“Your Word Is Truth”
Who Was Jesus Christ?
MANY people today believe that Jesus Christ was just a wise man. But others contend that he was God in the flesh. Do either of these views agree with what the Bible says about Christ?
The opinion that Jesus was but a man like any other man is not new. A considerable number of his own contemporaries held this view. The people of Nazareth, for example, thought of him simply as a local carpenter. They just could not understand why he of all people should be endowed with great wisdom and be able to perform powerful works. Regarding their response to his teaching in the synagogue one sabbath day, we read: “The greater number of those listening were astounded and said: ‘Where did this man get these things? And why should this wisdom have been given this man, and such powerful works be performed through his hands? This is the carpenter the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon, is it not? And his sisters are here with us, are they not?’”—Mark 6:2, 3.
Even many of Jesus’ own relatives, at least for a time, regarded him as just a man. They thought nothing of trying to correct or advise him. On one occasion such a crowd gathered at the house where Jesus was that it became impossible to eat a meal. “When his relatives heard about it, they went out to lay hold of him, for they were saying: ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”—Mark 3:20, 21; John 7:3, 4.
Jesus’ relatives, as well as the people of Nazareth, were looking at things from a human standpoint. They failed to discern that Jesus’ wisdom and miracles backed up his claim to having had a prehuman existence in the heavens and being the direct representative of his Father. He had emptied himself of heavenly glory, and his heavenly Father had transferred his life to the womb of the Jewish virgin Mary. In this way Jesus was born a perfect human Son of God. (Phil. 2:5-7) At Capernaum in Galilee, for instance, Jesus alluded to this, saying: “Everything the Father gives me will come to me, and the one that comes to me I will by no means drive away; because I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me. This is the will of him that sent me, that I should lose nothing out of all that he has given me but that I should resurrect it at the last day.”—John 6:37-39.
Though his hearers were acquainted with his wisdom and powerful works, they “began to murmur at him because he said: ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’; and they began saying: ‘Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it that now he says, “I have come down from heaven”?’” (John 6:41, 42) In effect, their words implied that Jesus was making a false claim. But their conclusion was wholly inconsistent with his miracles and superior wisdom, which gave undeniable proof of divine backing. As was well expressed by a man whom Jesus cured of blindness: “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does his will, he listens to this one. From of old it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of one born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing at all.”—John 9:31-33.
Jesus’ statement about a prehuman existence was backed up, not only by miracles, but by the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. The prophecy that referred to Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah or Christ was to be born also pointed to his prehuman existence. “And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, the one too little to get to be among the thousands of Judah, from you there will come out to me the one who is to become ruler in Israel, whose origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite.” (Mic. 5:2) These words of the prophet Micah were correctly understood by the Jewish chief priests and scribes of the first century C.E. When asked where the Christ was to be born, they answered, “in Bethlehem,” and quoted Micah’s prophecy as proof.—Matt. 2:5, 6.
So there was ample testimony to establish that Jesus Christ was more than just an ordinary man. Those who persisted in rejecting that testimony lost the privilege of sharing with Jesus in rulership. The religious leaders who deliberately denied the evidence of the operation of God’s spirit on Jesus forfeited all future life prospects. Jesus warned them: “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” (Matt. 23:33) Hence one’s viewing Jesus as a mere man can lead to serious consequences. It can blind one to the need of taking action to gain God’s approval.
But are we to understand that Jesus was ‘God in the flesh’? For the reliable answer to this question we must turn our attention to Jesus’ own statements. Never do we find that Jesus spoke of himself as God. When accused of making himself equal to God, Jesus replied: “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said: “You are gods”’? If he called ‘gods’ those against whom the word of God came, and yet the Scripture cannot be nullified, do you say to me whom the Father sanctified and dispatched into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, I am God’s Son?”—John 10:34-36.
As a son, Jesus ascribed superior authority, knowledge and greatness to his Father. He stated: “This sitting down at my right hand and at my left is not mine to give, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matt. 20:23) “Concerning that day or the hour nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father.” (Mark 13:32) “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good, except one, God.” (Mark 10:18) “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) Jesus acknowledged his Father as his God. Just before his death he cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Then, after his resurrection, he told Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.” (John 20:17) Finally, in a revelation to the apostle John, Jesus Christ identified himself as the first of God’s creations, saying: “These are the things that the Amen says, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God.”—Rev. 3:14; John 1:14; Col. 1:15.
Thus the testimony of Jesus Christ respecting himself while on earth reveals that he was not just a wise man nor was he God in the flesh, but he was the perfect human Son of God. The record concerning Jesus’ words and deeds served to establish this truth. Wrote the apostle John: “Jesus performed many other signs also before the disciples, which are not written down in this scroll. But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name.”—John 20:30, 31.