The New Testament is a unique compilation of early church witnesses to the person, divinity and mission of Christ. In them, there is an amazing revelation of the person of Jesus, the pre-existent Son of God who was manifested in due season to redeem mankind from sin and to usher in a new covenant that would bring salvation and eternal redemption for mankind. However, despite the New Testament’s claims, there exists skepticism among some who disavows its testimony and rejects the historical accounts of the historicity of Jesus. Two views then are in contradiction. This essay seeks to give a portrait of Jesus looking at both a believer’s perspective and an unbeliever’s perspective. In the final analysis, the believers’ understanding of the biblical Jesus champions all other views since it leads to faith and salvation in Christ.
Jesus in the Gospels
The Gospels presents a unique story about Jesus Christ. They open with a distinct narrative that pertains to his coming in the world through the Virgin Birth. The Gospel of John begins by indicating that Jesus Christ pre-existed before the creation of the world and everything that exists has been a result of his creation work. Further, using the Greek concept of the Logos, John claims that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh. How he became flesh is clearly dealt with the narrative of Luke and Matthew as having been born of the Virgin Mary through the miraculous enablement of the Holy Spirit. Matthew on the other hand, goes further to prove that Jesus is the promised Old Testament Messiah, the king that would sit on David’s throne and traces Jesus’ genealogy to Abraham and to David. For the Jews, their long awaited Messiah has been finally revealed, and instead of accept Him, they forsook him. Luke portrays his genealogy as coming straight from Adam, thus, he gives hope to the Gentiles that Jesus has not only came as a Jewish Messiah but savior of the whole world. Several names and titles are ascribed to Christ in the Gospels which either proves his Deity or humanity. Though of a miraculous birth, the Gospels show that he was both human and divine.
Jesus in Acts and Revelation
The book of Acts continues Jesus’ story as portrayed in the Gospels. However, beginning with the angels’ announcement of Christ’s return and his ascension, the book of Acts shows that Christ is the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the ancient of Days. Peter’s sermon further shows that Christ was the promised Messiah of the Jews and that God had attested of this through incredible miraculous signs which he wrought during his earthily ministry. Furthermore, Christ is portrayed as both Lord and Savior and the giver of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is the Son of God and Lord of All, who will judge both the dead and the living. The book of Acts testifies greatly to the exaltation of Christ at the right hand of the throne of God, a theme that is well carried in the Pauline themes.
The epistles portray Christ as the giver of grace, salvation and God’s mercy. Christ the Righteous gives those who trust him a new life and righteousness that comes by faith. He adopts them as his brothers and part of his family. The author of Hebrews clearly portrays Christ to be far superior to the angels but having flesh and blood. Hebrews further shows Christ to be our Great High priest, intercessor, king and mediator of a better covenant. The Pauline epistles portray him as God in the flesh. In fact, in Christ dwells all the fullness of the godhead. Furthermore, Paul claims that Christ is the first begotten of the Father, the first born of all creation and the first to resurrect from the dead. Christ is the one who created all things and all powers in heaven, on earth and under the earth bows down to his rule.
Furthermore, the epistles stress the unique fact that Christ was both divine and human. He is the redeemer savior who purchased us with his own blood and satisfied God’s anger and justice obtaining for us an eternal salvation. To deny that Christ has come in the flesh is considered to be antichrist and Jesus is also portrayed as the mediator between God and man, our Advocate, Savior and Judge. This theme in the epistles seem to be the continuity of John’s theme were he portrays Christ as the judge and yet, to have him as savior is to pass from condemnation to life, but to reject him is to condemned.
Moreover, Christ is portrayed as the Chief cornerstone that was rejected by national Israel but has not turned to be their stumbling block. Both Peter and John portrays him as the Great shepherd, the chief shepherd and the bishop of our souls. The book of Revelation portrays Christ as the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Faithful and True Witness, the Amen, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the word of God. He is also the judge and preserver and is the lord of the churches. He is the Lamb of God that not only took our sins away but guarantees our salvation and eternal life in this world and the world to come. He is the one who starts all things and brings them to consummation. All things were created for his pleasure and one day, he will judge the nations and then usher in a new heaven and a new earth.
Jesus and the Old Testament Scriptures
At a casual glance of the Old Testament, one cannot afford to see Christ clearly. However, when read through the lenses of the New Testament, one cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that the Old Testament wrote and spoke about Christ. Firstly, the Old Testament speaks of Christ in types and shadows. The animal sacrifices, the offerings, the tabernacle and all its furnishings among others, all point to Christ and his future redemptive work which he completed in the New Testament. In many ways, it indicated the type of death and suffering that the Christ would suffer before entering into his glory and the blessings that would follow as he led his new creation into an eternal spiritual rest. New Testament writers ascribe certain events as fulfilled by or in Christ. For instance, Christ Himself said Moses wrought about him. Likewise, he argued that the religious leaders of his day rejected him because they were ignorant of the Scriptures.
Thus, it becomes evident that the Old Testament portrayed Christ in two ways. First, he would come and suffer for his people and bore our sins on the cross that in his death, he may ratify the new covenant, not with blood of animals but with a special body that God had prepared for him. Moreover, for this work to happen, he was going to be born of virgin and more than 300 prophecies about the Christ came from the Old Testament which were all fulfilled in Christ’ first coming. Several names and titles have been ascribed to Christ in the Old Testament which we see him taking in the New Testament. For instance, Isaiah had prophesied that He would be God with us. Jesus was often charged with blasphemy and receiving worship from man. But in the final analysis, Christ was the God-Man who walked this planet to redeem mankind. Secondly, the Old Testament spoke of the glory that would later come after the Jews had rejected their Messiah. First, it spoke of Gentiles being engrafted into national Israel. This is later understood by the New Testament writers to be the salvation that both Israel and Gentiles will get through Christ, the Seed of Abraham. Secondly, it portrays the second coming of Christ in bodily form at the consummation of the ages when he shall usher in a new kingdom of peace and righteousness. Thus, we can infer that though the Old Testament does not specifically speak of Christ as in the New Testament, it has many of its words, types and figures talking about him.
These are some of the things we know about Jesus from the Old Testament. First, he was going to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem Judah during the era of the Roman Empire; flew to Egypt and come back and stay in Nazareth. He would be a Jew, of the tribe of Judah and the house of David and would bring the gospel to the poor. However, he would be rejected and be betrayed by a close acquaintance, and would suffer a shameful death. However, God would not leave his body to rot in the grave neither did he allow his bones to be broken, and thus, in the sign of Jonah, he would rise from the dead after 3 days and 3 nights and he would ascend to heaven and return again at the end of the ages.
Jewish Expectations and Jesus’ Rejection
Clearly, we see that the Jews expected a political Messiah who would liberate them from domineering foreign occupants. When Jesus proved to be uninterested with the political stuff of the time, those who followed him became offended when they failed to make him king by force. Instead, he became a preacher of righteousness, peace and the coming of God’s kingdom preaching repentance and salvation to Israel. This in a sense contradicted the Jewish understanding of a political Messiah who would sit on David’s throne as a human being.
Surprisingly, even his disciples seemed to have lacked knowledge of Christ’s mission. As Jewish, they also hold to the assumptions of other Jews who sought independence from Rome. Having witnessed the miracles he did and even believe him to be a prophet, they had gone as far as acknowledging that He was God and the king of Israel. However, when he spoke of his passion and resurrection, the disciples seemed to have been confused, for they had no record of one who had risen from the dead. This is well indicated by the disciple’s return to their previous occupations after Christ’s death and resurrection prior to his ascension.
The day he ascended, they had even asked him when he would bring Israel’s kingdom back to its own people. We can infer that when James and John went to request places in Christ’s kingdom they had a physical kingdom in mind which angered the other disciples. Constant talk and quarrels about who will be the greatest in the kingdom could also be attributed to a lapse of judgment on Christ’s mission. They too anticipated a physical kingdom and a political Messiah.
When the Jews finally discovered that Christ was not what they anticipated as discussed above, they plotted against Him by gathering false witnesses to testify against Him. He had angered the Jewish religious leaders by claiming to be God’s Son which was interpreted as blasphemy. They finally thought of getting rid away of “this mad man” as they claimed. Yet, the book of Acts plainly tells us that it was in the predetermined counsel of God that the Messiah would be rejected by his own people, suffer and be killed, yet on the third day, he would rise again to purchase salvation for us as the Lamb of God. Thus, for God’s eternal purposes to be accomplished, God caused Christ to be born at the right time and allowed prophecy to be fulfilled.
The story of Jesus calls for faith. Unbelievers like ancient Israel, remains skeptical and reject God’s offer of grace through Christ. They seek to satisfy their religious ego by finding their own road-maps to heaven, yet, God has declared all other forms to be inadequate for salvation. Salvation is found in Christ alone, the way, the truth and the life. An unbeliever then has the choice, either to accept Christ and be saved, or to reject Christ and perish.