“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
“Who do men say that I am?” – Jesus
In the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry there were diverse opinions about who Jesus was. Some thought he was a reincarnation of John the Baptist or one of the prophets like Elijah or Jeremiah. If there was confusion then about who Jesus was, how much more today after the passing of so many years.
Many religious groups feel compelled to fit Jesus of Nazareth somewhere into their scheme of things. Jesus is a historical figure that is hard for religious philosophers to ignore, however much they may wish to. While Christians acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, muslims claim he is but a prophet of Allah since “Allah has no son”. Westerners involved in Hinduism many times see Jesus as perhaps another guru of sorts – an enlightened being. Some New agers see him as a teacher of New Age doctrines. I remember someone showing me “The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ” which she was urged to read by her “spirit guide”. Even Scientologists fit Jesus into their picture. One of them explained to me that Jesus was about two thirds the way up their chart showing levels of psychic development. Jesus, while not totally ignored, is fit conveniently into existing belief systems. The gospel accounts of his life are only referred to when they happen to agree with whatever religious philosophy is being pushed.
Within Christendom, there are wide variations in terms of the understanding of who Jesus is. If you take a look at the artistic depictions of Jesus in Orthodox churches, for example, you will find either a baby with a halo in the arms of the all-important Mary, or else a picture of a very stern looking man, glaring disapprovingly at sinners below. You don’t see qualities like joy or love in that face as it glares down at you. Presumably these images helped to foster the notion that Jesus is unapproachable, and that it was far better and wiser to come to him indirectly via the priest, the saints or by Mary herself.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the popular conception of a “milk-and-water” Jesus. This Jesus is so “loving” and sweet that he would never judge anybody. He is all forgiving and never would say anything tough. This Jesus doesn’t ask too much from anybody and is there to provide sweet comforting religious notions to those who have been traumatised by the ravages of life.
Liberal scholars involved in “The Jesus Seminar” have worked hard to cast doubt on as much of the gospel accounts as they possibly can. In fact, to get into one of these meetings you have to state at least one gospel passage the authenticity of which you doubt or disbelieve. So if you ever have the need to get into one of these meetings, I suggest you come armed with a passage from the so-called “Gospel of Thomas” – one of their favourites – which you may declare that you both doubt and disbelieve.
No one is more pleased than the devil himself when people fail to perceive who Jesus is. Satan has certainly worked hard in the religious world to throw people off the track regarding the true nature, character and purpose of Jesus Christ.
Who Does the Bible reveal Jesus to be?
The Scriptures give quite a different picture of who Christ is. Notice I say, “who Christ is”, not “who Christ was”. Some conservative evangelicals can give you a biblical picture of who Christ was, but then go on to explain that he no longer does what He used to do or responds to people who come to Him in the same way. The Bible however declares that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The way He reveals himself to people may be different, but who He is and what He does for people has not changed. The only thing which he no longer needs to do is to die for our sins and rise again. This happened just once and it happened “once for all” according to the writer of the Book of Hebrews. Jesus doesn’t get re-sacrificed in the mass. The real Jesus is not some kind of cracker – never has been and never will be. Please see my article “The Sacramental View of Salvation” for further details on this very important topic.
Its my conviction that the Scriptures give an accurate, up-to-date picture of Jesus Christ. Only in the Book of Revelation however do we get a more complete picture of the glorious, resurrected Christ who has now conquered death and rules and reigns with the Father. Yet the gospels reveal the attitude of Jesus towards people of all kinds, towards sin, towards sickness, demons and death.
I believe Christians would do well to focus more time and thought on meditating on the character and the promises of Jesus than many other things which presently occupy our time. The more we are centred on Christ and the more we exalt Him through our lives and our communication, the better things will be.
Revelations of Christ that I see in the Scriptures
Jesus is authoritative. When Jesus spoke, he was very forthright and direct. He spoke with confidence, as one who had seen and heard things from God and who knew that what He was saying was the truth. We find many times statements like “Truly, truly, I say to you…” or “You have heard it said … but I say to you …”. The Scripture records that at times the crowd was amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
Jesus is definite. Jesus was always making statements like “And these will go to everlasting punishment, but the righteous to everlasting life” (Matthew 25:46), or “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, but He who believes not in the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)
Jesus is compassionate. The Book of Hebrews describes Jesus as a compassionate high priest. The gospels reveal Jesus’ compassion for the people. “When Jesus saw the multitudes, he had compassion on them, because they were harrassed and scattered like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). It was the compassion of Jesus that moved him at times to heal all the sick people that were around Him. Its important for us to realise that Jesus still has compassion for the sick and those lost in sin. If we could get to the place more often where His compassion moves through us, we would see more of what God can do.
Jesus is truthful. Jesus never lied to others. Although not all of his sayings were clear to his hearers, they were nevertheless always true. In the same way, Jesus never lies to us today. If a spirit speaks to us and it turns out to be a liar, it wasn’t the Spirit of Christ, though it may have claimed to be. The Bible says to “Test the spirits to see if they are of God” (1 John 4:1).
Jesus is full of faith. Jesus was so sure of His relationship with the Father that He even prayed openly before a crowd asking for Lazarus, his friend, to come out of the grave four days after he died. Jesus revealed unwavering confidence in dealing with unclean spirits and diseases. When he spoke and acted, he was sure of the results that would be obtained. He even commanded the winds and the waves “Be still” and then asked the disciples where their faith was! Jesus had been sleeping in the back of the boat. Jesus was never worried by circumstances.
Jesus welcomes those who want to come to God. In Luke 15 we read that the Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he received tax collectors and sinners and ate with them. Jesus went on to tell three stories revealing the joy the Father has when lost people are found. The well-known parable of the prodigal son reveals perhaps more than any other the welcoming attitude of the Lord God to those who in their hearts and by their actions are turning to God and acknowledging the error of their independent ways.
Jesus heals. Peter, in summarising the ministry of Jesus before his crucifixion stated “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit
and power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). The gospels are full of accounts
of Jesus healing the people. If we are truly in touch with Jesus along these lines we will experience divine healing in our midst.
Jesus Gives Forgiveness and New Life. Jesus not only healed the paralytic man in Mark 2, but more importantly, revealed his authority and willingness to forgive the sins of those who come to Him with faith. Actually, He can do this because He is God and because He paid the price in full for our sins. Jesus is also revealed in the Scriptures as one who gives new life (John 4:14), even abundant life (John 10:10) and baptises with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11). This baptism of the Spirit may be experienced today by those who ask for it.
“But who do you say that I am?”
It has been pointed out by the well-known apologist C.S. Lewis that you cannot simply think of Jesus as “a good teacher”. He didn’t leave you with that option. He was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God. Everyone must make a decision on this. Your decision is evidence by the way you behave and your interest and response to the Words of Jesus himself as recorded in the Bible.
Summary for Now
Of course the subject of Jesus cannot be properly treated in a few pages of text. For all of eternity men and angels will praise the name of Jesus and become aware more and more of his glorious character and nature. Hopefully this short article will prompt you the reader to spend more time seeking to know Jesus personally and to find out what the Bible reveals about Him.