Who is Jesus?
"That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ" - Philippians 1:26
An excellent question, especially if you are sincerely searching for the answer. It must be recognized that, for anyone who already has his or her mind made up against Jesus, no amount evidence will prove convincing. On the other hand, for those of you who honestly seek an answer, the evidence speaks for itself.
The Greek word for “fish” (ίχθύς) was used by the early church as a creedal acrostic, providing a sampling of 1st century Christology: Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter, literally, “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.” Here, four essential marks of the identity and ministry of this man are seen: his humanity (“Jesus”), his Messianic role (“Christ”), his Divinity (“God’s Son”), and his redemptive work (“Savior”).
"Jesus" - his Humanity
Some critics have attempted the unthinkable by denying his historicity, in spite of the writings of numerous historians and early church fathers—Josephus, Polycarp, Ignatius and Clement, among others—who give ample testimony of his life. Beyond question, the man Jesus lived, walked, and taught about 2,000 years ago.
"Christ" - his Messianic role
This means “anointed one” and is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word rendered “Messiah”. For thousands of years, the Jewish people looked for a Messiah, as clearly foretold in Scripture.
To scan just a fraction of the prophecies concerning Messiah, he was to be:
from the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3);
from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10);
from the line of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1) and David (Jeremiah 23:5);
born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Genesis 3:15);
born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2);
have a star to announce His coming (Numbers 24:17);
have a forerunner (Isaiah 40:3);
come before the destruction of the Second Temple (Daniel 9:24-27);
speak in parables (Psalm 78:2);
rejected by the Jews (Isaiah 53);
betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12,13);
forsaken by His disciples (Zechariah 13:7);
enter Jerusalem on a donkey with praise (Zechariah 9:9);
silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7);
tortured to death (Psalm 22);
have lots cast for His garments (Psalm 22:18);
have none of his bones broken (Psalm 34:20);
have his side pierced (Zechariah 12:10);
be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9);
be resurrected from the dead (Psalm 16:10);
be trusted in by the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1-4);
and ascend into heaven (Psalm 68:18).
Even the most skeptical scholar would have to confess that at the very least 200 years separated these writings and the time of Jesus (because the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, was written 200 years before Christ). Even if you don’t believe some of the prophecies (concerning supernatural workings, etc.), that still leaves many, many prophecies clearly fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Even if we just take 3 of the prophecies—being rejected by the Jews, having a large Gentile following, and being executed before the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.—there is only one man in history that fulfills them. Clearly, Jesus is Messiah.
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” (John 4:25, 26)
"God's Son" - his divinity
In claiming to be God’s Son, the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God (John 5:18). Jesus himself would say, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30), for which the Jews tried to stone him (33). It was for claiming to be the Son of God that he was condemned to death (Mark 14:61-64). Nor were these isolated incidents.
Jesus took on prerogatives that belong only to God Himself (e.g. forgiving sins, Mark 2:5). He commended the apostle Thomas for calling him “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). And he was constantly referring to himself by God’s personal name, “I AM” (John 4:26, 8:58, 18:6, etc.).
However, anyone can claim to be God. What proofs do we have of Jesus’ divinity? There are the eye witness accounts of his many miracles; there is his body of teaching that has had an unequaled impact upon human history; but Jesus himself seemed to point to his resurrection from the dead as the pinnacle proof of his divinity. And certainly, his resurrection is the pivotal event of history.
The earliest written account of Jesus’ resurrection is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, by the hand of Paul, who admits that he was once the greatest antagonist of Jesus and his followers (verse 9). Because Paul states that this account of resurrection appearances was passed on to him by others, apparently as an early oral creed, it is earlier than its usage in 1 Corinthians (which is dated no later than 55 AD):
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also…”
In addition to being very early, this appearance tradition clearly refers to people that Paul knew and had talked to personally, such as Peter and James. So not only is Paul quoting an early tradition, he has had the opportunity to personally interview some of the witnesses cited within it. Jesus’ resurrection, then, is attested to by someone who had himself previously been a critic and who had talked with many of the other witnesses face-to-face.
Why would Paul switch sides and suffer scourging, prison, and then martyrdom? Why would 500 witnesses (many still living at the time of Paul’s writing) risk their lives to attest to Jesus’ resurrection? Why would the disillusioned disciples suddenly turn 180 degrees three days after Jesus’ death and begin teaching a message of hope in the face of official persecution?
The only plausible explanation is that Jesus did, indeed, rise from the dead. And if he did rise from the dead then he must be Who he claimed to be — Jesus is God’s Son. And if Jesus is God’s Son, then he must also be…
"Savior" - his redemptive work
Perhaps the only thing more difficult than convincing people of Jesus’ resurrection in this age of “enlightenment” and materialism, is convincing people—who have been told for years that they are basically good and just need to love themselves more—that they are sinners in need of a Savior.
But if you see that you are selfish, empty, and guilty before the perfect law of God (remember the Ten Commandments?), then Jesus is the only qualified Savior. He is God’s Son, and He came to earth in order to die for sinners: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). His resurrection is confirmation that He conquered sin and death for our sakes.
If you are sincerely searching for the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?”, then the answer is simply this:
He is the Savior of sinners. He is Life for the dead. He is Hope for the hopeless. He is Joy for the mournful. He is Strength for the weak.
Jesus said… “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25, 26).