Was Jesus "Just a Messiah?" (Matthew 26)

  There are some who claim that messiahs were a dime a dozen in 1st century Israel, and that Jesus was just another one of them, meaning He was no different from any other "regular servant of God." But is that how Jesus viewed Himself? 

  Jesus uses a number of divine titles for Himself in the New Testament, as we have seen in previous articles. Christian apologist Jay Smith provides an easy way to remember and present 3 of them in a single, powerful two-verse passage in the Gospel of Matthew. 

  The 3 titles are:


    Son of God

    Son of Man

  The context of the passage is Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin, the group of men who comprised the top Jewish religious leadership under Roman occupied 1st century Israel. 

  False witnesses were brought before the court who lied about what Jesus said, and the high priest challenged Jesus to respond (italics mine):

63 But Jesus kept silent. Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!”

64 “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26

Huios tou Theou


  The Jews had been hoping and praying and waiting for Messiah for thousands of years, and here they are finally home in the Promised Land after decades in exile in Babylon. And about 460 years after Malachi had brought a word from the Lord saying He would soon be coming to His Temple, Jesus came onto the scene doing miracles and signs and wonders that no one had ever seen before or since. The Messiah, the Anointed One spoken of by the prophets -- David, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Micah, to name a few -- had finally come. 

  We will be tackling the question of "Is Messiah God?" in much more detail in a coming article, but allow us to quote only 2 passages for now:

 14 "Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel." Isaiah 7

  Immanuel means, "God with us," clearly indicating that this was not going to be any ordinary son. About 5 years later, Isaiah revealed this message from YHWH which brought further confirmation of the Child's deity:

 6 "For a child will be born for us,

     a son will be given to us,
     and the government will be on His shoulders.
     He will be named
     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
     Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9

  More than 100 years later, YHWH spoke through another of His prophets: 

  5 “The days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—
     “when I will raise up a Righteous Branch of David.
      He will reign wisely as king
      and administer justice and righteousness in the land.

  6 In His days Judah will be saved,
     and Israel will dwell securely.
     This is what He will be named:
     Yahweh Our Righteousness." Jeremiah 23

  So that should settle the issue of the deity of Messiah.   

  But wait. The high priest's question was not just, "Are You the Messiah?" 

  It was, "Tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God?"

  Son of God

  At the very least, the high priest is asking Jesus to confirm if this was indeed His teaching. Had He, in fact, been going around telling the Jewish people that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. We cover the title of Son of God in other articles so we will not discuss it again here, but suffice it to say that the high priest was fully aware that, if Jesus said yes, then He was making a claim to deity.

  Both Jesus and the Jews were fully aware that while there are "sons of God," there is only One Son of God. And there He was, standing right in front of them. If there were any men in all of Israel who would have known the Jewish Scriptures, it would have been the Sanhedrin. But their hearts remained closed to His message. Jesus may as well have been speaking about them when He said,  

39 "You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. 

40 And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life." John 5

  The Sanhedrin was burdened by much more earthly concerns, and they were bent on disposing of Jesus, no matter if it involved lying about the Innocent Accused.

  Son of Man

  Until that point, Jesus had refused to respond, but as others have pointed out, it is then that the high priest put Him under oath. And that is when Jesus spoke and brought us a third Divine Title: 

64 “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

  Now, I would remind the Bible skeptic that Jesus never lied and could never lie. He had two options available to Him as to how to respond. 

  If Jesus were not God, then obviously His first option would have been to say, "No, wait. Don't be ridiculous. I never said that."

  Or, "Your sources are either lying or mistaken. I am just a prophet bringing you the same message the other prophets did. Sure, I was miraculously born of a virgin with angels in attendance and signs in the heavens but, hey, so what if God just felt like throwing a supernatural party to celebrate My coming? So what if He had never done that before and was obviously calling the world's attention to how different and important my birth was?"

  Okay, so I'm being facetious, but I hope the point has been made. Jesus did not run away from the obvious implications of His positive response. The question could not have been clearer, and it was the same with his reply. To paraphrase:

  "Yes, I am the Messiah, the Son of God." 

  But He did not stop there. Rather, He reinforced the point by quoting from the Book of the prophet Daniel:

13 "I continued watching in the night visions,
      and I saw One like a son of man
      coming with the clouds of heaven.
      He approached the Ancient of Days
      and was escorted before Him.

14  He was given authority to rule,

      and glory, and a kingdom;
      so that those of every people,
      nation, and language
      should serve Him.
      His dominion is an everlasting dominion
      that will not pass away,
      and His kingdom is one
      that will not be destroyed." Daniel 7

  Yet again, Jesus had taken an Old Testament prophecy about the Divine Messiah and applied it to Himself. "Son of Man" was His own personal favorite divine title for Himself, using it more than 75 times.

  But if there is still any lingering doubt in your mind that Jesus was indeed making claims to deity, the response of the high priest and his fellow Jews to Jesus' words should erase them. They knew full well what He was saying:  

65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Look, now you’ve heard the blasphemy! 

66 What is your decision?” 

     They answered, “He deserves death!”

  Whether feigned or real, the high priest's reaction to the response was dramatic. The rending of his robe was indication enough of his horror and disgust at what he had just heard, but his words truly close the book on the issue. In the minds of the members of the kangaroo court around Him, Jesus had just blasphemed God by claiming divinity. And the penalty for blasphemy was death, as we see in Leviticus 24:16,

16 Whoever blasphemes the name of Yahweh is to be put to death; the whole community must stone him. If he blasphemes the Name, he is to be put to death, whether the foreign resident or the native.

  It may be a fitting epilogue to this article for us to note something else which was recorded for us by another Gospel writer. It is something which the high priest had said in the midst of plotting to kill Jesus (italics mine):   

49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 

50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 

51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation

52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God." John 11 

  Despite his unbelieving heart, Caiaphas was used of YHWH God (just as Balaam's donkey was, perhaps?) to prophesy what was to happen to Jesus the Messiah, and why. 

  God's mission for Messiah was just what Jesus had said it was:

16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 

17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3

Jesus is Lord!


  With thanks to Jay Smith for the great work he is doing in reaching the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You bring great glory to our Lord through your ministry, Jay! 

  See also:

  The Munich Talmud: Jesus' Charge Sheet Discovered


  Isaiah, Gabriel and the Son of God 


  Who Says God Has No Son?



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