Who was Jesus?
In the 1920s, Betty Crocker became famous when she started personally responding to customer questions for the Washburn Crosby Company. Her popularity grew so much that in 1924 she got her own radio show and cooking school, and by 1945, she was the second-best-known woman in America, after the first lady.
But there’s one minor problem. She never existed. The name was created in 1921 to “personalize responses to consumer inquiries,” and her famous signature was chosen from many samples submitted by female employees. In short, there was no real Betty Crocker.
In Mark 8, Jesus asks his disciples an interesting question: “Who do people say I am?” A few different historical figures were named including legendary prophets of the past. Today, people are still asking the same question with no confidence in their answer.
Modern historians have posited at least three possible explanations of who Jesus might have been. History inarguably proves he really did exist, so society must create a plausible explanation of His true identity.
Some say He was a good teacher who was smart, loved people, stood up for the commoner, making people feel good about themselves. He opposed government while preaching freedom and deliverance.
Others call Him a crazy fool, claiming He was a demented man who thought he was God while attracting a following of weak-minded people who were susceptible to Jedi-like mind tricks. He probably would have belonged in an insane asylum except he was generally harmless.
Still others would insist He was a deceptive fraud; a first-century Megalomaniac, much like Adolph Hitler, Jim Jones or David Koresh. His goal was to attract attention, rise to power, overthrow the government and set himself up as king.
No matter what one may believe of these three possibilities, the logical conclusion is still the same. You can just ignore Jesus.
When Jesus asked His disciples the question, he was in the region of Ponnino, the supposed home of the mythological god, Pan. It was also near Caesarea Philippi, a previous place of Ba’al worship, now renamed to reflect the name of Caesar who demanded to be worshipped as God.
It’s in this cross-section of ancient religions, where people were searching for religious authenticity, that Jesus asks, “Who do people say I am?” It’s a huge question asked in the middle of a pagan, superstitious culture.
Jesus then moved to the most important question of the day: “But who do you say I am?” To which Peter replied, “You are the Savior of the world!” Peter, who had, at Jesus’ bidding, walked on water, helped feed over 5,000 people, watched Jesus whip the animals out of the Temple and chase out the money-changers, answered the question correctly. Jesus not only claimed to be God, He demonstrated the power of God. With over 36 different miracles recorded in the Gospels, it’s the only logical conclusion.
Around 120 A.D., a historian named Quadratus wrote to Emperor Hadrian, “The works of our Savior were lasting for they were genuine. Those who were healed & those who were raised from the dead were seen not merely while our Savior was on earth, but also after his death they were alive quite awhile so that some of them lived even to our day.”
Undeniable proof. Irrefutable evidence. But what difference does it really make? If we truly believed Jesus was the Son of God, would it dramatically change the way we live. Yes! The Bible declares we have the same power available to us Jesus did. John 14:12 says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works.
The same works? Yes, and even greater. All that’s holding us back is deciding which version of Jesus we believe is real. It’s time for the church to embrace the real Jesus, taking Him to our own Caesarea Philippi – literally translated as a place of many gods – and boldly proclaim Jesus in the middle of a culture that so desperately needs to know the answer to life’s most important question.
Jason Yarbrough is the pastor of Real Life Church and Principal of Fairfield Christian School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.