“Who do people say that I am?” -Jesus
That simple question was first asked on a quiet dusty road in the middle east 2000 years ago has morphed itself into one of the most controversial questions ever asked.
Who is Jesus?
Many would say that he was one of the great ethical teachers of history, like Gahndi and Martin Luther King Jr. Others say that he’s a myth or legend (unfortunately for those people even non Christian historians agree he existed). Some say he was a complete madman who had some equally insane followers. Then there are those that believe that his claims are true.
What was his claim? That he is a Man but also God.
Jesus came to earth in a small town in modern day Israel around 2000 years ago. In Israel the religious leaders were laser focused on serving and loving the God of their ancestors, the same God we follow today. They practiced all of the proper ceremonies and followed all the rules and intensely monitored the people around them to make sure that they were following the rules too.
They believe that if they collectively kept the rules that it would cause God to overthrow their enemies and to start a new age with God liberating and ruling his people. So when Jesus, this traveling preacher from a northern no-name town began performing miracles and claiming that he was bringing this new kingdom into reality the people all came to see if what he was saying was true.
He claimed to be Israel’s Messiah, a promised savior who would come to initiate a new world order. The Israelites believed that this Messiah would be a great military leader, like their historical king David. Jesus didn’t meet anyone’s expectations though, he was not warlike, he didn’t try to use violence to achieve his aims. Instead he travelled and taught about what the new world would be like and how to be a part of it. Since he didn’t live up to people’s expectations, most of the people following him gave up on him.
That was because what he taught was startling, he spoke of love and forgiveness, but also of judgment for those who refused to turn their hearts away from their own desires and committed their lives to God. This in itself wasn’t that strange, that was after all the basis of their religion at the time. What was crazy though was that Jesus claimed that following the ancient traditions wasn’t enough, that the people needed a new heart with new desires and that it could only come through him. That in itself was insanely controversial.
Then he claimed that he himself was God. If you haven’t checked out our post on who is God, do that now here.
His claim was that he himself was the Creator God of the world who had come to earth, not to teach, but to be a sacrifice for the failures of the people. The issue, as Jesus saw it, was that God was too holy to be in the presence of people with even a speck of imperfection. One mistake, and you can’t go to heaven (to understand more of this check out the holiness video on Who is God?). So Jesus came to take on the sins of the people, to make their failures his and then die for them, to take the punishment.
His God – ness was proven by his resurrection from the dead. We believe that it is logical to believe Christ rose from the dead because of the reliability of the Gospel accounts and the book of Acts which show that a large community testified to Christ rising from the dead despite intense persecution in the form of execution, beating, and torture. Despite this hundreds of people still testified that they saw Christ risen from the grave.
He was not just God though, he was also a person just like us.
When you think about the name Jesus an image or two probably jump into your mind.
It may seem simple but we need to state this; Jesus was middle eastern (aka definitely NOT white) Palestinian Jew. This means that all representations we have of being a swedish guy with wavy hair are wrong. Most historians agree that the average guy in Jesus’ area during that time would have been shorter (5’5 would have been tall back then) and would have had short dark hair and a short beard.
Beyond his appearance though he was fully human in every way. He was not some spirit being or some angel. He lived in time and space. He was born, he ate, he drank, he breathed, he sneezed, he had to fold his laundry, He had to get to school on time and then to work on time, he had close friends and did all the normal things that human beings do. (Luke 2:7,40,52, John 4:6)
Jesus was shockingly human, more human than we like to think. It’s hard for us to grasp that Jesus was as real, and physical as you and me. A lot of times we think of Jesus doing all of the crazy miracles and rising from the dead, but less often do we think about him laughing with his friends, stubbing his toe, or building a bunch of tables in his father’s workshop.
Jesus had ordinary days with ordinary problems and this is great news for us, scripture says that he faced every temptation and every challenge that we do and overcame them. He faced every challenge because he lived an ordinary life other than his last 3 years on earth.
This is great news for us, because that means that, since he rejoined his father in heaven (John 16:28) and is ruling there (Eph. 1:21,22) then God can perfectly relate to us, he knows what it’s like to be human.
This High Priest (Jesus) of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:15,16
We usually jump to thinking about Jesus in one way. Either he is God, someone so unlike us that we have no way of relating to him or else we think of him just like a person, super relatable but who in no way challenges us.
We need to work hard to see him as both God and Man. He is God who is full of power and authority, who defines right and wrong and challenges and judges those who oppose him, but he’s also a person who relates to our daily lives and came as a sacrifice of love for the world. We can’t see him as one or the other, he must be both for him to truly be Jesus.
We have a choice to make, who is Jesus to us? C.S. Lewis, who was a brilliant professor and author who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia book series gives us a good way of thinking about that choice. He would say that you have three options when thinking about Jesus. Either he is insane or he is a liar or he really is who he says he is, the God of the universe.
Simply believing that he’s just a good teacher is not an option, that’s because he claimed to be God. If I claimed to be God you wouldn’t believe me and you’d think I was a crazy cult leader, if you had any sense you wouldn’t believe any word I said. Jesus is the same way, either he’s crazy or he’s trying to trick people, or he’s God.
That’s the choice you have to make for yourself, and there’s no more important choice that you have to make.