WHO IS JESUS

Study 3. Who Is Jesus Christ?

Who is Jesus? is a question that is foundational to all Christian beliefs.

(A LOOK BACK)
This study is one of ten that give a basic introduction to Christian beliefs. See Exploring Christianity.

1) What can the Bible do for us (Psalm 119:105)?

2) What is another value to studying the Bible (Isaiah 8:20)?

A. THE SUBJECT OF FOUR BOOKS

INSIGHT: The New Testament begins with four books about the earthly life and work of Jesus Christ. None of these books is intended to be a full-fledged biography. The writers pick and choose, according to their purpose, from the teachings of Jesus, and events in His life. Thus there is some overlap and repetition, and there are unavoidable omissions. As John tells us, "There are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that were written" (John 21:25).

As a further indication of the selectivity of the Gospel writers, one third of the Gospel record concerns a single week in the life of Christ--the events leading up to and including His death and resurrection, sometimes called "Passion Week." Stated another way, a third of the Gospel record is devoted to around .05% of Jesus' life.

The Gospel writers include several longer addresses (or talks) given by Jesus--such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). And there are about three dozen of His parables. (A "parable" is an illustration used to highlight a spiritual lesson.) Along the way there are also approximately three dozen specific miracles of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.

That Jesus was a good man, and a wise teacher, the record makes plain. But it also shows He is far more than that. For one thing, we see the way the Person and work of Christ fulfil many Old Testament prophecies. These prophecies were written 400 years and more before the birth of Christ, since about 400 years passed between the writing of Malachi and the events described in Matthew.

B. THE FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY

3) What miracle at the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 1:22-23; compare Isaiah 7:14)?

4) What prophecy was fulfilled at Jesus' birth (Matthew 2:4-6; compare Micah 5:2)?

5) What prophecy was fulfilled as Jesus prepared to begin His earthly ministry (Matthew 3:1-3; compare Isaiah 40:3)?

INSIGHT: This predicted herald is also spoken of in Malachi 3:1 (compare Matthew 11:10-11).

INSIGHT: In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue at Nazareth, claiming that His teaching and healing ministry is a specific fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy.

INSIGHT: Many ancient prophecies were also fulfilled at the time of Jesus' death. The following questions provide a few examples.

6) What prophecy was fulfilled at the place of execution (Mark 15:27-28; compare Isaiah 53:12)?

7) What prophecy was fulfilled in the treatment of His clothing at this time (John 19:24; compare Psalm 22:18)?

8) What prophecy was fulfilled in the treatment of Jesus' dead body (John 19:32-33, 36; compare Psalm 34:20)?

INSIGHT: The New Testament writers indicate that the Jewish Passover sacrifice was intended by God to be a prophetic picture of the future death of Christ. As Paul says, "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (I Corinthians 5:7). Significantly, specific instructions were given (14 centuries before the time of Christ) that the bones of the Passover lamb should not be broken (Numbers 9:12).

9) What supernatural event was predicted in the book of Psalms (Psalm 16:10; compare Acts 2:22-27)?

INSIGHT: These few examples of the dozens of fulfilled prophecies indicate that the Lord Jesus Christ is a very special and unique Person. In fact, even though His human birth is not recorded until the New Testament begins, Jesus told His disciples that He is actually a major theme and subject of the Old Testament (Luke 24:27, 44-48).

10) What did Jesus say about the Scriptures the Jewish leaders studied so religiously (John 5:39)?

C. WHO IS HE?

INSIGHT: Of His humanity there can be no question. More than eighty times in the Gospels it is reported that Jesus called Himself "the Son of Man" (Matthew 8:20, etc.). This Hebrew expression would be understood by His hearers to mean one having the nature of man. The apostles accepted Jesus' humanity as a fact. Paul calls Him "the Man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5). Christ is indeed fully Man.

11) What things happened to Jesus in John 4:6 and in John 19:28 that are human experiences we all have had?

INSIGHT: Christians further believe, on the basis of Scripture, that Christ is also fully God. The deity of Christ is claimed by direct statements, and supported by extensive evidence. "The Son of Man" was also called "the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35; John 9:35-37; 20:30-31, etc.).

INSIGHT: This unique double nature of Christ is reflected in prophecy, and in the teaching of the New Testament. Isaiah prophesies, "Unto us a Child is born [His humanity, as a baby born in Bethlehem], unto us a Son is given [His deity, as God the Son, sent from heaven]" (Isaiah 9:6). And Paul writes of Him, "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). Exactly how these two natures are united and harmonized in one Person, so that the essence of neither is lost, is beyond our understanding. But it does help to explain why, at times, Christ reveals the attributes of deity, and other times He experiences the limitations of humanity.

12) What did Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples, call Him after His resurrection (John 20:28)?

13) What does the Bible claim about Christ (Colossians 2:9)?

INSIGHT: Here are some of the qualities and actions normally associated with God (and not ordinary humans) that are specifically applied to Christ.

i) According to the prophecy predicting the place He would be born, Jesus not only existed before His birth, but He has existed from all eternity (Micah 5:2; and see also John 8:58).

ii) He spoke with divine authority, saying, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Matthew 24:35).

iii) Jesus also claimed the right to forgive sins (Mark 2:5, 7).

iv) Jesus accepted the worship of men and women--something even He said was only fitting for God to do (Matthew 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; compare Matthew 4:9-10; Revelation 22:8-9).

v) Christ claimed an ability no one else has: the power to lay down His life in death, and to take it back again (John 10:17-18). Romans states that Christ's bodily resurrection from the grave demonstrates that He is indeed the Son of God (Romans 1:4).

INSIGHT: Once we understand that the Lord Jesus is in truth God the Son in human flesh, His resurrection becomes inevitable. As Peter says, "It was not possible that He should be held by it [death]" (Acts 2:24). The reality of Christ's resurrection from the dead is a fact that is emphasized again and again, in the Bible. He was seen alive, by many people, on various occasions (I Corinthians 15:4-8), and the resurrection became a vital part of the message of the early church (Acts 4:33).

14) What did the Lord Jesus do, after His resurrection, to assure His disciples that He was truly, physically alive (Luke 24:38-43)?

INSIGHT: Closely connected with the truth about the deity of Christ is that of the Trinity of the Godhead--that the one God eternally exists in three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each of the three Persons of the Trinity acts and interacts individually, yet in perfect unity with the others. And though there are three "Persons" in the Godhead, there is only one God.

Since there is nothing in the world of nature to parallel this, it is difficult to comprehend, but that is the God the Bible presents to us. The ancient church used something called the triquetra (pictured here) to depict the Trinity. It has three distinct points. Yet each point is inseparable from the other two; they are linked together in one figure.

Believers are to be baptized in the name of each (Matthew 28:19). And Christians are blessed by the ministry of each (II Corinthians 13:14; I Peter 1:2; Jude 1:20-21). Further, each Person of the Godhead is fully God (not just a part of God; Acts 5:3-4) and each is worthy of equal honour as God (John 5:23). Yet there is only one God, not three (Deuteronomy 6:4).

INSIGHT: The doctrine of the Trinity helps explain the double claim John makes for the One he calls "the Word" in John 1:1. (That "the Word" is used as a descriptive title of Christ is clearly seen in verse 14.) The Word, who was God the Son from all eternity, "became flesh." He became Man, and revealed God to human beings more fully than He had ever been revealed before.

15) What two statements does John make about Christ ("the Word") in John 1:1?

16) How does Jesus say people should respond to Him (John 5:23)?

D. PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

17) Just before going to the cross, for what did Jesus pray to His heavenly Father (John 17:5)?

18) According to Luke's Gospel, where is Jesus now (Luke 24:50-51)?

19) According to John, what is one thing the Lord Jesus is doing there at this time (John 14:2)?

20) What can we expect Christ to do in the future for those who believe on Him (John 14:3)?

INSIGHT: Christ's second coming is a major theme of Bible prophecy. This means more than simply having Jesus come into our lives, in a spiritual sense. The message given to those who saw Him ascend into heaven was: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). In the words of Christ, "They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

23) What was the attitude of the early Christians with regard to Christ's return (I Thessalonians 1:9-10)?

22) What difference should the expectation of Christ's return make to our daily lives (Titus 2:11-14)?

INSIGHT: The Lord Jesus challenged His hearers to consider His claims. On one occasion, He asked the hostile Pharisees, "What do you think about the Christ?" (Matt. 22:41-42)? On another, He asked His own disciples, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" And they told Him what they had been hearing from various ones. Then Jesus made it personal, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matt. 16:13, 15). These same questions echo down the centuries. And there will always be differing opinions about the identity of Christ? Some that are wildly off base. Some that hit the mark more accurately. But the key question each of us must answer is: What do you think about Christ?

If you need further evidence to answer the question Who is Jesus? check out this careful study: