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Who did Christ claim to be? (revelation)

posted by fezik82(R), Ohio, 11.23.2017

When referring to John 20:28, I was once asked if I knew when Thomas learned who Christ was... it was likely meant as a trap, but it has really become an interesting subject! In my opinion, he learned of Christ's true identity at the same pace as the rest of the disciples… and it did not appear to have been early in His ministry as I had once supposed.

In Matthew 11:3, John the Baptist, just before receiving his sentence of death, sent his own disciples to inquire of Christ, “Are you the Coming One, or are we to expect a different one?” Christ gave a fascinating and clear response which disclosed the most full revelation that He had uttered thus far. John wanted to know if Christ was the awaited anointed one, though he was the nearest firsthand witness to God's testimony about the Son during His baptism. Christ's response was quiet, and understandable only to a knowledgeable, faithful Jew. This quiet response was necessary as to avoid capture by any soldiers who may have overheard. Christ was not quick to reveal His full identity to any of His disciples, and certainly John the Baptist was no exception. In His final words to John before John's death, He opened his eyes to the reality that He was not simply the appointed Messiah, but that He was also the God which Israel awaited; He who was to come, personally, and redeem His people.

John's inquiry into Christ's true identity was a response to the works that Christ had been performing throughout Galilee; Jesus' response to
John the Baptist's question was a quotation of a passage of Isaiah which undoubtedly identifies Him as the God of Israel. He instructs the messengers to report back that:

"The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (verses 5-6)

He likely did not answer directly because the guards would have overheard and seized Him before His time, but His response was sharp and obvious to the educated Jew. Being the son of the high priest Zechariah, John would have known well the prophecy of the coming one as recorded by Isaiah (35:4-6):

"say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert."

The common consensus is that it was precisely at the moment of baptism when Jesus had become the Christ, and although it was John the Baptist who baptized Jesus, he was still left with uncertainty when upon his death he felt encouraged to send messengers to inquire as to whether He was the Christ. John of all people should have known, if (of course) Christ was ever bold about revealing His identity.

Some are quick to question why Christ would not just speak boldly and clearly reveal Himself as God if God were what in fact He is, but there are numerous instances which prove that He was rarely so bold, that He was more inclined to let the revelation of Himself unfold at a pace no faster than the one who received it could accept it. In Matthew 8:1-4, He instructed the man who He had cleaned of leprosy to tell nobody, in Matthew 17:9, He instructed Peter, James, and John to tell nobody of the transfiguration until after He was raised from the dead. Matthew 16:20, He strictly charged His disciples to tell nobody that He was the Christ. The disciples, however, were not the first to recognize Him as the Christ. He cast out demons because they recognized Him (cf. Mark 1:34).

In Matthew 16:16, we read of Peter's confession in response to Christ's question of His identity. Peter professed Him to be, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God"; at this point, Peter had only received a part of the revelation which was laid out in the New Testament, but we have access to the completed ministry. We have the full revelation. Referring to the full revelation, we have proof of Christ's identity in His written Word, we have account of His admonishment, "if you do not believe that I AM, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24). This is the first time that Peter had referred to the Lord with the Messianic title, "Christ", and His response explains that it could only have been revealed to him by the Father. This is the only time when any of the disciples referred to Christ as the Son of God; but He is called such by God, by unclean spirits (Mark 5:7), by Jewish authorities (Mark 14:61, in a question), and by a Roman soldier (Mark 15:39). Being such a provocative moment for Christian formation, it is only fitting that this occurred on the Day of Atonement, the only day in which the High Priest could fearlessly utter the Divine Name. The High Priest's confession was not much unlike Peter's; God's Name revealed His nature as powerful and authoritative, just as this role as the Messianic King, "the Christ"; the Son of the living God.

This verse is a favorite among anti-Trinitarians; Peter confessed Christ not as "God", but as God's Son which indicates to opposers a distinction between God and His Son. Peter's confession, however, does not detract from the Trinity. This is not a moment to downgrade Christ's Divine nature, but to enhance His human role. A brief study of the eternal generation of the Son will offer insight into how Methodist commentator Adam Clarke felt justified in claiming that this verse was Peter's confession of Christ's Divinity . Prior to this occassion, Peter had never made such a clear recognition of Christ's identity, but only identified Him as Master, Rabbi, or Teacher. Each title offered to Christ by Peter was in response to a relative display of power; for example, when Christ had revealed His power over the creatures of the sea, Peter calls Him "Lord" (Luke 5:8). The revelation of Christ's identity was apparently gradual, even within the one who took the lead among the disciples. Peter received even further revelation which allowed Him to boldly confess Christ as God as time went on (cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16). Peter applied numerous Scriptures which were clearly a reference to "YHWH" to Jesus; for example, in 1 Peter 2:3, he applied Psalm 34:8 to Him. In 1 Peter 2:7, 8, he applied Isaiah 8:13-14 to Him. In 1 Peter 2:25, he applied Ezekiel 34:11 to Him.

I believe that Thomas knew who Christ was at the same pace as the rest of the disciples. Though there were many instances which were later recorded which show that Christ was fulfilling prophecy spoken of God, more often than not we are told that the disciples did not understand what was being relayed to them. Sometimes it was even worded that blatantly! Type, "did not understand" into follow cross-references, read commentaries! The disciples were often left clueless as to what Christ was actually teaching them. When He spoke of "the temple of His body", they didn't understand until after the resurrection (John 2:21); and again, when He was glorified before His disciples, they were to keep this from the others until He was raised.

At the Last Supper, Christ spoke to the disciples and told them parables. In John 16:29, He had just started speaking more clearly, mainly of His origin, and the disciples even noted that He was speaking more plainly there. In the next verse, some of the disciples said, "Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God." They were still receiving revelation, and that revelation was becoming more comprehensible as His Passion approached. In fact, previously, in the Sermon on the Mount, He said that when the disciples prayed, they must pray this way, "Our Father...". Now He is about to leave the world, and so He tells them, whatever you "ask Me in my Name, I will do it for you" (John 14:14). There is a change that He is preparing His disciples for; not that He will become something that He has not been, but that He is now prepared to offer to them a fuller revelation of what exactly that is. While He was still walking as man and preaching, while the disciples still had Him there with them, He said that His Father draws all of the men to Him (John 6:44), yet as He is preparing to leave this world, He states that He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). Again, He gave them a more full revelation.

The closer it comes to His Passion, the more is revealed... then He died. The disciples returned to their lives, mourning the one that they thought was going to redeem them. Though I know their faith remained, you must admit that must have been a crushing blow... here He lie dead in the tomb. They didn't realize why He had to suffer and die. He returns, and Thomas just can't bring himself to believe it; but when he sees Him, the full revelation comes together and for the first time, He is called, "my God" by a disciple. Though it was clear to the disciples that they had walked with God by the time that their accounts were recorded, it does not appear that they knew this before He had risen and offered to them the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.

I asked The Lord how much He loved me

He stretched out His arms and said, "this much"

Then He died for me


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