What Jesus Said About Himself
Jesus preached the kingdom of God. However, the early church preached mostly about Jesus. Is there a contradiction in this? Did the early church get things turned around, preaching about the messenger but neglecting his message? Let's go back to the four Gospels to see whether the early church's focus on Jesus is compatible with Jesus' own teaching. Did Jesus actually preach about himself?
|Matthew 7:21-24 "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' 24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.|
1. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, how does Jesus describe the people who enter the kingdom of God? Matt. 7:21-23. Is it appropriate to call Jesus Lord? Is it appropriate to do good works in his name? What else is needed? Verse 21. In verse 23, who is acting as Judge? Whose words are we to put into practice? Verse 24.
Comment: Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke with personal authority. People are blessed or not blessed in relation to him. He set his own words on the same level as Scripture. He said that people must not only obey the Father, but they must also put Jesus' words into practice.
|MT 9:2 Some men brought to him a paralytic,
lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take
heart, son; your sins are forgiven."
MT 9:3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!"
MT 9:4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Get up and walk'? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." 7 And the man got up and went home.
2. Did Jesus claim to be able to forgive sins? Matt. 9:2-6. Did he heal for the specific purpose of showing this authority?
Comment: I can forgive the sins that are committed against me, but I do not have authority to forgive someone of the sins they commit against someone else. But Jesus claims to forgive all sins, even in terms of a person's relationship to God.
In this passage, Jesus is teaching something about himself. This is one aspect of the message God the Father wanted Jesus to preach: that forgiveness comes through Jesus Christ. This means that entry into the kingdom is through Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God is good news only for those who accept Jesus' authority.
|MT 10:32 "Whoever acknowledges me before
men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever
disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
10:42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
11:22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
11:24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
MT 11:27 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
MT 12:5 Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
MT 12:41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.
MT 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" 14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
MT 16:16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
MT 18:18 "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
MT 19:28 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
MT 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
MT 21:16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, `From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"
PS 8:2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
MT 24:30 "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
MT 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
MT 25:34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
MT 25:41 "Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
MT 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
3. If a person does not accept Jesus, how will that affect
the person's relationship with God? Matt. 10:32-33. Is Jesus claiming to be Judge
of our eternity? Does Jesus promise eternal rewards? Verse 42. Does he pronounce
judgments about the future? Matt. 11:22. Which is worse—the sin of Sodom, or the
sin of rejecting Jesus? Verse 24.
4. What did Jesus claim about his own knowledge and authority? Matt. 11:27. Did he claim to be more important than Solomon, more important than Jonah, more important than the temple, more important than the Sabbath? Matt. 12:5-8, 41-42.
Comment: As part of his mission, Jesus claimed an authority and knowledge that was much greater than any other person had. He claimed to be the key to eternal life in the kingdom of God. He was teaching about himself.
5. Did Jesus want his disciples to know who he was? Matt. 16:13-15. Did God the Father want them to know? Verses 16-17. Did Jesus have authority to give the keys to the kingdom of God? Verse 19. Is obedience to Jesus more important than life itself? Verse 25.
Comment: If an ordinary person said this, we would consider him either crazy or a dangerous cult leader. But Jesus said it about himself. He was extraordinary.
Jesus preached the kingdom of God, but he also preached about himself as the decisive factor as to whether a person is living in the kingdom. For the gospel to be communicated accurately, it is essential that people know about who Jesus is and what he taught.
6. Jesus called himself the Son of Man. Did he also claim that he would have the Father's glory? Matt. 16:27. Would he also be the Judge, the one who gives eternal rewards? Did he claim to give authority to his disciples? Matt. 18:18; 19:28. If Jesus can give that kind of authority, does it imply that he has even more authority than that—more than heaven and earth?
7. Did Jesus claim that his life was worth more than all other people? Matt. 20:28. Did he take a psalm about God and apply it to himself? Matt. 21:16; Psalm 8:2. Does he claim to have angels, whom he can send throughout the universe? Matt. 24:30-31. Does he claim that his words are infallible, greater than the universe? Verse 35.
Comment: These claims are astonishing in scope. Jesus is teaching that he is as great as God.
8. In a parable, Jesus again claimed to be the Judge, sitting on a throne in heavenly glory. Will he control the eternity of all human beings? Matt. 25:31-32.
Will he have authority to give eternal life in the kingdom of God? Verse 34.
Will he have the authority to condemn people? Verse 41.
9. Did Jesus claim to institute a new covenant between God and his people? Matt. 26:28. Does this covenant bring forgiveness? Whose blood made it possible?
Comment: Jesus taught that he was the sacrifice that enabled people to live in the kingdom of God, the ransom that could set them free. He claimed to do this by his death, and yet he also claimed that he would live forever. In all these things, Jesus was teaching something about himself.
|MT 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said,
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go
and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything
I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of
LK 10:19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
LK 22:29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me
LK 23:43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
LK 24:49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
LK 19:41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."
LK 22:70 They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am."
LK 24:44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
10. Does Jesus again claim universal authority? Matt. 28:18. Does he put himself on the same level as the Father? Verse 19. Does he put his own commands on the same level as the Father's? Verse 20. Does he claim to be present with believers throughout the world and throughout the ages?
11. Did Jesus give his disciples power over all things? Luke 10:19. Did he claim authority to give the kingdom of God and to give the highest positions? Luke 22:29. Even on the cross, did he claim authority to judge whether a person would be saved? Luke 23:43. Did he have the authority to send the power of God? Luke 24:49.
12. When Jesus approached Jerusalem, did he equate his own coming with "the time of God's coming"? Luke 19:41-44. Did he acknowledge being the Son of God? Luke 22:70. Did he claim to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures? Luke 24:44. Was this what he taught before his crucifixion, too? Same verse, first part.
Comment: The first-century Jews were looking forward to an earthly kingdom, with land, laws, king and subjects. If Jesus preached this kind of kingdom, most people would have found it normal, and certainly not objectionable.
But Jesus caused a big stir by the things he taught about himself. This was what caused the Jewish leaders to accuse him of blasphemy and to crucify him. This was an important part of his message.
13. Jesus' identity is much more explicit in the Gospel of John. What does he claim about himself? John 3:13-16, 35.
|JN 3:13 No one has ever gone into heaven
except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted
up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone
who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not
perish but have eternal life.
35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
JN 5:17 Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
JN 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
5:25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
6:27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
JN 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
JN 8:58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
10:17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
30 I and the Father are one."
JN 14:9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'? 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
Did his audience understand that he was claiming to be equal to God? John 5:17-19.
Can the Son give eternal life? Verse 21.
Is he the Judge of the world? Verse 22.
Should Jesus be honored in the same way as the Father—which is with worship? Verse 23.
14. Did Jesus teach that he had life within himself? John 5:25.
Is he the one who gives eternal life? John 6:27.
Is he the one who raises the dead? Verse 40.
Is eternal life uniquely dependent on the flesh of Jesus? Verse 51.
Is he the key to eternal life? John 11:25-26.
15. Did Jesus teach that he existed before Abraham? John 8:58.
That he had glory with God before the world began? John 17:5.
That he is able to resurrect himself? John 10:18.
That he is equal with God? Verse 30.
That he is the perfect representation of what God is? John 14:9-10.
Comment: Jesus did not begin his sermons with, "Let me tell you about how great I am." Nevertheless, in his preaching and teaching, Jesus often taught about himself. He taught that he had an extraordinary greatness, and our eternal future hinges on whether we accept him for who he is. He is the key to the kingdom. We must believe in him before we can experience his forgiveness and life in his kingdom.
Jesus' disciples didn't always understand what Jesus taught. He often chided them for being slow of heart and of little faith. They did not understand Jesus' role as Savior until after the resurrection. They seem to have misunderstood who he was, despite all the things that he taught. And there were some things that he specifically told them to be quiet about until after his resurrection (Mark 9:9).
After Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles, they understood much more about Jesus and his kingdom. They were inspired to see even more clearly that Jesus' teachings about himself were of supreme importance.
People can have many misunderstandings about the kingdom and still be saved, but the crucial thing for them to experience salvation is whether they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. He is the most important part of the message. People need to know about Jesus.
Jesus taught about his own death and resurrection, and that forgiveness was available through belief in him. That also formed the focus of the preaching of the early church in the book of Acts. The apostles did not contradict their Master. What we see is continuity and greater clarity, not contradiction. The gospel focuses on who Jesus is and what he did so that we might be saved in God's kingdom.
When we compare the different sermons in the book of Acts, we see different ways to preach the gospel. When we see the different parables and sayings of Jesus, we also see a variety of ways to preach the gospel of salvation. When we examine the letters of Paul, which we will do in our next study, we will again see some differences, as well as continuity in the most important points.