Who is Jesus of Nazareth?

It has been said that you can gauge the size of a ship that has passed out of sight by the huge wake that it leaves behind. The greatest wake ever registered on the planet, however, was not done by any ship, but by a person.

In His day He was known as “Jesus of Nazareth.” For most of His adult life He worked as a carpenter. Yet He was so extraordinary in the way He lived and the influence He exerted on humanity that the word “extraordinary” doesn’t begin to describe Him. At least 15 billion people have come and gone on this planet, but today, almost 2000 years after His death, no one has come close to equaling His unique place in history or His influence on mankind. No one else has made a greater contribution to world history than Jesus has.

Because of the things He said and did, Jesus is the most discussed, debated and scrutinized person who ever lived. He has more defenders and opponents than any other person in history. His enemies have made countless vain efforts to discredit Him but have been forced to admit that from every point of view He was more than a man. His influence has been felt by more people and has led to more good than that of any other man before or since His day. Evil men and unbelievers have tried to account for these facts in various ways, but there is only one satisfactory explanation to the biggest question of all time – “Who was this carpenter from an obscure land and time?”

The simple explanation for “Who Jesus is” can be found in the words spoken by Nathaniel in John 1:49 – “…Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” NKJV

Jesus of Nazareth, according to the teaching of the Scriptures, was “God in the flesh.”

a) Jesus’ name says that He is God

The name “Jesus” means “God is Savior.” Matthew 1:20-21: “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” NKJV

The name “Christ” is from the Greek word “Christos,” which is equivalent to the Hebrew word for “Messiah,” meaning “Anointed One.” When the New Testament spoke of Jesus as “Jesus Christ,” they were not giving us His first and last names. His name “is” Jesus; He “was” the “Christ/Messiah.”

Matthew 26:63 – “But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” NKJV

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah said: Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” NKJV

Matthew said this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was born: Matthew 1:22-23: “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” NKJV

The angel interpreted the name “Immanuel” as meaning “God with us.” So according to Isaiah and Matthew, Jesus the Savior was the Messiah, He was “God with us!”

b) The prophets said that He was God

Isaiah 9:6 – “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” NKJV

Micah 5:2 – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” NKJV

This prophecy was the one the chief priests and the scribes turned to when Herod asked where the Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:1-8). According to Micah, Jesus is from “everlasting.” This can be said of no “creature” – only the “Creator” can be described in such terms.

c) The angels said that He was God

The angel Gabriel said in Luke 1:31-32: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” NKJV

d) The apostles said that He was God

Matthew 16:13-18: “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” NKJV

In Matthew 16, Peter was putting into words the most important fact about Christianity: Jesus is the divine Son of God – God in the flesh! On the day of Pentecost, Peter announced that God had made Jesus “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). NKJV

To call Jesus “Lord” is to acknowledge His deity. Immediately after he was converted, Paul preached this about Jesus: Acts 9:20 – “…and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’” NASB

John 1:1-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” NKJV

John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” NKJV

Jesus, the Living Word of God, existed before any created thing. He therefore was not part of creation; He is eternal. Since no one but God is eternal – that means “Jesus is God.”

Philippians 2:6–8: “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” NLT

Here Paul said the same thing that John said – that Jesus the Son of God took on the form of a human being so that He could die on the cross and pay for our sins. Hebrews 2:9 – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” NKJV

The apostle Paul considered the resurrection the greatest proof that Jesus was the Son of God, or God in the flesh. Romans 1:1-4: “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” NKJV

Jesus got His humanity through David, but His resurrection declares that He was more than human. This passage proves both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:1 – “We proclaim to you the One Who existed from the beginning, Whom we have heard and seen. We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.” NLT

Jesus was “God in the flesh.” He had a human form. He was seen, looked at, and handled. John says that He wasn’t a phantom/ghost. We heard Him (audible evidence), saw Him (visible evidence), and handled Him (physical evidence).

It is a soul condemning heresy to deny that Jesus is the Son of God: John 8:24 – “That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” NLT

It is also a soul condemning heresy to deny the humanity of Jesus: 1 John 4:1-3: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” NKJV

Jesus wasn’t half God/half man; all God/no man; no God/all man. He was the God/man. Jesus was all God and all man! If you deny either the divinity or the humanity of Jesus you are denying Christianity, and are in danger of losing your soul!

e) Jesus claimed that He was God

Jesus called Himself God: John 8:58 – “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, ‘I AM.’” NKJV

Jesus declared His co-existence with God the Father by saying: John 17:5 – “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” NKJV

John 5:18 – “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” NKJV

John 10:30–33: “I and My Father are one.” Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” NKJV

When Jesus called Himself the “Son of God,” the Jews understood that He made Himself God. This claim was what finally led Him to His death.

Luke 22:66-71: “As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.” NKJV

They then took Him before Pilate and said: John 19:7 – “…By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.” NLT They accused Him of blasphemy because in claiming to be the Son of God, Jesus was claiming to be equal with God; that He was “God in the flesh!”

f) God the Father called Jesus ‘God’

Matthew 3:16-17: “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” NKJV

Matthew 17:5 – “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” NKJV

Hebrews 1:8 – “But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” NKJV

g) His Works proved Him to be God

Jesus considered His works sufficient evidence of His deity: John 5:36 – “But I have a greater witness than John – My teachings and My miracles. The Father gave Me these works to accomplish, and they prove that He sent Me.” NLT

Power over Demons: The power that Jesus exercised over evil spirits is proof of a power beyond that of a human being. Jesus’ very presence was disturbing to the demons.

In the synagogue at Capernaum, one cried out, saying: Mark 1:24 – “…Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” NKJV

Mark 3:11 – “And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” NKJV

Evil spirits recognized in Jesus the One Who would judge and destroy them: Matthew 8:29 – “And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” NKJV

James 2:19 – “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble.” NKJV

Power to Forgive Sins: While here on earth, Jesus forgave sins. He told the paralytic in Luke 5:20-26: “…Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!” NKJV

Power Unlimited: Jesus could calm the raging seas, feed thousands with just a few fish and pieces of bread, walk on the water, raise the dead back to life, heal the sick, and restore sight to the blind, etc. The only conclusion based on these events is that Jesus truly was “God in the flesh.”

Jesus wasn’t just a nice guy who taught nice things and then died. He was and is the Son of the Living God. The theme that Jesus is the Son of God, God manifested in the flesh, is at the heart of the gospel. The fact that He is the Son of God is mentioned over “90” times in the Bible and is the foundation upon which everything else rests.

If Christ actually lived on the earth as the Son of God, then everything else the Bible says about Him is true. If Christ was the Son of God, then everything else in the Bible is true!

“If Jesus is not the Son of God, then nothing matters! If He is the Son of God, then nothing else matters!”

The central truth of the Bible is the fact that Jesus is the Son of the Living God – “God in the flesh!”

• Closing thoughts

Does it really matter what we believe about Jesus? It does if you want to go to heaven:

John 20:30-31: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” NKJV

Matthew 22:41-42: “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” NKJV

Your answer to this question will determine how you live your life now and where you will spend eternity.

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