Who Is Jesus?
- Explore what we believe about who Jesus is.
- Learn various names and titles for Jesus.
- Reflect on our personal relationship to Christ and our calling as Christ followers.
I love the way Jesus puts the question "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" to his disciples. The disciples offer a variety of answers. I suspect that if you were to ask the same question of your class today you would get a variety of answers as well. And if you were to go out and ask the same question of the person on the street, you would get an even wider variety of answers.
In spite of Peter's eloquent answer---"You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God"---the early church struggled with the answer to this question for over four hundred years. What exactly does it mean to call Jesus "the Son of God"? What does that say about his relationship to God the Father and to us as human beings? People are still asking those questions today.
Jesus referred to the "Son of Man" in his question. This was the unique term by which Jesus referred to himself. It comes from the Old Testament, especially the books of Ezekiel and Daniel, and refers to a prophecy about the coming of the exalted deliverer. We do not use the term anymore. The main names or terms we use for Jesus today are all contained in a wonderful ancient prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us."
Let's briefly look at each one of these terms.
Lord: "Jesus Christ is Lord" was the earliest confession of the church. This was a bold and dangerous affirmation since this was the term that was used to honor the Emperor (Greek: Kyrios). It means that Jesus Christ has supreme authority in heaven and on earth.
Jesus: The personal name of the man born of Mary and raised in Nazareth. But it also had deep significance since it means literally God (Yahweh) is our Savior.
Christ: The Greek term for the Hebrew Messiah. It means the anointed one. When we call Jesus the Christ we are saying that he is the long-awaited deliverer promised to Israel by the prophets.
Son of God: This is the most difficult designation. It does not describe Jesus' biological relationship to God the father, but rather the theological relationship. It means that Jesus is the same "stuff" (the early church used the term "substance") as the Father. So calling Jesus the Son of God means that he is God. In contrast, we are creatures of God who become children of God by adoption through the Son.
While this may seem very complicated, even unnecessary, understanding each one of these terms is extremely important for understanding exactly who Jesus is. Of course, merely understanding the terms misses the heart of the matter. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only one who can set us free from our sins and from Satan's power.
Notice that Jesus began this discussion with the general question "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" But he soon drills down to the deeper question "Who do you say I am?" That's not merely an intellectual question but a deeply personal one. If Jesus is Lord, then we owe him our personal allegiance and obedience. If Jesus is the Savior sent from God, then he is our only hope and our ultimate salvation. If Jesus is the Son of God, then God has actually entered our world to set us free. If Jesus is the Christ, then he stands at the center of God's revelation in the Scriptures.
This affirmation about Jesus is the firm "rock" on which God builds the church. As long as we stand firm on it, hell itself cannot overcome its eternal saving power.
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