Who is the Christ?
The obvious answer is Jesus.
But, as I wrote in my two previous posts, the New Testament seems to clearly provide a distinction between Jesus and the Christ based on its language. Further, while the gospels seem to be about Jesus because “Jesus” is the overwhelming focus of the stories, their structure actually reveals the writers were really focusing on “Christ.”
So, is the obvious answer that the Christ is Jesus the best and most complete answer to the question “Who is the Christ?”
Galatians 3.28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus was a Jew and not a Greek. But, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek.
Jesus was a slave and not free. But, in Christ, there is neither slave nor free.
Jesus was male and female. But, in Christ, there is neither male or female.
So, when we answer the question “Who is the Christ?” with Jesus, we have unnecessarily and artificially limited the Christ to a Jewish male slave. But, the Christ is not just a Jewish male slave. The Christ includes all people. So, our vision of the Christ tends to be too small.
So, who is the Christ?
Romans 16.25 says, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages.”
According to Ephesians 1.9, God is “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.”
Ephesians 3.4 says, “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.”
In Ephesians 5.32, Paul says “this mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
Colossians 2.1-2 tells us that Paul struggled for his newly created communities so “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.”
In Colossians 4.3, Paul asks the churches he planted to pray for him and his co-workers “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.”
Jesus was a Jewish man that lived like a slave under King Herod and the Roman Empire. Jesus’ life is attested to by many ancient writers. It’s actually quite shocking how much is written about Jesus outside of the New Testament given who Jesus was. Therefore, Jesus is fairly well known.
But, the Christ?
As the scriptures above declared, the Christ is a mystery. But, there is something we can definitively say about who the Christ is.
So, who is the Christ?
In Matthew 22.34-46 (Mark records a similar account in Mark 12.28-37), Jesus is engaged in discussion with the Pharisees. Jesus had just silenced the Sadducees, but one of the Pharisees, a lawyer, asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And, he says there is a second commandment – to love your neighbor as yourself – that is like the first. All of the law and prophets depend on these two commandments.
Having given this answer, Jesus asks the Pharisees a question. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” Jesus didn’t ask them “Who am I?” or “Who do people say that I am?” His question has clued them the Pharisees in to the fact that he is the Christ. And, Jesus has clued the Pharisees in to the fact that he is a son. The question is whose son?
The Pharisees respond that Jesus is “the son of David.” There are several instances in Matthew, the gospel of Jesus as king, where Jesus is referred to as the son of David. But, take note of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees answer that he is the son of David. “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet?”‘ If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
Jesus did not affirm the Pharisees’ answer that he was the son of David. Rather, Jesus calls that answer in to question. For, if Jesus was the son of David, why would David call Jesus Lord? Since David called Jesus Lord, Jesus indicated he must be someone else’s son. So, he asked the Pharisees how he was David’s son. And, the Pharisees had no answer.
Why did Jesus not affirm that he was the son of David even though the Jews called him that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke?
I believe because David was a man of war. Speaking of David, 1 Samuel 16.18 says, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” As a man of war, David was deemed to be like the Lord because Exodus 15.3 says, “The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name.”
However, because David was a man of war, David was not allowed to build a temple for God. In 1 Chronicles 22.8, David says to Solomon, “But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth.”
We should pay careful attention to the fact that Matthew records the Pharisees’ declaration that Jesus is the son of David, and therefore a man of war, immediately after Jesus says the two greatest commandments are love for God and neighbor and that indeed all the law and prophets depend upon love. Therefore, by not affirming the Pharisees’ answer that he is the son of David, Jesus is rejecting the notion that he is a man of war because he is rejecting that he is the son of David, meaning that he is like David and will act like David. The Jews expected the Christ to be a king like David. But, Jesus is telling the Pharisees that the Christ does not wage war and does not shed blood. For, if the Christ did those things, then he would not be able to build a house for God.
Interestingly, Jesus is not called the son of David in the gospel of John, and it will become clear why in a moment and in future posts. Further, the phrase “son of David” is never used in the New Testament outside of the first three gospels. Jesus, in physical lineage, may have been the son of David, but in reality, in truth, as the Christ he was not David’s son.
If Jesus is not the son of David, then whose son is the mysterious Christ?
In Matthew 16.16 , Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Mark 1.1 says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
When Jesus laid his hands on people and healed them, Luke 4.41 says the “demons also came out of many, crying, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.”
In John 11.27, Martha said, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
John tells in John 20.31 that he wrote his book “so that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” John’s entire gospel was written to reveal that Jesus was the son of God, which is why the phrase “son of David” is never used by John.
Jesus is the mysterious Christ, the son of God. The Christ, the son of God, is far bigger, far grander, far more marvelous than a Jewish male slave.
When was the son of God begotten?
What does it mean that the Christ is the son of God?
What was the significance of the early Christian proclamation that Christ was the son of God?
These questions will be explored in upcoming posts.