by Barry Newton
With half-truths in hand, humanity has sought to stuff him into convenient pigeonholes, sometimes deliberately, on other occasions unwittingly. Consider the Jewish Messianic expectations which permeated the first century.
Written in the century prior to Jesus’ birth, the non-biblical Psalms of Solomon 17 and 18 describe their notion of the hope of Israel. The coming Messiah would be a powerful king punishing Gentile oppressors. He would be divinely ordained, but not divine.
Directing two questions to the religious leaders, Jesus shattered such a confining box. “The Messiah, whose Son is he?” Accurately, the educated elite had answered, “the son of David.” Common wisdom dictated that David, as the ancestor of the Messiah, would precede this son in time and the flow of filial honor. Emphasizing that David’s words in Psalm 110 were spoken by the Spirit, Jesus had asked, how then could David describe the Messiah as being his own Lord? Their view of the Messiah was way too small.
Whatever human contrived conceptions have sought to tame and limit Jesus, his teachings and questions have imploded them. Jesus’ claim, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” is either absolutely absurd or demands our riveted attention to his every word. Through the simple words, “Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins,” and “I am the light of the world,” Jesus deliberately confronts us. He forces us to conclude he either embodies the epitome of arrogance or he deserves our allegiance.
Considering the magnitude of his claims with their corresponding stakes, it is only with extreme irresponsibility and at our own peril that any of us lightly dismisses Jesus. But objectively plunging into the evidence has repeatedly led even his most ardent skeptics to embrace the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus deserves an honest evaluation in the marketplace of ideas.