Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? That is the all-important question. That is the hinge on which history hangs.

That question has been a question for centuries. John the baptizer even said, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3). Islam says Jesus is a prophet. Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus is a mighty being, even a god. But not God. They do not believe in the Trinity.[1]

So, who is Jesus?

For us to answer that question, it’s important that we consider what Jesus Himself said. So, who did Jesus Himself say He was? Jesus is asked about His identity in the Gospel of John. People asked Jesus, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (John 8:48).

People clearly knew there was something different about Jesus.[2] Yet, many people didn’t understand who He was. They asked Jesus, “Who do you think you are?” (v. 53)

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” (v. 58)

Wow. What does that even mean? Jehovah’s Witnesses wrongly translate this verse to say, “I have been” because they do not believe Jesus is God.[3] They do not believe in the Trinity.

The people listening to Jesus, however, knew what Jesus meant. They clearly knew that He was claiming to be part of the Divine Identity.[4] Therefore, “they picked up stones to stone Him” (v. 59) for what they saw as heresy.[5] Jesus, however, in another move that shows His divinity hid Himself and slipped out of the temple.

The people wanted to stone Jesus because He was claiming to be one with the LORD God. When Jesus said, “I am” (ἐγὼ εἰμί, ego eimi), as He did elsewhere (Jn. 8:24, 28, 58; 18:5-6[6]), He is linking back to Exodus 3:14 where God revealed Himself to Moses. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the LXX, translates “I AM WHO I AM” from Exodus 3:14 as ego eimi ho on (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν). And in Isaiah 43:25 and 51:12 ego eimi (ἐγώ εἰμι) functions as the divine name on its own.

So, who is Jesus? He is the Lord of the universe.[7] He is the second member of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19; Jn. 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8). He is the One who became flesh (Jn. 1:14) and became sin (2 Cor. 5:21) to take away sin (Jn. 1:29).

We cannot be good enough to earn God’s favor because we’re sinful. We also cannot be punished enough to pay for our sin.[8] This is because God is eternal and infinite and thus sin against Him is infinitely heightened. That is why the second member of the Trinity, Jesus, had to die for sinners. Jesus died the death we deserved to die to pay the debt we could not pay, and He gives us His righteousness we could not earn. Jesus who knew no sin, Jesus who is eternal and infinite, alone is able to pay for sin.

Jesus is able to pay for our sin (Jn. 1:29), able to be the way to God (Jn. 14:6), able be the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25) because of who He is. Who Jesus is, the type of being He is, His existential nature matters deeply.

Jesus' I AM Statements #2

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is that He is; He is I AM. It is in the face of Jesus Christ that we see “the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:6). Jesus has always existed (Jn. 1:1-2), He created all things (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:3), and holds them together (Heb. 1:3) and so Jesus must rightly be worshiped as God (Matt. 28:9, 17; Rev. 5:9) as the alpha and the omega (Is. 44:6; Rev. 1:17-18; 22:12-13).

Truly, it is the LORD who saves (see Hos. 1:7; Ps. 37:39; 62:7; Is. 43:11; 45:21; Jer. 3:23; Hosea 13:4; Jonah 2:9; Rev. 7:10; 19:1). The LORD is a God of steadfast love and compassion beyond what we can comprehend (Eph. 3:19).

Notes

[1] On the Trinity see “The Tri-Unity of God.

[2] Jesus was even charged with sorcery. See David Instone-Brewer, “Jesus Of Nazareth’s Trial in the Uncensored Talmud,” Tyndale Bulletin 62.2 (2011).

[3] The truth is, however, that Jesus is God. This was not only realized very early by the Early Church but was articulated very early. We have seen this in the New Testament but we also see it in Church History before the First Council of Nicaea (325). So, Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50-117) said in his Letter to the Ephesians, Our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit” (18.2 cf. 19.3; Letter to the Romans, 3.3; Letter to Polycarp, 3.2). Polycarp of Smyrna (c. 69-155) said may “the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth…, and to us with you, and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead (Philippians, 12.2). Justin Martyr (100-165) said, “Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God” (Dialogue with Trypho, 128) and he said that he would “prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts” (Dialogue with Trypho, 36).

[4] I say “part of the Divine Identity” because there is one God but three persons in the one God. Even in this passage in John we see distinction within the Trinity. For instance, it is the Father who glorifies the Son.

[5] “Yahweh is the incomparable God; no one like him exists. For Jesus to appropriate “I am” statements and apply them to himself, therefore, is nothing short of astonishing. He is clearly identifying himself as God” (Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments [Grand Rapids, BakerAcademic, 2013], 516).

[6] When the crowd came to arrest Jesus, He said to them, “Who is it you want?” (Jn. 18:4). They replied, “Jesus of Nazareth” (v. 5). Jesus said, “I AM HE;” and when Jesus said, “I AM HE,” they drew back and fell to the ground (Jn. 18:5-7). Here Jesus shows His power and shows that He is part of the Divinity Identity (see Ex. 3:14). This is because Jesus is the One who was in the beginning with God, and is God (Jn. 1:1-3). The world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him (Jn. 1:10; Ps. 33:6; Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:15-20).

[7] “The most concise, and arguably most fundamental summary of Old Testament teaching is ‘Yahweh is Lord.’ But the New Testament, over and over again, represents Jesus as Lord in the same way that the Old Testament represents Yahweh as Lord. The most fundamental summary of New Testament teaching is, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11)” (John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God [P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg: NJ, 2002], 650).

[8] This is why punishment is eternal. See “The Grave Necessity for a Hideous Hell.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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