IF YOU ASK 100 PEOPLE the critical question: “Who is Jesus?” You’ll likely get 100 different, and some bizarre, answers. So, Who is Jesus? In this article we will consider the following:
1. Who Did Jesus Claim to Be?
According to the New Testament Jesus publicly preached and performed many miracles. He raised three people from the dead. Lepers were healed, the blind received sight, the lame walked, the deaf heard, and the mute spoke.
Yet, as important as all His actions and teachings were, the most relevant question is “Who did He claim to be?” Surprisingly, Jesus was not put on trial for anything He did. He was crucified because of who He claimed to be:
- Son of God
- Son of Man
- King of Israel
In Mark 14:61–65, we read:
Again, the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
The religious leaders understood that Jesus claimed to be the Christ, the Son of God. And under oath, Jesus accepts these charges. However, the high priest left out a title that Jesus frequently applied to Himself. Jesus added the Son of Man title to His claims. Apparently, He wanted to make sure they got all the charges against Him right.
Today, these titles don’t get us all excited because we don’t fully appreciate their significance. But to the people at that trial, His claims were outrageous.
The Christ: Means the “Anointed One” or “Messiah.” Since the Garden of Eden, He was the One God had promised to send. In the Old Testament, the Christ is referred to as “The Holy One of Israel,” “The Redeemer of Israel,” “Savior,” “The Righteous One”, the “King of Israel” and many other exalted titles.
The Son of God: This title refers to the divine nature of the Christ. The Son of God is: “God in human flesh.” It is an unconditional claim of full deity, of being God. In the Old Testament God Himself says that He is the Savior, the Redeemer, and the King of Israel. The Christ, by definition, would literally be the Son of God.
Son of Man: The Son of Man is a two-fold reference. It indicates the human nature of Christ and the one who the prophet Daniel, in 7:13–14, predicted would be given authority, glory and sovereignty over God’s kingdom. His dominion would be everlasting, and His kingdom would never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13–14:
And I saw One like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him.
He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.
Standing before the Sanhedrin, Jesus applied Daniel’s prophecy to Himself claiming to be King of that kingdom.
The high priest, and those with Him, understood the significance of these titles. They condemned Jesus to death and handed Him over to Pilate, the Roman governor. As we read in Mark 15:1–2
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders…reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led Him away and handed him over to Pilate.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Pilate then ordered Him crucified for being the King of the Jews because anyone claiming to be a king is a threat to Caesar and the Roman Empire. He had a sign fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, stating the charges against Him, John 19:19–22:
It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be King of the Jews.”
It is perfectly clear. Under oath, Jesus said He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Son of Man. The religious leaders understood His claims and condemned Him to death for them. And the Roman authorities crucified Him for claiming to be the King of the Jews.
Then, on the third day after His crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared to more than 500 people over a forty-day period. Finally, He ascended into heaven in the view of many.
People say a lot of things about Jesus today, but 2,000 years ago His followers, His enemies, and the Roman government all understood Him to claim to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man; God in human flesh. He is the One who makes it possible for us to know God through the forgiveness of our sin. And He proved it by His miracles, His teaching, and His rising from the dead.
2. When did the Old Testament say the Messiah would arrive?
The Old Testament contains 360 prophecies about the Messiah, most of which Jesus has already fulfilled. He will fulfill the remaining ones when He returns in great glory and power. Let’s consider three prophecies that predicted when the Messiah would arrive to see if that’s when Jesus lived.
In approximately 1850 BC, Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, gathered his sons together and prophesied over each of them. To his son Judah, he gave a prophecy concerning the Messiah in Genesis 49:10 (NIV).
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he, to whom it belongs, shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
This verse was understood by the Jews to be a prophecy of the Messiah’s arrival. Let’s look at the specifics:
Scepter: A scepter is a staff held by a sovereign as an emblem of authority. It represents a sovereign’s right to apply and enforce law; including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment.
Until He comes to whom it belongs: This is an idiom for the Messiah. It’s a reference to the Messiah.
So, according to this prophecy, the Messiah would come before the right to impose Jewish law was rescinded.
Nearly 2,000 years later, in the first quarter of the first century, the Jews came under Roman dominion. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that in AD 6–9, Herod’s son and successor, Archelaus, was replaced by a Roman governor named Caponius. By this act, the Roman Empire reduced the nation of Israel to a Roman province. The scepter had left Judah. Josephus records this transfer of power:
“Judea, was reduced into a province, and Caponius…was sent as procurator, having the power of life and death put into his hands by Caesar!”
The reaction of the Jewish leaders to these monumental events is recorded in the Talmud. The book Jesus before the Sanhedrin, and also The American Catholic Quarterly, vol. 32, quote the following statement by Rabbi Rachmon: 
“When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of their right over life and death…they covered their heads with ashes, and their bodies with sackcloth, exclaiming: ‘Woe unto us for the scepter has departed from Judah and the Messiah has not come.’”
At this point someone will ask, “But wasn’t the scepter taken away from Israel when it was exiled to Babylon in 586 BC?” Good question. The answer is found in 1 Chronicles 3:17–24, Ezra 2:2; 3:2; 8:2, Matthew 1:12, and Luke 3:27 where we learn that the royal line of David is traced through the time of the exile and continued into the time of Israel’s return to Jerusalem: King Jehoiachin went into exile, his son Shealtiel was in exile, and then his son Zerubbabel returned from the exile to the land of Judah. We also learn from Esther 3:8, that during the exile the people of Israel kept themselves separate from other people and followed their own law in disobedience to the law of the Babylonian kings. Therefore, both the Davidic line and the Law of Moses continued through the time of the exile.
Yet, in AD 6, when the scepter was transferred to Rome, the Messiah had come. He was born of the Virgin Mary shortly before the first century; shortly before the scepter departed from Judah. He was just a boy when the scepter was transferred to Rome. This transfer is why each Gospel emphasizes that Jesus was handed over to Pilate to be killed because now only the Romans could kill Jesus.
Daniel dates the arrival of the Messiah. There is a somewhat complex, yet incredibly specific prophecy in Daniel 9:24–26, concerning the date of the Messiah’s arrival. Writing over 550 years before the events he prophesied, Daniel narrows the year of the Messiah’s official arrival in Jerusalem to AD 32–33.
Joel’s prophecy fulfilled. Hundreds of years before Christ’s death, the OT prophet Joel said 2:31–32:
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
In his impassioned message on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter declared that Joel’s prophecy had been fulfilled and they had all seen these events. Acts 2:19–39 (NIV):
19 ‘I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him…
32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter’s audience had seen Jesus’ miracles, they heard His teaching, they knew He was crucified, and on that day they had seen the sun turn dark and the moon turn to blood. They also knew Jesus’ tomb was empty. If they doubted it, they could walk a few hundred yards and take a peek. They were eyewitnesses to these things, and thousands of them believed.
The gospel of Mark in 15:33 states that, on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion:
“When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.”
Those who question the trustworthiness of the Bible will say it was just a solar eclipse. Well, just like us, people of antiquity were familiar with solar eclipses. And just like us, they knew that solar eclipses lasted for a few minutes, not for three hours. This was an unnatural darkness.
What most of us don’t know, is that the Jewish Passover is only celebrated on a Full Moon. This is why, in keeping with phases of the Moon, the date of Easter varies each year.
What’s critical is that a solar eclipse can never occur during a Full Moon because it is 180 degrees opposite of where it must be for it to block the sun, and this is the point of Joel’s prophecy. Since it is impossible for these two events to occur at the same time, people are to recognize this miracle as a sign from God when it does. Therefore, the Moon was full when Jesus was crucified and yet darkness fell on the whole land for three hours. A solar eclipse could not have caused this darkness. This was a miracle from God.
3. Is there any historical evidence?
Is there any historical evidence? Yes, writing during the reign of Hadrian (117-138), the ancient Greek historian Phlegon Trallianus recorded in his book Olympiades that a great darkness occurred in the year AD 32–33:
In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad, a failure of the Sun [Greek = ekleipsis] took place greater than any previously known, and night came on at the sixth hour of the day [noon], so that stars actually appeared in the sky; and a great earthquake took place in Bithynia and overthrew the greater part of Niceaea.
In the third book of his History (50-100), the Greek writer Thallus recorded this same event calling it a “fearful darkness” accompanied by a great earthquake. Seven ancient historians quote both of these sources.
4. Is there any scientific evidence?
Did the moon turn to blood on the same day as the sun turned dark? According to astronomical research, the answer is, yes. A Blood Moon is the visual reddening phenomena that occurs when a Full Moon travels through the shadow of the Earth. It is a lunar eclipse because the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon. Using the astronomy simulation program Starry Night Pro 7, available from Simulation Curriculum, I recorded the Blood Moon that occurred, as seen from Jerusalem, on Friday, April 3, AD 33. This is the shortened version of the video, the returns to fullness at 7:15 PM.
If Jesus isn’t the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the King of Israel then someone else born immediately prior to the transfer of Judah’s scepter to Rome, had to be. And that person, in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecy, would have to have:
- Been born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem
- Healed lepers, given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, made the lame walk, the mute speak, and the dead live again.
- He also would have been rejected by Israel and crucified by Pontius Pilate under the authority of the Roman Empire on Friday, April 3, AD 33.
What is my personal position? I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and I trust that He is working in your life right now. Maybe He’s asking you to believe in Jesus too.
May the peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
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Rob Oberto, D.Min., is the award-winning author of “Intimacy With God” available from Amazon. ©2018 Rob Oberto, All Rights Reserved.
 Flavius, Josephus, The Jewish War, Book 2, Chapter 8. 75 a.d.
 The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Volume 32, The Trial of Jesus Christ. October 4, 2015, p. 253
 Lémann, Augustin. Jesus Before the Sanhedrim (Kindle Locations 152-155). Kindle Edition.
 https://www.bethlehemstar.net/the-day-of-the-cross/peters-argument/. I have extensively researched The Bethlehem Star evidence for six years. I have found it to be reliable and trustworthy.