Who Is This Jesus Of Nazareth?
Updated: Feb 12
by:Pastor Matthew Mitchell
The question has been raised who is this man named Jesus of Nazareth? As we look through history we do not see anyone that has had a greater impact on culture and the personal lives all over the world, and time as we do in this man named Jesus of Nazareth. What make this man so special that we start our yearly calendar by his birth? That men have given their lives up to spread His teachings? For over 2000 years men have died and been tortured, and lived by and for this man’s teachings. So the question that we really face is not if this man existed, but is this man really what He claimed to be, which is God? Skeptics do not want us to believe in Him, but is the evidence of Jesus of Nazareth great enough to believe that He is truly the incarnate God? In our time here we will be seeking for the truth. We will look at the skeptics, what Jesus and other said about Him, and finally we will look at the evidence to see if Jesus in a liar, lunatic, or is He truly the Son of God.
The first thing we are going to look at is what the skeptics say about this man named Jesus of Nazareth. The denial of the deity of Jesus as being God is not a new topic, or new debate. We see the Pharisee in the New Testament of the Bible denying that Jesus was who He said he was. They called Him a blasphemer, and tried to stone Him, and finally crucified Him because of His claims to be the Son of God, and the claim to be equal with God. “Many of the Jew’s of His day rejected Him because He failed to match their preconceived idea of the Messiah.” In 318 we see the movement of Arianism come to the picture. Arius believed that Jesus was a creation of God, just like the other things God created. We see Ebionitism which says since Jesus is human He cannot be God, which was held by the Judaizers. Gnosticisim, which believe that Jesus was not God, and He was not even human. They believe He was something else. These are just some of the views people have come up with to explain that Jesus of Nazareth is God. Many of other skeptics explain away Jesus being God, because they do not believe in God. “It was natural, then, for seventeenth-century French skeptics and eighteenth-century German rationalists to question whether Jesus was God. Already they had rejected belief in God and propounded a philosophy of life independent of Him; it was a logical step to apply their skepticism to Jesus.” Pantheism for instance, they do not believe that there is an all mighty God that created everything, but believe that god is in all things and all things are God. They believe that god is a thing and not a person. Then there is the Atheist who believes that there is no such thing as God. Jean-Paul Sartre said that there never was or ever will be a God. Some Atheists believe that God is a myth. “Beginning in the sixteenth century with the philosopher Rene Descartes, many men were smitten with the idea that they could not believe anything they couldn’t see. And since they could not see God, they refused to believe in His existence.” But where do these people come up with these ideas? Most of these ideas come from the very fact that they never really searched for God, but tried to use their own logic, experience, and rational to form there ideas. Most of the skeptics probably have never read the Bible, or even studied history to test their claims about Jesus.
To truly know if Jesus is God we have to search the Bible, and history to see what He claimed about Himself. No one can say that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, because history is full of stories, and actual facts of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. There has not been any man that has been written about more than Jesus of Nazareth. First we will look at what Jesus of Nazareth said about Himself. The only real accounts of what Jesus of Nazareth said about Himself is in the Bible, so we are going to assume for the time being that you do accept the Bible as being historically reliable. First we are going to look at some of Jesus of Nazareth’s direct statements. Jesus claimed pre-existence in John 8:48-59 “The Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. But I do not seek My glory; there is one who seeks and judges. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.’ The Jews said to Him, ‘Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, He shall never taste of death.’ ‘Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’ The Jews therefore said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.” We see in this passage that not only did Jesus say that He was before the time of Abraham, when here He is not even fifty years of age. We also see that the Pharisee’s understood that Jesus was claiming pre-existence, because they wanted to stone Him for His claims. We also see in John 17:5 Jesus say “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” Not only was Jesus before the time of Abraham but also here He says that He was with God the Father before the world even existed. Out of these two passages we can see that Jesus claims to be God in that He was before the existence of time. Jesus also claims oneness with the Father, and that would make Him God also. In John 10:30 Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” You do not get any clearer than this. Jesus out of His own words says He is God, because God the Father, and Himself are one in essence. Jesus also claims the very same thing in John 17:11 “And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.” The third claim of Jesus is that He is the Son of God. In John 10:36 Jesus says “do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, I am the Son of God?” What does this term Son of God mean? Josh McDowell in the New Evidence That Demands a Verdict quotes Charles Ryrie. “The noted Theologian and Bible teacher Charles Ryrie writes concerning the title ‘Son of God’: ‘What does it mean? Though the phrase ‘son of’ can mean ‘offspring of,’ it also carries the meaning, ‘of the order of.’ Thus in the Old Testament ‘son of the prophets’ meant of the order of prophets (1Kings 20:35), and ‘sons of the singers’ meant of the order of the singers (Neh. 12:28). The designation ‘Son of God’ when used of our Lord means of the order of God and is a strong and clear claim to full Deity.” Also in McDowell’s book H.F. Stevenson comments “But in the New Testament, the title ‘Son of God’ is used of, and by, our Lord in quite a different way. In every instance the term implies that He is the one, only-begotten Son; co-equal, co-eternal with the Father.” Clearly the claim of Jesus as being the Son of God gives us the idea that He claims to be God. The last direct claim that Jesus used is His future manifestation of Power. We find this in Matthew 25:31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, an all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” Jesus statement here is a direct claim that He will have authority to Judge and rule as King. In another way that Jesus claimed to be God is that He forgave people of their sins. In Mark 2:5-7 we see Jesus do this very thing, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’ But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” “To the Jewish mind, trained in the Law of God, the idea that a man could forgive sins against God is inconceivable. Forgiveness is a prerogative of God alone.” Chafer also comments on this “none on earth has either authority or right to forgive sin. None could forgive sin save the One against whom all have sinned. When Christ forgave sin, as He certainly did, He was not exercising a human prerogative. Since none but God can forgive sins, it is conclusively demonstrated that Christ, since He forgave sins, is God, and being God, is from everlasting.” I agree with these two men. The only one that has the right to forgive any kind of sins is the one who has no sin in them, and that is God. So if Jesus spoke out of His own authority to forgive sin, we can only conclude that He claimed the authority of God. Another claim that only God can have and Jesus claims is to be life. The only way you can be life is to be the originator of life. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” McDowell also refers to the statement of Merrill Tenney “He did not say He knew the way, the truth, and the life, nor that He taught them. He did not make Himself the exponent of a new system; He declared Himself to be the final key to all mysteries.” In John 1 Jesus is said to have made everything and nothing was made that He did not make. The Bible teaches us that we are dead until accept the gift of salvation, and through the death of Jesus we receive life everlasting. The last thing I would like to look at is how Jesus claimed to be God by accepting worship. The only one who is deserving of worship is God Himself. But, clearly we see Jesus accepting worship in Matthew 15:25, Matthew 28:9-10, Hebrews 1:6, Philippians 2:10-11, John 5:23, John 9:35-39. I want to just look at a few of these. Let us look at John 5:23 it says, “in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” Not only are we to worship the Son, who is Jesus, but also if we do not worship Him then we are dishonoring the Father. Also in Matthew 28:9-10 “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.” Jesus did not turn people away when they would worship Him. We see in the Bible when men would worship angels, or other men the angels, or the men would stop them. But, Jesus did not stop these people from worshiping Him He accepted it.
Now I would like to look at what others have said about this man who claims to be God, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus asked his disciples who they thought He was. In Matthew 16:15-17 we find Peter saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In John 20:28 Thomas says, “And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God.’” John the Baptist was the one who was sent from God to point to the Lamb of God, or the Messiah. In John 1:29,34 John the Baptist says “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” At first when we read Titus 2:13 “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” you may think that Titus is talking about two different people. McDowell quotes Harris saying this “In our English translations, this verse reads as if two Persons are in view here: God and Jesus Christ. However, the Greek construction suggests that both titles, ‘great God’ and ‘Savior,’ refers to one Person: Jesus Christ.” Now I want to show you what some of the secular thinkers say about Christ. McDowell quote this in his book, “John Stuart Mill, the philosopher, skeptic, and antagonist of Christianity, admitted that Jesus was a first-rate ethicist supremely worthy of our attention and emulation. ‘About the life and sayings of Jesus there is a stamp of personal originality combined with profundity of insight in the very first rank of men of sublime genius of whom our species can boast. When this pre-eminent genius is combined with the qualities of probably the greatest moral reformer and martyr to that mission who ever existed upon earth, religion cannot be said to have made a bad choice in pitching upon this man as the ideal representative and guide of humanity; nor even now would it be easy, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract into the concrete than to endeavor to live so that Christ would approve of our life.” Philip Schaff states, “This testimony, if not true, must be down right blasphemy or madness. The former hypothesis cannot stand a moment before the moral purity and dignity of Jesus, revealed in His every word and work, and acknowledged by universal consent. Self-deception in a matter so momentous, and with an intellect in all respects so clear and so sounds, is equally out of the question. How could He be an enthusiast or a madman who never lost the even balance of His mind, who sailed serenely over all the troubles and persecutions, as the sun above the clouds, who always returned the wisest answer to tempting questions, who calmly and deliberately predicted His death on the cross, His resurrection on the third day, the outpouring of the Holy spirit the founding of His Church, the destruction of Jerusalem-predictions which have been literally fulfilled? A character so original, so complete, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction. The poet, as has been well said, would in this case be greater than the hero. It would take more than a Jesus to invent a Jesus.”
The last and final point we will be looking at is Jesus a lunatic, liar, or really who He says He is, which is God. I have barrowed this concept from two people Tim LaHaye, and Josh McDowell. C.S. Lewis said it best, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His clam to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” First we need to look at if Jesus was not who he said He was then He must be a liar. If Jesus lied about whom He was then why did He tell people to be honest with others? If Jesus lied about whom He was then why did He tell people to trust in Him for their salvation? If Jesus lied about whom He was then why did He die for His claims about being God? It seems to me that these questions come to one of two answers He is either a lunatic, or He really is who He says He is, God. So if Jesus was not a liar, then He must be a lunatic since He taught what He taught, lived the way He lived, and died the way He died, right! Well let us look at it closer. McDowell says, “Someone who believes he is God sounds like someone today believing himself Napolean. He would be deluded and self-deceived, and probably he would be locked up so he wouldn’t hurt himself or anyone else. Yet in Jesus we don’t observe the abnormalities and imbalance that usually go along with being deranged. His poise and composure would certainly be amazing in he were insane.” To answer this question we have to ask ourselves the same questions. If Jesus was a lunatic about whom He was then why did He tell people to be honest with others? If Jesus was a lunatic about whom He was then why did He tell people to trust in Him for their salvation? If Jesus was a lunatic about whom He was then why did He die for His claims about being God? Jesus could not be a lunatic to live and teach people the highest moral values ever lived, and taught. Jesus could not be a lunatic to love people so much to give them the greatest gift which life everlasting. Finally Jesus could not be a lunatic, because not even a lunatic would die for something foolish, but only a God die to pay a penalty that we ourselves could not pay. So the only conclusion that is left for us is that Jesus of Nazareth is exactly who He says He is, and that is God.
We have look at some very important and accurate evidence, and there is so much more out there. We have only scratched the surface of evidence about who Jesus is. If Jesus is God then He is the only way to eternal life. Warfield said it best in his book “The Person and Work of Christ”, “How lovingly we follow in thought every footstep of the Son of Man, on the rim of hills that shut in the emerald cup of Nazareth, on the blue marge of Gennesaret, over the mountains of Judea, and long to walk in spirit by His side. He came to save every age, says Irenaeus , and therefore He came as an infant, a child, a boy, a youth, and a man. And there is no age that cannot find its example in Him. We see Him, the properest child that ever was given to a mother’s arms, through all the years of childhood at Nazareth ‘subjecting Himself to His parents.’ We see Him a youth, laboring day by day contentedly at His father’s bench, is this lower sphere too, with no other thought than to be ‘about His father’s business.’ We see Him in His holy manhood, going, ‘as His custom was,’ Sabbath-by-Sabbath, to the synagogue, God as He was, not too good to worship with His weaker brethren. And then the horizon broadens. We see Him at the banks of Jordan, because it became Him to fulfill every righteousness, meekly receiving the baptism of repentance for us. We see Him in the wilderness, calmly rejecting the subtlest trials of the evil one: refusing to supply His needs by a misuse of His divine power, repelling the confusion of tempting God with trusting God, declining to seek His Father’s ends by any other than His Father’s means. We see Him among the thousands of Galilee, anointed of God with the Holy Ghost and power, going about doing good: with no pride of birth, though He was a king; with no pride of intellect, though omniscience dwelt within Him; with no pride of power, though all power in heaven and earth was in His hands; or of station, though the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily; or of superior goodness or holiness: but in lowliness of mind esteeming every one better than Himself, healing the sick, casting out devils, feeding the hungry, and everywhere breaking to men the bread of life. We see Him everywhere offering to His life for the salvation of their souls: and when, at last, the forces of evil gathered thick around Him, walking, alike without display and without dismay, the path of suffering appointed for Him, and giving His life at Calvary that through His death the world might live.”