Talking about Jesus can be like talking about toothpaste. There are so many flavors and variations – with whitening, without fluoride, with deity, without miracles. Though there can only be one historical Jesus, there are many thoughts and opinions about who Jesus really was.
Jesus Wasn’t a Nice Guy
I used to think Jesus was a nice guy who only taught people to love one another – he wasn’t God and he didn’t do miracles. What I didn’t realize was my view had no historical support. The New Testament writers and early Christians clearly understood Jesus to be a miracle-working God in human flesh. Even Christianity’s opponents corroborate New Testament details about Jesus. They said: Christians worshiped Jesus as to a God, Jesus was sentenced to death by a Roman official named Pontius Pilate, he had supernatural powers, and was a traveling preacher.
If you read what the Bible says about Jesus, what you’ll find is a guy who sounds completely bonkers – unless he is God. Jesus quoted Old Testament passages about God and said they were about him. If you read a story in the Bible where religious leaders are freaking out and yelling at Jesus, it’s likely Jesus has just made a statement the culture of the time understood as a claim to be God.
Jesus Gives Us Few Options about His Identity
If Jesus wasn’t God then:
- He really believed he was God – he was a wacko
- He knew he wasn’t God – he was a really good liar and a grade A jerk-face.
- He was seriously misquoted, misunderstood, or was completely fictional – which is too bad, because he was the kind of God-man I would like to hang out with.
What is THE Gospel?
Christians throw the word “gospel” around a lot. It’s often used to communicate, “This is what you need to know so you can go to heaven.” Though that is an aspect of it, I want to flesh it out for you, because the gospel is really all about Jesus.
In both the Jewish and Roman contexts of the first century, the word “gospel” was understood to mean good news of a new king or emperor coming to power. This divine ruler and savior would bring hope and restoration to his kingdom. The gospel is the joyful announcement that Jesus has become the ultimate savior and divine king of a kingdom with authority and power to make right of everything which is wrong. Jesus’ life and teaching and everything the Bible says about him point to this good news. The rest of this article will flesh out the gospel, this good news for us.
How Jesus Became King
Jesus is the king of this kingdom by virtue of his true identity as God, his birth, the perfect life he lived, his death, and his bodily resurrection from the dead. Since Jesus is a victorious king over our brokenness and death, he now provides a way for weary and hurting people to escape the kingdom of death and become citizens of his kingdom of life. Citizenship is freely given to those who humbly recognize their need for Jesus and trust him. This is why Jesus—who he is, and what he’s done—is so important. To understand this better read the article Diagnosed with Being Human.
Christ’s Kingdom: Phase One
Christ’s kingdom is currently a spiritual reality where its citizens experience God’s love, forgiveness, rest, guidance, healing, protection, joy, peace, and power over brokenness. Christ’s citizens are given meaning, purpose, and community. This kingdom is characterized by people who share the good news of Jesus, help the poor, protect the vulnerable, and experience peace and joy.
Christ’s Kingdom: Phase Two
When Jesus returns to the earth a second time, his kingdom will be a spiritual and physical reality where the healing that began in phase one is complete. God’s rescued people will be completely whole, immortal, and enjoy God face-to-face. Jesus will put an end to the current kingdom of brokenness, disease, and death; and the earth will be fully restored to a perfect, eternal paradise for his people.
Explore Your Perspective:
- Who do you think the historical Jesus really was?
- Where do your ideas about Jesus and his life come from?
- Which aspects of Christ’s kingdom sound most and least appealing to you? Why?