Who Is Jesus?
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There was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people." (Jn. 7:12)
Some of the Pharisees said, "This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." Others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" And there was a division among them. (Jn. 9:16)
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In the gospel accounts it's obvious that even in His own day, people had a hard time figuring out who Jesus was. This confusion is especially noticeable in the gospel of John, who seems to go out of his way to highlight the diverse opinions about the Galilean that circulated throughout the land of Palestine. In all of history, before or since, nobody ever had a greater opportunity to study Jesus up close and personal. Yet these people couldn't agree on who this man was, right in front of them.
It should not surprise us, therefore, to find that opinions about Jesus of Nazareth today, two thousand years later, are all over the map.
- Some think He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
- Others believe He was just an itinerant philosopher who had a pretty good understanding of human nature, coupled with the ability to lecture about it--but nothing more. His disciples got a little carried away with the whole "Messiah" thing, but Jesus Himself had no such ambitions.
- Still others (Muslims) think He was indeed a prophet sent from God, but only one in a long list of such godly servants. (They also deny that He was ever crucified. It was someone else who hung on that cross.)
- Finally, there are those who deny that Jesus ever existed at all. He was a mythical character invented by delusional Jewish fanatics in the first and second centuries.
So take your pick--which version of Jesus do YOU accept? And how can you make a rational choice, so far removed from the original events?
Unlike most characters from the ancient past, we have four independent documents that provide an account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. His disciples Peter and John, and His brothers James and Jude, left behind their own corroborating testimony. The writings of Paul, who came on the scene shortly after Jesus lived and was personally acquainted with the original witnesses, augment this body of information. In short, there is no other character in ancient history for whom we have such a wealth of first-hand information.
The resources for knowing who Jesus was and what He taught are abundant and compelling. That's not the issue. The real question is: Are we willing to listen with an open mind? The intellectual honesty (or lack thereof) among the listeners explains much of the confusion then, and much of the confusion today.
Come to Jesus with an open mind, and you'll learn soon enough who He really is.