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A Little More Detail: Who Is Jesus?

INTRODUCTION

      The question "who is Jesus" has been a subject of inquiry for more than two thousand years.  When Jesus of Nazareth was ministering to the Jewish people living in Galilee in the first-century AD, the same question arose then that does today, "who in the world is this Jesus?”  Looking at the texts of the Christian Gospels, the dispute concerning the identity of Jesus becomes very apparent (e.g. Matthew 21:10; Luke 5:21; 7:49; 9:9; John 9:36-37; 12:34).  Those who encountered or heard about Jesus all asked the same question, "Who is this man doing all these things?”

     To understand Jesus, it helps to understand the wonderful story that set the backdrop for Jesus' ministry here on earth.  The following will be a brief summary of this story, which is contained in the Hebrew Bible (also known as the  'Old Testament'):

THE BEGINNING

     In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  God saw that they, and all that they contained, were 'good'.  He created humanity in his own image so that they could have fellowship together, with each other and with him.  Humanity rebelled against God because they wanted to become gods themselves.  They wanted to be their own driver, controlling their own destiny and therefore disobeyed his commands.  God, being concerned with justice, had to punish humanity's disobedience (henceforth, this disobedience was known as sin).  Humanity’s punishment was that all of creation would be cursed and that humans would be separated from close fellowship with God (this included the punishment of death—hereafter, all humans would die).  However, this punishment was actually an act of grace.  Even though God was concerned with justice, he was also concerned with the people he created.  As one of my professors has said, can you imagine what the world would be like if all the murderers lived forever (and murder, by the way, was the next sin mentioned in the story, it did not take long for humanity to become extremely corrupt)?

THE NEW PLAN

     God did not give up wanting to have fellowship with the humanity he created; however, humanity seemed bent on destroying any hope of a close relationship with God.  Therefore, bit-by-bit, God began calling certain individuals to know him intimately, not because they were special, but because God wanted to solve the problem that humanity’s disobedience had caused.  He had specific tasks for each of these called individuals to accomplish.  Eventually, he called the entire nation of Israel (who were the descendants of one of the individuals God had called to a closer relationship with him).  Through miraculous events, God rescued the Israelites from the slavery that they faced in Egypt and liberated them in order for them to be his people. 

     Israel was commanded to be separate from all the other nations; they were to be different and called out, but this separation was only supposed to be for a limited time.  God wanted them to get to know him, to learn who he is while they were separated from the world, but only then so that they could go back into the world and spread the knowledge of who God is to the nations.  Unfortunately, Israel never completed this task.  They rebelled against God, disobeying him, echoing all the other humans who had ever existed before them.  Therefore, as before, God, being concerned with justice, punished Israel.  He allowed other nations to destroy their land and take the Israelites into captivity.  The people felt their separation from God and cried out for God to rescue them.  Again echoing the earlier stories, God was not only concerned with justice; he was also deeply concerned with the people that he created.  Therefore, in the midst of Israel’s plight, God again called out certain men.  This time he sent them to explain to Israel why they were being punished, but also to explain to them that God would rescue his people from captivity, similar to how he rescued them from Egypt.  They sometimes would refer to this rescue as a redemption or salvation, and sometimes metaphorically as a recreation.  This rescue would occur when God would forgive the people for their sins against him and restore them into fellowship with him.  So Israel waited.

THE CLIMAX OF THE STORY

     It is at about this point in the story, in the first-century AD, after about four hundred years of apparent silence, that God made his move.  This move was unthinkable, unimaginable.  The same God who created the heavens and the earth, who called the nation of Israel, left his heavenly dwelling and took on the form of a man.  After being impregnated miraculously by God, a virgin woman gave birth to a baby boy.  This baby was given the name Jesus (the baby’s name was actually the Hebrew name (w#why, pronounced “yehowshuwa”, which is better known to modern readers as the name “Joshua”.  The name “Jesus” is the English form of the Greek form of (w#why).

     Around the late twenties in the first-century, the once baby Jesus, who by this time had become a man, began his public ministry.  His task was to become the rescue that Israel wanted so badly.  He served the Israelites through his ministry: teaching them about their past, telling them about how they should live in the present, and through his healing the sick, lame, blind, deaf, and even the dead, he showed them how their future would look.  God had finally begun to deliver his people.  Jesus called this deliverance the coming of “the Kingdom of God” and, in Jesus’ mind; the Kingdom of God, centered around Jesus himself, had arrived.

     Like the God that was made known in the Old Testament, Jesus called out a new people, to be the recreated Israel, to come out, to be separate, to know him, and to spread the knowledge about him to the rest of the world.  However, this calling into existence a new people of God was not the entirety of what Jesus had come to accomplish.  He also, like the God spoken of in the Old Testament, proclaimed judgment upon disobedient Israel.  By the first-century, Israel had continued in her disobedience for too long, even to the extent that she did not recognize her own God (in the form of Jesus) when he visited her.  Consequently, (leading to another element of Jesus’ ministry) like before, God, being concerned with justice, needed to punish those who disobeyed him.  Someone needed to be punished for the sins of Israel (and humanity) and Jesus was the answer.  Through his crucifixion, his being executed on a cross, Jesus paid the penalty that should have been paid by every single Israelite and every single human being who has ever lived.  Afterwards, through his resurrection, God showed that he had defeated the curse of death that was rightly placed upon humanity.

     Israel (humanity), was unable to fulfill this mission by herself, which is why after Jesus returned to heaven, Jesus sent the Spirit of God to comfort, to walk along beside, and to empower those who would become part of the new humanity, the new people of God.  Their mission was to love God with all of their being and to love others as they loved themselves.  Part of this task involved sharing the story of Jesus with others and telling them about God’s wonderful plan for humanity.  These people of God, of which I have become a part, are still here on earth today welcoming others to join God’s family. 

 

en tw ihsou thn anastasin thn ek nekrwn