The question is, What did people say about Jesus? When Jesus was on earth, he was much talked about—many people applauded him, others criticised and others ignored him.
Was Jesus divine or wasn’t he? Jesus’ contemporaries—both his opponents and his supporters—said many things about him, but in the end his claim to be God was the big issue.
In the Scriptures we read that Jesus both directly and indirectly claimed to be God. Not only did he call God his Father, but he told people their sins were forgiven. These claims really got up the noses of the religious people of the day, and they called him a blasphemer.
On another occasion he drove a demon from a man who had been possessed. Instead of being happy about this, Jesus’ opponents called him ‘Beelzebub’ or ‘Satan, the Prince of Demons’.
Then there was the time Jesus talked about being a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:1─18). He had the authority, he said, to lay down his own life and take it up again—a reference to his future crucifixion and resurrection.
And his opponents’ response? He is demon-possessed and raving mad.
You’d expect Jesus’ followers, then, to show a lot more insight into the man and his mission. But they were slow learners.
For example, the disciples once went into a town to buy food, leaving Jesus to rest by a well. When they returned they urged him to eat something, but he told them he had food they knew nothing about. Jesus had performed miracles and spent a lot of quality time training these men, yet they still murmured among themselves, Could someone have brought him food?
My food, Jesus had to explain, is to do the will of God and to finish his work. Eventually, though, the penny dropped. Some time later Jesus gathered them around him and asked an important question: Who do people say I am? They said people had been saying a number off things: that he was John the Baptist—Jesus’ cousin, a preacher who acted as his forerunner—or one of the Old Testament prophets such as Elijah.
Then Jesus asked them the most important question of all: But what about you─who do you say I am?—You are Christ, one of the disciples, Peter, replied. They’d finally got it. He was, they said, the son of God, the Messiah the world had waited for for so long.
Later the Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 – ESV).
The big question
Many of Jesus’ contemporaries agreed with one thing: that he claimed to be God. They just differed about whether he was entitled to make that claim.
Likewise today, the issue is not whether Jesus actually lived 2,000 years ago, but whether his claims are true. As a Jewish friend said to me, I believe Jesus lived on earth; I just don’t believe he was the Son of God.
But Jesus asks us the same question: What about you? Who do you think I am?
And I think there’s enough proof in the Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament to claim that Jesus was who he said he was—the Son of God. So often it’s easy think about these things to debate them, to discuss them with other people, and yet to miss out on the issues of the heart, knowing that Jesus can change your life.
It’s one of the great things that when we come to Jesus all the talk, all the theory is really worth nothing because we know that Jesus really can change lives. And that’s the proof of the pudding.