Was he a historical figure who lived and died, or is he still alive today? Was he a prophet, a rabbi, a moral example? Or was he who he claimed to be? And while we’re at it, just exactly who did he claim to be? Is he, because of his claims, as C.S. Lewis famously articulated on his BBC radio program and in his book Mere Christianity, necessarily a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord?
Is he the Jesus we see in old movies: A blue-eyed, white guy with a well-trimmed beard, who sort of glows and speaks with a British accent? Or is he more hip, like a scene from Talladega Nights: “I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt because it says, ‘I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.’”
Is he the Jesus we hear about in song? The Jesus of hymns and praise choruses: What A Friend We Have? Name Above All Names? Is that how we should respond to him? Or will it be more like I Can Only Imagine: Surrounded by his glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing Hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? Or, perhaps, for those less misty, it’s enough that we tap our foot along with the Doobie Brothers, because, Jesus Is Just All Right With Me!
Is he the Jesus pop-culture defines? Jesus as identified by Oprah? Lady Gaga? Sure, John Lennon apologized for his infamous ‘The Beatles are more popular than Jesus’ boast, but Justin Bieber Beliebers believe the Biebs has the upper hand.
Is he the Jesus we’ve seen in literature? Is he Mary Stevenson’s Lord—you know, the one who assured her that when she only saw one set of footprints in the sand it was because he was carrying her? Or is he the Jesus from William Paul Young’s The Shack—a middle-eastern carpenter who hangs out with a portly African American woman (God) and an Asian looking mirage (the Holy Spirit)?
Is he the Jesus we see represented on CNN? The Lord of demonstrators holding signs that read: ‘God Hates Fags’ and ‘God Is Judging America’? Is he the Lord of the famous ministers caught in sex scandals and televangelists making ridiculously false claims about the end of the world, all punctuated with pleas to send in your money … Quick!
Is he the Jesus of Christianity? The Jesus of Mormonism? The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Are they all one and the same, or are they very different?
Is he the Son of God, or is he God in flesh? Yes? To which one? Both?
It’s one thing to consider what others think—John Lennon had an opinion and so did Ricky Bobby. But your answer to the question ‘Who is Jesus?’ is key. It will determine how you live in response.
The Bible is chock full of buts—thousands of them. And a great many of them lend clarity in answering the question, ‘Who is Jesus Christ?’
Interpreting the Hebrew of the Old Testament, parsing the Greek of the New, or trying to wrap your mind around the Latin of scholars can leave you with a headache. Wrestling with doctrines and dogma can be intimidating. But there’s nothing imposing about the word but—it’s your language.
There is an old children’s riddle: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! The Bible is made up of 66 books, each with its own important appearances of the word but. To undertake a consideration of all of those and the light that they shed on the identity of Jesus Christ would be a monumental task. Like eating an elephant, it’s best to proceed one bite at a time. So where to start?
The Gospel of Matthew is a great starting place because it stands as the first book in the New Testament. It offers the Bible’s first account of the entire life of Christ, his ministry and his teachings. Because it was written with primarily a Jewish audience in view, much of Matthew’s content ties Jesus into the whole of Biblical history, and as the culmination of God’s ancient story. By tracing the one hundred eighty-three appearances of the word but in Matthew’s gospel, and a handful of others from across the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, we’ll gain a clearer and fresher—indeed a much more revealing look—at Jesus.
Big Buts of the Bible: A Revealing Look at Jesus Christ is organized into twenty-eight chapters, corresponding with the chapter divisions in Matthew’s gospel. As such, you will undoubtedly find added benefit and enjoyment reading the passages covered in the full context of their Biblical setting. Each chapter ends with a very brief devotional thought aimed at helping you take away something tangible and applicable in your quest to discover Jesus.
Whether you believe the Bible is God’s word or you simply recognize it as the best-selling book of all time, I trust there’s something worthwhile for you between its covers. Whether you’re new to reading the Bible or a seasoned, serious student, this book will help you get the most out of it. Big Buts of the Bible: A Revealing Look at Jesus Christ will help you get Jesus.
So who is Jesus Christ? Let’s look into it.