Dr. S. Lewis Johnson gives commentary on how Jesus of Nazareth was recognized as the Messiah in the New Testament.
[Prayer] Father, we come to Thee in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We thank Thee for the access that we have through him. And we praise Thee that we know that thou dost hear our petitions because of the redeeming work that he has accomplished. And we thank Thee that as the children of God we may approach our Heavenly Father who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ our representative. We pray, Lord, that he may be our teacher through the Spirit tonight. Enable us to understand the word and profit from it. And may it be also useful to us in the life that we have to live while we’re here in the flesh. We ask Thy blessing upon this class and upon the classes that follow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
[Message] In our last session two weeks ago, we were looking at the first of a series of two messages on “Christ, the Anointed Messiah.” And in the course of our study, we looked at the use of the term Messiah in the Old Testament. I began with a few words of introduction and then we looked at the term Messiah. We saw that it was derived from the Hebrew verb mashach which means to smear or to anoint. And then we considered the meaning of the term itself and especially noted that it was very significant that in the prophecy of Isaiah the term is used with reference to a pagan king Cyrus, and that that use with Cyrus was a help in determining the meaning of the term Messiah because in that passage having to do with Cyrus, it was revealed that he was a man of God’s choice, that he was appointed to accomplish a redemptive purpose towards God’s people. He was given dominion over the nations. He accomplished a work of judgment upon his foes. And in all of his activities the real agent was Yahweh himself. In other words, God was working through Cyrus.
Now each of these five features are true with reference to the true Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. And so, it is rather significant that in the prophecy concerning Cyrus we do have some anticipation of the truths concerning the true Messianic figure, the Lord Jesus.
Then in the last few moments of the class we pointed out that the term Messiah is a general term, and it refers to the king who is to come, but that there are other Messianic terms that are used in connection with the same person. In other words, Messiah is a kind of term that covers within itself other aspects or other terms that express various aspects of the work of the coming king.
For example, Adam was a Messianic figure. And of course, our Lord being called the last Adam suggests a relationship between the two. Moses was a Messianic figure as a great prophet, and the Messianic prophet who is to come was likened to Moses. David was an outstanding Messianic figure because he is the outstanding king of the Old Testament, and it is the Messiah’s work preeminently to rule and reign over the Messianic kingdom. The servant of Jehovah is another Messianic figure used in the prophecy of Isaiah of the one who will carry out a priestly work of redemption. And the branch, I don’t think we looked at this term, but in the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Zechariah and the Book of Isaiah the term branch is used about five times of the Messiah who is to come. So the term branch is another of the Messianic terms. The seed of the women was a term to which we referred and finally the term Son of Man.
Now we will be looking at the term Son of Man later on and so we’ll talk more about that and in much greater detail later on. We did learn this, that two things stand out in all of these figures of the Messiah who is to come. First, that there are the motifs of humanity and deity in connection with each of these figures. You can see as you study them, that there is an indication that the Messianic figure is a divine figure. But he is also a human figure. And you can also notice the aspects of identity with God and distinction from God suggesting that he, while a divine figure, is also a distinct person from God the Father.
Now tonight we want to go on and discuss the subject of the Messiah in the New Testament primarily, but let me introduce our study tonight with a few more words by way of introduction to our series on Christology as a whole.
One of the most prominent of the biblical interpreters of the present day, Dr. Raymond E. Brown, a Roman Catholic incidentally who is professor of Biblical Studies at a Protestant theological seminary, Union Theological Seminary in New York City, at one time probably the most influential Protestant seminary in this country, and by the way, the seminary of William G. T. Shedd, who probably turns over in his grave every time a lecture is given in the theology department there now. Raymond Brown, a Roman Catholic scholar, has said, “Christology was, is, and I suspect always will be the single most important question in Christian theology.”
And the striking thing about this is that not only that Professor Brown is right about it, because that is probably true, but it very interesting that of all of the religions that have a definite connection with the Bible, Judaism, Muhammadanism, and Christianity, Christians are the only ones who are identified by their view of the person of history, Jesus Christ. In other words, it is only in Christianity that we have an identification of the important figure for us in Christianity, Jesus Christ, with the Christians. Christians are called Christians; that is because of their relationship to Jesus Christ.
Now Judaism, for example, you might think that in Judaism the followers of this particular religion might be called Mosites or something like that because Moses is probably the most significant figure for them. But instead they’re called by a term related to Judah or Israel. And in the case of Muhammadanism, we westerners call the Muslims Muhammadans. But that’s by a false analogy with Christians. We do it because we think of a Muhammadan believer as one who is a follower of the prophet Muhammad because we are followers of Jesus Christ. But actually the Muslim is one who has accepted Islam or submission to the will of Allah as preached by Muhammad. So that the followers of Muhammad are not known as Muhammadans by Muhammadans. They are known as those who belong to Islam. They are Muslims.
So Christianity is the only one of these religions of the Bible, or parts of the Bible, which is named by its relationship to its founder or its most important person, Jesus Christ. Therefore, it’s not surprising that for us Christology should be of tremendous significance.
In modern Christological study, the field is dominated today, fortunately, but we shouldn’t rejoice too much over this, but fortunately, by moderate kind of conservatism. Less agnostic than the liberals of a generation or so ago, and yet still more agnostic than the evangelicals. And among these moderate conservatives, there are those that have what is called an explicit Christology, that is, they believe that you can rely on the terms that are used to describe the ministry of the Lord Jesus.
Now not many of the New Testament scholars today really believe that you can define our Lord’s ministry by the use of the terms, for example, Messiah, Son of Man, Son of God, Lord. It is the opinion of the great majority of these men who are most conservative that these are terms that were added by the church and read back into the New Testament, so that when we read in the New Testament that Jesus is called the Messiah, we are not to think that he accepted that term of himself but rather that the early church later on came to that conviction concerning him. And then in the writing of the books of the New Testament, they read that term back into those books. And so that when you see the term Messiah, more often than not you’re not to think that it was used by the early Christians in the time of our Lord or by our Lord, but rather it is put in the mouth of our Lord and the early apostles by a later Christian church. We’ll say more about that in a moment.
Those who are more liberal have a kind of implicit Christology in which they say Jesus never claimed any of these things. He did perhaps speak of himself as a prophet or acknowledged that he was a prophet, but really he expressed what he was in what he said and what he did.
Now we need to be careful not to accuse such men necessarily of total unbelief because many of them inconsistently, I think, say they are believers in the deity of Christ and in the Saviorhood of Christ, but they just don’t think that we have very reliable account of his life and ministry in our synoptic and Johannine gospels.
Now I’m saying all of this because I don’t think that you can read things that are said about the Bible by the unbelieving public, by our professors and our schools and by others influenced by them unless you understand these facts about how they regard our New Testament.
Now what I want you to do with me now is to turn with me, first of all, for a passage tonight which we will look at in a moment. It is Matthew chapter 16, verse 13 through verse 20. And we want to look first at the New Testament picture of the Messiah.
Matthew chapter 16, verse 13 through verse 20. You’ll recognize this as a very important part of the Gospel of Matthew. The Lord Jesus has now arrived in his earthly ministry at Caesarea Philippi. It has become evident that the nation Israel has rejected his message. And so now he is getting ready to begin to teach them that he must go to Jerusalem and there suffer and die and be raised from the dead. And he needs, or he feels that he must now instruct them in what lies before him, and in lying before him, what lies before them.
Verse 13, “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”
That verse has always interested me because it suggests certain aspects of our Lord’s impressions that he made on people. To some of them he was like John the Baptist, to others he was like Elijah. And to still others he was like Jeremiah.
And you notice the different kinds of prophets. We have Elijah the bold prophet who goes in before Ahab and tells Ahab that it’s not going to rain for a certain length of time. And then there is Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. And so you have the severe prophet and you have the weeping prophet, and evidently our Lord in his life and ministry communicated both of these impressions. At times he was like Jeremiah the weeping prophet. At other times he was like Elijah the bold forthright prophet. And still other times he was like John the Baptist who preached strongly repentance as a necessity for entrance into the Kingdom of God.
Now verse 15, like a good preacher he asks for a decision from them,
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (You see, spiritual truth comes by divine illumination. You Peter did not come to an understanding of that on of yourself, but the Father revealed it to you.) And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Now notice verse 20) Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.”
Now remember, the term Christ means the anointed one. And it is used preeminently of a Messianic figure who is coming as a king. He is called the anointed one because on his head there was poured the sacred, anointing oil when he was inducted into office. The great illustration of this in the Old Testament is of David, the king of Israel, on whose head was poured the sacred, anointing oil. So it was natural to call the figure of the future who would be king of Israel the anointed one or the Messiah.
It is possible that this term arose from the second Psalm because it is used there in connection with both David and the one whom David typifies, our Lord Jesus. In Psalm 2 in verse 2 we read, “The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed,” or His Messiah. It is possible that that is the source of the use of that term with reference to the king.
There’s one other passage and I want you to look at that one too. It’s in Isaiah chapter 61and verse 1. Isaiah 61, verse 1. This is a passage that is quoted in the New Testament by the Lord Jesus and is applied to himself in Luke chapter 4 verse 18 and 19. But listen to the passage in the Old Testament.
This is probably referred to the servant of Jehovah about whom Isaiah has been speaking in the chapters preceding. But at any rate, it is of the Messianic figure, and we read, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me (that is, he has made me Messiah. He has Messiahed me) To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to the prisoners.”
So out of these occurrences of the term mashiach, and then the term anointed here in Isaiah 61, there may have come the use of the term Messiah for this figure who would come in the future and be the king over the earth. Other titles, as we’ve seen, were used to refer to him, but this one, Christos, marks him out as one divinely anointed and equipped for the service of God.
Well now, let’s turn to these passages, and the first one we want to look at is this one in Matthew which is the confession of Peter. In the outline this is capital A: The Confession of Peter.
Now this passage, I want to give you a citation from one of our modern New Testament scholars in order for you to get some flavor of what is ordinarily said about something like this. This would seem to a simple Bible believer to be clear evidence of the fact that the Lord Jesus claimed to be Messiah, and furthermore, that the Scriptures plainly say that he was the Messiah. But modern critics don’t read the Bible like simple Christians do.
Simple Christians just look at this and say, well, Peter confessed, “Thou art the Messiah the son of the living God.” Does that not that say that he was thought to be the Messiah? Further, our Lord said, “Blessed art thou because this has been revealed to you Peter by my Father in heaven.” Does not that say that Jesus accepted the term Messiah?
Well, that might to us. That might to simple Bible-believing Christians. But if you were to enter a theological school or if you were to go to a college or university and take a religion course, you would find that it wasn’t so simple as that. Because, let me read you the comment of one of our best known New Testament scholars today. He speaks of this passage as, “a pictorial narrative representation of the post Easter faith of the church.”
In other words, what we have in Matthew chapter 16, verse 13 through verse 20 is not an incident that is true as Matthew, or the writer of this gospel, wrote it. But what this is is a narrative account in which there has been read a view of our Lord as the Messiah which was not true to the circumstances historically at all. The early church ultimately came to believe that he was the Messiah. And so in these accounts, they read back into them as they construct the gospels their later faith. But our Lord Jesus was not thought to be the Messiah by them. And furthermore, he did not accept the title for notice verse 20, “He warned the disciples that they should tell no man that he was the Messiah.” So what we have here then is not the faith of Peter, or the faith of the early church, or the confession of our Lord Jesus as to his Messiahship, the agreement that he was the Messiah, his acceding to it, but rather the faith of a later church.
What are the criteria of authenticity that such scholars use? Well, they are something like this. If the statement is something that the early church believed later on, it probably came from the early church. If it is something that the Jewish people believed at that time, it probably did not come from our Lord. It’s almost as if, if anyone could have said it, Jesus Christ could not have said it. That’s kind of the assumption that lies back of a great deal of their views of these things.
But I think you can see that this is a faulty way to look at the Bible. It’s a faulty way to look at the synoptic gospels philosophically. It begins with certain assumptions that are unproven; at least I think they’re unproven. It neglects the fact that the early Christians might well have been interested in the biography of our Lord. Wouldn’t you think that people would be very interested in our Lord’s life if they believed that he truly was the Savior? Why, it would seem to me, that would be one of the most important things to know, the life of our Lord. But according to these critics, the fact that the early church was interested in any biographical facts of our Lord’s life is almost totally discounted because they can put things in the Scriptures that are not true to the history of the events at all, but only reflect their later faith.
Furthermore, if it is true that this was a theological statement given by the early church as they wrote this gospel, does that mean that it’s necessarily untrue? We know our gospels are theological documents. They do represent the theology of Matthew, the theology of John. But does that necessarily mean that they are inaccurate? There is no requirement that something that is theological necessarily be unhistorical.
Furthermore, usually associated with this is a belief in antisupernaturalism, that is, that the miracles could not really have occurred. And therefore, we are to look at those accounts as being something the early church has read back in to the New Testament. Methodologically, these arguments are generally circular arguments, by which certain assumptions are used as the bases for certain other conclusions which are dependent upon the original assumption.
In addition, there was such a small time between the time of our Lord and the time when the gospels began to be written, there is not time for a great mass of myth to arise concerning the Lord Jesus. Can you not imagine, for example, John who was called a son of thunder in one of the early church meetings, like our meeting on Sunday night which we have here which I fully believe represents the kind of meeting the early church had. And I believe that it was done in that way for certain biblical principles, too, which are violated in many, many other types of church meetings.
But can you not imagine someone getting on his feet, and giving an address on some particular part of the biblical testimony and making some false statements concerning the Lord Jesus that were not true to history. Can you not imagine, for example, a person getting up and saying, I understand that Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ; that he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And if John the apostle knew that that was not true, can you just imagine John sitting back in the meeting and saying nothing about it? I cannot. I would imagine he’d jump right up there and say wait a minute. Wait a minute. That was wrong. What you’re saying was wrong. This is the way it happened.
But they assume that the apostles could sit in these meetings, and they were still alive at this time, and never say anything about it. So, we’re going to say that these words are really the words of Peter. And furthermore, that when he said concerning the Lord Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” that these are the words that he said. And if that is so, then Peter does confess that our Lord Jesus is the Messianic figure, the Messiah. And furthermore our Lord by the response that he makes, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,” confesses that Peter’s testimony is a true testimony to his Messiahship.
Well now, what then about verse 20? “Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Messiah.” Why did he do that? Well, I think the reason for this is evident from a careful reading of the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John. You see, one of the things that the apostles had a hard time understanding was that the Messiah would be not only a king but he would gain his kingdom by means of suffering death and resurrection. That was the thing that they could not grasp for a long period of time.
So the kind of Messiah that they thought about was a political Messiah who would come and deliver the children of Israel from the Roman yoke. But the result of the omission of the redemptive work created a kind of Messiah who was only political in their minds. And therefore, when he tells them not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah, he realized it was not yet, they were not yet able to preach him as the kind of Messiah that he truly was.
He was a king who would come. He was the Son of the living God. He would set up a kingdom. But it would be by means of a cross, by means of a death, burial and resurrection. And that’s why he warned them that they should tell no one that he was the Messiah. They were not prepared to preach that doctrine biblically.
Well let me ask you to turn to one more confession, the confession of our Lord himself in Matthew chapter 26. So will you turn over a few pages to Matthew chapter 26, verse 57 through verse 68?
Now it is the story of our Lord appearing before Caiaphas and let me begin reading in verse 57,
“And those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. But Peter also followed Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death. And they did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” And the high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You (I put you on oath) by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, (the Messiah) the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Now by saying that, he looked back in the Old Testament. He took Daniel chapter 7, a passage we’ll look at later on in connection with the doctrine of the Son of Man, and Psalm 110, which speaks of him as the exalted Lord, exalted Messiah. He put the two together and he says the time is coming when you will see the Son of Man coming at the right hand of Power, well sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
“Then the high priest tore his robes saying, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy.” “
Well now that seems to be a very clear testimony to our Lord’s Messiahship, does it not? And in the Markan account he says when the high priest asks him to answer us, Are you really the Messiah, the Markan account has, “I am.” “I am.”
Now I want you to listen to a comment by our professor of New Testament who is very prominent, one of the best known men in New Testament scholarship today in the whole western world. This is what he says, “This account is not authentic. It has been formed in the church and ought to have been recognized as the point of view under which the church sees the entire passion.”
So it’s not an authentic account. Jesus did not really make this confession. It didn’t really happen like this, because it reflects the view of the later church. They believed he was the Messiah. And so since they believed he was the Messiah, Jesus could not have said it. If the early church could have said it, Jesus could not have said it.
Now what about this? Well, we could look at this and say that Jesus’ reply is original but is really a denial because notice what he says. He says, “You’ve said it yourself.” Now that does not necessarily mean that he affirms it, because it could be like this. Tell us whether you are the Christ the son of God; that’s what you say. Well you wouldn’t know really from that kind of remark whether I really believe that or not. So there’re some who read it that way. That’s what you’ve said. And this is the original account. Mark’s is not original where he said, “I am.” This is the one that’s original. You’ve said it. But he really would be denying it.
Or we could look at this and say, Jesus’ reply is just equivocal. But, it could be regarded as a qualified affirmative. Yes, I am the Messiah but not in the sense in which you think I’m the Messiah. That’s your way of putting it, not mine, in other words.
Today I was sitting at the dinner table with my grandson. He’s only just a little boy, about five, and so the things that he says are most interesting. And I’m always looking for something that is rather striking. Well today he uttered something rather striking. I was thinking about this particular thing. They were discussing at the dinner table the subject of mayonnaise on a hot dog. And of course, I wasn’t paying too much attention because I was thinking about Messiah and Son of Man and things like this as I was eating. And so, they were each expressing their views about whether they liked mayonnaise on hot dogs or not. But I did hear him come up with this statement. He says, I think I hate it. No, I love it. But I’ve never tasted it. [Laughter]
Well, it fit right in with some of these understandings of our Lord’s words. There’re some who say it’s original. And others say, no, it’s not original. And some say it’s original but he didn’t mean it quite that way. And so, I must confess that I believe that if you put everything together here, that you must say this was an affirmative statement. When he said, “You have said it,” he meant simply you have said it. There is no need for me to make the confession to you. And when we look at the Markan account where he says, “I am,” that would seem to confirm it.
And I want to tell you why I think that our Lord’s reply is affirmative. In the first place, the expression “You have said,” while it’s not the ordinary form of assent in Aramaic, is clearly illustrated in several instances of Aramaic language. In fact, there are some illustrations of this practically identical expression for our “You are right.”
But second, the reason our Lord said, “You have said it,” it seems to me here, is because he’s going to say something even more significant. He says in verse 64, “You’ve said it; nevertheless I tell you.” This is the thing that he wanted to add with a great deal of emphasis. I want you to know, yes I’m the Messiah. But even more significant is that there’s coming a time in which you are going to see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming in the clouds of heaven. And then there is going to be set up a tribunal. He was at the tribunal of these Jewish leaders. There is going to be set up then a tribunal at which you are going to have to stand, and you are going to have to stand before me then. I will be the judge, and you will be the ones who will have to stand in my court. So he says yes, you’ve said it and I want you to know this.
But it’s evident that the judges understood that he was affirming his Messiahship because notice verse 65. In each of the three accounts, incidentally, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, we read, “Then the high priest tore his robes saying, “He has blasphemed
Well now, if Professor Konzelmann does not understand that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah from this statement, and from this account it’s evident that the high priests understood it because they tear their robes in confession of his own blasphemy at what he has said. This, by the way, is a tremendous confession of our Lord and it’s the ultimate confession because soon he will die. And what is so striking about this in so many ways is the irony of it, because the high priests had said to him, “I adjure you.” I call you to testify on oath.
Now we all know that Englishmen don’t lie, for example. We remember the saying, An Englishman’s word is his bond. Don’t ever believe that, but that’s what the English affirm. An Englishman’s word is his bond. So to call an Englishman to testify under oath might seem to challenge his veracity, his character. But think what a terrible challenge it was for this earthly high priest Caiaphas to call the one who is the Amen, who is the truth, to testify under oath. It was the most Christ-dishonoring act that a person could ever commit, to call upon the Son of God to testify under oath as if to suggest it was possible for him to lie.
And when he has said, “I am,” well, that was the ultimate confession of the divine being that we call our God in heaven. For it is he who said of himself, “I am who I am.” And the testimony that Moses heard at the burning bush is no greater testimony than that which our Lord uttered here in the courtroom of the high priest and of the Jews when he said “I am.” In fact, this was probably a more significant testimony to the triune God and his character than that that took place back there.
And just as shortly thereafter the exodus takes place and the children of Israel move out from Egypt through redemption into the Promised Land, so here, as a result of our Lord’s confession, there will shortly take place the blood of the cross by which a greater spiritual exodus will take place. Those who have put their trust in him will move from condemnation into acceptance by virtue of the redeemer who dies upon the cross.
Now there’re other passages that affirm our Lord’s Messiahship, but I want to just quickly consider the Johannine testimony. John’s gospel is not very well liked by contemporary theologians because it is thought to be primarily theology and not history. But if we assume that historicity of the Johannine account, I’m just going to list some of the things that we find in John about the Messiah.
I took down my concordance again, my Greek concordance, and went through every occurrence of the word Christos in the New Testament and especially noted the ones in John because there’s such a rich testimony to our Lord’s Messiahship in John. These are some of the things that I noted, and I’ll just say them quickly for the sake of time.
In the Gospel of John the name of the Messiah is given as Jesus. Second, in the Gospel of John the Messiah is one who has become incarnate; that is stated of him there. Third, in the Gospel of John he is called the Savior; the Messiah is called the Savior. Fourth, in the Gospel of John the Messiah is called the Son of God, no doubt derived again from Psalm 2 because in that psalm which speaks of the Lord and his Christ in a moment, “Thou art my son, this day I have begotten Thee.”
Fifth, in the Gospel of John the Messiah is the king of Israel; that’s to be expected because he’s the Messiah. Sixth, in the Gospel of John the Messiah is said to be eternal; he abides forever. And finally, in the Gospel of John, in the last chapters of that gospel, he is presented as the suffering Messiah. It’s clear that he is regarded as a divine human, eternal king, savior and redemptive sacrifice, resurrected from the dead.
And John’s final statement of his purpose reveals the tremendous force of the testimony to him. And I’ll ask you to turn if you will to John 20, verse 30 and 31. John 20, verse 30 and 31. Here John gives us the purpose of his gospel.
You know when you come to this place and you read these words of John, it’s just as if he were to have stopped and said, this is why I’ve written my book. I’ve written it to prove these things. Listen, “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
So, not trying to write everything that our Lord had done, selecting his incidents, he has welded this together into a confession of the Messiahship of the Son of God in order that men might observe the signs, that they might believe and that they might have life. Thomas had just said “My Lord and my God.” That’s what he’s trying to get men to do, to confess with Thomas that he is Lord and God. Isn’t it interesting that in a little book of twenty-one chapters, this magnificent revelation is given? What a different kind of book the gospels are from the books about men.
Douglas Southall Freeman wrote a biography of Robert E. Lee. It’s a great work. It’s well worth reading, four great big volumes, R. E. Lee. Why the Gospel of John is like a pen and ink drawing of the Son, but its magnificent theme and development makes it greater than all the pages that Mr. Freeman wrote.
The later New Testament usage of the term Messiah is in harmony with the previous with this exception, that in the latter part of the New Testament the term Messiah or Christ becomes something of a proper name. And occasionally you’ll find it used in the sense of a proper name for our Lord.
Let me just say a word or two regarding the last part of this outline. Did our Lord then claim to be the Messiah? Yes, he claimed to be the Messiah. There is no question that he discouraged testimony from some quarters. When the demons confessed that he was the Messiah, he said I don’t think that I’d like to have you as masters of my propaganda. And so he refused their testimony. He told them to shut up. Who wants demons to preach the glories of the Son of God.? But at the same time, he did affirm his Messiahship.
As far as his person is concerned, there’s no need to go over it. He confessed his Messiahship before the high priests. He acknowledged that Peter had made the proper confession. When he stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth, he cited the passage from Isaiah and he said “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” So he applied the term to himself.
That term also suggests a work. And the work is the function of kingship, the establishment of the Kingdom of God. That was what the Messiah was to do. The term Kingdom of God has two parts to it, “kingdom” and “of God.” That really was the work the Messiah came to do, to establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth. He would do it in two stages. He would come, inaugurate, establish the basis of it in his blood and cross. And then accomplish it in his Second Advent and the resultant Kingdom of God upon the earth.
Kingdom of God, there are two emphases. It’s possible to emphasize the term kingdom to the exclusion of “of God.” And I think that’s what Israel did. They thought about the kingdom, and they forgot that it had to be a kingdom in harmony with God. In our Lord’s case, he stressed that it was not only a kingdom but that it was “of God,” and therefore, he demanded, for entrance into it, repentance and faith. And that is what the apostles preached through the Book of Acts.
Well let me sum it up in a statement. From what we’ve seen of the practice of the anointing of the prophet, the priest and the king, it would seem that our Lord’s functions in three offices of prophet, priest and king explain in the clearest way what his Messiahship meant. He was the prophet who revealed the will of God. He was the priest who shed his blood in the sacrifice that makes it possible for us to have eternal life. And he is the king who is to come who shall establish the Messianic kingdom upon the earth. That’s what Messiahship meant. And that’s what he was and that’s what he is. His work is not yet finished. He is to come as king and establish his kingdom. Let me close in a word of prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for these words that are the confession of the Apostle Peter, of our Lord and of the early church. We do believe, Lord, that they were interested in the life of the one upon whom they had rested all of their hopes. And we think it is true to our own natures to want to know about him into whose hands we have committed the issues of our lives. And we thank Thee for the assurance that we have as we ponder the words of holy Scripture, of their veracity, of their truthfulness and of their deep significance for us. And we thank Thee for the testimony of these ancient men who being so much closer to the real events know far more about what happened than twentieth-century, often-unbelieving Biblical students. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.