Symbolon #5: Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? Today most people agree that Jesus was a historical figure, a first- century Jew who was crucified by the Romans in the city of Jerusalem. Many would even agree that he offered some good moral teachings such as “love your neighbour,” “turn the other cheek,” and “don’t judge.” However, the idea that Jesus is not just a moral or spiritual teacher, but God himself, is as controversial now as it was in Jesus’ own time. It’s much easier to put Jesus into the same category as Buddha, or Mohammed, or Confucius—a spiritual messenger, a prophet, a philosopher, but certainly not divine.

However, that is exactly what Christians profess in the Creed—“I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.” Jesus is not just someone sent from God; he himself is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.”

This is not just something the early Christians invented. Jesus himself made the claim to divinity. If Jesus is not God, then, as C.S. Lewis famously noted, he is either a liar or a madman. But the fact that he did say that he was God, the I AM of the Old Testament, means that each of us is challenged to make a decision about what we believe. The question Jesus asked the apostles, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29) is the same question he asks each of us throughout the centuries. How we answer his question makes all the difference for our lives. It is the fundamental decision each one of us must make—a decision that will last throughout eternity.

Summary

  • God spoke to his people through the prophets during the Old Testament times, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1–2; CCC 65).
  • In the fullness of time, the divine Son of God became incarnate, meaning that he took on human flesh. In doing so, he assumed human nature without losing his divine nature (CCC 479).
  • Jesus Christ is not part God, part man. He is truly God and truly man, in the unity of his divine person (CCC 464).
  • Because Jesus is both God and man, he is the one and only mediator between God and man (CCC 480).
  • The Son of God became man in order to save us by reconciling us with God, so that we might know God’s love, to be our model of holiness, and to make us partakers of the divine nature (CCC 457–460).
  • Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is one divine person who possesses two natures. He has a divine nature and a human nature, which are united in the one divine person. This mystery of Christ is the profound union of the divine and human natures in the one person of the Son (CCC 483).
  • “After the Council of Chalcedon [451 AD], some made of Christ’s human nature a kind of personal subject. Against them, the fifth ecumenical council, at Constantinople in 553 confessed that ‘there is but one hypostasis [or person], which is our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Trinity.’ Thus everything in Christ’s human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also his sufferings and even his death: ‘He who was crucified in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, is true God, Lord of glory, and one of the Holy Trinity’” (CCC 468).

Reflection

Jesus asks each of us, “Who do you say that I am?” Let’s take a few minutes to consider how we can more fully welcome Jesus and his Lordship in our lives.  Write down your thoughts and reflections on the following questions:

  1. Prayerfully read the following quote from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis was an Oxford professor and a famous 20th century defender of the Christian faith. He is also the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.)Now, prayerfully imagine Jesus standing before you and asking you the question he asked his Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” How would you answer him?
  2. Jesus tells us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). What do you seek first in your life? Do you truly put Jesus first in your life? Or do you seek other things to fulfil you, and have God as just a part of your life?
  3. Allowing Jesus to reign over our lives as Lord requires submitting our will to his. It means following his teachings, living the way he wants us to live, and trusting that he knows and desires what is best for us. Write down one or two areas in your life where the way you are living now could be more in line with Jesus’ teachings. What can you do this week to begin living more with Jesus as Lord of your life?

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