Who is Jesus?
Are you the King of the Jews? (John 18:33, ESV)
Pilate asked Jesus this question because Pilate was the Roman governor of the province of Judaea. Caesar was Pilate’s king, and part of Pilate’s job was to make sure that nothing threatened the rule of Caesar over the region.
Pilate asked, “Are you the King of the Jews,” and Jesus responded, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” () Of course, Pilate did not come up with this on his own. The chief priests and leaders of the Jewish nation had made this charge against Jesus. They wanted to kill Jesus, and to kill Him with the power of the state, they needed a legal reason. So their charge was, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” ()
Do you see what they said? “We found this man misleading our nation...”
Many voices continue to say the same thing in different ways.
Some say the Bible is full of myths, and some say we cannot know what Jesus taught. Almost no serious scholar of ancient history agrees with such statements. The evidence for Jesus’ life and teaching is solid, and it is plentiful.
Some say Jesus is “misleading our nation” by denying what He taught or changing the meaning of what He said.
Let me try to give you an example.
I have heard an argument stated different ways, but with the same general premise. It goes something like this. “Jesus loves everybody. He taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Therefore, He forgives everybody and everybody will be saved in the end.” Or, some will say, “Jesus loves me and wants me to be happy. And besides, I am not sure that what I am doing is so bad. You do not understand, but Jesus does.” With such reasoning, the clear teaching of Jesus is laid aside.
I admit, on the surface, this does not appear to be the same thing. It is not as direct as the Jewish leaders were. However, if the issue is pushed, many people reject what Jesus said because they think it misleads people. You will notice, I am equating changing what He said with rejecting what He said.
The statement that the chief priests and national leaders found misleading was Jesus saying He Himself is Christ, a king. That Jesus is Christ and King is correct. It is not misleading. For Jesus to have presented Himself as not the Christ and King would have been misleading.
At the end of his account of Jesus’ ministry, John says:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ()
From what is written in John’s Gospel, I want to take a look at a few of the things that Jesus said about Himself.
First, I want to look at John 6. In John 6, Jesus got into a conflict with followers and opponents alike over the issue of His kingdom.
It all started when He fed a crowd of over 5,000 men plus women and children. Starting with just five barley loaves and two small fish, Jesus thanked God for the food and began distributing it to the people. When everybody had eaten their fill, they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers. John 6:14-15 tells us:
When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!" Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. ()
The crowd was ready to force Him to be their king.
How strange! When Pilate asked Jesus more about Him being a king John tells us they had the following exchange.
Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." ()
Jesus basically tells Pilate that He is a King, but when the crowd wanted to make Him king, Jesus prevented them by slipping away. At that time, Jesus told them who He is. He said:
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. ()
In this statement, Jesus declares who He is. He says, “I am the bread of life.”
With this statement, Jesus caused many of His disciples to stop following him. We see this in John 6:66.
A lot of discussion took place before they deserted Jesus, but at the heart of the issue was this statement of Jesus that He is the bread of life. Jesus explained it like this:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. ()
He spoke as no one else could, and although He spoke the truth, they accused Him of misleading the nation. Jesus said, “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” This statement indicates the kind of King Jesus is. He gave His life for those He rules.
This statement takes us to another place where Jesus declares who He is. In John 10: He says:
After the incident with the bread and fish, conflict continued to grow between the Jewish leaders and Jesus. The dispute centered on who Jesus was/is. Jesus gave sight to a man who was born blind. The man never saw anything in his life until Jesus opened his eyes. This was an act of God. However, some of the Pharisees said:
In their minds, Jesus broke God’s command to keep the Sabbath day holy by healing the blind man on the Sabbath. They asked the blind man what he thought, and he said:
Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing. ()
For his clarity and insight, they excommunicated him. Jesus heard that they had kicked him out, so he found him and said:
"Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you." He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." ()
The Pharisees heard this and realized that Jesus was saying they were blind. They were supposed to be the shepherds of Israel, but they were blind to the truth. Jesus demonstrated who He was by feeding the vast crowd and by healing the blind man, but they were blind to the truth. These were just two of the many things Jesus did to demonstrate who He was. John says of Him:
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. ()
The many things that Jesus did were to help them see. In telling them they were blind, Jesus was trying to help them see. The only thing that He did not do was force them to believe.
When the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders came to a head, Jesus prepared His disciples for what was about to happen. He told them He was going to be crucified, but He would rise from the dead on the third day. Jesus explained that He would go away, but they knew the way to where He was going. Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, dared to ask what Jesus meant, and Jesus said:
Do you see what has happened here?
Three times Jesus has said, “I am.”
1. I am the bread of life.
2. I am the good shepherd.
3. I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
These statements came after Jesus had given conclusive evidence of who He was. John records other “I am” statements Jesus made, all of them backed up by the works Jesus did. These three are representative of what Jesus said about Himself and are used to lead us to a conclusion.
We are each in a position like Pilate was.
Easter has put us in this position. We have to decide if the charges the Jews brought against Jesus are true or not.
I watched a debate between John Lennox and Peter Atkins. John Lennox said that the resurrection of Jesus was strong evidence for his Christian faith. Peter Atkins said that this was laughable and completely ridiculous because dead people do not rise from the dead. And, this is the point. The historical evidence and the testimony of the eyewitnesses all say that Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus has done everything but force people to believe. And now, we have a choice to make. We can agree with the leaders of the Jewish people and say that this Jesus stuff is just misleading the people. Or, we can do like Pilate and see through the jealousy and lies of the Jewish people but crucify Jesus because to do otherwise would have meant losing his political position.
The tomb is empty. The promise of Jesus’ return is hard upon us. Jesus has said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
If we ignore Jesus’ statement, we crucify Him in our hearts and act like Jesus is still in the tomb. But this is the definition of insanity because it ignores or is out of touch with reality.
On the other hand, if we believe that God has raised Him from the dead, we do the work of God. Jesus said:
As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we proclaim that He is risen. We affirm our faith in Him who God has sent, and we do the work of God.