Who was Jesus?
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 patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
— C. S. Lewis
Who was Jesus? In this context, the word is meant to include not only the idea of "WHO" but also the idea of "WHAT." So, in this chapter we will discuss who and what was Jesus of Nazareth. But prior to discussing who Jesus WAS, let's first address to a small degree, who Jesus was NOT.
Jesus was not an effeminate figure who wore soft flowing robes. Jesus was not a man who displayed long beautiful flowing hair falling across his shoulders. Jesus was not a man who displayed a soft pale complexion. Jesus was not a man who had long slender feminine fingers. Jesus was not in any manner physically weak. Jesus was not a person whose personality would be described by observers as sweet – at least not in the sense of being saccharine.
Jesus was not a publicity seeker. Jesus was not poor. Jesus was not homeless. Jesus was not uneducated. Jesus was not a loner. Jesus was not unemotional. Jesus was not soft spoken. Jesus was not a persona who intimidated children. Jesus was not mild mannered or shy.
Jesus was not an only child. Jesus was not a vegetarian. Jesus was not a teetotaler. Jesus was not married. Jesus was not a person who dwelled in the desert. Jesus was not a homebody. Jesus was not in the least intimidated by persons of high rank in society or government.
Jesus was not a person who scoffed at the idea of demons and demon possession. Jesus was not a breaker of rules and instructions (if we mean the rules and instructions of the Torah). Jesus was not a prophet or a messenger who was sent to teach others to break the rules and instruction of the torah. Jesus was not a man of compromise. Jesus was not attempting to save the world. Jesus was not a teacher who used parables to help his listeners understand hidden truths. Jesus was not the initiator of a new religion. Jesus was not a person who would fit well into the modern day Christian community.
Now that we have listed some of the things that Jesus was not, let's establish the truth of the above statements by discussing some of the things that Jesus was. Jesus was a carpenter by trade and was part of a family. We read in Mark 6:3 the questions asked by members of his home town, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" Thus we know that Jesus had at least four brothers and at least two sisters. This verse destroys any ideas that Mary the mother of Jesus remained a virgin after his birth. We can know that Jesus was the oldest of at least seven children.
Let's also note a few things about Jesus' profession. The idea that most of us have of a carpenter today is that a carpenter is a person who works in the building construction trade and carries a hammer and a saw and works with lumber. Jesus' construction background was much broader. The word carpenter used to describe Jesus' profession, could be better understood today if we used the term general contractor. As a carpenter in first century Capernaum, Jesus would have possessed mathematical and surveying skills. He would have been knowledgeable concerning masonry and the use of intricate mosaics. He would have had knowledge of plumbing, since many homes did have indoor plumbing and even indoor bathrooms.
As a carpenter from a first century Jewish family, Jesus would have learned at a young age the skills needed to build a complete building from bottom to top. He most certainly worked hard outdoors accomplishing various forms of physical labor. This type of work which he did on a daily basis tells us that he most certainly had a strong physique and strong hands. Being outside for a significant portion of his life, he would have had darkened skin. While working, he would wear clothes that befit hard physical labor; the clothes would not be long flowing robes. Having to work and sweat in the outdoors, he would not have had his hair blowing onto and falling into his face. Many of the typical "pictures" of Jesus, which are displayed in religious settings, show him in long flowing robes with long flowing hair and slender effeminate hands and fingers. This picture hardly fits with someone who did physical labor in the outdoors. Such pictures have played a part in the DECEPTION which has been wrapped into religious trappings when it comes to the image that has been created in the mind of the typical person concerning Jesus and his persona.
Jesus' closest friends were commercial fisherman. These folks were men who made their living by hard physical labor. They were not old retired men sitting around with cane poles on a river bank. They had to work to keep their sailing ships and fishing nets in working order. They had to work to locate fish and then to haul them onto their ship and then transport them to a fish market. These were successful working class men who worked outdoors in the elements, and were likely quite independent, and yet they were willing to follow Jesus as their leader. It is not logical that they would have followed and looked up to a weak, effeminate, wimpy loner as their leader. It would seem that Jesus was a man's man in every sense of the word.
Though Jesus did occasionally take the opportunity to spend a modicum of time alone, he was not a loner. When he was alone for short periods it was for the purpose of prayer and for rest away from the crowds which followed him. Jesus came from a large family (by modern American standards). During his minisrty he spent most of his time with a number of his disciples and was almost always with a small number of his closest friends and followers. The story of Jesus in the gospel accounts certainly shows that he must have liked people, and being with people.
Jesus, on more than one occasion spoke to large crowds of people numbering into the thousands. These lectures were conducted outside, and of course, he did not have the aid of modern electronic amplification. It is obvious upon even the most cursory of reflections, that Jesus must have known how to use a strong and commanding voice.
Though most people think of Jesus as being in, living in, working in, and interacting with the people in Jerusalem, the record we have of Jesus indicates that he spent more time in the area north of Jerusalem. He is also often pictured as being in or from a desert area, yet his home town of Capernaum was in an area of relative plenty, and it had no resemblance to a desert, but was rich with vegetation.
Jesus was not poor. If he was not born into relative wealth, then it seems that he lived in such surroundings from shortly after his birth. The Magi (wise men) who visited him within the first three years after his birth (NOT at the time of his birth), likely made him wealthy. These men were not three men dressed in desert attire trekking slowly across the countryside. When they arrived in Jerusalem prior to their visiting Jesus in Bethlehem, they created quite a stir with the populace, and even with the local Roman rulers. We are told in Matthew 2, verse 3, concerning the arrival of the Magi, "And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him". Why would the king and the populace be troubled? These Magi were important rulers from another country, who most likely were traveling with an entourage of people and soldiers large enough to cause concern with the locals. They were important men in their country, they were on a long trip, and they would probably be traveling with soldiers for protection. Since they were wealthy rulers, they would have been traveling Rolls-Royce style and not Volkswagen style. The people in Jerusalem, and Herod the king, were witnessing a quite unusual event, and were unsure as to the intentions of the battery of VIP's and soldiers. This was the type of men who visited Jesus from the east. In human terms, they were important and powerful people. These are the people who brought to Jesus the king (they knew he was to be a king) myrrh, frankincense, and GOLD. Note that myrrh and frankincense were not inexpensive. But they additionally brought him GOLD. They were rich men. They felt compelled to make a long journey to see a KING. They brought him GOLD. Do we not suspect that they brought him much more than a simple golden ring for a baby's finger? They very likely made him rich.
Why did the Magi come to see Jesus? Why did they bring him gold? We can only guess, but the following is possibly a decent guess. These men came from a country which five hundred years before had been the home of the Prophet Daniel. Daniel was an extremely powerful man in his country. One of his responsibilities was that he was chief of the magi (wise men). Could it be that he knew centuries before Jesus was born, what the astronomical signs would be at the time of Jesus' birth? He did prophesy – to the day – when Jesus would present himself as the Messiah. And he did this centuries before Jesus was born. Could Daniel have set aside his vast assets, or a portion of his vast assets, and placed this treasure in the hands of the Magi, with explicit instructions as to the astronomical signs which would be displayed in the heavens when Jesus would be born? Could he also have passed down instructions through this order of Magi, that this stored treasure was to be delivered to the Messiah upon his birth? Though we cannot be certain of this scenario, it is certainly logical, and it would answer the question as to who and why concerning the Magi.
As further evidence of Jesus' relative wealth, one of the events at his crucifixion testifies to this wealth. The Roman soldiers attending the murder and torture of Jesus gambled for his clothes. After the four soldiers divided his other clothes among themselves, they cast lots for his coat, which was a coat without seam from top to bottom. His clothes were obviously expensive. Would the soldiers be so concerned about the rags of a poor man? For even more evidence – after his death, Jesus was buried in an expensive garden tomb where the rich were buried. In addition to all of the above evidence of wealth, a careful reading of the gospels provides evidence that Jesus owned at least two homes. Jesus was not poor.
We are specifically told that children wanted to be close to Jesus. To what type of personality are children attracted? Shouldn't we suppose from this account that Jesus was warm and friendly and had an attractive personality?
We are also specifically told that prior to resurrecting Lazarus, Jesus groaned in the spirit, that he was troubled, and that Jesus wept. Jesus was a person of normal emotional makeup. Practically his last act as a human was to provide for the caretaking of his mother. Jesus lived in a society in which men dominated the social order, and in which both the male and female played roles in providing a wholeness to the family routine of daily life. Jesus knew that women needed a loving male in their daily lives to help provide for a normal existence in their society. Being a person of emotions and being a person who had concern for his mother, even as Jesus was suffering the horrible pain and humiliation of torture by crucifixion and was very near death, Jesus appointed his friend John as caretaker for his mother.
John 19:25-27 – Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
It is interesting to note that most all of the original Apostles were martyred, yet there is no record of the death of the Apostle John. If he was ever martyred – and evidence very much says that he was not – it was at a very old age. This Apostle John was the one to whom Jesus assigned the care of his mother. Jesus' emotions and duty toward his mother surpassed the pain of torture.
Jesus was aware of the spirit world and was on numerous occasions in contact with demons. He exorcised demons from more than one person, and on at least one occasion he confronted a legion of demons. After his sacrificial death, Jesus went and preached (proclaimed) to the spirits in prison. There is most definitely a spirit world in which demons exist, and Jesus was very aware of this spiritual reality. He "believed" in demons.
Jesus was most certainly an educated person. In addition to the knowledge he possessed as carpenter (or general contractor), he also likely spoke at least three or four languages including: Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Aramaic. It would have required a good education to amaze and astonish the doctors of the law in the temple in Jerusalem; Jesus did so at only twelve years of age. It would have required some form of education to be able to teach using a collection of original parables. Jesus used many parables in his teaching.
In speaking of Jesus' use of parables, we should note here that Jesus did not use parables in order to make his teachings easier to understand. Jesus used parables in order to keep the truth hidden! He said so himself when he told his disciples "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand." (Luke 8:10) It seems that it was not yet time for Jesus to save the world, and if everyone understood completely what he was saying and teaching, then they would turn to him to save them and he would have done so. Since it was not time to save the world, Jesus spoke in parables. Matthew 13:15 states, "this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them".
The first recorded miracle performed by Jesus is found in the second chapter of John. Here, Jesus is at a wedding reception. It is obviously a quite large wedding, and his mother Mary seems to be one of the main players at the reception. Jesus acquiesces to his mother's wish that he solve the problem of a depleted reserve of wine for the wedding guests. Jesus miraculously turns water to wine. It was not simply a bottle or two of wine which he made. It was approximately 135 GALLONS of wine! This tells us a couple of things. First of all, Jesus must have enjoyed wine, and secondly this was a really big affair.
As further evidence that Jesus drank and enjoyed wine, wine was definitely a part of the "last supper" during which Jesus vowed not to drink wine again until he did so in the Kingdom with his saints. Thus we know that Jesus liked and approved of wine and that wine will be consumed in the Kingdom of God.
Since we just mentioned the "last supper", this is a good opportunity to mention something else about Jesus. Jesus kept the holy days of God as outlined by Moses. The "last supper" was actually an observance of the Passover, which is one of the yearly festivals which Jesus observed. He also observed the days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Feast of Tabernacles, the Last Great Day, and Hanukkah. Except for Hanukkah, all of these were commanded feast days as outlined by Moses after they were given to Moses by the God of the Old Testament – Jesus himself.
Jesus not only kept the Holy Days, he also observed the rest of the Torah (the law or the instructions) as handed down by Moses. Jesus not only observed these instructions, he very plainly told us that these instructions would not change as long as Heaven and Earth exist! Have we ever heard a "Christian" minister, preacher, pastor, teacher or priest say that? Jesus said that. And he said it unequivocally with the following words:
Matthew 5:17-19 – Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.
After saying this, Jesus went on to deliver the "Sermon on the Mount" during which he did not teach that the Torah (the law or the instructions) would be done away with, but he actually expanded the meaning and depth of the items he discussed from the Torah. Jesus put his stamp of approval on the Torah and the prophets. He did not put his stamp of approval on the teachings of the Pharisees, or on the traditions of men which the Jews of the day had come to observe, but he most definitely made the statement concerning the law and the prophets that, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven." Certainly, our goal should not be to obtain the appellation of Mr. or Ms. "LEAST" in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Nowhere in scripture does Jesus teach nor do his apostles teach that he was doing away with the Torah (The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament, or the books of instruction.), or that he was instituting a new religion. Jesus did not bring a new religion. He did expound upon, and firmly establish by his ministry and sacrifice, the law and the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. The only change in religion brought by Jesus was the visitation of the Messiah (himself). Jesus' death on the wooden stake or cross was indeed a fulfillment of the sacrifices from the Torah which pointed to the death of the Messiah, but otherwise Jesus did not change the intended Hebrew religion to any degree. The intended Hebrew religion was and is the Torah. The intended Hebrew religion was not the traditions being preached by the Pharisees of the first century. Jesus did not change the Torah. He was not in any sense a rebel, but he was dealing with a society which was replete with rebels. The true rebels tortured and murdered him.
Finally, and foremost Jesus was the Creator of the universe in which we live and of everything therein. Jesus was the Creator of Adam and Eve. As the Creator of Adam and Eve, it logically follows that Jesus was OUR Creator. And we should keep in mind that his creation is not yet finished. Through Jesus' role as our redeemer, and through his torture and murder that he might personally serve as the Passover sacrifice for humanity, he will at his imminent return complete a major and significant milestone of his creation, as his bride (the one true church) is finally born into his spiritual kingdom with bodies of spirit that will be immortal.
Let's now look at irrefutable evidence that Jesus was the Creator of the physical universe and everything that exists therein.
John 1:1-18 -- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" From the fulness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
Hebrews 1:2-3 – Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Colossians 1:15-17 – Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Another somewhat provocative evidence of Jesus' identity begins in Genesis 1:1. In the original Hebrew, there are two letters succeeding the phrase "In the beginning God". The two letters are the Hebrew letters aleph and tau. These letters do not form a word. They are simply two freestanding letters in the middle of a sentence. They immediately follow the word translated as God. They are the first (aleph) and last (tau) letters of the Hebrew alphabet. We are then told by Jesus in Revelation 1:8 which was originally written in Greek, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (In transcribing this verse, the Apostle John uses simply the letter for Alpha and the letter for Omega – he does not use the written words). Jesus then repeats this in Revelation 22:13, where he says again "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Thus in the very first verse of the Holy Bible, it is indicated that Jesus created the heavens and the earth. Then in the very last chapter of the Holy Bible, we are assured that the same Creator is still in control.
Jesus was the one who rescued the children of Israel from the land of Egypt. The Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 10:1-4, "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."
Jesus was the one who commissioned Moses to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt. At the burning bush, Moses was told to say that he was sent to Pharaoh by I AM (Exodus 3:13-15). Jesus then tells us that "before Abraham was I AM (John 8:59). Jesus also refers to himself as "I AM" in John 18:5-6.
John 18:5-6 – Jesus saith unto them, I AM he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I AM he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
Note that the italicized “HE” following the “I AM” in these verses above was not in the original. When Christ answered with “I AM”, the soldiers fell backward to the ground. Truly Jesus was the great “I AM.” He was the same “I AM” who sent Moses to Pharaoh. To quote Dr. Chuck Missler concerning who and what Jesus was: “He was crucified on a cross of wood, yet he made the hill on which it stood!”
And now, as to Jesus being our Passover sacrifice and our redeemer, let’s read the following passages.
I Corinthians 5:7-8 – Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our PASSOVER is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Hebrews 7:27 – Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
We see in the above verses that Jesus became our Passover sacrifice, and thus he ended the need for any future sacrifice. He was the ultimate sacrifice to which all other sacrifices were only a symbol for our instruction. The verses below inform us that through his sacrifice, the people of Jesus have been redeemed from their sins and iniquities.
Galations 4:1-7 – Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore, thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Titus 2:11-14 – For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Jesus has created a universe and beings to inhabit it and a people to share it with him. These things are truly above our imagination to even properly comprehend, but the capstone of Jesus’ creation has not yet been revealed. We (if we are followers of Jesus) are to be his crowning achievement. We are to be his family. He will bring us into that family at his return for us.
To sum up the physical person and life of Jesus in this world: He was our Messiah, He was our redeemer, and He was our one and only hope of continued existence. Jesus the Christ was our Savior. As our redeemer and as our Savior, he suffered a horrible death for us. Before leaving this chapter, I think we should look at what kind of a death to which Jesus submitted so that we might live in his kingdom. The following description is one that I copied from somewhere at some time in the past. Thus, it has been plagiarized, but I don’t remember from where.
Rome reserved crucifixion primarily for political crimes and discontinued the practice in the 4th century. Historians learned considerably more about its specifics in 1968, when the remains of a man crucified at age 26 were discovered north of Jerusalem with a 7-inch iron nail still embedded in the bone. The state of the skeleton indicated that the condemned man's arms had been outstretched and his feet had been placed sideways, with the nail driven first through a small block of wood and then through both ankles into the cross. Later the wood block would prevent the feet from coming free as the wound ripped and enlarged. Contrary to most representations, the knees were bent, thus making it most difficult to raise oneself so as to get a breath. It’s quite difficult to breathe while hanging by outstretched arms.
The next chapter will provide absolute, undeniable and truly astonishing MATHEMATICAL PROOF that Jesus was indeed our Messiah and Savior.