Who is Jesus?
Around 35 C.E., Jesus stood in Caesarea Philippi, a city in what we now call the Golan Heights. For months He had been traveling the region, making extraordinary and controversial claims about the corruption in the dominant religious system and its leaders and about God, humanity, and Himself. Now, He asked His followers a simple question: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Those standing nearby offered several answers, revealing the variety of views people held. Some claimed He was a prophet – someone who was speaking on God’s behalf, but certainly not God Himself. Others thought He had to be more than a prophet — perhaps He was one of the mighty men of old somehow returned to life. Hearing these and other views, Jesus asked more directly, “Who do you say I am?” In this moment, His question moved from the theoretical to the personal. No longer could those present mask their own thoughts by mimicking the claims of others. As they looked at this unusual teacher, they were faced with a simple yet profoundly important question: “Who is Jesus?”
Most everyone in the U.S. has heard the name Jesus. Like those mentioned above, many today hold differing views about who He is. Some say He was a good man. Some claim He was crazy. Some even reject the overwhelming historical evidence and assert that His entire existence is nothing more than a myth, a fabrication by religious fanatics who are trying to find some way to cushion their life experience or to manipulate others. The question we must each answer, however, is “Who do I think Jesus is?”
Jesus is God.
On its face, this is an astonishing claim, yet it is one Jesus routinely made. When asked by the religious leaders if He was God, Jesus did not deny the accusation. Instead, He acknowledged they wouldn’t believe Him, and asserted that He would sit on the throne of God Himself. For this, He was charged with blasphemy and condemned (Luke 22:66-71; Matt. 26:23-66).
Throughout His approximately three years of teaching, He repeatedly claimed there was no distinction between Himself and God (John 518; John 10:30-33; John 10:37-39). Further, He evidenced His claim through many supernatural actions we call “miracles.” While some believed, many scoffed, mocked, and rejected Jesus and the evidences of divine authority He offered. They would not accept that this man they could see, touch, and hear could be God. In sad irony, some reject Jesus today for the opposite reason — they cannot see, touch, and hear Him.
Jesus never calls us to believe Him out of ignorance or blind, uninformed faith. In fact, Scripture tells Christians to know why they believe in Christ and to be prepared to explain their reasoning to anyone who asks. Still, the decision ultimately comes down to personal faith. Do you believe the Bible? Do you believe the historical evidence? Do you believe this Jesus who claimed to be God is who He says? We must each make our own choice, and how we answer this question is – quite literally – a matter of life and death.
Jesus is Man.
If Jesus is God, then how can He be man? This is a reasonable question, and it is one with which theologians have wrestled since Jesus was born. The name of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, means “beginnings.” In it, God provides answers to many of the deepest questions we all seek to resolve. “How did life begin?“ “Why am I here?” “Am I the result of coincidental cosmic accident?” Genesis teaches that God created our world and all the good in it, including humanity. You are not an accident of nature; you are a unique and special creation of God (Gen. 1-2).
Around mankind, God provided for every need mankind could have. God’s only limitation was that we avoid one specific behavior. Instead of enjoying all of the good and obeying God’s direction, His newly created humanity chose instead to do the one thing God had said he must not (Gen. 1-3). From that moment until now, the world has been broken. No longer was evil, death, and sorrow merely possible: it became central to our existence.
In this moment of rebellion, we corrupted what God had created and – most tragically – we severed our relationship with Him. Each of us does wrong. Each of us sins. The Bible teaches that no one who has ever lived is without sin (Rom. 3:23). We have all sinned and – because of this – we are separated from God with no hope for restoration. Each of us is doomed to suffer the temporal and eternal consequences of this sinful corruption.
Yet God loved us and was unwilling to simply let us exist forever in this ruined condition. 2 Sam 14 says that He “devises means” that those who are separated from Him might not remain an outcast forever. So He became man. God took upon Himself the flesh He had created for humanity, and He did what none of us could. He lived His life without sinning even once (1 Peter 2:22f). He was perfect. He achieved what we cannot. And then, He suffered what only He does not deserve.
He allowed Himself to die at the hands of Roman soldiers to take on Himself the eternal consequences of every sin every person ever has or ever will perform (Rom. 3:23-25a; Rom. 5:8; Rom 6:23; John 3:16). He gave His life that you and I could could once again recover ours. An old Hebrew prophet declared about Him, “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” Through this extraordinary act of love and sacrifice, Jesus established a means by which we could be restored to God: Himself. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). God became man specifically to be the one and only sinless member of humanity, that He might bare on Himself what we who have sinned deserve.
Jesus is Life.
God — dead? Even if, in love, He died on my behalf, how can I follow a dead God? It is true that God gave up His own life for you and me, but that is not the end of the story. Three days later, He rose again from the dead. Death itself could not conquer Jesus, for He is God – stronger and more powerful than all that evil can achieve (Luke 24:1-9, 36-43). Jesus is alive today, advocating the innocence of those who believe His message and place their dependence on Him for salvation. He is our Intercessor with God (1 Tim. 2:5) — as the one who died to win it — advocating before the Creator we rejected (Rom. 8:34). Because He yielded Himself to and defeated the consequence of our sin, He removed the barrier between humanity and God. He offers us today a way to be freed from sin and reconciled to God.
What does this mean for me?
First, your life has meaning and purpose. You are not some cosmic coincidence. You are the unique, special, and inherently valuable Creation of God. He loves you very much with a true, committed love that He offers without reservation or condition. We love Him because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).
Second, the sin in your heart has condemned you. Because of our sin, all of humanity — including you — is separated from God, unable to know Him, unable to love Him, unable to experience the meaning and purpose He gave to our existence. The sin inside you is corrupting you and the world around you. It is harming your relationships. It is creating pain and sorrow. And – ultimately – it will condemn you to an eternity without God and without hope. That evil exists in the world does not demonstrate the absence of a loving God; rather, it proves the depth of His love. He didn’t abandon us to endure the consequences of our rebellion. He became man and endured the consequences for us. Why? To remove the barrier between Him and us — to give us hope and life and purpose once again.
Third, because of Jesus, there is hope. The message Jesus gives is different from what is taught in many religions and churches today. While most religions of the world will tell you that you must do, you must give, you must behave, you must somehow earn the forgiveness for your sin, Jesus has a very different message. Jesus says, “You can’t free yourself from your sin. You can’t overcome it, so I did for you.” Where religion says, “Do,” Jesus says, “Done.” Where religion says, “Behave,” Jesus say, “Believe.” Where religion says, “Trust yourself.” Jesus says, “Trust me.”
Finally, what you do with Jesus is a matter of life and death. Because He is God, all that exists will one day worship Him. Every knee will bow to Him and every mouth will declare that He is who He claims to be (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10). In that moment, some will rejoice and many will weep. Those who refused to believe and rejected Him, will discover their mistake too late. Because they refused His payment for their sin, they will face the consequences from which He would have saved them. Those who believed His claims and placed their trust in Him for salvation will delight in the friendship with Him for which He originally created them. Before that day comes, you must decide: who is Jesus?
If you have decided today to believe the teaching of Jesus and to place your trust in Him or if you have questions about Jesus or anything discussed here, please let us know. As a community of people just like you, Haslet Bible Church would love to engage with you and support you in your journey of discovery or faith.