Who is Jesus?

The first generation of Christians was occupied with grasping for themselves and explaining to others the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.  One of the earliest identifiers is expressed in the confession, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 10:9). His original disciples also designated Jesus as Messiah, Son of God, Savior of the world, Word of God, and many more titles. Jesus saves and judges the world. He is the one through whom God created the universe (Hebrews 1:1-3) and the one in whom the fullness of God dwells (Colossians 2:9).

He existed in the “form of God” but took on the “form of a servant” (Philippians 2). The eternal Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14). He is the “true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Jesus is not identified in a one-to-one correspondence with the God of Israel to whom Jesus prayed as “Father.” He is distinct from but in the closest and most intimate relationship with the God the Father.

Though Jesus is called a prophet, lawgiver, messenger and teacher, he is more, much more. The Gospel of Mark begins with the affirmation that this is the story of “Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Mark’s gospel tells the story of how Jesus came to be recognized as “Messiah” and “Son of God.” John baptized with water, but Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. What a contrast! Jesus speaks with authority and casts out demons, which recognize him as “the Holy One of God” (1:24). He heals the sick and raises the dead with a simple command and in complete confidence.

In Mark 8, Jesus asks the question “Who do people say that I am?” At this point in the narrative, Jesus’ actions and words have asserted such unprecedented authority and provoked such wonder that none of the usual labels can do him justice. Peter replies to Jesus, “You are the Christ” (8:28). But not even that label says all that needs to be said about Jesus. For “messiah” means one anointed to be “king,” and Jesus, we discover, is more than a king.

In the next chapter (Mark 9), Jesus is transfigured and meets with Moses and Elijah. The three disciples wish to honor Jesus as the equal of Moses the great lawgiver and Elijah the greatest of the prophets. But God, speaking from heaven declares, “This is my Son listen to him.” Jesus is greater than the law and the prophets! He is God’s “Son.” Mark wants us to view Jesus’ messiahship or kingship—which could be viewed simply as an office like those of prophet and priest—in light of his “Sonship.” When the human beings in Mark’s gospel speak about Jesus’ identity, they speak of him as the bearer of an office such as king or prophet, but when God or demons speak, they speak about Jesus’ person, that is, the inherent personal qualities that make him qualified for the work he does and the offices he holds.

In Mark, as well as the rest of the New Testament, the title “Son of God” means more than an office; it means an intimate relationship with the Father based not simply on a divine choice but on something analogous to natural kinship. John calls Jesus “the only-begotten” Son of God, emphasizing the uniqueness of Jesus relationship to the Father (John 1:15), and Paul contrasts Jesus the Son of God with “the sons of God” who are adopted into “sonship,” in an obvious contrast between natural born and adopted children (Romans 8:15). Jesus is “Son of God” by nature. There never was a time when he was not God’s Son.

 Israel’s lawgivers, prophets, judges and priests were chosen by God from among the people and endowed with the authority of the office. Whatever authority they exercised or wisdom they displayed derived not from their own persons but from their divine appointment. Apart from that divine choice, they are just like their brother and sister Israelites. But Jesus was not only chosen and appointed for his work in this world. He was sent from the Father. He is not qualified because he was appointed but he was appointed because he was qualified. And this fact distinguishes Jesus Christ from all prior and succeeding prophets, priests and lawgivers. Jesus is Lord.

To be continued…

 

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14 thoughts on “Who is Jesus?

  1. rich

    To be continued…
    WHAT!!!!
    I thinkin John’s Been teachin YOU at Sunday School Just a little to LONG…

    To be continued… BA HUM-BUG

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  2. nokareon

    I appreciate the predominant use of the Synoptic Gospels and other early epistles to argue for Jesus’ unique status and position as understood by the early church. Sometimes, skeptic thinkers such as Bart Ehrman are allowed to get away with too much by claiming that only the Gospel of John claims that Jesus was anything more than a man. But, as you show, there are far more claims to Jesus’ uniqueness and position in the early gospels and epistles that are readily unearthed.

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    1. ifaqtheology Post author

      Indeed! And I’ve only mentioned a few of the ways in which Mark does this. I did not pursue Jesus’ “Son of Man” sayings and his intense focus on the passion narrative. Prophets may die in the process of their witness but they cannot give their “lives for the ransom of many”! Ehrman and others can attempt to dismiss all these things as unhistorical, simply projected back into the life of Jesus by the later church. But even then you have to explain why the church would even think to invent them. But that is another argument. I would simply respond that if Jesus was really raised from the dead, why not expect him to be extraordinary during his earthly ministry? And of course if Jesus was not raised, it’s not worth our time to fuss about what Jesus did or did not do or say. But as we shall celebrate this Sunday, Christ has risen from the dead!

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  3. rich

    nokareon you just might enjoy this post…
    it’s above m pay grade
    how bot reading it…
    happy eater

    http://blog.christilling.de/

    The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis update
    Really glad to say that Alan Garrow’s paper, “Streeter’s ‘Other’ Synoptic Solution: The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis”, has now been published by NTS, and you can access it here.

    I believe it was also one of my questions when I first encountered Alan’s thesis at King’s, namely “what would Mark Goodacre make of this?” Alan’s written a helpful post in response, here.

    I am no expert on these matters but Alan’s work seems rather compelling to my mind and has, at the very least, given me much to ponder. With people like Mark and Alan to fuel these debates, the Synoptic problem has a bright future.

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  4. Matt Stinson

    “He is not qualified because he was appointed but he was appointed because he was qualified”

    Good stuff, I am grateful for the work of the totally holy and worthy son of God.

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    1. ifaqtheology Post author

      Yes, lordship implies power. But lordship also implies right and authority. In the NT, however, the assertion of Jesus as Lord possesses overtones that we cannot get by thinking of lordship in the abstract. The God of Israel was called Lord, kurios in the Greek Old Testament. And the Roman Emperor was also called kurios. Of course “Christ” for the Jewish audience means one anointed king. So, the titles Lord and Christ cover much the same territory. However using the term kurios adds to Christos the God-dimension. In the Old Testament, the Lord is the true king of Israel. Israel’s human kings served under the LORD. Calling Jesus both Christ and Lord fuses divine and human kingship.

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  5. mmccay1982

    “Jesus speaks with authority and casts out demons, which recognize him as ‘the Holy One of God'([Mark] 1:24). He heals the sick and raises the dead with a simple command and in complete confidence.”

    I reflected for a moment on the authority of Jesus. He casts out demons with a simple command and in complete confidence. I have wondered how this relates to the religious exorcism rites that developed out of the example of Jesus having this authority.

    One example of the prayers and exorcism of the Roman Catholic church I found is approximately 6,000 words, and should be repeated for days if necessary. It seems odd to me that in the case of casting out demons, or healing, that the practice should be so different from the example.

    http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=683

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  6. ifaqtheology Post author

    This reminds me of the disciples’ failure in the matter of exorcism while Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus spoke of their lack of faith but also said, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29). But we are taught to “pray and not give up.” So, perhaps there is some reason why God wishes us to “pray hard.”

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  7. mac

    “He is not qualified because he was appointed but he was appointed because he was qualified”

    Your words make me think of the expression: “God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called.” The nature of humanity and the nature of Jesus are starkly contrasted. We as humans will never be able to reach the qualification required to live a sinless life, but through grace Jesus grants salvation to us. However, Jesus was fully qualified in the position “Son of God,” where as we, humans, are the most under qualified in the position we find ourself in. I am glad someone is qualified and was able to save humanity, haha.

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  8. Sammantha Lund

    Loved this reminder of the depth and meaning behind “Jesus is Lord”. I find it to be something that is tossed around in church often without taking much time to reflect in what ways he was and is Lord.

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  9. Joel Foster

    A great reminder, especially rebounding off of easter and the power displayed through the cross and resurrection. Jesus’ power and reign as Lord is so much greater than a title, it is a tangible and physical manifestation of a divine kingship. And in that manifestation, we see more titles than just Lord as well, we can experience and see each and every title in their own light. I like to view Christ as a diamond. The idea that a diamond has many facets, cuts, and sides, but it isn’t until you look at each and every cut that you see the entire beauty of the whole.

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