who is jesus?



in the account of the life and ministry of Jesus in "the book" of mark, Jesus asks a question to [simon] peter, one of his students, Jesus asked, "who do people say I am?"  peter, playing it safe and looking for the party line, answers with what others think first; but his desire to follow the "polls" of his day did not work.  you see that's not what Jesus wants to know.  so Jesus puts peter on the spot one more time.  this time Jesus is a bit more direct; Jesus looks peter in the eye and asks, "who do you say I am?"


ok, that changes everything.  you see, Jesus did not really want peter to answer with the company line, or what was "popular opinion" of who Jesus was; Jesus wanted peter to see for himself and develop his own way of seeing who Jesus was.


today, Jesus could look at any one and ask, "in a world of bio-diversity, cultural-diversity, and ethical-diversity, who do you say I am?  in a world of individualism, commercialism, capitalism and a long list of "other-isms" who do you say I am?  in a world or ramped hunger, violent behavior, abuse and wanted pain, who do you say I am?  in a world that takes my teachings and flips them to justify all kinds of evil, war, killing and hurt, who do you say i am?  in a world of single parents, broken homes and children giving birth to children, who do you say I am?  in a world defined by product recognition, catchy slogans and designer jeans, who do you say I am?"  somehow, the question gets harder to answer as it gets closer to our way of life.  but Jesus is not asking us to answer with the easy answer, Jesus is asking us to look deep and realize that we need to make a stand.


many people over the ages have answered this question in many different way.  peter, when confronted with the question had to answered in the reality he knew, "you are the messiah, the christ, the son of the living God."  wow, talk about a powerful set of words - the son of God, the "messiah"  - this seems so hard for us to come to grips with today.  with all the pain and hurting we see in this world, it's hard to envision God sending God's son to earth to interact with us.  but why is that hard?  could it be because of our skeptical nature?  that could be.  could it be because if we do not "see it, touch it and hear it" we doubt it?  that could be also.  but i tend to think it is because Jesus calls us to a very different form of living, one that does not fit with the current church idea of what it means to be a follower.  i tend to think that it is because we are asked to go beyond ourselves, and place our lives in the direct line of fire with the lives of others.  you see, i think we do not follow because following requires that we actually get involved in the lives of those who are hurting, and that can be messy.  it is hard to see God in the midst of personal agendas and fallen heroes, i believe we have cause to doubt.


when we look around we see the fall of our heroes - those we hold in high regard have proven to be less then worthy - our religious leaders have affairs and become centered on money, or preach what they do not practice; "christians" act like everyone else and cause hurt and pain all in the name of Jesus; our politicians steal, cheat and lie and claim they do so for our benefit, yet they get rich and children go hungry; our teachers have improper relationships with children and claim it as love; when our families fall apart because someone decides how "family" must be defined.  when we see those who demand our respect, [mainly due to their position], show nothing worthy  of our respect, we are lost.  when we demand transparency in our leaders, and only see fogged windows and clogged pipes, what are we to believe?  how are we to believe the claims of anyone?  how are we to believe that this Jesus can be any different then the rest?  how can we believe that the people who are sharing him with us are not in this for personal gain and a private agenda?  is he truly the salvation of humanity - after all, those who follow Him are not exactly worth modeling; and how can we believe in perfection in this world when his followers treat each other, and others, like everyone else and blame it all on "being human?"  i really can't blame people who walk away from the teachings of Jesus, because when we see that a faith that calls us to change and walk in a new light while those claiming to be "followers" are not changed, but are the same as everyone else, how can we see this faith changing our lives?  the questions are many, and the reality to palpable to ignore.  so, who is this Jesus and what is he all about?  most important, should i follow him and seek to learn his teaching?


some basic facts:  

name:  Jesus, in greek; joshua, in hebrew [pronounced, "ya-shoe-a"]  keep in mind that the letter "j" is not part of the greek or hebrew alphabet.  the actual letter in the beginning of the names is "i."  it could be said that his name gives it away - it means 'anointed Savior.'  the name "Jesus" is actually an "greek" understanding of his true name - joshua.  His friends, neighbor, and others called him "joshua" and not Jesus.


dates:  from 0 to 35 ad - exact dates are not known, some give the birth at year 4ce, others at 6ce, and still others as early as the year 0.  some give the date of his "death" at 32ce and other 33ad, while some go as high as 36ce; the reality is we do not know, and all we can do is give a "best guess."  but i wonder, does it matter the exact date [dates and time, or expressions of them are created by humans to mark the passing of "an event" - that has little to do with the reality of christ]?  I tend to think we get so caught in the "how's" we forget all about the "why's."


conditions at birth:  this may come as a shock, but Jesus was not born into a white, middle class, suburban, christian.  Jesus was born into social scandal with huge question marks over the legitimacy of his birth [in luke's account of the birth of Jesus {2:5-7} he writes that joseph and mary were not married at the time of Jesus' birth, only "engaged to be married"], Jesus was the eldest child [one of several] of a jewish day laborer [the greek word is "tekton" and has been mistakenly translated as "carpenter"] and  mary, his teenage mother who was still a virgin!  he was born into poverty, and as tradition has it, his earthly father, joseph, died when Jesus was young, leaving mary to raise Jesus and his brothers and sister alone and with income problems.  tradition has it that mary counted on the generosity of friends and family to help make ends meet.  there was no "welfare state" back in the day, so people needed to help people directly.  while a great deal of his early life is based totally on tradition and no proof, we do know a great deal about the last three to four years of his life and active ministry.  he was born in a time when political and social turmoil were the norm.


religion:  Jesus was born into a jewish family, he was jewish.  in fact, Jesus could have been considered a "good jew" because he obeyed all feast days, and was seen at the temple on may occasions.  on the other hand, he totally disrupted the jewish leadership and questioned them on a regular basis.  he "put it in their face" and asked them all the time to explain why they did what they did.  for Jesus, it was never about religion, it was [and is] all about relationships.


early life:  Jesus was born in the tiny back-water village of bethlehem, raised in small town nazareth, he also spent many years of his youth living in egypt.  many of the early years of his life are covered in mystery and there is no record of where he was and what he did. [some "non-canonical" scriptures do give some information, but they are questionable - but worth the read if you desire.] 


ministry:  Jesus spent his whole ministry wander, teaching and helping others in the israeli deserts, towns and countryside, particularly around galilee, judea and samaria.  he was a "faithful" jew, he went up to the big city of jerusalem for the main feasts and festivals, and to stop over with his growing band of friends and followers. it was on a hill outside jerusalem's city walls where he died violently at the hands of the government.


Jesus spent his life [that we know of] telling us to love one another and to lift each other up; that our love for each other should be the love Jesus expressed.  Jesus taught that we should treat others as we want to be treated.  his central message was that God loves us and forgives our "sins" [our desire to place our wants and needs over the needs of others, wrongs done to others and to self] and wants to have a long and lasting relationship with us.  Jesus also taught that God is a God of love, grace, kindness, forgiveness and hope.  Jesus told us that in God we can find a new life, that transforms us as children of God and changes us at a core level; Jesus also taught that when we walk with God in the community of other followers we are in a place where we find questions and directions for our life journey.  i know, many of today's followers are not showing any of that - but that is changing.


what he is:  we say "what he is," because Jesus is alive for us today, and we know that sounds strange because we speak of his death and he is not walking around today in "flesh."  Jesus lived a perfect life, communicating love, peace and freedom to everyone from all generations, past, present and future.  we believe that Jesus is alive and well today and living in the hearts of all people who decide to make the commitment and become a "follower of the way."



the personality of Jesus:  

he is radical:  he violated almost all of the religious traditions of his day.  he touched the "unclean," the unwanted, the unacceptable, and ministered to their needs.  he argued with the religious leaders of his day condemning them for their strict adherence to the law, and their legalistic view of a meaningful relationship with God - Jesus intentions was not to form a new religion, but rather for us to form a radical relationship with God.  he was deemed a rebel and a no-good trouble-maker who simply wanted to change things with out thinking - sound like someone you know?


he is transparent Jesus was who he was, and he did not pretend to be something he was not; and he made no bones about it.  he stood his ground, and did not waiver to please the desires of others - he spoke the words God gave him, and he was sure of the power of those words.  he was happy with who he was, and he did not care if others did not like what he had to say, he said it anyway - sound like something you want?


he is transforming:  he healed those who were sick in body, mind or spirit - he even was known to raise the dead! (a few times).  He hung out with all kinds of people, and built special relationships with the group of 12, called disciples (6 unemployed, one tax collector and 5 day labors) - those who chose to believe in him and follow him in a new way of thinking - to eventually called "christianity."  he was a friend who would do anything for a friend - sound like something you need?


he is tribal:  Jesus had family, a mother, brothers and sisters.  he even had extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins (in fact, "john, called the baptist" was a cousin) and grand parents - yet he expanded his "family view" to include friends and strangers.  he strived with the "big picture."  to love everyone, even the unlovable, to accept everyone, even the unacceptable - to be tribal in nature and direction - for Jesus, water is thinker then blood.  he welcomed many people into his community.  in fact, he was quoted and saying that anyone who follows him would be considered a family member - sound like something you need?


he is honest and safe:  he gave people a sense of belonging and value, and never demanded them to do anything. he brought meaning and purpose to everyday life and living and connected no strings to the adventure we call life. no person, no matter who they were or where they came from, were deemed beyond his friendship, love and care.  sound like something you want?


he is not status quo:  Jesus, because of his radical nature, became extremely unpopular with the political, the institutional establishment, and the religious rulers of his day.  as a result of this unpopularity Jesus ended up being convicted of false charges, tried by a prejudiced jury, condemned by a cowardly judge, tortured and beaten beyond all recognition, and killed as an innocent man by the cruelest means known possible - crucifixion.  sound like someone you know?


he is not dead surprise !!!!  he was crucified, dead (he didn't stay dead !!!!) and buried in a tomb borrowed from a rich friend (yes, he had rich friends - remember, he loved everyone) and guarded by a few roman soldiers.  yet, many witnesses (over 500) testify that he rose from the dead and was seen again walking and talking with people. some even touched him physically, and eat with him; he was no ghost - he really was alive and well in human flesh.  remember this, the rock was not moved so Jesus could get out of the tomb, the rock was moved for us to enter.  sound like something you need?


he is timeless:  people through all generations of time and history have not only believed the story of who Jesus was (and is) and what he did, but they have also experienced him in real, transforming grace, first hand. they have discovered, what a great many have discovered,  that he is as real, relevant and alive.  this generation is no exception, none at all. what he has to say speaks to us, befriends us, guides us, heals our brokenness and pain, and intervenes in our lives just as he did when he was on earth and always has done.  his touch is real and timeless.  sound like something you need?


he is God in the flesh:  i know, it's hard to believe, but just because it's hard to believe does not make it "unbelievable."  after all, i have never seen a billion dollars, yet i believe a billion dollars is real.  if you desire to have the heart of a rebel, to be transparent, and to be accepted for who you are, not what others desire you to be, then may i suggest you look deeper into the claims of christianity.  because it is something we all can use!


if you desire to know more about Jesus the christ may we suggest you "get connected" to a group of people who will take the time to share with you their personal experiences with God and their faith walk; not a group looking to "shove" anything on you.  get hooked in, and if you need help getting hooked-in drop us an email - and we will help you find a group.  we will be happy to help you find a place where you can develop a true and lasting relationship with Jesus christ - no matter where you are right now - and truly no strings attached - no hidden agenda.


[by John O'Keefe]


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