21st Century Discipleship Resources

Session 4: Who is Jesus?

The person of Jesus and the purpose of his life and death

Ice-breaker

Q) You are the director of a film on the life of Jesus. How would you tell the actor to play him?

Q) What kind of image do you have of Jesus?

The Bible does not tell us what Jesus looked like. It does, however, tell us what he said and did, and helps us to understand who he really is. Let’s look at some of the things the Bible says about him.

He was expected

For hundreds of years the Jewish people had been expecting a Messiah (Greek ‘Christ’ or ‘anointed one’). Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament predictions of the Messiah.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written:The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:44-48, NIV.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4, NIV.

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Mark 8:27-29, NIV.

His disciples recognised him as the Messiah. However, Jesus wasn’t quite what the Jewish people were looking for. They were hoping for a ‘political’ king who would deliver them from the oppression of the occupying Roman forces but Jesus talked about a different kind of ‘kingdom’.

See what he says in Luke 17:20-21.

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst. NIV

He was a human being

Have a look at these verses:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!. Philippians 2:6-8, NIV

Although he was God Jesus chose to as human as we are which is why he is able to meet our deepest needs. Whatever ups and downs we go through in life, Jesus is able to identify with us.

Q) How does this make you feel? What do you think it means to have ‘confidence to draw near to God?’

He is the Son of God

God himself announced this to the world at Jesus’s baptism (Luke 3:21-22). There we see Jesus at the start of his public ministry, being acknowledged by God as his Son and equipped for the task that lay ahead of him by the Holy Spirit

However, now read John 1:1-5:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. NIV

And then verse 14:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. NIV

Q) Who was ‘the Word’?

It is important to realise that Jesus did not just exist for thirty-three years during his time on earth, but as God’s Son, he existed from before the creation of the world as one person of the Trinity.

There is an apparent paradox here, but it is important for us to keep in balance the Christian understanding that Jesus is both man and God.

He shows us what God is like

Jesus only did the things that he saw his Father doing:

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19, NIV.

Q) If we look at the way that Jesus related to people and the things that he did, what does it show us about God’s character and concerns?

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16, NIV

Image = Greek ‘eikon’, an exact visible representation. For example the image on a hammered coin or the reflection in a mirror.

Q) Think about a familiar story from one of the Gospels. What does it show you about God’s character as revealed in Jesus?

He died in our place

Q) Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?

It was not an accident of history.

Mark 9:30-32 tells us that Jesus knew exactly what lay ahead.

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. NIV

Acts 2:22-24 tells us that this was in fact God’s plan, from the beginning.

Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. NIV

The early chapters of Genesis teach us that we are made for relationship with God and that sin is a consequence of our desire for independence. It is a result of disobedience. Our shame, fear and guilt is what separates us from God. However God’s recovery program includes the restoration of what has been lost and damaged. This is a central theme in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

There are many different ways of formulating this and each gives us insights into what Jesus achieved for us on the cross. Believers Baptism, through which we identify with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is another powerful picture that the bible uses.

Sin is the barrier that separates us from God. Through his perfect, sinless life, Jesus took our place and became the bridge by which we can cross over from death to life and be restored to a right relationship with God.

The Bridge Illustration is another way of presenting this that many find helpful.

<!— Illustration of Bridge Diagram goes here —>

Jesus is alive!

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the central fact of the Christian faith. There were many eyewitnesses to affirm the truth of what the Bible teaches. It is not a fantasy or a cleverly devised story, but based on authenticated reports:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NIV

The experience of meeting the risen Jesus changed the lives of the first Christians dramatically. It still has the power to do the same for us today.

Your choice (home study option)

Have another look at the bridge illustration. Where do you think you are standing on the bridge to life? If you are still hesitating about crossing over, ask yourself what is stopping you?