Who is Jesus?
At the heart of Christianity is a central question, "Just who is Jesus Christ?" It may be astounding to some that such a question is still relevant after nearly two millennia of Christian activity, but as strange as it may seem, even Christians do not agree about the nature of the founder of their religion. This fact says a great deal about those who profess to be "Christian," which at its most basic means "follower of Christ." If Christians display such profound disagreement about Jesus Christ Himself, can they all really be following the same Person?
This subject becomes all the more important since, in its most common form, Christianity is proclaimed as a message about Jesus. What a person believes about Jesus, then, informs his understanding of the religion itself. We can see the result of this process in the thousands of Christian denominations in all parts of the world. While they all proclaim to be Christian, the individual sects emphasize different aspects of Jesus in their teaching. For instance:
» Baptists name themselves after Jesus' practice of baptizing converts, and they traditionally stress conformity to certain behavioral rules: no drinking, no card playing, no dancing. Jesus, to them, is a great moral Teacher.
» Pentecostals, on the other hand, call themselves after Jesus' promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was fulfilled on the Feast of Pentecost after Jesus' death and resurrection. They are known for their great desire to express the gifts of the Spirit, particularly being able to speak in tongues. In other words, their Jesus is a Miracle Worker.
» Seventh-day Adventists take their name from the seventh-day Sabbath, which Jesus is plainly shown to have kept, as well as from His promise to come again. They promote Jesus as the bringer of the soon-coming rest of God.
» Methodists are so called because John Wesley emphasized a structured, methodical approach to Bible study and Christian living, teaching that believers must exercise their free will to come to Christ (as opposed to being absolutely predestined to salvation). Thus, they highlight Jesus' many commands for the individual to be actively involved in his own salvation and Christian growth.
» The Reformed Churches, descendants of the teaching of John Calvin, underscore the necessity of grace through faith in Christ, a reaction to abuses of the medieval Catholic Church's doctrine of works. In this way, they see Jesus as a gracious Redeemer.
Most denominations can be characterized—some would say caricatured—by identifying their concepts of Jesus Himself. He is Christianity's central figure, so how one views Christ determines what one believes and the religion he follows.
This confusion about Him actually began during His own life—even among those who had known Him all His life:
When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?" So they were offended at Him. (Matthew 13:54-57)
It seems that there was general disagreement in Judea over just who He was:
." (Matthew 16:13-14)
» And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?" So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee." (Matthew 21:10-11)
» Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill? But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from." (John 7:25-27)
Of course, His enemies had questions about Him too:
» And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Luke 5:21)
» And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" (Luke 7:49)
» Therefore some of the Pharisees said, "This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." Others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" And there was a division among them. (John 9:16)
However, Matthew 16:15-17 provides us with the best starting point, confirmed by Christ Himself, in answering the question, "Who is Jesus?"
He said to [His disciples], "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."
The God-revealed answer is that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the literal Son of the Supreme Being of all the universe. Of course, He is a great deal more than this, but these two facts are the most foundational to our spiritual understanding of this wonderful Being. They give us the basis of His relationship to us and our future, as well as His relationship to Deity, fixing Him as the bridge between man and God. From this foundation, we can begin a deeper consideration of the biblical Jesus.
Scriptures regarding the divinity of Christ, and showing that before he came to earth in the flesh, Christ created the universe, in his heavenly, glorious form:
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word was God.The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:1-14
- He [Jesus] is the sole expression of the glory of God , and He is the perfect imprint and very image of nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. Hebrews 1:3
- Who [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, Colossians 1:15
- For by him [Jesus] all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together - so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself (God the Father) all things, whether things on earth or in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Col.1:16-20
- Who, [Christ] although being essentially one with God and in the form of God, did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself, so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:6-8
- Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father; then we shall be satisfied. Jesus replied, Have I been with all of you for so long a time, and do you not recognize and know Me yet, Philip? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say then, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? What I am telling you I do not say on My own authority and of My own accord; but the Father Who lives continually in Me does the (His) works (His own miracles, deeds of power). John 14:8-10
- In the last of these days He has spoken to us in Son, Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time. Heb 1:2
- As the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom he will; for the Father judges no man; but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father which has sent him. John 5:21-23.
- Speaking at the last supper, just before
God is light. God is a consuming fire. God is a spirit. In the beginning, the light, fire, and spirit called God, created the first-born (Jesus) of all the creation, so that all God's fullness could dwell in him, (Jesus) and then by him (Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together - so that in everything he might have the supremacy. He is essentially one with God and in the form of God.
Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live, 1 Cor 8:6. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.
In addition to dying for our sins, Jesus Christ came to earth as a messenger from God the Father:
Behold, I send My messenger [John the Baptist], and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
Jesus did not speak His own words, but the words that the Father gave Him (John 8:38-42; 12:49-50; 14:24). His message was not primarily about Himself, but rather the good news that the Father ordained to be announced on earth. While Jesus Christ was categorically the most important individual ever to walk this earth, the Bible shows clearly that the gospel that Jesus brought was not simply about Himself. Read His statements, and prove this for yourself:
» And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
» And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matthew 9:35)