The “Who” of the Christ/the Cross
Who is Jesus?
As we step into the New Testament, we see that the promises of the covenants are still burning in people’s hearts and minds (see, e.g., Lk. 1-2, 24). When would God do what he had solemnly sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? When would he fulfill his promises concerning Israel’s restoration and the salvation of the nations? When would he raise the dead to life? When would he act on behalf of and in faithfulness to his promise to King David? When would he establish the new and everlasting covenant of peace that he had promised? Would God really do what he had said he would do? Were the promises truly reliable? In first-century Israel, many years after the promises of the covenants had been made, a Jew named Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew), from a small town called Nazareth, appeared on the scene doing amazing miracles, freeing people from demonic oppression, teaching with authority, and making stunning claims about his identity, mission, and purpose. While some in Israel loved Jesus and followed him as disciples, others hated him and eventually had him put to death. Jesus’ death, however, was not the end of the story. According to his disciples, two days after his crucifixion, on the “third day” (Mt. 17:23), God raised Jesus from the dead, thereby vindicating his innocence, affirming the truth of his teaching and claims, and confirming the dependability of the promises of the covenants.
According to the New Testament, Jesus is the very Savior of the world, the promised king, or “Messiah” (see “The ‘What’ of the Christ/the Cross” below), through whose first coming the new covenant has been established and the reliability of God’s covenant promises dramatically confirmed. Jesus’ name means “the Lord saves” (Mt. 1:21, NIV footnote), and it is he alone in whom salvation and deliverance from the curse (see “Curse”) is found (Ac. 4:12). On the human level Jesus was (and still is) a descendant of Adam (Lk. 3:38), a “son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1), and a “son of David” (Mt. 1:1). However, Jesus was not merely a human being. Although it is too wonderful for finite human minds to comprehend, the testimony of the Scriptures is that Jesus the Messiah is not only fully man, but fully God as well. Jesus claimed as much for himself (see, e.g., Jn. 8:58), and his resurrection vindicates his claim and validates its truth. Because the promised Messiah is fully God, he has the power, authority, and ability to save us, and he is worthy of worship. Because he is fully human, he is able to save us in all respects—body, mind, soul, will, emotions, etc.—and can serve as a merciful and faithful high priest, knowing as he does what it means to suffer and able to help us in our times of weakness and temptation (see Heb. 2:14-18). For our sake he left his glory behind, took on the nature or form of a servant, and suffered what the people of his day considered an utterly humiliating and shameful death (see Php. 2:6-11). As a result, God the Father “highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Php. 2:9, ESV). At present Jesus is at the Father’s right hand in the highest heaven (see “The ‘Where’ of Creation”), representing his people, presenting appeals to the Father on their behalf (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7), and, through the Holy Spirit whom he has poured out on them, cleansing and preparing them for the day of his glorious return, when all the promises of the covenants will be fulfilled (see, e.g., Rm. 8:27; Eph. 1:20-23, 5:25-27; Php. 1:9-11).