Who Did Jesus Think He Was? -- By: Don Garlington

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 08:4 (Fall 1999)
Article: Who Did Jesus Think He Was?
Author: Don Garlington


Who Did Jesus Think He Was?1

Don Garlington

There are several ways in which one may seek to assess what Jesus of Nazareth thought of Himself and of His role in history. As Robert Stein notes, in the past attention was focused mostly on the various names used to describe His person and mission. However, today this method is not as popular as it once was. As a result, more emphasis is placed on the indirect or implicit claims of Jesus rather than on His direct or explicit ones. There is good reason for this, Stein says, because people reveal their conception of who they are not merely by the titles they use to describe themselves but also by the way they act and what they say.2

Therefore, even though the Christological titles approach, in my view, should not be discarded as altogether antiquated,3 we shall investigate the self-disclosure of Jesus as it is revealed in representative (hardly exhaustive) examples of His works and words. The separation of the actions from the sayings, to be sure, will be somewhat arbitrary, just because His works were not performed in silence, and His words were not uttered without powerful corroboration by deeds. To choose two examples at random, significant indications of the unity of the deed/word complex in Jesus’ self-disclosure can be found in Mark 1:21–28 and Luke 24:19. The former pericope commences with the notice that Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and began to teach. The teaching process was immediately interrupted by an exorcism, the result of which was that people were compelled

to pose the question, “What is this? A new teaching!” For them, teaching and healing were of a piece. According to the latter verse, the disciples on the way to Emmaus depict Jesus as “a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people.” Perhaps this equivalence of doing and speaking is attributable to the fact that the Hebrew word for “word” (debar) simultaneously means speech and action (cf. Heb. 1:1–2). Nevertheless, for the purposes of organization we shall differentiate between the two on the basis of whether the works or the words receive the primary emphasis.4

Frequently, (over) familiarity with
Christian tradition impairs our recognition
of the staggering claims Jesus made by His
actions, claims to a unique author...

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