Mere Christianity: Who Is Jesus?

Last week I had the privilege of teaching in the DTS here in Maui. The topic was ‘Mere Christianity’. The week consisted of 15 hours of lecture on a variety of topics that are central to the Christian faith. At the core of it all we find Jesus. Without Jesus we have nothing, and with the wrong idea of Jesus we get everything messed up. So we looked at: who Jesus is (as fully God and fully man); how he dealt with sin; and how He takes us through the trials and is there for us in our temptations.

The title of the week was ‘borrowed’ from the classic apologetic work by C.S. Lewis. In his book, Mere Christianity, Lewis makes this argument which calls us all to answer this question: ‘Who is Jesus?’

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool; you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Jesus himself challenged his disciples to answer the question of who he was (Matthew 16:13-16). We, like his disciples, have to answer this question. We can not afford to get this one wrong. So we study, in humility, and look at the evidence to answer for ourselves, who is Jesus?

What Did Others Say of Jesus?

In examining the Bible we can look at what is said of Jesus by others. We see, upon inspection, that John calls Jesus the “Lamb of/Son of God” (John 1:29,34); Andrew calls Jesus “Messiah” (John 1:40-41); Nathaneal calls Him “Rabbi” (John 1:49); the Samaritans, “Savior of the world; (John 4:42)” Peter calls Him “Lord” (John 6:68-69); and Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)

These are all pretty bold claims. Calling someone/something God that wasn’t God was clearly forbidden, with the penalty for blasphemy in Jewish society being death. We see however that a number of lofty titles were attributed to Jesus by his followers.

So What Did Jesus Say?

It’s one thing for a few guys to call Jesus a few names. I’ve been called more than a few names and not all of them are true! Nor would I call myself what some other people call me. So let’s look at what Jesus said of himself:

He claims to be: “The Messiah” (John 4:25-26); “The bread of life” (John 6:33-35); “The Light of the world” (John 9:5); “The gate for the sheep” (John 10:7); “The good shepherd” (John 10:11); “God’s son” (John 10:36); “The resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); “Teacher and Lord” (John 13:13); “The way, the truth, the life” (John 14:6).

Jesus himself quiet clearly claims a number of lofty titles too. On top of this, Jesus goes so far as claim to be God, which we will now see.

What Did the Religious Leaders of the Day Say?

In John 10:22-33 we see the religious leaders ask Jesus clearly about his identity. In v.31, upon hearing Jesus, the leaders “picked up stones to stone him” (John 10:31). They didn’t even wait to hear any more evidence. Clearly Jesus was guilty of a crime punishable by death. What heinous crime could this have been? Verse 33 states it explicitly for us, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God. (John 10:33)”

The religious leaders understood that Jesus was claiming to be God and for this reason Jesus was to be killed.

Jesus as God

In the Old Testament God reveals himself to Moses as “I AM” (Exodus 3:13,14). In John’s gospel we Jesus call himself by the same name (John 18:4-6). Some English translations will add “he” to this, i.e. ‘I am he’. However, a study of the original language (Greek) does not show ‘he’ to be there (ego eimi).

As well as this we see the author of Hebrews claim Jesus to be the “exact representation” of the Father (Hebrews 1:3).

Jesus, Fully Man

In one of the great mysteries (of which there are in total several) of the Bible we see that as well as Jesus’ claim to divinity he is also recorded as fully man. We see that one of the earliest promises of Jesus given in Genesis states that he would be born of a women (Genesis 3:15) and this is corroborated in the New Testament (Mark 6:3).

We read that Jesus experienced a full range of human emotions such as: stress (John 13:21); happiness (John 15:11); and sorrow (John 11:33-35). Luke (a physician by profession) records Jesus’ body (post-resurrection here) as being like any other normal body (Luke 24:39).

We see in Hebrews that Jesus was tempted as a man was (Hebrews 4:15). I will examine this aspect of Jesus later on as we look at trials and temptations in out lives and how we can have faith in Jesus who went through what we’re going through now.

Finally, Colossians states for us that Jesus was God as a man (Colossians 2:9).

Your Witness

The evidence has been brought before us. We are each responsible for answering the question of Jesus’ identity. Upon our answer lies our hope for our salvation. Jesus may mystify us at times. We may not understand all of his actions, nor fully fathom the depths of his teachings. But we must, absolutely must, understand and comprehend his nature and his mission. When we get Jesus wrong, we get everything wrong.

So who do you say Jesus is?