Guests: Darold Bigger and Pam Cress
Biblical References: Luke 4:16-30; Luke 6:5; Luke 9:18-36
The lesson this week focuses on the identity of Jesus. Was he merely a good man? Was he God? Throughout Christian history, questions regarding the nature of Jesus have led to bitter conflicts between those who call themselves Christians.
1. One way to arrive at an answer as to who Jesus is involves reviewing some of the names and titles he is given in the New Testament. What do each of these names mean?
Jesus = a common name, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua”; means “The Lord Saves” Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew) = Anointed One (carrying the idea of a deliverer who was chosen and empowered by God)
2. There are two other titles that are frequently used to refer to Jesus. He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man. Typically, we think of Son of God as a description of his divinity and the Son of Man as a statement of his humanity. But it isn’t quite that simple. Throughout the Bible, “son” (or “sons”) of God can refer to human beings. In Luke, Adam is called the son of God, for example. Then, we should also note that “Son of Man” in the gospels appears with a definite article. Jesus is The Son of Man, a phrase that isn’t found elsewhere in Greek literature from antiquity.
Exactly what Jesus meant by using this title is the subject of scholarly debate. Personally, I agree with those who believe this designation was drawn from Daniel 7:13. If so, then when Jesus refers to himself (as he did 25 times in Luke) as The Son of Man, he isn’t stressing his humanity, but is claiming his identity as the one who will come on the clouds of heaven and who will be given “authority, glory, and sovereign power; all people, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). Paradoxically, then, the title, The Son of Man may be emphasizing Jesus’ glory and power, not his humble, human status.
3. Throughout his ministry, people struggled with understanding Jesus. Even John the Baptist wasn’t sure if Jesus was “the One who is to come” (Luke 7:19). Why was it such a struggle for them? How important was it for Jesus to be sure that everyone had the correct theological understanding of who he was? Could he have made it clearer? Does the Devil know who Jesus is? What good does it do him?
4. If we use Jesus’ response to John’s question in Luke 7:19 as a model, what is the best way to respond to those who are struggling with questions about who Jesus is?
5. In Luke 9, Jesus takes his closest disciples up onto a mountain to pray. While there, God speaks from heaven, Jesus is transfigured and spends time talking with Moses and Elijah about his “departure” (“exodus” in the Greek) which is to take place from Jerusalem. According to Ellen White, Jesus needed comfort and encouragement. Why doesn’t God send Gabriel to talk with Jesus? Why send Moses and Elijah? What do you imagine the three of them talked about? What language did they speak? Who spoke the most? What lessons might we learn from all this?