Who do you say I am? It was the question that Jesus asked Peter. It is a question that is sometimes ignored, other times laughed away, but the question remains–who is Jesus? Some say just a person, others a prophet, still others the very presence of God. As the arguments seems to go: Jesus was clearly a good moral teacher or prophet but why are you trying to make him into God? Even the church comes up with different answers. It was the day after Christmas at a church in San Francisco. The preacher was looking at the nativity outside when he noticed the baby Jesus was missing. Immediately, he turned towards the church to call the police. He was in a panic, his mind raced, “Great another case of nativity vandalism, theft, secularism trying to make a point with the little baby Jesus.” But as he was about to do so, he saw little Jimmy with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant, Jesus.
The preacher walked up to Jimmy and said, “Hi, Jimmy, where did you get the baby?”
Jimmy replied, “I got him from the church.”
“And why did you take him?”
With a sheepish smile, Jimmy said, “Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to little Lord Jesus. I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would give him a ride around the block in it.” (Jeff Strite)
For a lot of people Jesus seems to fall somewhere between a good guy to a jolly religious Santa Claus. A national survey of nonbelievers brought this question of Christ’s identity to to forefront time after time. In our sermon series: “Don’t Ask Me That: We try to faithfully answer the question–Who is Jesus? If you remember, Satan’s first attack on Adam and Eve, and Jesus, both revolved around IDENTITY. After our look last week at the reliability of the Scripture, we are going to go back to the earliest writings to see what people were saying about Jesus, what Jesus said about himself, and what we should say about him today.
With the New Testament epistles and Gospels written between A.D. 50—A.D. 100, we have a time frame in which what we have in our hands today as Scripture, is a fair depiction of what 1st century believers actually thought– What Were People Saying: If you were to read through the New Testament you would see titles for Jesus started to paint a very clear picture: Savior, Son of God, and Lord, but one of the most common is the title Christ. 1 John 2:22, 5:1/ 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son./ Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
Quite a few people think that if they wanted to find Jesus in a phone book, they would look under the C’s, Christ as a last name; however, Christ instead of a name is a title—that comes from the Hebrew word Messiah into the Greek as Christ—which means Anointed One. The author John, gives us both a positive and negative expression, that to follow Jesus as a good teacher alone isn’t enough. It is a title that is used by every single NT author, in 26/27 of the books, except for the shortest 3 John. The idea of the Christ was at least two-fold, the people had been waiting for this figure which would usher in a world-wide peace and fulfillment of righteousness. The Christ would be a Priest that exceeded the High Priest of the Jewish system, he would be a King—that would sit forever on the throne of David—even Moses added to that they should look for him to be a Prophet as well. Priest, King, and Prophet, all rolled into one figure—at the very least, the people were waiting for the Anointed One—who would be sent by God—to change the entire world. Jesus is not just a good teacher, but the fulfillment of godly teaching, all of which across the centuries built a picture of the one who would come.
Bob Russell tells the story of an upscale subdivision where something started to appear slightly awry. As Christmas approached everyone marveled at the beautiful lights of a ranch style home on the corner. Many homes in the subdivision had lights up but as December gave way to January, and then January into February, still only the ranch style home was decked in blazing lights each night. Instead of marveling, many in the home owner’s association began to grumble. Still into March the lights were up and the people starting sending notes demanding that the lights come down and people muttered in their car as they drove by, “If you are going to be so lazy not to take down the lights, at least turn them off,” but they were blazing still each night! On the First of April, something changed how the people saw the lights in the neighborhood. Instead of just the lights the owners of the house added a sign in the front yard which said, “Welcome Home Jimmy!” It turns out they kept the Christmas lights blazing because their son Jimmy was overseas serving in the military; they wanted to celebrate upon his return. Everyone saw the lights, but not everyone understood their significance.
In the same way, God for centuries, kept the lights burning, so that all people would be able to recognize the Anointed One when they saw it, this was a culture where young boys would memorize entire books of the Bible, where the word of God was internalized, and so Christ came. Peter pointed out in Acts 3:22-23—that Moses call for a Prophet had been fulfilled in Christ, he was a prophet without honor in his hometown, just as the priest made the sacrifice for the sins of the people Paul pointed out in Ephesians 5:2- and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. From the very beginning of Jesus story in Matthew, we get the magi coming to visit the king of the Jews, following the star (Matthew 2:2). Some nonbelievers mock faith in Christ saying: Jesus is turning over in his grave thinking about how his identity has been changed, yet from the beginning–he embraced the role of Messiah: Priest/ Prophet/ King—In the first century, there was no doubt among believers, that Jesus was the Christ.