What is it that makes a person realize who Jesus is?
It’s interesting to look in the Bible at the events, the circumstances, the words and the sights that convince people of Jesus’ true identity: not just a rabbi, not just a teacher, but God in the flesh.
It’s not what you would expect. Wouldn’t you think that a spectacular miracle would do it? Jesus demonstrating His omnipotent power should make it all clear who Jesus really is. But from what we read in the Bible the opposite seems to be true
- Wouldn’t seeing 5 000 people fed from one boy’s lunch convince you of Jesus true nature? Instead everyone who saw that miracle was prepared to take Jesus, almost against his will (~John 6: 15!~)and make Him in to the King they wanted. (Matt. 14: 14 -22; Mark 6: 32 – 44; Luke 9: 10 – 17; John 6: 1 – 13)
- Caught in a fierce storm Jesus stops the wind and the waves at once with a word, “Silence!”. Not only does this not convince the disciples, they appear even less sure of who he really is: “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” (Matt. 8: 23 – 27; Mark 4: 36 – 41; Luke 8: 22 – 25)
- Much as I love the story of Jesus kicking all the money changers out of the temple (Matt. 21: 12 – 16; Mark 11: 15 – 19; Luke 19: 45 – 47; John 2: 13 – 16), no one came away from that convinced of Jesus authority. In fact, Jesus critics questionned his authority all the more.
Instead it is in the small things, the gentle ways that Jesus wins people. Although His words were a powerful witness, His kindness and compassion spoke even louder to those who had not seen such things before. His revelation comes to those around Him like a sparkling surprise throughout the New Testament story:
And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
With just mind boggling irony, Jesus’ death on the cross, specifically the way He died convinced one of the most cynical witnesses of His crucifixions. The Roman Soldier on guard that day had undoubtedly seen hundreds, perhaps thousands of crucifixions. He had seen spitefull rage and self absorbed agony on the faces and lips of a host of unfortunate victims, but this soldier had never seen anything like Jesus.
Jesus’ compassionate response to the thief on the cross beside Him, His consideration of His own mother, His request of forgiveness for His tormentors and His prayers could not be explained. No man on earth would die like this. The soldier stared up at this man with a gaping mouth and gasped, ‘Surely this man is the Son of God.’
…when he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. …
Being a logical thinker surely, if I had been there I would have been persuaded by reason. Someone could have shown me in the Scriptures how Jesus had to be the one; how he was uniquely qualified to be the Messiah. And yet in Luke 24: 13 – 35 we read about two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other likely his wife. Many scholars suggest that this could be the same Cleopas mentioned in John 19:25 (in which case his wife’s name is Mary) but no one knows for sure.
Either way it has been suggested that these two heard one of the greatest sermons ever preached on the way to Emmaus. Luke records that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. ” (Luke 24: 27) What an education! Surely that would convince them. Never-the-less Jesus ‘gives himself away’ by the way he serves. Despite being a guest in this couple’s house it is Jesus who takes the place of the host. It is Jesus who blesses the bread and breaks it. Perhaps there was something about the way he did that. These two disciples were suddenly dumbstruck! There he was: Jesus the Messiah, right in front of them all along.
Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20: 27-28
Thomas gets such a rough treatment and I think that is too bad. Thomas isn’t so much a doubter as he is a pessimist. When Jesus says that He will be returning to Jerusalem; where they had just barely escaped with their lives it is Thomas who says, ” Let us go too so that we may die with him!” (John 11: 16). This guy is a downer not a doubter.
What is it that convinces Thomas? Overwhelming physical evidence. Want to convince a skeptic about someone being raised from the dead? A walking talking body will do the trick nicely.
This confession of Thomas’s is the climax of John’s gospel. Everything seems to be leading up to it. In writing it John seems to be of the opinion that we are to see something in Thomas’s confession – his journey – that relates to ours. Thomas saw miracles that would boggle the mind. He heard Jesus speak, he asked questions and heard answers and yet it wasn’t until Jesus confronted him that he had to really put it together. Jesus’ bold confrontation, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25 – 26) In an answer to His own question Jesus proves his own claim: ‘If I can raise myself back from the dead surely I can raise you.’
Here is where we come into the picture. We cannot do miracles and yet, just like Jesus we can demonstrate God’s compassion and care through how we respond to others. It is through our responses that people will see how Jesus has changed us.
Study is great and yet all the intellectual knowledge in the world about Jesus will not truly break through quite like the sight of a servant. A person serving for no purpose but to glorify God is a earth-shaking demonstration of the power of God.
No matter how skeptical, or cautious a person is, we can lovingly confront anyone with the physical evidence of Jesus resurrection. Historians (secular and otherwise) are unanimous in agreeing that a man named Jesus lived and had followers in the 1st century A.D. Jewish historian Josephus and Tacitus, a Roman historian both independently record that He lived and He and was crucified. (More on that here)
Believers in the 1st century right from the beginning believed that Jesus was God in the flesh and rose from the dead. People continue to believe that to this day. Believers of Jesus today are invited to be a part of sharing this message today, by challenging friends and family with the truth that ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’