1. What Jesus said about Himself and what His Contemporaries said about Him
At all times we find people who have a high opinion about themselves. We may also know people of whom others have a high regard. Sometimes both, one’s own opinion and the appreciation by others are matching. People like Mohammed Ali, who claimed to be “the greatest”, Gaddhafi or Achebe, the famous Nigerian writer may come to our mind.
Am I right when I suggest that true greatness is always coupled with true humility? And this quality is hardly ever found among the heroes we admire. The crowds do not expect this any way. Of Jesus we read that He “made Himself nothing, taking [on himself] the very nature of a servant (‘doulos’ = slave)” (Phil. 2:7). In the same text we also read that “he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (vs. 8). We must not forget: Jesus is the Son of God! God need not die! But when coming to our earth, He chose to be like us. Is not this true humility?
Christ explained this to His disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (nations) lord over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them”. Don’t we know how that works!? Jesus then continues: ‘The Son of Man (compare Dan. 7:13) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:15.28). He proved this in very real terms. We all know this moving account: “…he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water into a basin and began washing his disciples feet” (John 13:4-5). Just imagine it was you!
Whenever He performed a miracle or an act of healing, He commanded the people not to talk about it. He did not want to become popular as a benefactor, a welfare worker.
When Jesus walked on the water or stilled the storm, people wondered “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41). Such authority gives man credibility. Can we listen to such a person and believe him, even if he makes totally extraordinary claims? Since we know that the life of our Lord Jesus, including some of His miracles and particularly His divine origin (Isa. 7:14; 9:6) have been foretold in the OT, we have the guarantee of truthfulness, which was underlined by the miracles He did. We need not hesitate to believe Him fully.
What did He disclose about Himself – and why? The last question is easily answered: That we may believe what He said about Himself, so that we may accept Him as our Saviour. Let us now look and marvel at what He said about Himself:
“I am the Light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
I am the gate [of heaven]; whoever enters through me will be saved …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep follow me… I lay down my life for the sheep… 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… I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish… I and the Father are one” (John 10:126.96.36.199).
“Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
“They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am” (Luke 22:70).
“If the Son sets you free [from sin], you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36)
I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world… if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins!” (John 8:23-24).
“I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I was dead, and look; I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17- 18). ‘
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you! And surely [then] I will be with you always, to the very end of the age!” (Matt.28:18-20).
A captain of the Roman army, who witnessed His death exclaimed: Surely, he was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54).
Are we at all surprised to find a man from the Jewish Temple guard concludes: “No man ever spoke like this man does!” (John 7:46).
Surely we all have to agree!