After Moses had spent 40 years in the desert of Midian, God appeared to him and told him to go back to Egypt to be God’s instrument to lead the children of Israel out of bondage. Moses feared that the people who hadn’t heard from God in a long time would question where his authority came from. He asked God, “Who shall I say has sent me?” God had not spoken to His people for over 400 years, and perhaps Moses himself wondered, “Who are you?” God said to tell the people, “I AM has sent me to you.” God was saying that His name is “I AM.” Moses and the nation of Israel about to be born learned many other things then and in subsequent centuries about who God is. God wanted them and the people of other nations to know about Him, and to know Him in a relationship.
Many centuries later, about 30 years after the birth of Christ, John the baptizer was preaching in the wilderness. Great crowds came to hear John and were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Many of these Jewish folk wondered if John was the Christ, their promised Messiah. John said He had come to tell them the Messiah was about to appear. (Luke 3:15-16)
A delegation of Jewish priests and Levites, wondering about this person who was gathering large crowds, came from Jerusalem and asked John, “Who are you?” (Unless otherwise indicated, the following accounts about Jesus are taken from The Gospel of John. The John who wrote this account of Jesus’ ministry was not John the Baptist.) He answered, “I am not the Christ” They asked if he were Elijah or that prophet (Isaiah). John said no. The Jerusalem investigators, only hearing who John was not, asked him why he was baptizing the multitudes. John explained that he was the one the Jewish scriptures had prophesied who would “prepare the way of the Lord.” (Mark 1:3)
Before long, John had the unique privilege of personally introducing Jesus to the multitudes: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” Andrew, one of John’s followers, told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah…the Christ.” The next day, Philip, whom Jesus had invited to be one of His disciples, told his friend Nathaniel, “We have found him of whom Moses… and the prophets did speak.” After a short conversation with Jesus, Nathaniel said, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.”
Jesus did not deny Nathaniel’s recognition of Him, nor any of the statements made by Andrew and Philip. His identity was not determined by what people thought or said about Him. He spoke clearly about who He was throughout His public ministry and demonstrated the validity of His messiahship through the many powerful miracles that He performed.
Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, in a roundabout way invited Jesus to say who He was: “Rabbi, we know that thou are a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” The ensuing conversation took a completely different turn than what Nicodemus likely expected. After Jesus’ crucifixion three years later, Nicodemus took a stand that seemed to indicate he understood and believed that Jesus was the Son of God.
The woman who met Jesus at the well in Samaria told the men of the city, “Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?” When the Samaritans heard Him teach, they said, “…We have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
When Jesus told the crowds following Him, “I am the bread of life,” and elaborated that claim with some teaching that was very new to them, hard to understand, and even somewhat offensive to them, many no longer followed Him. He asked His twelve disciples if they also would go away. Peter poignantly replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus gave sight to a man who was born blind. The man was questioned about it by the religious leaders, who had agreed that if anyone said that Jesus was the Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. The formerly blind man told them, “If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” Jesus went to him after he was cast out of the synagogue and asked if he believed on the Son of God. The man answered, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him, and He is talking with you.” “Lord, I believe,” the man said, and worshipped Jesus.
Jesus never modified His claim to be the Son of God. One day the temple leaders said, “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus said He had already told them and they did not believe. He went on to say, “I and my Father are one,” and again they prepared to stone Him “for blasphemy, because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” As the chief priests and Pharisees felt more and more threatened by Jesus’ claims and miracles and popularity, the last straw was when He raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been undeniably dead for four days, and after this mighty miracle, so many of the populace followed Jesus that the religious leaders wanted to get rid of Lazarus as well as Jesus.
On the eve of His crucifixion, a band of soldiers came to the garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. He asked them whom they sought. They said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” When Jesus said, “I am he,” the whole group stumbled backward and fell to the ground, undone by the power and significance of that name, “I AM,” by which God had revealed Himself to Moses centuries earlier.
In this 21st century, many who deny Jesus’ deity say He never claimed to be God, or the Son of God. The Jewish multitudes of Jesus’ day “received Him gladly,” but most of the Pharisees and other religious leaders did not. They wanted to kill Him “because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” There were many occasions when the Pharisees argued with Jesus about His claim that He was the Son of the Father. At one point He told them, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.” His opponents became angrier and angrier, and in a discussion about Abraham, their revered ancestor, Jesus said, “…Before Abraham was, I AM.” The Jewish leaders understood what He meant and prepared to stone Him, but Jesus “hid himself” and walked away.
My dear friends, if you have not thought much about who Jesus is, please make Him the focus of your thinking, your life. There is no other person in your circle or mine of such paramount importance. After Jesus rose from the dead (the greatest proof of His deity), He appeared to His disciples who had locked themselves in a room for fear of the authorities when Jesus was crucified. Thomas, who was not with the others on that occasion, said he would not believe Jesus had risen from the dead unless he could see and touch His wounds. Jesus appeared again to his disciples when Thomas was present. All Thomas could say was, “My Lord and my God.” May this be our response to Jesus every day of our lives.
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