I was out recently walking with a friend of mine and we were discussing who Jesus was.
My friend suggested that Jesus might have been a prophet like Isaiah, rather than the son of God – the saviour of the world.
This got me to thinking, and to look at what was actually said.
Jesus was undoubtedly of significant importance and had an undeniable impact on the world like few people in history. Most of western society is based on his teachings. The Christian church grew from a handful of followers to a global religion in just a few short centuries.
So, let’s take a look at what he actually said out himself, and what others said about him.
Jesus Own Words
Conflict with Religious Leaders
In the gospel of John we read:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12
Jesus declares that he is the light of the world. Not a light. Not that he brings light through his teaching, but that he is light.
But he (Jesus) continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”John 8:23
Here Jesus claims that his origin is not ‘below’ – the earth, but ‘above’ – heaven. And that a failure to believe in who he really is would prevent a person from receiving forgiveness and lead to eternal damnation.
Jesus continues to confront the Pharisees (a strict group of religious Jews).
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.John 8: 42
Jesus asserts that he has come here from his father God.
And as if Jesus hadn’t be clear enough in what he was saying, he speaks ever so plainly to the religious leaders.
Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.John 8:55-58
Firstly, Jesus claims that Abraham, who lived 2,000 years before his birth, had seen the day of Jesus’s arrival.
He then says, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
“I am!” is a direct reference to the name that God gave himself when He sends Moses to release the Israelites from Egyptian captivity.
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”Exodus 3:14
The Pharisees are in no doubt as to whom Jesus is referring. To them he has committed the ultimate sin – to claim to be God.
The Way, the Truth & the Life
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”John 14:6
Jesus declares that it is through him that people come to the father and no one else; to know him (Jesus) is to know Father God. Indeed to see Jesus is to see the God.
Former fisherman, turned disciple, Philip could not get his head round what Jesus was actually saying, so incredible were his words.
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?John 14:8-9
To attempt to explain more clearly what he meant, Jesus says:
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”John 14:11
It would be somewhat plausible if Jesus had just said, “the Father is in me” since that would explain how Jesus was able to have such amazing insight and knowledge, and to do the miraculous, but Jesus says, “I am in the Father”. He declares that he, a man, is an integral part of the Father God.
Jesus before Pilate
After Jesus was taken captive by the Jewish leaders he is brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, to try him and execute him.
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him (Jesus), “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”John 18:33-37
Jesus talks about his kingdom; he declares himself a king of a kingdom from ‘another’ place – not of this world.
A king who came into the world to testify to the truth.
What Others Said
Mark, a follower of Jesus and companion of Paul the apostle, starts his gospel account of the life of Jesus with these words.
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way – a voice of one calling in the desert,Mark 1:1-3
‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'” (Isaiah 40:3)
Mark starts his gospel account by declaring that Jesus is the Christ – God’s anointed one, the saviour or deliverer, the one predicted by the prophet Isaiah, the one that John the Baptist declared would come after him.
John the Baptist
When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?”, he replied, “I am not the Christ”. “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”John 1:19-23
And when John saw Jesus approach for the first time.
The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”John 29:31
John himself declares that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one predicted to come and be sacrificed to take away the sin of the world. The one who was ‘before me’.
Simon, called Peter, former fisherman turned disciple give this response to Jesus’s direct question.
But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Matthew 16:15-16
And rather than correcting Matthew’s assertion that Jesus is the awaited saviour, he says this:
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.Matthew 16:17
And he then goes on to say further confirm Simon Peter’s claim.
Then He admonished the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ.Matthew 16:20
The Gospel of Luke
Luke was a physician, a man of learning, who was a close friend and companion of the apostle Paul. In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus this is what he writes:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”Luke 2:8-12
This new born baby is the long awaited saviour of the world, the Messiah, the God-man.
The Apostle Paul’s Account
Paul, after his dramatic conversion to Christianity on the road to damascus, speaks in the synagogue.
From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!
“The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years.
“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
“Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
“‘You are my son;
today I have become your father.’
God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,
“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
So it is also stated elsewhere:
“‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’
“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
The words of Jesus leave little to no doubt about who he thought he was; a king from another world, one who existed before the beginning of time, one who is in the Father God – the long awaited messiah, saviour of the world.
Jesus followers and closest disciples preached Christ as the awaited Messiah, the saviour of the world. Many of them were martyred because of what they taught, so strong was their faith.
And many tens of thousands listened to their testimony and became believers themselves.