This past quarter in the Adult Bible School our class looked at the topic, “Who Is Jesus? Mistakes Concerning the Identity of Christ.” Certainly, this was not an exhaustive series, but we did look at a limited number of New Testament characters who were faced with this very critical question. As in our day, people continue to seek to reckon with the deity and authority of Jesus of Nazareth. Though they may respect his compassion, love, and kindness, they miss seeing his Sovereignty over the natural world and all humanity.
Some of the characters we studied never came to know the true identity of the Messiah. Many of the Jews questioned his origins and, despite Jesus’ attempts to point them to the great “I am” (John 8:19), these people never saw him as the Savior. Similarly, the leaders of the Jews could not grasp whose son Jesus was (Matthew 22:42 and Mark 2:28) even though Jesus revealed himself as the son of David and the Son of Man. The rich young ruler of Luke 18:18 seemed to greatly desire Jesus as one who could give him eternal life, but in the end he failed to heed our Lord’s command to forsake his temporal possessions and turn to Jesus as the only living hope. The Roman ruler, Pilate, even designated him as the “King of the Jews” but, as far as we know, never personally saw the true Christ that would save him. Perhaps Saul of Tarsus “most missed” the identity of Christ because he passionately went about killing the followers of Christ.
Other characters came to know the risen Christ. Nicodemus believed that one needed to know a second birth (John 3:9); the woman at the well came to know Jesus as the “friend of sinners” (John 4:9); a man born blind came to know him as the Son of God (John 9:36); Mary Magdalene and Thomas knew Jesus as “Lord” (John 20:15); and the apostle Paul knew him as the head of the Church that God was redeeming. For these people, there was a “happy ending” to their understanding of who Jesus is.
Class Lessons from This Quarter
One of the lessons we learned this quarter is that, though we see through a glass darkly, we, like the New Testament characters, grow in our understanding of who Jesus really is. This was true of the apostle Paul as he was affirmed by Ananias and Barnabas. Jesus became more real to him after the light on the road to Damascus, as grand as that was. The blind man did not come to faith immediately, but a process followed so his understanding of the Christ was made clearer. We, too, as we grow in our understanding of Jesus by understanding his word and the precepts we are to follow. This is certainly one of the great joys of being a believer: coming to see how precious Jesus is through the stages of our life. Ultimately, because we are finite people, we will really not know Jesus until we get to glory.
We learned, too, that false identity often comes when we place our perceptions of who Jesus is based on poor calculations and fail to use faith. For instance, Pilate had mistaken views of what it meant for Jesus to be a king because he did not look like a king nor talk or act like a king. The religious leaders, though they had good understanding of the Old Testament predication of the Messiah, thought he would come as a political leader to rescue the people of Israel. They missed it because they failed to hear Jesus’ words. We, too, are given the Scriptures, thereby to gain a proper view of who Jesus really is. We cannot “imagine” who he might be; what we need are the words of Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit to know he truly is the Son of God come to die for us.
Finally, our understanding of Jesus was raised in our last lesson when we looked at the way John describes Jesus in Revelation 19. We see him, though not clearly. But, there will be a day when we will see him as he is: the eternal God, king, and judge coming in the clouds to receive us to himself. Let us not miss him on that day for failure to apply by faith that which we learn from the Scriptures.
Our class was grateful for the lessons we learned this quarter and the encouragement it was to our faith to continue trusting and depending upon Jesus in his word for a clear understanding of who he is and what he came to do.