Who is Jesus?
Theme: Who exactly is Jesus and what is the source of His authority?
To read in the week of Nov 18, to prepare for Sunday, November 25 (TLW 47)
2 Samuel 23:1–7 — Final words from a renowned and godly ruler of Israel. David recalls God’s covenant with him and looks forward to a promised royal descendant
Daniel 7:9–10, 13–14 — the majesty of the Ancient of Days. A glimpse of heaven for Daniel who sees amid a myriad angels attending the throne of God the honouring of “one like a son of man”.
John 18:33–37 — Jesus is questioned by Pilate about who He is. Jesus explains that He is no political figurehead but His kind of kingdom is rooted elsewhere.
Revelation 1:4b-8 — The freedom to serve God as His priests now. Jesus, present from the beginning will return as the completion of truth
Also: Psalm 132:1–18
2 Samuel 23:1–7 — Final words from a renowned and godly ruler of Israel
David recalls God’s covenant with him and looks forward to a promised royal descendant
23 These are the last words of David:
‘The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs:
“The utterance of the man exalted” — testimony to God’s work through his life, having been raised up as king of Israel, from shepherd to ruler, 2 Samuel 7ff; like the Bible’s wisdom literature, what follows contrasts just rule in the fear of God with un righteous leadership.
2 ‘The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.
“Spoke through me” — not presumptuous, but in awe at God using Him prophetically.
3 The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me:
“When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God,
4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.”
“When one rules… in righteousness… in the fear of God” — in the style of a prophet, David sets out in bold strokes a picture of a God-centred ruler — unmistakably alluding to the One he foreshadowed, Jesus Christ.
5 ‘If my house were not right with God, surely He would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part;
surely He would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire.
“An everlasting covenant… secured in every part” — even though his household had failed God, David believes rightly that God’s promise recorded in 2 Sam. 7:12–16 will hold good with a descendant of David as the Eternal King, fulfilled in Jesus Christ when He return to rule in perfect justice and peace.
For further study, similar prophecies in Isaiah 11:1–10; Jeremiah 23:5–6; Jer. 33:15–18; Zech.9:9–10. Fulfilled in part, Matt. 4:14–16; Luke 24:25–27,44–49; John 5:45–47; John 8:28–29.
6 But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand.
7 Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie.’
“Thorns” — worthless but also dangerous, needing to be shifted with an weapon or implement. “Burned up”, literally ‘consumed with fire in the sitting’ or as we would say, on the spot. For God’s judgment as fire, see Isaiah 9;18; 10:17. The fate of the rebellious when the Messiah, in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant finally establishes His rule on earth, Isa. 63:1–6.
Daniel 7:9–10, 13–14 — the majesty of the Ancient of Days
A glimpse of heaven for Daniel who sees amid a myriad angels attending the throne of God the honouring of one like a son of man
9 ‘As I looked, ‘thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat.
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool;
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.
“The Ancient of Days” — pictures God as a king of great power and immense maturity giving judgment in court. The description symbolises His wisdom in white hair; righteousness by white clothing; and power in judgment, as fire. The description is similar to that of an angel in Matthew 28:3 and Jesus in Revelation 1:14.
10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him.
Thousands upon thousands attended Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
The court was seated, and the books were opened.
“Thousands attended” — a very great number of angelic beings stood before Him. John also recorded that there ‘thousands and millions”, i.e. too many to count, surrounding God’s throne and ministering to Him. Angels are spiritual beings created by God for worship and for mission (like us) who, largely unseen, help in carrying out God’s work on earth.
13–14 ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, [enash] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
“One like a son of man” — an Aramaic phrase ‘bar enash’ meaning a human being, a phrase used throughout Ezekiel e.g. Ezek. 2:1,3,6,8. But this appearance is clearly not a human being, but “one like a son of man”, a description that the various authors of the NT were quite sure referred to Jesus Christ and probably what was in Jesus’ mind when He used this of Himself, Matt. 8:20. Hence the translation used here. There is more than one time-frame in view. At the end of history, the NT references these verses to teach us that Christ will return, riding the clouds to finally confront evil and enforce its defeat.
For further study: Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7.
IN PRACTICE The first aspect of who God is comes through David’s final testimony about ruling in the fear of God, and Daniel’s picture of awe as he is given a prophetic insight into the heavenly court — and the Ancient of Days. At first living, and especially leading, in the fear of God looks like la high risk venture. Do we bring on ourselves fire and brimstone or other destruction if we get it wrong? The history of northern and then southern kingdoms of Israel falling, and the misery of people being enslaved in exile, underlines the cost of getting it wrong, but this is in the context of having rejected countless warnings and appeals by God’s prophets. However, remembering that the Bible teaches us plainly that God is love, and his overriding character qualities are mercy and truth, there is a truth here about whether we really know God, and as a consequence desire to live out His character. This is the fear of missing God best and God’s pleasure in us. For Christians, who come to know God personally through embracing Jesus, our grasp of the Lordship of Jesus on our lives and our church involvements is crucial. When relationships get strained, or vision confused, it is a fair assumption that what has slipped has been the awe, or fear, of God through knowing Him and loving His ways.
QUESTION Daniel’s vision of thousands and millions in the heavenly court was extraordinary and unrepeatable. What kinds of spiritual practice help us to have some sense of a glimpse of heaven and the majesty of the heavenly court?
John 18:33–37 — Jesus is questioned by Pilate about who He is
Jesus explains that He is no political figurehead, but His kind of kingdom is rooted elsewhere
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’
34 ‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about Me?’
“Are you…” — Pilate’s first words to Jesus are the same in each of the four gospels. There were two possible questions here with different political overtones — was Jesus a rebel leader in opposition to Roman rule, or was He the Jews’ religious leader, the Messiah?
35 ‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’
“Pilate replied” — he is exasperated, despising the Jews and their ways and not wanting to get involved with their affairts, yet seeing no real basis for their extreme animosity. Ironically, he ends up supporting their position in which we see God’s providence in allowing Jesus to be executed by being ‘lifted up’ and not by stoning, as Jews were inclined to do.
36 Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now My kingdom is from another place.’
37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.
Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me.’
“My kingdom is from another place” — heaven is the place of eternal and absolute truth. Jesus came as the Way, the Truth and the Life, John 14:6. Relationship with Him is the only way to God and the only means of that life-bringing truth being revealed — a conundrum for intellectual theologians because it is not logical or understandable. Jesus came as living truth for all who would receive Him. Pilate, a politician, considered all truth relative in the shifting sands of people’s opinions; however Jesus of Nazareth and his philosophical-sounding answer did not present as a threat to law and order.
IN PRACTICE The second aspect of who God is, concerns the Son of Man who Daniel sees in his vision, approaching the Ancient of Days. On earth this picture is recalled, ironically, as Jesus of Nazareth is brought before Pontius Pilate. The Roman governor Pilate was used to factions, pressure-groups and politics in general. Appointed as Prefect of the Roman province of Judea, he encountered the religious politics of Jews and Samaritans, eventually being recalled to Rome after complaints from both. So it is not surprising that when Jesus of Nazareth was brought before him by the Jews, he saw Him at first as yet another political activist. Jesus immediately corrected that perception with His statement: “My kingdom is from another place”. The lesson for us is that human politics on earth and heaven’s purposes follow different agendas. There are spiritual connections — and tensions — between the two. We often pray and expect answers as though the kingdom of God and our world dominated by man’s organisation and control were the same, but the reality is that we pray through Jesus, who is the king of “a kingdom not of this world”. The better we know Jesus, the more we will discern His kingdom, and the more clearly we’ll see the difference — and learn to live and pray in the right alignment with what He is doing.
PRAYER Lord, I say you are a king — the king, King Jesus, to whom all authority is given. Help me to hold less tightly the priorities that seem to apply on earth, and to begin to see matters from a different perspective — Your heavenly perspective.
Revelation 1:4b-8 — The freedom to serve God as His priests now
Jesus, present from the beginning, will return as the completion of truth
4 To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
“The seven churches” — the letters were addressed so they could be sent out and passed on via the Roman road which ran north of Ephesus and then in an arc inland and back towards Ephesus, connecting the Roman province called Asia in modern western Turkey.
Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,
“Seven spirits before His throne” — better, ‘sevenfold spirit’ as NIV footnote. The number seven symbolises completeness and perfection. There may also be an allusion to the ‘angels of the seven churches, Rev. 1:20.
5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
5–6 To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father — to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Who loves us… has freed us…has made us…” — stated as present-time blessings. There is a dimension of the kingdom of God (God’s reign bringing God’s order) which is not just anticipated when Jesus comes again, but in some measure experienced now.
“A kingdom and priests to serve” — here, clearly and simply, is set out the essential difference between the Old Covenant way of relating to God (rules, hierarchical and formal rituals, led by a special order of priests who make connections by proxy, with God who is holy and remote) and the New Covenant (freed from the burden and guilt of sin by Jesus’ blood and now able to draw close to God as those who know Him and know His love, to serve Him in worship and mission without intermediaries). The human tendency is to revert to what is more ordered and more controlled, requiring less personal investment and responsibility, which is why the New Covenant remains a challenge for much of the Christian church today. As Jesus taught, the ‘taste of the old wine’ seems preferable.
7 ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of Him.’ So shall it be! Amen.
8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’
“The Alpha and the Omega” — the alphabet is an ingenious way of representing knowledge through words. Christ, the Living Word, is supreme in this, ruling sovereignly over all human history including the part that for us has not yet unfolded.
“All peoples on earth will mourn” — rejoicing at the return of the Messiah by those that are His, swept up in the air to meet Him, 1 Thess. 4:16–17. Others, the ones still on earth, mourning their sin and judgment. The combined quotation headlines the theme of Revelation, the sweepingly majestic yet human-related Lord, Daniel 7:13 who evokes both the sorrow of sin in the face of One so holy but also finding grace, Zechariah 12:10.
IN PRACTICE The third aspect of who Jesus is, also says a lot about who we are.. Not only does His shed blood remind us powerfully of His love for us, we are reminded of the power of His blood in freeing us from sin, and from the subtle accusations of the enemy trying to gain a point of access into our thought lives. Why does this matter? It is because the Son of God enthroned in the heavenly court needs those who have stood at the Cross, who have given their pride and their self-sufficiency to Him, to be His partners in bringing His Kingdom. That is why He has conferred a new kind of priesthood on all He knows as His, a holy community where His rule and authority enriches life and relationships. It’s the priesthood of believers, of fellowship in the Great High Priest — the highest distinction. It’s easy to look around and see, where the believers are bringing the presence of Jesus and making a difference in the world. It looks different from the stereotype of the institutional church. These are the ones who know they have been freed, who know they are loved, and who are serving him in worship and mission through transformed lives.
QUESTION What is meant by priesthood in the post-resurrection New Testament? What should we call those who are set apart and trained as preachers, shepherds and leaders in the church?
PRAYER Lord God Almighty, may we grow in loving You and walking in awe of You, as we seek to represent You to our world, and bring the needs of our world to You.
This post in booklet form to print out for your church, respecting ©2018 The Living Word/Ian Greig
Originally published at The Living Word.