The Question: Who IS Jesus?
If the question were “Who WAS Jesus?’ the answers would be obvious; “Jesus was a carpenter”, “a teacher” or “a prophet”. Such answers demand no faith or humiliation. However, the question “Who IS Jesus?”requires quite a different response. Who can answer such a question? An honest person would say “I can not answer such a question, because I do not know Jesus as if He were a Person Who is alive today”.
As strange as it may seem, the same dilemma existed in the time when Jesus walked on earth in bodily form. You’d think those who met Jesus, in His day, could have easily answered any questions about His identity. Yet, so many who beheld His face and heard His words, came away with answers completely contrary to the declaration Jesus gave of Himself (Jn.7:20/8:48).
Many saw Jesus as merely the son of a local patron (Matt.13:55). Some even said He was a drunkard (Matt.11:19/Luke.7:34). Jewish scholars should have been the most familiar with the Old Testament claims of Jesus. Instead, they said Jesus was “a blasphemer”, had “a demon” or was “insane” (Matt.9:3/ Matt.26:65/ Jn.10:20). Yet, when the pagan ruler Pontius Pilate interrogated Jesus face to face, he was adamant that “there is no evil in this man….. (Matt.26:63, 27:23/Luke.23:4).
So, what was the exact evil that the majority saw in Jesus to demand Pilate “crucify Him” (Matt.27:22)? What becomes increasingly clear is that both in the past and in the present, each individual is accountable for his own response to Jesus. Jesus said the exact same thing to all men. Yet people in every generation, walk away with completely different interpretations. So, begins the hunt to discover both a mystery and a conspiracy. No other person in history has caused so many contrasting responses and monumental turmoil in only three years of public life.
The ultimate issue concerns, not His physical identity in that set time of His earthly existence, but the claims Jesus made to being God Almighty in the flesh, in which case He would surely be living today. Jesus said “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). In the middle of a confrontation Jesus claimed “Before Abraham was I am” (Jn.8:58). To eliminate any doubt Jesus claimed “The Father and I are One” (Jn.10:30).
When Jesus forgave the sins of a man, the crowd responded “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Lk.5:21). It was clear to those of His day that Jesus understood Himself to be nothing short of God Almighty (Jn.1:1,18/10:30,38 ). The sole reason for His sentence of execution was defined by the Jews who, as experts of religious matters, realized “…He was making Himself equal with God” (Jn.5:18).
Today, a great many people say that the death of Jesus was predestined by His Father, so in effect, men had nothing to do with it. It was as though the people of Jesus’ time were compelled by a greater power to be unwillingly caught up into this bizarre event. Not so. There was no hidden “magic” forcing men to kill Jesus. Jesus explained “Light has come into the world …and men loved the darkness” (Jn.3:19).
All men reject Jesus (Jn.15:24). He said “The world hates Me because I testify it is evil…” and “They hated Me without reason” (Jn.15:25). Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied the specifics of Jesus’ characteristics (Is.53). The Biblical revelation of Jesus, and His disciples, is radically contrary to the modern day depiction as sweet-talking ministers of some particular denomination.
About His own identity, Jesus claimed to be “the Bread of Life”; “living Water”, “the Vine”; “the Good Shepherd”; “the Door” “the stone which the builders rejected”, “the way, the truth and the life”; and “I AM THAT I AM”; etc. (Jn.6:35/7:37ff, Jn.10:7,9, 11/15:1/14:6/8:58). Do such statements reveal something about the divine identity of Jesus?
Who IS Jesus? Before you can answer this question, you must first answer “Who are you?” To behold the Man Who is God, you must first behold yourself as a man of sin. Peter could “see” Jesus as the Son of God because he first declared “I am a wicked man” (Lk.5:8). When Jesus asked his disciples about His identity, it was Peter who alone cried “the Son of God” (Mt.16:16). It is only when you recognize yourself to be nothing that God, then allows you to “see” Him as everything (Mt.11:25).
Without faith, it is impossible to peer beyond Jesus as a historical figure, into the mystery of God (Heb.11:1-6/Col.2:2). Jesus owes no man any kind of experience other than the excruciating proof of His love on Calvary. It is now up to you to believe! We live in a “Christian” culture where the idea of being “a sinner” has no weight of reality. It has come to mean making mistakes.
This word does not originate out of the thinking of men and thus can not be defined or understood by men. Sin can only be “understood” by faith because it is “without reason” (Jn.15:22, 25). The only “definition” is by the revelation of God in the Scriptures (Job.25:6/Ps.14:3/Pr.21:4,24:9/Eccl.9:3/Is.40:15/Is.59:1-15/Rm.14:23/Jms.4:17/1Jn.5:17). Sin absolutely destroyed the world and the human race. So much so, that this world now belongs to Satan (Mt.4: 8/Jn.14:30/2Cor.4:4/1 Jn.5:19). In the context of Scriptures, there is no word in the English language more offensive than sinner. Sin (unbelief, self-ego, pride) is what prevents you from answering Who IS Jesus and “seeing” God in Him!
Jesus refused to trust himself to any man because He knew the terrible evil in man (Jn.2:24/ Mt.23:1ff/Jn.3:18ff). Paul details man’s inner composition (Rm.3:10). The Old Testament resounds with a clear definition (Ecclesiastes 9:3/Job 25:5ff/Is.40:17,59:3ff). No matter what “good” deed a sinner may perform, God sees it as nothing but “filthy rags” (Is.64:6). Paul says “there is NOTHING good in me” (Rom.7:18). For me, this is a great relief. I do not have to pretend to be good or strive to be “better”. I join with Paul and say “I am crucified with Christ…” (Gal.2:20).
Now, with this Biblical definition of “sinner” in mind we are able to appreciate what Peter understood, being a Jew, when he took humiliation to himself. Contrary to the token modern day prayer-formula of “accepting Christ as Savior”, Peter knew the depths of his depravity and gave God a disposition of total transparency and desperation. In turn, God enabled Peter to behold the real identity of Jesus. He could “see” Jesus as both sinless and of such divine power so as to impart to Peter a completely new identity (Lk.5:10 /2 Cor.5:17).
As I began to read the New Testament, I most certainly identified with the claim of Peter to be a wicked man. I had an innate awareness of my sin and guilt. I was not searching for Jesus with any kind of agenda that He had to prove anything to me. What Jesus did on the cross silenced any of my puny questions or problems. Was this just an event in past history? I knew who Jesus WAS but my question became IS Jesus alive today?
So many people I meet make salvation a very complicated and long extended matter. They consume themselves with complex issues concerning what kind of lifestyle they must live or what level of righteousness they must attain (Phil.3:9) or what degree of commitment they must demonstrate.Do not do this. Jesus says “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). To behold JESUS is salvation! (Jn.6:40).
When I came to Jesus, He gave me the same revelation He gave to Peter. I beheld the LIVING Jesus. I turned from rebellion to the LIVING God in submission. The Father saw fit to reveal His Son to a worm like me (Mt.11:25). I instantly realized that I was becoming part of some ancient reality. God actually reached down into my tiny, little world and drew me into Someone moving through time. I was being caught up into a substance way beyond anything I could imagine.
When I met Jesus I saw no angels, I felt no goose bumps, I cried no tears. Yet, I was a new man empowered with the vision and purpose of eternal life. It was as though I was changed from a caterpillar into a butterfly. I thought I was something then but realize I am nothing today. He was something then but He is everything today. If you want to know anything about the man who writes these words, and anything said about him, my reference to you is Romans 3:10ff.
I matter not. Your individual response to HIM determines your destiny. I am a broken seed (Ps.51:17/Jn.12:24-25). Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ…the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God…” (Gal.2:20). I do not claim to be a preacher, evangelist or pastor. I am a son who cries “Abba! Father!” (Rom.8:15). My only other identity will be made known to me when I receive my new name (Rev.2:17).
I know Who Jesus IS! What about you? Are you living in His past? Will you find a future in Who He IS?