‘Who is Jesus?’ is a pretty big question. Depending on which of your friends you ask you might get a bunch of different answers ranging from just a human, God, prophet, God-man, looney tunes, alien, never existed and teacher to name a few. They can’t all be right either because he’s either a real person or he wasn’t, he’s either crazy or he’s not.
It’s a pretty important question to answer given the things Jesus said about himself and God. If you’re not really sure who Jesus was/is or want to clarify his identity, we wanna help you out. Let’s lift Jesus’s mask and take a peek to get a glimpse and better understanding of who he is and what he did.
Previously we talked about the fact that Jesus was fully and completely a human being (read here) and AT THE SAME TIME he was fully and completely God (read here). We know that’s kinda trippy and you might be saying, “Dude, how can he be 100% human and 100% God at the same time?” Ikr, it’s a great question and requires some reading and thinking BUT understanding those two things will go a LONG WAYS in helping you to understand who Jesus actually is for reals. As part of his identity he also had three main roles he filled and performed. These roles were present amongst the people and life of Israel in the Old Testament and are understood to be fulfilled in the New Testament by Jesus and as a way of helping us understand Jesus’s work and what he accomplished physically and spiritually while being with us on this planet.1
These three positions in the Old Testament of prophet, priest and king were distinct from one another. The prophet spoke God’s word to the people, the priest offered sacrifices, prayers and praise to God on behalf of the people; and the king ruled over the people as God’s representative. Here’s how Christ fulfilled the role of prophet.
Christ reveals God to us and speaks his word to us
The Hebrew words used in the bible indicate the role of prophets was to speak for God and speak the truths of God mostly to God’s people, the Israelites but sometimes others. Thus, they spoke on God’s behalf and made his will known and many times God’s word was one of correction or warning.
If you’ve read the bible or been a part of Christian learning environments, you will likely have heard of some prophets names and know something of their stories. Have you heard of Moses and the Ten Commandments, Isaiah, Jeremiah the ‘weeping’ prophet or read of Ezekiel’s trippy visions? Perhaps you’re familiar with Jonah and his whale adventure or Hosea and his sexually promiscuous wife? So many prophets and so many incredible stories! The bible is def. not boring!
Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus fulfills that same role to the people of his day and for us today since his words are recorded in the bible for us to read. Check out John 8:28 & John 12:49.
You can see Jesus being referenced as a prophet in a few different places through the scriptures.
Looking into the Old Testament, Moses gives us a heads up and glimpse into the future to a time when God will raise up a great prophet (read Jesus) in Deuteronomy 18:15-18. This is a pretty key chunk of scripture. In fact, in the New Testament some 1,400 yrs later the Apostle Peter even connects the dots between Moses’s heads up in Deuteronomy and Jesus’ life when he quotes Deuteronomy in Acts 3:22-24 where he’s speaking about and inferring it’s Jesus.
Various people during the time of Jesus referenced used the word ‘prophet’ when eluding to or speaking about Jesus. It typically is used when a significant event or encounter with Jesus happens like when he raises a widow’s dead boy (Luke 7:16), tells a promiscuous Samaritan lady things about her life that he couldn’t know (John 4:19) and when he spits in the dirt, makes mud and gives sight to a man who had been born blind (John 9:17).
And finally, Jesus himself gets in on the action and even refers to himself as prophet. In Luke, knowing that he’s going to soon be murdered, He drops this important line in Luke 13:33 “it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.” He again uses the term ‘prophet’ when referring to himself in Mark 6:4 and Matthew 13:57 where he acknowledges people’s negative and unbelieving attitude towards him close to home.
It’s important to note though that prophet isn’t the primary way Jesus is viewed in the four stories about his life or in the New Testament letters that shaped the beliefs of the early church. If you’re wondering why that is, it’s because that while Jesus is the prophet that Moses predicted, he’s actually far greater than any Old Testament prophet in two ways
- He’s the actual one about who all the Old Testament prophecies were made and to whom they all pointed.
- He wasn’t merely a messenger of revelation from God but was himself the source of revelation. Instead of saying “Thus says the Lord” Jesus says “But I say to you” (Matthew 5:22).
So, there you go! There’s a longer, fuller peek under the mask to see Jesus’s identity. Hopefully this gives you a better picture of who Jesus was and is! Next month we’ll pull the mask back a little more to explore Jesus the priest!
Share your comments/questions below!
1John Calvin was first theologian to apply these categories to Jesus’s work (see his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 15)
:: by Clint Houlbrook of Vernon, BC
I love learning about and understanding who Jesus the God man was/is because it’s shapes my understanding of who I am and what this life’s for! It’s a continuing journey that I’m enjoying and I hope you do too!