Telling Them Plainly
Jesus frequently faced questions about His identity. Early in His ministry, the disciples wondered about Jesus’ power over the wind and the sea, asking, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:27). John’s followers went directly to Jesus, asking if He was the “Expected One” or if they needed to keep waiting for someone else (Matthew 11:3). Even when people witnessed incredible miracles, they still had difficulty recognizing that Jesus was no mere man (Matthew 12:22-24, 13:54-57). Faced with the undeniable miracle of a man seeing for the first time in his life, Jesus’ detractors concluded He was nothing but a sinner and a nobody (John 9:16, 24, 29).
Some simply asked Jesus, rather bluntly, “Who are You?” (John 8:23-26). While the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem might have struggled to reconcile Jesus’ humble background and radical teaching with their expectations about the Messiah, many of the commoners seemed, at the very least, to be cautiously willing to explore the possibility that He was who He claimed to be (John 7:25-31). In moments of clarity, His closest disciples were able to grasp that He was the Son of God (Matthew 16:13ff), but the majority of the people found Jesus enigmatic, in spite of teachings that seem pretty obvious to us in hindsight – 2,000 years of perspective certainly help! Notice, in particular, the almost-complaining tone of the multitudes in John 10:22-25: “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly!”
The Central Figure Of The Gospel
One of the most striking features of the preaching of Jesus Christ is that He constantly talks about Himself. This is not to intimate that His teaching is arrogant, boastful, or suspiciously self-promoting. He did not walk through the wilderness of Judea with the intent of proclaiming earthly superiority or glory, nor did He talk about Himself as being anything but what He truly is – the Son of God. Unlike some teachers who constantly refer to themselves as having all the answers, Jesus defines Himself as being the answer. It is not that Christ knows the truth, but that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Jesus presents Himself in the Gospels as being the door through which we enter eternal life (John 10:7), yet false teachers of all ages only claimed to know the door. This fact sets Jesus apart from all other religious figures and makes Him truly unique.
Christ claims to be the “Bread of life” in John 6:48-51. All who desire to find eternal life must choose to partake of the bread that is Jesus. To eat of this bread is to associate oneself with Jesus Christ. We must claim Him as our Savior, reject Him for no reason, live every moment in self discipline and wholly devote our souls to His service.
“I am the Light of the world; he who shall follow Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Like a beacon of hope on the horizon, Christ set Himself up as the guiding light that leads us safely home. In the midst of a world of darkness and sin, Christ opens our eyes to the path of righteousness. It is interesting to consider that this verse offers a view of the Christian life that most people of the world will never understand. In response to the question of finding true happiness in life, those with an earthly mindset would seek fulfillment in wealth, prestige, honor, beauty, or upward social mobility. Interestingly, none of those worldly accomplishments matter, for “the light of life” is not found in any earthly measurement of success, but in humble obedience to Christ. The genuinely bright life – the one that will burn brighter and eternally longer than anything imaginable in this world – is the one that is glorified by the light of the Gospel.
In preaching about Himself, Christ claimed to be a divine witness to His own authority. “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true; for I know where I came from, and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from, or where I am going… I am He who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me” (John 8:14-18). As equal with God in power, Christ had all the power in the world. All authority had been assigned to Him in Heaven and on the earth (Matthew 28:18) for the purpose of administering salvation to all who would come to Him.