Some say that Jesus was a great prophet sent by God to show the world how to live. Others say He was a good teacher whose words, if followed, would make us better people. The Jews of His day had mixed definitions. Some thought He was Elijah or Jeremiah (but they did not believe in reincarnation), or the predicted one, John the Baptist.
When Jesus asked Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
For years, this has been the standard declaration of faith. If a person understands that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, they are “believers.”
Another standard comes from Romans 10:9-10. It says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
This one requires the same belief in the identity of Jesus Christ, adding faith that He has risen from the dead, and a verbal confession of the same. Those who do and say this are “saved.”
But these standards no longer work because people keep changing the definitions. Jesus Christ is not the same person that Peter said He was. Now He is defined as a symbol, or the essence of an idea, or some other entity that if described to Peter, he would shake his head and say, “Huh?”
Because the definitions are changed, two people can say they believe in Jesus, but they are not talking about the same Person, and only the real Jesus has the power to save.
So who is Jesus? Plainly put, the Bible teaches that the Word of God, the very expression of His being, came to earth and pulled on humanity (something like we put on a pair of trousers). He took on human form without diminishing who He is, and by doing that, He became one of us. Jesus was God the Son, God in a human body.
The Jews couldn’t handle that. They knew their Messiah, the anointed One from God would be God, but they were under Roman oppression and expected a Messiah who would deliver them. They expected a conquering King who would rule the earth with an iron rod.
And along came Jesus, born in a stable, not at all kingly, but telling them they must repent of their sins. They looked at their own religious zeal, compared themselves with the Gentiles, including their godless oppressors, and decided this Jesus didn’t know what He was talking about. His claim to be God and their Messiah was sheer blasphemy.
But Peter knew. So did Paul. So did hundreds of others who watched Him die, then saw Him again after He rose from the dead. Many of them also watched Him ascend to heaven and heard His promise to return. The next time it would be as that conquering King who would rule the earth and every other realm of creation.
They knew and they believed it with all their heart. They were vocal too, which got them into trouble with non-believing Jews and Gentiles alike, those who refused all the evidence that, for the disciples, proved the identity of Jesus Christ. Many of those disciples were so convinced that they died as martyrs rather than say they were wrong, or that Jesus was not God in the flesh. They knew.
Today’s Christianity is a mixed lot. Some are like Peter; they know who Jesus is and have staked their lives on that belief. Others are like the Jews and say, “We have our own way of being righteous . . . “ and leave Jesus out of it. Some want to keep the name (Jesus has a nice ring to it), but they change the identity, water Him down to someone more compliant, less demanding, a good teacher perhaps, or a son of God who really is not deity, just another created being.
Others know about Jesus, but not enough to realize that it was He who said, “I am the way . . . no one comes to the Father but by me.” They say, “whatever works for you,” because for them, Jesus is only one way among many, and they are all quite acceptable.
The identity of Jesus Christ is important. Since believing in Him gives me eternal life, I better believe in the right Jesus. How do I know who He is? And can I be absolutely certain?
The Bible is the record we have of His life, death and resurrection. I can read it, but that doesn’t guarantee knowing. I read it for sixteen years, daily, and didn’t figure it out. Yet reading it is important because “Faith comes by hearing . . . the Word of God.”
The Bible also says faith is a gift from God, which puts the conversion experience somewhat outside my control. I didn’t even ask God to show me the identity of Christ. One day, He just gifted me. After that, I’ve never had any doubts at all. None of the ‘new’ ideas, none of the older heresies have even tempted or side-swiped me.
Because of this resolute understanding, an understanding reflected in Peter’s declaration, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” my faith stands. Yet I know this is not my own doing, nor is it because of any teaching I’ve had. I know who Jesus is the same way Peter knew, the way expressed in Jesus’ answer to Peter in verse 17: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
Indeed, blessed I am! Not due to any flesh and blood revelation but because the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ pulled back the darkness and let me see His Son.