Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up

When I was a kid, there was a game show on TV called “What’s My Line.” Three contestants would each claim to be a person with a particular job, often quirky. A group of panelists would ask them questions, then select who they thought was the real state champion Frisbee distance thrower, or whatever. At the end of each segment came the reveal — the person who was what he claimed to be, stood up.

In many ways, Jesus’s public ministry was a grueling inquiry into His line. Who are you, Jesus? Are you the Christ? I Am. Are you the King of the Jews? I Am. Are you the Son of God? I Am.

The questioning came from friend and foe alike. Jesus’s cousin, John (known best by his full name, John the Baptist 😉 ), was the first to identify Jesus as someone special, and yet he too asked the question, Are you the one we’re waiting for or is there to be someone else?

Jesus answered these questions in a variety of ways. Sometimes He elicited the answer from His disciples. Sometimes He referred to other witnesses, an especially effective approach in Jewish culture since two or more witnesses were required in a decision of law.

John (the gospel writer this time) records several of these exchanges. Here’s one:

You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. … You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; … For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.” (John 5:33-46, emphasis added)

Pretty impressive group of witnesses, and this without Jesus adding His own voice.

Of course, whenever He did stand up and say who He was, the Pharisees accused Him of blaspheme and tried to kill Him. And whenever He worked miracles — the signs the Pharisees asked for from time to time — they apparently missed them or disbelieved them.

Take Lazarus, for example. A dead man coming out of the grave four days after he’d been put there was a little hard to ignore, or disbelieve. Yet the Pharisees managed to pull it off and even determined to kill Lazarus because so many people were flocking around him and as a result believing in Jesus.

It seems apparent to me that evidence and witnesses were not lacking. The seeing blind man, the walking lame man, the living dead boy, the clean leper, the demon-free demonic — these all pointed to Jesus. Yet the onlookers thought He might be a prophet or, no, maybe Elijah, or wilder still, John the Baptist come back to life.

The wild explanations would stretch anyone’s imagination. Why not accept the truth? Why not take Him at His Word? “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” Or, “I and the Father are one.”

In the end, the real Jesus has been standing up all along.

Published in: on June 30, 2011 at 6:05 pm  Comments (3)  


  1. On the other hand, “prophet” and “Elijah” weren’t all that wildly speculative. Speculative, yes, but not wildly so. (“Prophet” was even true … just not the whole truth. And the main problem with the “Elijah” answer was that “Elijah” had already come and gone.) Some of the earlier prophets had done similar miracles (the Shunamite woman’s son, Naaman’s leprosy, etc.)—what was different about Jesus’ miracles was their number and scale, and the real difference was in his teaching. If we, or they, had had only a few of the facts—just a few of the miracle accounts, and his interpretation of the law, but not his claims of divinity, for example—a lesser conclusion could have been reasonable. But taken together everything forms such a weight of evidence that we cannot but believe.


  2. Hi, Jonathan, thanks for the comment. I always enjoy the fact that you stretch my thinking.

    I guess the part that makes the idea of “prophet” seem wild is that there had not been a prophet for lo those many years of the intertestamental period — something like four hundred years. Granted, without Christ’s claim to divinity, we might have assumed he was someone lesser. Except, if you’re waiting for Messiah, wouldn’t you be apt to think, Is this he? when you see those miracles? So I guess, I’m thinking their judgment that He was someone else is a reflection of their hearts, that they in fact were not waiting for the Messiah — not really.

    The Pharisees never seemed to ask the question. They were only thinking of their power and its continuance. Yet they were the ones who should have known the prophecies the best. Why weren’t they at the forefront asking, Are you the Promised One? Instead, the clearer Jesus was about His identity, the angrier and more disbelieving they became.

    Again, it seems to be an indication that they didn’t need more signs or a clearer statement or additional revelation. No matter what they said, they had already rejected Christ.



  3. I guess the part that makes the idea of “prophet” seem wild is that there had not been a prophet for lo those many years of the intertestamental period — something like four hundred years.

    There had not been a true prophet that we know of, until Simeon (and we aren’t told how old he actually was) and Anna, and then John the Baptist. And the Pharisees didn’t know what to make of him, either.

    I’m not sure whether, from the Law and the Prophets, they should have gotten a command to “wait” for the Messiah. (Thinking out loud, here.) They might well have included one in their hedge of regulations designed to keep one from coming close to breaking the Law, but all I get from the Law itself and the Prophets (many of whom were already—at least arguably—fulfilled, just not perfectly fulfilled in the one in whom all God’s promises are Yes, as Paul says) is promise and prediction after promise that the Messiah would come, and a command to listen to him when he did.

    In any case, yes, the Pharisees’ root problem was in their hearts; they focused on the minutiae of the Law and tried to put the Law-Giver into a box. And when they encountered him in the flesh, they—like most of the people of the land—rejected him. Their error is understandable, and what one might well expect from an unregenerate human being even well-educated in the Law (which was part of what I was trying to get across in my earlier comment, I think), but still fatal.


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