Who Is Jesus?

The Past Work of Christ: Prophet, Servant of God

Prophet

In the Old Testament, God almost never dealt directly with his covenant people Israel. Rather, he made use of mediators, or "go-betweens," to do so. The three mediatorial offices in the Old Testament were those of prophet (who spoke the Word of God), king (who governed as God's representative), and priest (who mediated access between God and the worshiping community).

The New Testament makes it clear that many Jews believed Jesus to be a great prophet (Luke 7:16, Matt. 21:46). Some even believed he was Elijah (Mark 6:15), who was regarded as "the Prophet" who would appear at the end of this present evil age, prior to the judgment of the nations and the deliverance of Israel (Mal. 4:5). Jesus did not regard himself as this Elijah-style eschatological prophet, though he did describe himself as a prophet (Mark 6:4, Matt. 23:37). For this reason the Church has traditionally viewed Jesus' earthly prophetic work as one of the three mediatorial offices of Christ.

Servant of God

The title "Servant of God" (Hebrew: ebed Yahweh) was one which Jesus applied to himself. He saw himself as a servant who would suffer and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Both the words of Jesus and the testimony of the early Church in Jerusalem indicate that Jesus saw himself as fulfilling the "suffering Servant" prophecies of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (see Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27, 30; and especially 8:32-35). The fact that Jesus defined his messiahship in terms of Isaiah's suffering Servant stands in contrast to the messianic expectations of his Jewish countrymen, who did not expect the Messiah to suffer a vicarious death on behalf of his people (as per Isa. 53:4-6) and therefore did not see Isaiah's suffering Servant as a messianic prophecy.

The Future Work of Christ: King, Son of Man

King

The sort of Messiah expected by Jesus' contemporaries could rightly be called a king. The Magi who visited the baby Jesus, for example, inquired of Herod as to the birth-place of the "King of the Jews" (Matt. 2:2) showing that they were familiar with the Jewish messianic tradition at this point. Jesus' disciple Nathaniel likewise referred to Jesus as "the King of Israel" (John 1:49).

First-century Jews spoke of this royal Messiah as the "Son of David" (see Matt. 22:42). This title became part of Jewish tradition during the intertestamental period, when Jerusalem and Judea were successively under the governance of Persia, Greece, Syria, and Rome. Jews under foreign occupation came to anticipate their future Messiah as a military warrior-king, like King David of old, who would deliver Israel from her enemies and usher in the future age of righteousness ("the coming kingdom of our father David," Mark 11:10).

In light of these militaristic messianic expectations, as well as the fact that Jesus defined his mission on earth as one of a humble suffering Servant, it is not surprising that he avoided using the royal title"Son of David" of himself. He did acknowledge it when blind Bartimaeus called out to him, "Son of David, have mercy on me" (Mark 10:47-48). But soon after that Jesus went out of his way to distance himself from this title (Mark 12:35).

Son of Man

The title which Jesus did use of himself most frequently was "Son of Man." Like "Son of David," this was an eschatological title pointing towards the coming of a Messiah who would deliver Israel and usher in a new age of righteousness. Unlike the former title, however,"Son of Man" referred to a heavenly being who would come down to earth from the clouds at the end of the age to judge the nations.

Jesus almost certainly used this title in the sense of Daniel 7:13. The prophet Daniel saw a vision of such a heavenly being, whom he spoke of as"one like a son of man" (who looked like a man). It is important here to stress that according to this tradition the Messiah would look human, but would be an immortal heavenly being. The fact that Jesus, who told his followers that he would die, nevertheless called himself "Son of Man" created a conundrum for some of his listeners (as indicated by John 12:34, "Who is this [dying!] 'Son of Man'?").

At the same time, Jesus saw himself as the one who would indeed come down from heaven to judge the earth at the end of the age (Matt. 24-25 and parallels). This, then, was part of the mystery of his Messiahship. There would be two advents of Messiah: the first in mundane humility; the second in celestial glory.

A Harmony of the Gospels

A Harmony of the Gospels is designed to give a comparative, comprehensive,and thorough study of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

To make it possible to study more accurately, to give a clearer insight into his message and to effect a deeper imprint on mind and heart are the objectives of this section.

  Matt. Mark Luke John
Part I. Introductory Statements
1. Luke's Historical Introduction 1:1-4 1:1-4
2. John's Theological Introduction 1:1-18 1:1-18
3. Matthew's and Luke's Genealogical Introduction 1:1-17 3:23-38
Part II. The Birth and Youth of John the Baptist and Jesus
4. The Annunciation to Zacharias
Place: Jerusalem
1:5-25
5. The Annunciation to the Virgin Mary
Place: Nazareth
1:26-38
6. Songs of Elizabeth and Mary
Place: Judea
1:39-56
7. Birth and Youth of John the Baptist
Place: Judea
1:57-80
8. The Annunciation to Joseph
Place: Nazareth
1:18-25
9. The Birth of Jesus
Place: Bethlehem
2:1-7
10. The Angel and Shepherds
Place: Near Bethlehem
2:8-20
11. Circumcision and Naming of Jesus
Place: Bethlehem
2:21
12. The Presentation in the Temple
Place: Jerusalem
2:22-38
13. The Visit of the Wise Men
Places: Jerusalem, Bethlehem
2:1-12
14. Flight to Egypt and Return to Nazareth
Places: Nazareth, Egypt
2:13-23 2:39
15. His Youth in Nazaretha nd Visit to Jerusalem
Places: Nazareth, Jerusalem
2:40-52