Last week, we looked at the historical figure of Jesus, we looked at evidence of his existence and what he did here on earth physically. This week, in part 2 of our Back to Basics series, we are going to be looking at two of the claims Christians have made of Him. When trying to express who Jesus is, you may hear speakers referring to him as the “Messiah”, “The Son of God” or even “The Image of God”. But what does all of that even mean?
We can find numerous quotes, thousands of worship songs to describe the identity of Christ. But what does the Bible have to say about who Jesus is?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”John 3:16
You may have learnt the above passage in an Easter assembly, Sunday school or found it printed on the bottom of your Forever 21 bag. For decades this verse has been flashed at American football games, it has been almost 10 years since Tim Tebow painted “John 3:16” under his eyes causing an estimated 92 million people to look up the verse.
The reason this verse has become so popular is down to the fact that it explains the gospel in such a transparent way. God loves us so greatly, that he sent His Son to take on the punishment for all of our sins that we may be restored unto God and live with Him eternally. But I’m getting side-tracked. I’ve chosen this verse as the foundation of the question of ‘who is Jesus?’ to Christians because it encompasses all the titles you may have heard.
Jesus, Son of God
In the gospel of Luke Chapter 1:31-33, we see the angel Gabriel, revealing news of how her pregnancy would come about. Twice, he mentions that Jesus will be the “Son of the Most High” or “holy- the Son of God.” Now Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph, and as much as it might be accepted in culture now to have children with a partner before marriage, back then it was unheard of. Not only was it counter-cultural, a woman may have been stoned to death if found to be pregnant outside of marriage. The Bible tells us Mary is a virgin, not to assure us of her faithfulness to Joseph, but so that we might be able to understand the supernatural work that God did inside of her womb. Jesus was not created via natural conception, but by the meticulous planning of the Father for that age and our future.
Again in Luke chapter 3:21-22, when Jesus is baptised, Luke describes how “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In all of this God the Father is affirming Jesus’ identity, those at His baptism may not have fully understood the weight of this statement but surely they knew He was important to God.
We’ve established that Jesus was the Son of God but what about the phrase Messiah? To the Jewish people, the Messiah was understood to be a future Jewish king, born from the lineage of king David. He was expected to be highly anointed and would save the Jewish people. This Messiah was expected to rebuild the ancient temple in Jerusalem and restore authority of Israel’s ruling back to king David’s descendants. So, you can understand the confusion when their supposed Messiah arrives in the womb of a teenager, works as a carpenter, and chooses a seemingly random group of teens as his disciples.
Have you ever had someone relay a rumour about a new phone or experience and when you got it you were massively underwhelmed? Mine was driving lessons. I had a friend tell me about how great and freeing it was for her and so I got lessons as well. Eventually I went for my first lesson and at the end I thought “Is that it?” All I did was start and stop the car a few times along a quiet road, make a left turn and the instructor drove me home. What was exciting about that? Just like the people of Jesus’ time thought, “what makes him unique?”
The second part of John 3:16 says “…whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
By skipping a few chapters to John 14 we see Jesus encourage His followers that belief in God and in himself would result in them receiving a room in the Father’s house (ultimately heaven). When one of the disciples asks how they would know how to get there Jesus responds,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”John 14:6
Jesus may have arrived in an unexpected way but really he came to surpass all expectations. He was anointed beyond what the human eye could see. He would come, not only to save the Jewish people, but to save all people. He was going to rebuild the temple, but not physically, spiritually allowing for all people, not just priests and prophets, to have direct communication with God the Father.
The reality is I don’t have enough time to discuss all of who Jesus is, this post attempts to uncover the smallest fraction of His character. If you’d like to learn more about who Jesus is, I’d suggest picking up your Bible. It sounds obvious but its true, Jesus is revealed all throughout scripture, God’s infinite love and grace and plan for humanity is there too.
But how do we even begin to read and explore what the Bible is? And most importantly, can we trust what it says? Join us next week for part 3 of our Lent series.. What is the Bible?