Who Is Jesus?
He began His ministry by being hungry, yet He is the Bread of Life.
He ended His earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet He is the Living Water.
He was weary, yet He is our rest. He paid tribute, yet He is the King.
He was accused of having a demon, yet He cast out demons.
He wept, yet He wipes away our tears.
He was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeemed the world.
He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd.
He died, yet by His death He destroyed the power of death.Gregory of Nazianzus, 381 AD
What a wonderful synopsis of the life and ministry of Jesus. Those words were penned by Gregory of Nazianzus in the year 381 AD. Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “There are two hundred and fifty‑six names given in the Bible for the Lord Jesus Christ, and I suppose this was because He was infinitely beyond all that any one name could express.”
How true! The names given to Jesus in the pages of the Holy Scripture reveal various facets of His character and ministry, and that’s why there’s great value in studying those names.
Today, there is increasing confusion about who Jesus is. Jesus warned us that as we approach the end of the age, deception will increase, and many false Christs will arise. The Chosen is a popular TV drama series supposedly depicting Jesus in a new and fresh way. In the words of Dallas Jenkins, the creator of the series, “When you read the scriptures, you don’t get the emotional connection, the backstory, you don’t get the historical and cultural context quite as much, and you don’t get the human context.”
He goes on, “You should read the scriptures, 100 percent, no question about it. But when that’s all you do, sometimes you can miss out on the perspective of the cultural and historical surroundings of who Jesus was and what He was doing. And then you kind of miss out on the identification with those who knew Him. You can’t fully identify with Jesus…”. He is saying Christ cannot be fully known from reading the Bible. You really need theatrically artistic renderings to bypass your mind to get to your heart. This is a terrifyingly high view of the media and an insultingly low view of Divine revelation. In addition, Jenkins has stated publicly that Mormons and Christians worship the same Jesus. That is deeply troubling and inaccurate.
In addition, you may have heard of the 100-million-dollar ad campaign that launched this year across the United States with the title He Gets Us. Its stated goal is “[to help] rescue Jesus’ reputation from the “damage” done by His followers. While I certainly agree that some who profess to be followers of Christ have damaged His reputation, the remedy isn’t in presenting a Jesus who is biblically unrecognizable. The Jesus of this campaign, He Gets Us, is nothing more than an inspiring human who relates to our problems and cares a whole lot about a culturally palatable version of social justice.
In light of all this, where can we turn to find the answer to our question, “Who is Jesus? Today, we turn to one of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophet Isaiah. In chapter nine of his book, Isaiah received a pre-incarnation description of Jesus from God the Father. Verses six and seven will be the focus of our study, but I’ll begin reading verse one. Listen as I read Isaiah 9:1-7.
The historical setting of this prophecy is found in Second Kings 15:27-31. If we condense those verses into one sentence we could say, “The region of Galilee, which suffered tremendously during the initial Assyrian invasion of 743 BC, would become a glorious place because it would become the center of Jesus’ earthly ministry.”
In this prophecy, God revealed to Isaiah numerous CHARACTERISTICS of the coming Christ. We examine these characteristics to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”
The First CHARACTERISTIC is,
His Humanity – A Child
Verse six begins, “for unto us a child is born…” This establishes the characteristic of His humanity. Without this, He wouldn’t have been able to identify with us. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us we have a high priest who is able to be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities…” because He was tempted in every way like we are, yet He did not sin.
In Isaiah 7:14, we have the promise that Jesus would be born of THE virgin. The Hebrew word, almah is preceded by the definite article. This indicates a specific virgin selected by God in His foreknowledge, the Virgin Mary. Jesus’ birth by Mary affirms his humanity. Her miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit affirms His deity. The fact that He was a historical person can hardly be denied by anyone willing to honestly evaluate the evidence.
Dr. Ron Rhodes reminds us that “by becoming a man, Jesus did not cease being God. The incarnation of Christ did not involve the subtraction of deity, but the addition of humanity. He had two natures (divine and human) conjoined in one person.”
Philippians 2:6 to 8 remind us that, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (English Standard Version)
John reminds us that “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.” What a wonderful reality that “…we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” In His humanity, He tasted death so that we might experience eternal life.
The coming of the Son of Man would fulfill the promise God made to Eve, way back in the Garden of Eden. He promised that the seed of the woman, that’s a physical descendant, would bruise or crush the head of the serpent. Jesus was and is the seed of the woman.
He came as a helpless infant, the baby of a humble, godly woman, Mary. Joseph was His adoptive father. His earthly beginning went largely unnoticed in the halls of power, but his birth would change the course of history. Truly, He was and is, Immanuel, God with us.
The Second CHARACTERISTIC is,
His Identity – A Son
“…unto us a Son is given.” Being a son gives identity and privilege. My sons have an identity and privileges that belong to no one else. Jesus, as the only begotten Son of God, has a unique identity and privilege. The angel informed Mary that, among other names, Jesus would be called the Son of the Highest and the Son of God.
In Jewish culture, the firstborn son became the principal heir. He received the inheritance; but he was responsible to be a spiritual leader, to carry on the faith in the family line. Jesus was unique as a son in that He was Mary’s firstborn, AND the only begotten Son of God. In that regard, the Hebrew writer says that God “Has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds…”
As the Son of God, Jesus most often referred to Himself as the Son of Man. He used this title in the context of His Jewish culture. According to Dr. Brad Young, “…the people listening to him already knew something about this mysterious figure from Jewish apocalyptic teachings. Jesus employed the most powerful designation for the future deliverer which could have been used by any teacher. When the church fathers thought that the expression ‘Son of man’ referred to the humanity of Jesus, they missed the deeper significance of the designation in ancient Jewish apocalyptic writings. The term was an elevated way of referring to the messianic task. Jesus used this expression when He spoke about the final judgment.”
By referring to Himself as the Son of Man, Jesus was stating not only His humanity but also His deity. This fact becomes clear when we see the vitriolic reaction of the Pharisees to this term. Recall too, how at the trial of Jesus, the High Priest, Caiaphas, responded to Jesus’ statement; “Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.” This was a clear reference to Daniel 7:13. “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven!” And by this statement, He was condemned to death!
As the Son of Man Jesus has made it possible for us to become the sons of God! The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers. Hallelujah!
The Next CHARACTERISTIC is,
His Regency – A Government
“…the government shall be upon his shoulder…” Here is the announcement of kingship and a kingdom. What government is God revealing to the prophet, Isaiah? Remember the angel, Gabriel, told Mary that the Lord God would give to her son, Jesus, “the throne of his father, David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever…” He was a physical descendant of David’s royal family line. God had promised David in II Samuel 7 that there would always be one of his descendants to sit on the throne. The throne and the kingdom were established forever by the decree of God Almighty!
We must remember that Jesus, our Messiah, was born into the Jewish race. The promise is that He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. That promise has never been rescinded! We know that Jesus came to His own people, but the majority did NOT receive Him because they were looking for a political king, someone to free them from bondage to the Romans. Because of this rejection, the kingdom was expanded and we as Gentiles were grafted in; we were given the opportunity to become the spiritual children of Israel by faith.
The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were not wrong in believing that the Messiah would one day set up an earthly kingdom, their timing was just wrong. At His first coming, the government Jesus came to set up was not an earthly one, but rather a kingdom that rules and functions in the hearts of all who receive Him. He will indeed, one day, rule over all the kingdoms of the earth, but that is for a time yet to come.
In prophetic scriptures, there are often events that have multiple fulfillments. We see this here in our text. The prophets prophesied what God revealed to them, but they generally couldn’t see the time gap between Christ’s first advent and the time when He will usher in the peaceable kingdom described in Isaiah chapters 11 and 65. We have a different vantage point than they did!
Isaiah states the government will be upon His shoulder. The shoulder is a place of strength where a load or burden is carried. It is used as a symbol of authority. But the shoulder is also a place of refuge. Where does a frightened or crying child put their face? On the parent’s shoulder! It is a place of comfort and security. Jesus exercises both facets in His government; authority and compassion.
Today, the government established by Jesus is peopled by those who voluntarily meet its requirements for citizenship and salvation through faith in His atoning blood. But a time is coming when ALL mankind will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess Him as Lord. You can choose today when you will bow to his regency; now or later.
Join me next time for the conclusion of this teaching. Listen to Part 2 here!