Who Do You Say I Am?
Who Do You Say I Am?
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’” (Matthew 16:13).
When Jesus was upon the earth, opinions varied widely concerning His true identity. Some said He was demon-possessed while others believed He was John the Baptist or one of the illustrious Old Testament prophets who had come back from the dead. Nothing has changed much in 2000 years. The opinions concerning Jesus are still all over the board:
“So who was Jesus? Was he a wandering Hasid, or holy man, as Geza Vermes and A.N. Wilson propose? Was he a peasant Jewish cynic, as John Dominic Crossan alleges? Was he a magician who sought to lead Israel astray, as the Talmud holds? Was he a self-proclaimed prophet who died in disillusionment, as Albert Schweitzer maintained? Was he some first-century personage whose purported miracles and divinity were mere myths and fabrications by the early church as David F. Strauss, Rudolf Bultmann, and John Hick suggest? Or was he, as the Gospels assert, ‘The Christ, the Son of the living God’”? (Paul Copan, True for You, but Not for Me, p. 94).
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews encourages us to “consider Him” (Hebrews 12:3). Yet, why should I consider Jesus and, why should I consider Him as the Savior of the world? Out of all the options that exist in our world for answers or solutions to the problems and challenges of life, why should I opt for Jesus as my Redeemer?
To Begin With/A Short List
- His life was clearly predicted centuries in advance of His birth, and such predictions were in print: Isaiah 53; Psalm 22
- His life was predicted in a set of books that equally announced that the earth was a circle (Isaiah 40:22) and that God hangs the earth on nothing (Job 26:7), centuries before man and his technology caught up with such truths.
- He delivered to us the highest moral standard known to man.
- Among all religious and non-religious leaders, He is the only one with an empty tomb.
- He worked miracles, which were even acknowledged by His enemies (Matthew 12:24).
- He answered the most complicated questions of the time with ease, and both the questions and the answers are recorded for our consideration (Matthew 22).
- He was free from sin (1 Peter 2:21). There is no scandal that surrounds Him.
- His teachings form the basis for Western Civilization and the Constitution of the United States.
- The application of His teachings would solve all our social problems (Matthew 7:12).
- His teachings, when applied, work in all cultures and in all places and times.
The Polite Answer Was Not Enough
In Matthew 16 when Jesus asked the disciples what people were saying about Him, the disciples give Jesus the polite or favorable viewpoints. That is, He was one of the great prophets, in fact He might even be John the Baptist. Yet none of these “polite answers” were true or correct. In fact, Jesus never claimed to be one of the great prophets or just a good man. He claimed to be God (John 14:9). Equal in honor with God (John 5:23). The only way to the Father (John 14:6). The one who will judge us at the last day (John 5:22). If we do not believe in Him, we will die in our sins (John 8:24). If we do not obey His teachings we will end up condemned (John 12:48). Today a number of people will say polite things about Jesus, or they think they are saying something very complimentary about Jesus:
- He was a great moral teacher, a high morale person, like Mother Teresa.
- “I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe I am the Son of God”.
- “There is no separation or distinction between where God leaves off and where we begin. We are all One, all Divine, just like Jesus”.
- Jesus is my personal higher power who helps me stay sober.
- Jesus was an enlightened being.
Just Let People Choose?
What if someone advocates, “Why not just let people believe in the Jesus of their choosing?” Admittedly, such is a very popular point of view in our times. Especially when people who are seeking religious input are drawing more from the Internet or personal feelings than from any serious study of the Scriptures. Yet the problem is if we are not honest and if we are not listening to the truth, then we tend to find the Jesus that perfectly suits our preconceived ideas.
“People who have searched for Jesus through history have often discovered exactly who they wanted to find in the first place. ‘In other words’ , said Charolette Allen in The Human Christ (p. 5), ‘the liberal searchers found a liberal Jesus…the deists found a deist, the Romantics a Romantic, the existentialists an existentialist, and the liberationists a Jesus of class struggle’” (The Case for the Real Jesus, Lee Strobel, p. 12).
So what is dangerous about finding the Jesus of my preconceived ideas? Well, such a Jesus would result in no personal growth on your part. In addition, do we really think that we are so smart that even before we meet Jesus we are exactly on the same page with Him? If Jesus is truly the Son of God, then it is obvious that He would require us to make many serious changes in our thinking, views, loyalties and lives, seeing that a great gulf separates us and God (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Can I Really Find Any Jesus I Want in the Bible?
Now and then someone will tell me that you can use the Bible to prove any point of view. I find this an incredible naïve, disrespectful and false view. And if you don’t believe that, just try that on your closest friend or favorite politician or celebrity (Malachi 1:8). “You know, with what you say at times it sounds like you are a believer, at other times a Nazi or a racist”. Yet I started thinking about the above claim, can you read the Bible and honesty use it to justify anything or prove any point of view? On this point I like what someone said. The world is full of interpretations, but there are only a limited number of viable interpretations. For example, consider the following:
- Could I honestly prove that Jesus was a free-love type of advocate? Live anyway you want, you don’t have to follow conventional morality, rather a vague kind of love is the only rule? In reading the Bible I would immediately find that Jesus was very much into morality (Matthew 5:20-32). And He clearly defined the type of love He was talking about, it was a love that involved keeping His commandments (John 14:15).
- Could I really prove that Jesus was a political revolutionary, who was intent upon dismantling the structures in a culture? On this point I am reminded of a conversation that Jesus had with certain individuals who were complaining about a specific injustice that Pilate had committed against the Jewish people (Luke 13:1-5). Instead of calling for the overthrow of Pilate, Jesus said to them, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). In like manner, when certain soldiers heard Him preaching and asked, “What shall we do”, He did not tell them to stop being soldiers or working for the government (Luke 3:14). In fact, when asked about paying taxes to the Roman government, He said gave a strong affirmation (Matthew 22:21).
- Could I prove that Jesus was always on the side of the oppressed and the poor? Jesus certainly had compassion for the multitudes (Matthew 9:36), yet at the same time Jesus rebuked the multitudes (John 6:26), and called upon the little guy or ordinary person to repent (Luke 3:10-11) and forsake their sins (John 8:11). The side that Jesus was on was God’s side and no other. So are we on God’s side?