.