Who Was This Jesus?
Who was Jesus? This is likely one of the most frequently asked
questions in all history. By far He has the highest name recognition
throughout the world. Fully one-third of the world’s peoples call
themselves Christian, that is about 2.2 billion people. Islam (another
1.3 or so billion people) recognizes Him as the second greatest
prophet after Mohammed. Of the remaining 3.2 billion people (roughly
half the world’s population), most have heard of Him and/or know
His résumé probably wouldn’t have been impressive. After
all, there is not much to say about His earthly life. He was born of
Jewish parents in
, a small town south of
, while the territory was under Roman occupation. His parents moved
, where He grew up; hence He came commonly known as Jesus of Nazareth.
His father was a carpenter, so Jesus likely learned that trade in His
early years. At around thirty years of age He began a public ministry.
He chose a dozen disciples to mentor and worked out of
on the coast of the
Sea of Galilee
. He traveled and taught throughout Galilee, occasionally moving among
neighboring Gentiles and Samaritans with occasional trips south to
. His unconventional teachings startled many; with this and an
occasional miracle a following began to take shape. His reception grew
so strong that it caught the eye of established leaders of the Jewish
faith. Many of them were
offended by Jesus and even felt threatened.
They soon decided to do away with Him. Working their contacts
with the Roman rulers, they had Him arrested, and after a hastily
arranged mock trial, He was executed by crucifixion.
That’s it. Here the story of Jesus of Nazareth should have
ended, hardly worth mentioning a footnote in history.
Unlike any other, His death was not the end, it was only the
beginning. We are now discussing Him not merely because of His life,
but because of His death. Christianity exists only because of what
happened once Jesus died. Three days after His death, His disciples
and many others began to claim He had returned to life from the dead.
His grave was empty, the body gone, and numerous appearances were
averred by different groups, at different locations, amid different
As a result of this, followers began to proclaim that He was
the Christ, or the Messiah. They claimed His resurrection validated
the message of forgiveness of sin through His sacrifice. Initially
they proclaimed this gospel in
, the same city where He was put to death. The movement, known also as
“the Way”(Acts 9:1,
19:9), grew rapidly. Only
a short time later the faith spread outside the country, soon reaching
and the outskirts of its vast empire.
What is in a name?
In the days of Jesus people
only had one name. Last names were not introduced before the time of
Napoleon. To differentiate between people with the same name a
unique characteristic was attached to the name, like the place they
were from (Jesus of Nazareth or Mary of Magdalene), names of family
members (such as Jesus, son of Joseph; or Mary, the mother of
Jesus), professions (like Joseph the carpenter; or Cuza, the manager
of Herod’s household) or some other feature (such as John the
Baptist; or Simon who was also called the Zealot).
In Hebrew Jesus would have
been called Yeshua (Jeshua) or Joshua which literally means
“Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is savior.” The Greek word Christ
or the Latin Christus both
translate the Hebrew Messiah,
which means in English “the anointed one.”
So, Jesus Christ literally
means “Jesus, the Messiah”
or “Jesus, the anointed One.”