Who Is Jesus of Nazareth?

By Ron Halbrook

A magazine of history reported on America’s fascination with Jesus. Many writers have tried to explain who he is during the last 200 years.

Novelists, biographers, reformers, poets, and businessmen joined theologians and ministers in the attempt to explain what Jesus was really like, hoping that Christianity could be understood in modem terms.

He was a capitalist. He was an urban reformer. He was a country boy. He was “Comrade Jesus,” a hardworking socialist. He was the world’s first ad man.

Clearly, most of these self-serving portraits of Jesus tell us more about the lives and times of their American authors than they do about Palestine two thousand years ago (Patrick Allitt, “The American Christ,” American Heritage, Nov. 1988, pp. 128-41, see p. 128).

Jesus has been explained as a human philosopher, a black Muslim, and a psychologist who originated the positive-mental-attitude. Others have said he was a head angel or one of many prophets who have appeared in history.

The speculations and theories of modem man can never answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” The eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Jesus left the only reliable testimony about him the world will ever have. Their testimony is sound historically on the same terms as other ancient documents, but, more than that, it was inspired of God so as to preclude any possibility of error (Lk. 1:1-4; Jn. 20:30-31; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Jesus is the Christ of the prophets. The Old Testament prophets spoke of God sending his chosen Servant, Savior, and King to bless all mankind. This chosen one is called “the Messiah” (from Hebrew) or “the Christ” (from Greek) someone anointed or set apart to a special office. The prophets predicted the coming of God’s chosen one from the family of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) – from the tribe of Judah (49: 10) – a great prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:18) – a king from the royal lineage of David (Psa. 2; Isa. 11:1) – one to be born of a virgin, and in Bethlehem (Isa. 7:14; Mic. 5:2).

There is no possibility of mistaking the Messiah. Jesus alone fulfilled the prophecies and he fulfilled every one of them. Andrew told Simon, “We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. ” Philip told Nathanael, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn. 1:41,46).

Jesus is the son of man. Ezekiel is often called “the son of man,” meaning one who dwells in the flesh, of the order of humanity, or sharing the nature of mankind (Ezek. 2: 1, 3,8ff). The flesh is frail but the son of man must have a heart tender and open to God’s Word, which must be spoken with a determination “harder than flint” (3:7-11). Daniel saw by prophetic vision “one like the Son of man” coming to receive “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom . . . which shall not pass away” (7:13-14).

Jesus is called the Son of man 78 times in Matthew John. He identified with humanity by sharing both the blessings and the sorrows of mankind. “The Son of man came eating and drinking,” yet “the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matt. 11:19; 8:20). He had power to perform miracles and to forgive sins, and was “Lord even of the sabbath day” (9:6; 12:8). In order to save a lost humanity, the Son of man was crucified and raised from the dead (Lk. 19:10; Jn. 12:23-24).

Jesus is the son of God. Jesus once asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Several answers were given, but Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:13-16). Jesus is of the order of Deity and shares the full nature of Godhood. He is both human and divine, fully man and fully God. When he spoke of “my Father and I,” he made himself equal with God (Jn. 5:17-18). “Before Abraham was, I AM” – Jesus was Deity (Jn. 8:58). We must “honor the Son” even as the Father (5:23).

God’s Son is the brightness of God’s glory “and the express image of his person.” Jesus is not a high angel but is “much better than the angels.” God never told an angel, “Thou art my son” (Heb. 1). God must be worshipped but not men or angels. Both men and angels worship Jesus Christ because he is divine, Deity, one of the Godhead (Matt. 4:10; Jn. 9:38; Heb. 1:6).

Jesus is the Saviorfor all men. Jesus Christ came to bruise or crush the head of Satan for all men (Gen. 3:15). Referring to Christ as the seed or descendant of Abraham, God promised, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8,16). The Messiah was to establish God’s spiritual family so that men of “all nations shall flow unto it” (Isa. 2:14). In the same day when God would save “the remnant” of the Jews, Christ would be “an ensign” or banner for the salvation of the Gentiles as well (11:1-11).

The gospel is for all the world! Christ forces himself upon no one but offers salvation to everyone on the same terms. The “Great Commission” is truly great:

Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mk. 16:15-16).

“Whosoever will” may come to him (Rev. 22:17).

Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We do not inherit Adam’s sin or anyone else’s sin – nor do we inherit a nature which forces us to sin. We have no such excuse for sinning. The shameful truth is we sin because we choose to (Ezek. 18:4; Jas. 1: 13-15). The Law of Moses made the Jews painfully aware of their sins, forcing them to see “the curse” of disobeying God (Gal. 3: 10). The animal sacrifices of the Old Law taught the Jews that the shedding of blood or giving of life makes “an atonement for the soul,” but “the blood of bulls and of goats” only foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice of Christ (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 10: 1-4).

The innocent died to provide forgiveness to the guilty. We do not deserve it. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).

Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings. The expression “Lord of lords, and King of kings” indicates the ultimate source of all sovereignty, power, and rule. This highest authority inheres in the nature of Deity and is shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Deut. 10:17; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). It is astonishing that any man could lay claim to the nature and power of Deity, but Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power . . . by the resurrection from the dead.” After he arose, Jesus proclaimed, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Rom. 1:4; Matt. 28:18).

In keeping with prophecy, Jesus arose to rule and reign at the Father’s right hand as “both Lord and Christ.” In order to submit to his authority and to be saved, sinners must repent and be immersed in water (Acts 2:33-38). He is “the head over all things to the church,” which must follow his word in all things (Eph. 1:22-23). Even civil governments are overruled by him (Dan. 2:44; 4:25).

Jesus is thefinal revelation of God. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jn. 1:18). Deity is invisible to the human eye, but one of the Godhead came in flesh to make a full and final revelation of God. Throughout history God spoke by many prophets, but he “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). In the lifetime of his Apostles, Jesus Christ fully revealed “all truth” by the miraculous guidance of the Holy Spirit. The word of truth is recorded in the Bible and preserved for us today (Jn. 16:13; 2 Pet. 1:12-15). All modern claims to “new” light, “new” prophecies, and dinew” revelations are false.

Jesus is the great high priest. As our high priest, Jesus bears the atoning blood to the Father, “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Rising above the Aaronic priesthood of Moses’ Law, Jesus is both King and Priest “for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (5:4-10). This great high priest knows our sorrows, temptations, and suffering – he lived in the flesh – and he pleads for us at the throne of God’s grace even now (4:15-16). He saves all who serve him (5:8-9).

Sinners today are still finding Jesus as the Christ of the prophets, the Son of man, and the Son of God! “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 6, pp. 172-173
March 16, 1989