“Who are the crowds saying that I am?”
JESUS asked his disciples that question because he knew that people had varying opinions about him. Yet, there was no valid reason for confusion. Jesus was not a recluse, operating behind a cloak of secrecy. Rather, he openly mingled with people in their villages and cities. He preached and taught publicly because he wanted people to know the truth about him.
The truth about Jesus can be discerned in his words and actions, which are recorded in the four Biblical Gospels
QUESTION: Was Jesus really a historical person?
ANSWER: Yes. Secular historians, including Josephus and Tacitus of the first century, mention Jesus as a historical figure. More important, the Gospels convincingly show that Jesus was a real person, not a fictional character. The record is specific and detailed in stating time and place. For example, Gospel writer Luke mentions seven ruling officials
The evidence that Jesus is a historical person is compelling. “Most scholars will admit that a man known as Jesus of Nazareth did live in the first century,” states the book Evidence for the Historical Jesus.
QUESTION: Is Jesus actually God?
ANSWER: No. Jesus never considered himself equal to God. On the contrary, Jesus repeatedly showed that he was subordinate to Jehovah.* For example, Jesus referred to Jehovah as “my God” and “the only true God.” (Matthew 27:46; John 17:3) Only a subordinate would use such expressions in referring to another. A worker who refers to his employer as “my boss” or “the one in charge” is clearly assuming an inferior position.
Jesus also showed that he was separate from God. Jesus once said to opposers who challenged his authority: “In your own Law it is written, ‘The witness of two men is true.’ I am one that bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” (John 8:17, 18) Jesus must be separate from Jehovah. How else could they be viewed as two witnesses?*
QUESTION: Was Jesus just a good man?
ANSWER: No. He was far more than that. Jesus understood that he filled a number of important roles in carrying out God’s will. Here are a few of them:
● “Only-begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) Jesus knew his roots. His life actually began long before his birth on earth. “I have come down from heaven,” he explained. (John 6:38) Jesus was God’s first creation, and he helped in the creation of all other things. As the only one directly created by God, Jesus could rightly be called “the only-begotten Son of God.”
● “Son of man.” (Matthew 8:20) Jesus many times referred to himself as “the Son of man,” using an expression that occurs about 80 times in the Gospels. This expression indicates that he was fully human and not God incarnate. How did God’s only-begotten Son come to be born as a human? By means of holy spirit, Jehovah transferred his Son’s life to the womb of the Jewish virgin Mary, causing conception to take place. As a result, Jesus was born sinless and perfect.
● “Teacher.” (John 13:13) Jesus made it clear that his God-given work was “teaching . . . and preaching the good news” about God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 4:23; Luke 4:43) With remarkable clarity and simplicity, he explained what God’s Kingdom is and what it will do in fulfilling Jehovah’s will.
● “The Word.” (John 1:1) Jesus served as God’s Spokesman
QUESTION: Was Jesus the promised Messiah?
ANSWER: Yes. Bible prophecies foretold the coming of the Messiah, or Christ, meaning “Anointed One.” This Promised One would play a key role in fulfilling Jehovah’s purpose. On one occasion, a certain Samaritan woman told Jesus: “I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ.” Jesus then told her plainly: “I who am speaking to you am he.”
Is there any proof that Jesus was indeed the Messiah? There are three lines of evidence that together provide overwhelming evidence, like the pattern of a fingerprint that identifies but one person. Does Jesus match the pattern? Consider:
● His lineage. The Bible foretold that the Messiah would descend from Abraham through the family line of David. (Genesis 22:18; Psalm 132:11, 12) Jesus was a descendant of both.
● Fulfilled prophecies. The Hebrew Scriptures contain dozens of prophecies about the Messiah’s life on earth, including details about his birth and death. Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies. Among them: He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-11), he was called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15), and he was executed without having any of his bones broken (Psalm 34:20; John 19:33, 36). There is simply no way that Jesus could have maneuvered his life to fit the factors needed to fulfill all the Messianic prophecies.*
● God’s own testimony. At the time of Jesus’ birth, God dispatched angels to tell shepherds that the Messiah had been born. (Luke 2:10-14) On several occasions during Jesus’ ministry, God himself spoke from heaven, expressing his approval of Jesus. (Matthew 3:16, 17; 17:1-5) Jehovah enabled Jesus to perform powerful miracles, providing further proof that Jesus was the Messiah.
QUESTION: Why did Jesus have to suffer and die?
ANSWER: As a sinless man, Jesus did not deserve to suffer. Neither did he deserve to be nailed to a stake as a common criminal and be left there to die a shameful death. Still, Jesus expected such mistreatment and willingly submitted to it.
Messianic prophecies foretold that the Messiah would have to suffer and die to cover the sins of others. (Isaiah 53:5; Daniel 9:24, 26) Jesus himself said that he came “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Those putting faith in the redeeming value of his sacrificial death have the prospect of being rescued from sin and death and living forever in Paradise on earth.*
QUESTION: Can we really believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead?
ANSWER: Yes. Jesus fully expected to be raised from the dead. (Matthew 16:21) It is important to note, however, that neither Jesus nor the Bible writers ever claimed that he would rise from the dead by natural means. Such a notion would be beyond belief. Rather, the Bible says: “God resurrected him by loosing the pangs of death.” (Acts 2:24) If we accept that there is a God and that he is the Creator of all things, then we have every reason to believe that he could raise his Son from the dead.
Is there credible evidence that Jesus was resurrected? Consider the following.
● Eyewitness testimony. About 22 years after Jesus died, the apostle Paul wrote that there had been upwards of 500 eyewitnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus and that most of them were still alive when Paul was writing. (1 Corinthians 15:6) One or two witnesses might be easy to dismiss, but who could refute the testimony of 500 eyewitnesses?
● Credible witnesses. Jesus’ early disciples
We have considered the Bible’s answers to six key questions about Jesus. Those answers clearly tell us who Jesus is. But do the answers really matter? In other words, does it make a difference what you choose to believe about Jesus?
For a discussion on how the Biblical Gospels differ from spurious writings about Jesus, see the article “Apocryphal Gospels
In the Bible, Jehovah is the personal name of God.
For a more detailed discussion, see the article “A Conversation With a Neighbor
For a list of some of the prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus, see page 200 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?
For more information about the ransoming value of Jesus’ death, see chapter 5 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?