“The Man of Nazareth”

Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-14, John 1:1-5,14-18

“Who do you say that I am?”

The Word- The Logos

Son of Man

Son of God

The Anointed One

The Messiah

Prince of Peace

The Good Shepherd

The Suffering Servant

The man of Nazareth

He who is seated at the right hand of the father




The Way, The Truth, and the Life

Yeshua ben Josef

All of these are names that either were used to describe Jesus or how he described himself.

Yet, yet, That question from the gospels, “Who do you say that I am?” Still calls out to us across time and place.

Of all the questions that Jesus asked, this one is the most enigmatic, and some theologians have noticed, quite possibly the most important one.

Any of those titles or names capture a piece of whole of who Jesus Christ was, is, and will be, but none of the words that we use to describe him describe the whole of the nature of the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Who do you say that I am?

The Word- The Logos- Wisdom.

We know from the first chapter of the gospel of John that Jesus is intimately connected to God in some way, together with God from the beginning.  The Greek word that’s used to describe Jesus is Logos.  It’s usually translated in English as “The Word.”

But that doesn’t really translate everything that word means. Dr. Cornelius Plantinga Jr, a Reformed theologian, tells us that for the Greek speaking audience of the Gospel of John, the word Logos “had deep resonance within Greek philosophy, representing the rational principle or power that is the glue of the universe.”

For Jews and others who more situated in the Old Testament scriptures, the description of Jesus Christ as being with God from the beginning hearkens back to the divine Wisdom, a female character in the book of Proverbs, who calls out to the people to avoid foolishness and live prudent lives. 

Wisdom, like Jesus, was present with God from the beginning.  From the Book of Proverbs, chapter 8:
Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth; … When [the Lord] established the heavens, I was there, … when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,.

That wisdom is characterized by the author of the book of proverbs as a woman and that Jesus was a man didn’t bother ancient audiences, nor should it necessarily bother us. 

As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, trying to fit God into boxes like the human conception of gender is a relatively fruitless task, considering the enormity of God and his ultimate nature.

That character Wisdom, who has too often been hidden to us in the church, does come to us in one way. The Greek word for Wisdom is Sophia, a quite lovely woman’s name in the English language.

The Gospel of John does introduce some new information about the Logos, this Wisdom.  John tells us that not only was the Logos with God, but the Logos was God.  The Logos is God.  The structure and binding force of the universe, is God, the one who delights in God’s Creation.

If this sounds confusing and doesn’t make any sense, don’t feel bad. I don’t either. Trying to understand that which is ultimate is always going to leave us unsatisfied in some way.

But I do think it is important to note that in the beginning, God was not alone.  Even before creation began, if we can speak of such a time, God was more than a lone individual on the throne, God was a community. 

And if you think I’m getting a little off track, remember that we’re also talking about Jesus Christ, who kind of loved the idea of community and togetherness. But this exploration of cosmic and philosophical concepts is not the entirety of who Jesus Christ was.

Who do you say that I am?

For Jesus Christ was also the human one, the son of man, the mortal one.

This phrase is used in two different ways in the Old Testament by God talking to the prophets. Remember that weird passage from Ezekiel from a couple of weeks ago that talked about God with the Fire and the Rainbows and everything?

Right after it, in Ezekiel Chapter 2, verse 1, God refers to Ezekiel as a mortal one, seemingly to contrast their might and majesty.  God is God, while Ezekiel is…not. It contrasts the yawning gap between divinity and humanity.

In the book of Daniel, the phrase mortal one or son of man is used to refer to one who will rule the Kingdoms of the Earth at the behest of God.  It is a title of honor, a bridge between humanity and divinity. I suspect that both readings are important when we think about Jesus. Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully human, was born as a child, to the virgin Mary, who because of this bears the title Mother of God.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that as a child, in some ways he acted as any child would.  Luke recounts a tale of Jesus getting separated from his parents in the big city of Jerusalem and he ends up at the temple, arguing with the scholars and rabbis there.

When Joseph and Mary turned around and came and got him, he responded with a level of sarcasm that only 12-year olds can muster toward their oh so clueless parents. And this is paraphrasing here, but Jesus basically responds with a, “Jeez mom and dad, where else would I be but in my father’s house?” One can almost picture the eye roll.

Luckily, after this, the gospel reports that Jesus increased in wisdom, and was a good kid. Although he did maintain, I would argue, an ironic and humorous streak through adulthood.

To any 12-year olds out there, I welcome the opportunity to talk about the Bible with you.  Just not in the middle of worship, please.

Unfortunately, we have little biblical evidence for what Jesus’ life was like between the ages of 12 and 30.  Perhaps he followed his father Joseph’s profession and became a craftsman of some sort. Others have suggested that perhaps he was a farmer, or farm laborer for many of his parables involve farm life and farm stories, although this might be because most of the people he interacted with were farmers.

It would be like going up to the Boston suburbs and having stories that involved the patriots and the red sox.  Farming would have been the common language and sports metaphors of his day.

We do know about what happened when he was aged 30-33 though.  Those three years that would change the world, beginning with his baptism by John and ending with the empty tomb.

But who do you say that I am?  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

That verse, in the Gospel of Matthew, is one of the turning points of that Gospel story.  Narratively, it confirms what we already know, but have yet to have directly stated in the gospel.

Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the anointed one.  He is the suffering servant, the unblemished lamb who takes away the sin of the world. The one who died on the cross, yet whose tomb is empty. The King of Kings and Prince of Peace.

Our previous two ways of referring to Jesus, as the Logos and the Son of Man had some background in Jewish thought, as does the title of the Messiah. The title of Son of God, however, had no counterpart in Jewish thought or Greek Philosophy.

Indeed, the title is from the ancient Roman religion. We know of one other person alive at the time of Jesus, who also claimed that title. The Roman Emperor. The Roman Emperor, the dictator who ruled terribly over the Jewish peoples and all the other peoples of the known world, with the backing of the mighty and powerful Roman Legions, who said he was descended from the Gods themselves.

The Roman Emperor said he was the Son of God.

Jesus said no. Jesus said it in that cheeky way that drew people out to demonstrate their faith. Simon Peter answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” But Jesus didn’t mean it in the same way that the Emperor did. Jesus did not seek to rule the kingdoms of the earth through force and violence.

Satan tempted him with this during his time in the desert, in the Gospel of Luke, the fourth chapter, saying, “Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

This tells us that the way of the Prince of Peace is different.

Our reading from the book of Ephesians summarizes for us that the way of the King of Kings is not to rule over, but to gather up all the kingdoms and republics and democracies and tribes and communes and states and peoples of the world unto himself to reunite them with God. 

The way of the Son of God is not separation of putting people above one another, but of drawing each and everyone of us into the embrace of a God who loves us so dearly. The reconciliation of all things, both human and non-human, plant, animal, and otherwise, is the ultimate goal of the Gospel.  This is the Lordship we recognize when we say that Christ is Lord.

Who do you say that I am?

Jesus Christ is all of these titles, The Logos, the Son of Man, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior, and so much more. Sometimes its easy for us to get fixated on one of these things, and forget the others, but we must try not to.

For to do so would put up barriers where none should exist, to reduce Jesus so much that we could fit him into a box that we might have the illusion of control over. If there’s anything we should know, it’s that we are not God’s shepherd, but God is our shepherd.