JESUS ASKED, WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?
Mark 8:29 Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” That has been a crucial question for two thousand years. I agree with Peter when he said, “Thou art the Christ…” In this essay I consider the names and terms St. John uses to describe Jesus in the first chapter of his Gospel in the New Testament. These names/terms can teach us much about the Jesus, the star of the Christmas story – Word, God, Light, Jesus Christ, Lord, Jesus, Lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, Master, Messias, Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph, King of Israel, Son of man. Those I found (in KJ), did I miss any?
HE WAS CALLED THE WORD:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In other words, in the beginning was Jesus and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. Why is he called the Word? All creation came via Jesus, the Word (John 1:3) God sent his Word and healed and rescued (Ps. 107:20). Let’s look at how “word” is used in everyday language. 1. “Word” carries final authority and power as in, When the boss says this is my final word, we know not to question it. 2. “Word” can mean up to date, the latest thing as in, What is the latest word in fashion design? 3.”Word” can mean message as in, Have you received word of the gospel? “Word” can mean rock-solid standard of truth as in, That is what the word says. Not only was Jesus the creator from the beginning, He is also, the Truth, the message, the healer, the rescuer, the final authority, and the latest thing even for today. For That I am Thankful! And note that in Rev. 19:13, when He defeats the beast, He is still the Word.
HE WAS CALLED GOD:
Number Two “God” – Jesus is rightly called God – the Word was God – “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side…(John 1:18)” Now how in the world am I going to deal with an understanding of the Trinity in one paragraph? Here goes. The best Trinity analogy I have ever seen came from Child Evangelism material. I don’t know who originated it, but I’ve never seen it any place else. The analogy of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost was a comparison with the Sun, the Sun’s rays, and the energy from the sun that is necessary for life. These three all began at the same time, however, it could be said that the Sun begat the rays; one cannot exist without the other, each has its own function. We cannot behold the Sun, it’s glory would kill us; the rays extend between the Sun and earth; we can only know what the Sun is like by knowing about the rays; we can have no life if the rays do not touch us with its energizing force. But we can properly call the rays the “sun” as in, Is the sun shining today? Sun, rays, energy; Father, Son, Holy Ghost. There, my argument for calling Jesus “God” in less than 250 words!
HE WAS CALLED LIGHT:
John 1:3-9 and 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness; but will have the light of life.” Light is used here as more of a title than a name of Jesus. It is one of the easier terms to understand. The fact is that those who walk in darkness cannot understand the things of Light. If they had light they would not be in darkness since no darkness can dwell in light. Light drives away darkness; darkness cannot drive away light. Only the Light can open their eyes; where light is, darkness cannot remain. We cannot have any “Jesus” in us and not have some light that can be shared. Do any of you remember the little song called, This Little Light of Mine. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” – “Hide it under a bushel, No” – “Shine all over the neighborhood” – “Won’t let satan blow it out” – “Let it shine ‘til Jesus comes”
HE WAS CALLED ONE AND ONLY:
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” This term “One and Only” is translated in several versions as the Only Begotten” John 3:16 “…He gave his One and Only Son that whosoever believeth…” Actually I believe it is a good way to present that verse to children. It is more concrete, more understandable. And it does not hold the possibilities for error; for example, that the Son was a created being or that he is an “underling” of the Father. He is of the same nature as God the Father with no beginning and no end. He is the one and only way – or he is a liar. He said (John 14:6) “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
HE WAS CALLED JESUS:
Matthew 1:21 The angel said to Joseph, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” This is my favorite name for God’s Son. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Probably has to do with my learning “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong.” I was embarrassed a couple of weeks ago when someone at church asked my grandchildren to sing to her. She said, “I know you know Jesus Loves Me.” I stood there aghast as I realized they did not. They love to bring me scripture cards to read, and when I know music to them (like This is the Day or Rejoice) I sing them but I, with others, had neglected to teach Jesus Loves Me. How could I have overlooked the basics! Not only I, but these children have been in Sunday School most of their lives. Have we become so sophisticated that we no longer teach that little chorus? Obviously I am guilty. Pete (grandson) learned to read early so he read his Toddler’s Bible all by himself. He proudly told me when he had finished. He wanted to know if I wanted him to show me his favorite story. Of course, I said yes thinking he would go to David or Samson. No, he carefully looked through until he came to the page of Jesus with the little children on his lap. It’s important for them to learn to share,be friendly, and tell the truth; however, it is vital for them to know that Jesus loves them. Back to the basics!
HE WAS CALLED JESUS CHRIST, the CHRIST, MESSIAH/MESSIAS:
I will deal with these three names together – “Jesus Christ,” “the Christ,” and “Messiah/Messias.” Jesus was an “earthly” name given by Joseph in accordance with the angel’s message. Christ is a title given to Jesus. It is the Greek form of the word Messiah, which means The Anointed One. Throughout the Old Testament the people were promised that a Deliverer would come. He would be anointed (at least figuratively) to fill the positions of prophet, priest, and king. Many of Jesus’ followers expected him to do that very thing – be their Deliverer; be their earthly King! Jesus’ words in Matthew 16, “who do you say that I am” is as applicable today as it was when they were spoken to Peter. Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter may have still had some questions, but I can almost hear the resignation in his voice as he submits to a new recognition of Jesus. He was much more than a miracle worker, a leader who could again set the Jews free from the bondages of the Romans. I believe he submits in faith. No matter what his eyes could see, here stood the Son of God. When did Peter really realize that Jesus’ deliverance was to come as a spiritual deliverance not an earthly one? In my walk with Jesus, I have had more than one occasion to confirm that Jesus is my deliverer, whether I can immediately see the evidence or not! “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Peter is convinced, note his words in Acts 2:36 “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
HE WAS CALLED LORD, MASTER:
Lord (master) is one who has authority to issue commands, has the power to judge the degree to which that command is obeyed, and the ability to discipline/train or reward/punish that behavior. Jesus asked, “Why do you say, Lord, Lord, but do not do as I say?” Although there is submission demanded in being a servant, there is also great reward in having a lord who looks out for you. Lev. 25:39 speaks of one who chooses to be a bond servant. There is a great deal of peace and rest available to one who has a kind, loving lord. But there is no one-sided negotiation available. If you get the “umbrella” of an honorable lord, you must submit to obedience to that lord. Over 150 years ago, Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China, said, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.” I close my eyes even now and this refrain echoes in my head, “Why call me Lord, and you do not do as I say?” And I say, “Lord, I do most of the time and for the most important things.” He doesn’t answer; I don’t need him to; I know the answer. It’s not my place to judge the time, place, or degree of my obedience. I remember he said if I love him, I will keep his commands.
HE WAS CALLED RABBI, KING OF ISRAEL:
In Verse 49, Nathaniel recognizes a great power in Jesus because Jesus has told him things he could not have known in the natural. He addresses Jesus as Rabbi meaning Teacher. Perhaps “King of Israel” meant Nathaniel believed Jesus was the Messiah who would come to set up an earthly throne. If so, he was wrong. Jesus did not come to reign as a King on earth. But many of his followers believed that was going to happen.
HE WAS CALLED LAMB OF GOD:
There is a song that has settled in the back of my mind for many years. Let’s have a look at it for a different angle to understand the term, the Lamb of God. Look to the Lamb of God was written by H. G. Jackson (1856-1938), a Methodist missionary to Argentina. He believed that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the answer to every care.
1st Verse: If you from sin, are longing to be free; Look to the Lamb of God. He to redeem you died on Calvary; Look to the Lamb of God.
Refrain: Look to the Lamb of God, Look to the Lamb of God,
For He alone is able to save you, Look to the Lamb of God.
Last Verse: Fear not when shadows on your pathway fall, Look to the Lamb of God.
In joy or sorrow, Christ is all in all, Look to the Lamb of God.
My thoughts regarding Jesus as Lamb has been in the role of atoning blood sacrifice. I do believe that; I even believe it is the major way Jesus provided sacrifice, but as I look over these words from this song, I have a new understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice. His leaving his heavenly realm to come to earth was a sacrifice. Through that sacrifice, he became man and opened himself to all sorrow and suffering which man endures. He could have stayed in heaven, you know!
HE WAS CALLED JESUS OF NAZARETH, SON OF JOSEPH, SON OF MAN:
In the paragraph above, I referred to the sacrifice Jesus made by giving up his royal heavenly status to come to earth as a human being. That leads us to a group of names – Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph, son of man, these refer to Jesus’ status on earth. How different from the Word, the One and Only, the Only Begotten, Son of God – the Royal names of Jesus! It is appropriate that these names are coming at Christmas time! The “Word” came to earth; the “Word” became man. And not a kingly man, but one born in a manger. How many of you ever had a parent say to you, “Were you born in a barn”? According to an idiom dictionary that means “you left the door open, or you were ill-mannered or messy.” Definitely not a compliment. I don’t know that Jesus born in a barn meant that, but it certainly denotes a person of lowly birth. That meaning is also present in the name “Jesus of Nazareth.” Just think, we southerners might say, Jesus of Podunk; Podunk meaning a small, insignificant, unimportant village. That Jesus fella is Joe’s kid – Jesus son of Joseph – from Podunk, just a man like we are. Joe is pretty well known because of his expertise as a carpenter; other than that he doesn’t amount to much. Same can be said for Jesus, Joe’s kid. Just a man like you and me!
“Just a man like you and me.” Jesus, son of man. Verse 14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” That is the incarnation of Christ. The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns says “Jesus became a human being in order to identify with us in our struggles (Heb. 2:17) and, more importantly, so that He could die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Philippians 2:5-11).” “Hypostatic union” is the theological term that refers to Jesus being fully God and fully man. If you are interested, that is how to look online for more information. It is over my head; I believe it because the Bible teaches it. I put that along with all the other stuff I don’t understand about God! But that is the reason for Christmas! I guess it was scene one for the story of our salvation. JESUS is OUR reason for the season, but WE are HIS reason for the season! He came that he might die, that we might live!
I repeat with amazement! JESUS is OUR reason for the season, but WE are HIS reason for the season! He came that he might die, that we might live!