This week’s article, linked to The Living Word Bible study post for November 21, explores the question of who Jesus really is.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? The Messiah of God confirmed with signs and wonders and reversals of the natural order? Or the humble and approachable Galilean rabbi? People have asked this question since His first appearance in Galilee following His baptism and spiritual testing in the desert. The disciples grappled with it, and so did the crowds who witnessed signs and wonders that they knew pointed to the anticipated Anointed One of God. Religious leaders chose not to ask this question but to press charges of blasphemy, but the Roman governor Pilate, used to trying political terrorists saw that Jesus was quite different and needed to ask what His kingship meant. Roman soldiers, hardened to the spectacle of crucifixions, were moved to ask who this very different victim really was.
Here are the Bible readings which are our foundation, with Bible Gateway links for you to read in the Bible of your choice and language (our excerpts are all NIV).
Here are the Bible readings to read first:
2 Samuel 23:1-7 — David, the most renowned king of Israel, recalls God’s covenant with him and anticipates the promised descendant
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 — In a vision Daniel sees a throng of angels attending the throne of God and also ‘one like a Son of Man’.
John 18:33-37 — Jesus, questioned by Pilate about who He is, explains that He has no political motive because His is a spiritual kingdom
Revelation 1:4b-8 — We are set free to serve God as a fellowship of priests until Jesus returns as the Completion of Truth
• See this week’s introductory video Jesus — Just Who Is He Really?
STARTING as usual in the OT, King David reflects at the end of his life on his house, or dynasty — promised to him in a prophecy that amounted to a covenant. David had shed a lot of blood in his time and made serious mistakes in getting his own way. But he holds on to the promise recorded in 2 Sam. 7:12-16 of a descendant who will become the Eternal King.
“The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’
“If my house were not right with God, surely He would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part; surely He would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire.”2 Samuel 23: 3-5
The promise and the anticipation David refers to, is of a very special direct descendant — but this will be many centuries, a millennium, in the future. The promise was of courser fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
One of the terms Jesus used of Himself, one that can mean both ‘human being’ and ‘not just a human being’ is the designation Son of Man. But He was not the first to use these words. This comes from Daniel, who saw in a vision…
As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool… and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped Him.Daniel 7:9, 13-14
David had spoken of “when one rules… over people in the fear of God”. Now Daniel has insight into the entrance of a heavenly being who resembled a son of man, bringing glory into glory, and being able to approach the Ancient of Days to receive authority and sovereign power. That is an extreme of the awe of God
What does this tell us? It gives us a dramatic picture of who God is but also who Jesus is and how they relate.
This is a backdrop to the next scene where Jesus, bruised and dishevelled from His treatment in the kangaroo court of the Jewish elders, is brought before Pilate who hears the charges outside his palace.
But then Pilate turns back into his palace, away from the accusers. He is looking at someone who does not have the appearance or the attitude of a leader of insurrection — and Pilate has seen plenty of those.
As all four gospels bring out, He asks Jesus the key question about who, exactly, He is.
“Are You the king of the Jews?… Your own people and chief priests handed You over to me. What is it You have done?
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world… My kingdom is from another place.”From John 18:33, 35-36
His kingdom is from another place that looks the way Daniel described it. However He was seen in that place, glorious and majestic beyond human description, yet resembling someone from our human world.
Heaven and earth are separate but not unconnected — because of Jesus. And God the Father is both indescribably majestic, wise and mighty — yet is seen to be approachable. Again, because of Jesus.
Pilate, representative of the mighty Pax Romana, a systematic approach to law and governance, has come into contact with the chief representative of a much greater rule and authority. And what Pilate decrees by his considerable Roman authority, can only take place to the extent that it is sanctioned by that greater heavenly authority.
We are living in the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection, and His imminent return:
To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father — to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Look, He is coming with the clouds,”’ and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him… So shall it be”.Revelation 1:5-7
As Daniel saw in his vision, quoted here, Jesus comes from His heavenly origin and with heavenly glory. This is a time of deep sorrow and too-late appealing for those who have rejected Him. Conversely, it is a time of great rejoicing for those who, through having believed and trusted in Him, have made themselves subject to His rule and reign. These are His kingdom subjects and also His present priesthood, charged with representing Him to others, and interceding for others with Him.
This is a challenge to the hierarchy and separation practised by much of the institutional church, with a separation of class between clergy and so-calleds laity. But here in Revelation (consistent with the NT as a whole) we see the church, not as the institution it became, but in an organic, kingdom view of all the believers sharing fellowship and sharing responsibility for the mission.
That is not an argument for a church without leaders. But it is a strong case for a church with leaders who know and love Jesus, and are skilled in coaching and encouraging all the other believers in their gifts and in their mission. Because Jesus gave His life for His mission, Jesus is the mission, and worship of Him that does not own the mission is insincere.