Who is Jesus?
Reading Acts 2
Who is Jesus? Now here’s a question that has been on the lips of men since the moment Jesus was born over 2000 years ago. Certainly the religious leaders in Israel were quite taken up in it, but not liking the way the evidence was pointing.
It was a question that the population of Israel mused over, we see this referred to in the question that Jesus asks his disciples – who do men say that I am?
It was a question that Jesus’ disciples had contemplated, Jesus asked them, Who do you say that I am?
It’s a question that men have been asking themselves down through the centuries since.
It’s an important question, for how you see Jesus will affect how you respond to His message, to His call upon your life. And indeed your eternal destination
Who is Jesus is the central question of all of your life!
If you are a Christian here this morning – then the central preoccupation of your life is Christ, the very name Christ-ian shows that you are not primarily about doctrine, fellowship, or religion, but are first and foremost preoccupied with Jesus Christ and who He is.
If we were to go down and stand on the street and ask people, “Who do you think Jesus is?” We would get a wide range of answers. We would certainly hear someone say that He was a good man, He was a teacher, He was a prophet, or the founder of a religion. We may get someone that says that He was demon-possessed; that’s what some people of Jesus’ day thought. Perhaps we might run across someone who said, “Oh, He’s a lesser god—a created being and Satan’s brother.”
If we were to ask others who Jesus was, we might hear something like, “Don’t know; don’t care.” There is a wide range of answers to the question of who is Jesus, and yet everything in life and in death hinges on this question, doesn’t it? This is one of those questions where there is a right answer and there is a wrong answer. As we stand before the Judgement Seat of God, there will only be one right answer to the question of who Jesus is.
Our reading this morning was from the book of Acts, a book that tells the story of the early church. In Ch.2 we read Peter’s first sermon, a sermon that answers the question who is Jesus. 2:22-24 Men, Israelites, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by powerful works, and wonders and miracles, which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know, 23 this One given to you by the before-determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and by lawless hands, crucifying Him, you put Him to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
Peter then speaks of a prophecy made by King David a thousand years before, about Jesus. Then in v32 he says, This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. And Jesus, Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
He continues in v36, Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
3000 people became Christians at the conclusion of his sermon. His sermon proclaims the truth of who Jesus is so when he calls on them to repent in v38, part of that repentance has to do with their denial of who Jesus is. There can be no forgiveness of sin without the acknowledgement that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God incarnate.
Let’s look at what Peter says. Who is Jesus?
Real Human Being
Notice that Peter starts with the name, Jesus of Nazareth. Part of the Gospel message is certainly that Jesus was a real human being. He was born to Mary and Joseph, peasants without rank, fame, or fortune. He grew up in a small town called Nazareth, an insignificant wide spot in the road in an insignificant country, as far as the world was concerned. When Jesus was 30, He gathered twelve men around Him as His followers and for three and a half years He preached. He got tired; He ate; He slept. He never got married, contrary to a popular lie. He never owned a house. He never travelled far from home. Yet He was seen as a religious rebel; He was seen as a threat to the religious establishment. After three and a half years, He was deserted by His friends and killed by His own countrymen. Jesus of Nazareth was a very real human being that had to go through a lot of the same kinds of experiences that you and I do.
Who is Jesus?
He is Lord
Peter makes it clear that He is not just Jesus of Nazareth. As Peter preaches, we realize that this Jesus is much more than a mere human being. In v36, Peter makes the point that by means of the resurrection, God has made it clear that this Jesus is also Lord.
Now, what does Lord mean? In the Greek, it is kurios; you may have heard it before. Kurios is a difficult word to translate because it has a very wide range of meanings. Kurios can mean sir, a term of polite address. Kurios can mean master; when a servant would talk to his master; the servant would most likely call his master kurios.
There’s another use of kurios that is more significant here. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Greek word kurios was used to translate the most holy name of God in the entire Old Testament, the name of Yahweh or the name of Jehovah, two different ways of pronouncing the same thing.
Kurios is the name that Moses gets in the story of the burning bush in Exodus 3, a story in the Old Testament. Moses walks by a bush that is burning and it’s not burning up, so he walks over to see it. God speaks out of the burning bush, and in the course of the discussion Moses says, “Well, what’s your name?” God replies out of the burning bush, “I AM who I AM”; it’s that name I AM that comes into English as Yahweh or Jehovah; it’s that name that was translated with kurios in the Greek Old Testament.
Who is Jesus?
He is the Son of God
What Peter is preaching in Acts 2 is Jesus is God and Jesus is the great I AM of the burning bush in Exodus 3. The theme of Jesus’ being God runs all the way through the New Testament. Beginning at Jesus’ birth, when we read the birth narratives in the gospel of Matthew, you can see Matthew reminding us that about 700 years before the time of Christ, Isaiah made a prophecy that a virgin would conceive and have a child. 700 years later, the Virgin Mary did conceive and did have a child. When the angel came to tell Mary that this was going to happen, she was understandably a little confused as to what was going on.
In Luke 1:35, the angel explains how this is going to happen: And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
So even at the announcement of Jesus’ birth, the phrase, Son of God, is being used to describe Him. The phrase, Son of God, is used all the way through the New Testament to continue to describe Jesus. For example, why did John write the fourth gospel? What was the purpose to his writing? Well, he tells us at the very end in ch.20. John says, “…these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.“
Also, the title of the gospel of Mark, in 1:1, is “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God“; that functions as Mark’s title for the gospel. Mark is writing to let us know that Jesus was not just a man, He was not just a human being, but He was, in fact, the Son of God. What is interesting as we read through Mark, the title, Son of God, only occurs two other times: In Chapter 5, the demons say, “We know who You are, You are the Holy Son of God.” Then most importantly, after His death a centurion says, “This surely is the Son of God.”
When we read the stories in Mark of what Jesus did and what He taught, we realize that this is the Son of God. We don’t have to get very far into Mark to realize that Jesus has power over sickness, He has power over demons, and He has power over the natural world; He can even calm the troubled Sea of Galilee. Jesus has power over death; He can raise Jarius’ daughter from the dead. Jesus has authority to forgive sin—something that belongs to God and to God alone. Jesus is no mere man.
I need to mention that when you and I, as English speakers, hear the phrase, Son of God, it’s really easy to misunderstand what that phrase means. The Bible can use “son” in the way that we do of our own children, but the Bible can also use the phrase “son” in a significantly different meaning, and it’s easy to misunderstand it.
The Mormons misunderstand it. For a Mormon, Jesus is a created lesser being—Satan’s brother; that is not what the phrase means in the Bible. When Jesus starts using language such as, “I am the Son,” or “I am the Son of God,” or “God is my Father,” the Jews of His day understood exactly what He was saying. They understood that He was claiming to be equal with God.
Look at John 5:17 . But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath, and in v18 we read, Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
So in Jesus’ original context, when He talks about Himself being the Son and God being His Father, and when the Bible talks about Jesus being the Son of God, it’s not some lesser created being; Jesus is claiming to be God Himself.
Who is Jesus?
He is God
The Bible also explicitly calls Jesus God. The Bible doesn’t always use the phrase “Son of God”; sometimes it just calls Him God. John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” As you read on in John 1, we realize that the Word is being applied to Jesus. Jesus was God.
Here is one of the many ways in which the Jehovah Witnesses fall short of saving faith for they deny the divinity of Jesus, they try to use this verse to support their error they come and say there’s no “the” in front of “…was God…” and they say God is with a small “g,”. But the Bible does not say Jesus was a god, it says Jesus was God, capital “G.”
Jesus Himself claimed to be God, didn’t He? He was arguing with the Jews once again, and in John 8, He says, “…before Abraham was,” before Abraham even existed, “I am.” I know if we’re reading in English and if we’re not familiar with the Old Testament, we would simply say, “I am…what?” However, the Jews understood exactly what He was saying, because they tried to kill Him for it; that was the penalty for blasphemy. Jesus said,
“Before Abraham was ‘I am.'”
“I am the great I AM”
” I am the Yahweh”
” I am the Jehovah of the burning bush who spoke, ‘I am Kurios.’ I am God.”
Later on Jesus says in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Thomas was one of Jesus’ disciples, a Jew, and was intensely monotheistic. Yet when Thomas sees the risen Lord, his response was “My Lord and my God.”
Paul, talking to his friend Titus, refers to “…our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Peter talks about the righteousness of our “God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” There are many more verses and many more arguments that I could bring, but it is very clear that the Bible claims that Jesus claimed, that His disciples claimed, that His apostles claimed that Jesus was, in fact, God.
Who is Jesus? Peter’s answer Jesus is Lord, He is Kurios, He is Yahweh, He is the great I AM, He is the Son of God, and He is God. The resurrection makes this explicitly clear
Who is Jesus?
God became flesh. Jesus was fully God and fully man. In John 1: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,. He was every bit as human as we are human. Yet Scripture does point out that while He is fully human, He nevertheless lived without sin.
While Jesus was fully human, He also was fully God. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, I just believe Jesus was a good man”? Have we not heard that more times than we care to hear? I certainly have. The fact of the matter is that good people don’t say the things that Jesus said. If Jesus were only human and nothing else, we can’t call Him a good person, can we? Good people don’t go around saying things like, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Unless you abide in Me and I in you, you can’t bear any fruit.” Good people don’t go around saying things like “I and the Father are one”; we lock them up when they do that. It’s sad how many of our institutions are full of people who think they are Jesus, who think they are Christ, and who think they are God. People in control of their mental facilities, and if they’re good people, don’t say the kinds of things that Jesus said. Anyone who says, “Well, I believe that Jesus was a good man,” simply hasn’t read the Bible; you can’t read the Bible and come away with that understanding.
As has often been said, either Jesus is a liar of pathological proportions, or He’s a lunatic, mentally unstable, or He is exactly who He said He is—He is God; there is no fourth option.
Jesus is fully God and fully human; Is it important to believe this? Is it important to understand it? Yes. The incarnation, if nothing else, is the greatest miracle that ever happened; it’s the miracle of God becoming man.
Important To Our Salvation – The only way that salvation could be a possibility for you and for me is for Jesus to have been the God-man, which is a term that theologians like to use. If Jesus were not the God-man, He could not have provided salvation, and you and I would still be dead in our trespasses and in our sin.
On the one hand, the Bible says that He had to be fully human if He was going to be the sacrifice for human sin; there is something in the justice of God that requires human death for human sin. Hebs.2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Jesus had to be like you and me if He was going to be the sacrifice for our sin; had to be fully human,
Jesus had to be fully God. No human being could have carried the weight of all the world’s sin (past, present, and future) for those hours He hung on the cross; none of us are capable of bearing that kind of weight. Jesus had to be fully God because no human being could live a perfect life. If Jesus had not lived a perfect life, there would be no perfect death that could be given sacrificially for you and me. No human being’s death could be applied to our sin. If somehow we were enabled to live a perfect life, why would we think that our death could pay the penalty for someone else’s sin, much less the whole world’s sin?
Jesus had to be fully God in order for these things to happen because ultimately, salvation belongs to our God; therefore, Jesus had to be God. Our salvation is absolutely dependent upon the incarnation, the full humanity of Christ, so that His death would be a human death and the full divinity of Christ, so that His death could be applied to you and to me. Without the incarnation, we’re all dead and on our way to hell;
Who is Jesus?
The only Saviour of men
Christianity is exclusive. Throughout history, Christians have been accused of being arrogant because they think that they are the only way to God, that they’re better than the Hindus, and that they’re better than the Muslims.
Let us not forget the fact that it was Jesus who said, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” The reason for that is that there has never been another God-man. There has never been a God-man who is the single mediator between God and humanity (I Timothy 2:5). There was no other time in which God became a human sacrifice for human sin applied to all people.
Yes, we are incredibly exclusive; all roads do not lead to God; all but one road leads straight to hell. It’s not because we’re arrogant people, it’s because there’s only one God-man, Jesus Christ, and there is no other way to God.
Who is Jesus? He is the incarnate God. He is God. He is man. Because He is the only God-man, He’s the only avenue to God or access to living with Him forever in heaven. The doctrine of the incarnation is anything but academic, isn’t it? It pervades and controls our very lives, our salvation, and the offer of salvation to other people. The doctrine of incarnation is important when it comes to salvation.
Who is Jesus?
The One You must believe in if you are to be saved.
The central question of life is who Jesus is; it should pervade everything that we do. If our understanding of who Jesus is, is different from Peter’s; if our understanding of who Jesus is, is different from what I’ve explained, then in the words of Peter, we are called to repent; we are called to repent of our false understanding of who Jesus is. We know once we do that, then repentance from sin and all the other things will follow.
If we do believe in the incarnation, Jesus is fully God and fully man, then the challenge of the incarnation is to allow that truth to pervade everything that we do. Because that means there’s only one God-man, there is only one way to God, and there is only one means to salvation, all the other roads of religions, sincerity, and religious activity lead to the gates of hell. Only the road through the God-man goes to heaven; may that be our challenge in the doctrine of the incarnation.