For whom did Jesus consider him?

Our faith

An attempt at contemporary answers

Who was Jesus of Nazareth? What do we know about him? Does the picture in the Gospels really correspond to historical facts? Was he omniscient? What did he think of himself? Did he found a new religion? God's Son and yet completely human - what does that mean? What does his death mean to us and what does scripture mean that he rose from the dead?

Jesus Christ wanted to know whether people still believed in him. So he reappeared on earth and met two theology students. And Jesus asked them, "What do people say who I am?"

And the two replied like a shot from the pistol: "You are the manifestation of our eschatological essence, the proclamation that manifests itself in the conflict and in the course of the harmonization process." And Jesus said, "What am I?"

Learned sentences, traditional images

A joke that looks very deep. This is how these two theology students had just learned - just as we learned our doctrines about Jesus; sentences other than the one just mentioned, certainly, but also learned ones.

When we are asked who this Jesus Christ is, we usually answer like a shot from the gun: He is the Son of God, the Redeemer, our brother and Lord ...

And in doing so, we can think of an abundance of images that have had a lasting impact on our image of Jesus: the good shepherd with the lamb on his shoulders, the young man in a long robe, with a beard and long hair and of course with sandals.

And mostly all these pictures are outshone by a sweetness that was particularly shaped by the Nazarenes' art school in the 19th century. I remember z. B. still very good at the large picture from my grandparents' bedroom.

But is that really Jesus? Are we already capturing him with these pictures? And who do these images capture anyway? The son of God, the carpenter's son, the man?

Hardly any reliable information about the historical Jesus of Nazareth

Perhaps we cannot attempt an answer to such questions until we look at what we can say with any degree of certainty. And let's start - quite obviously - with the person Jesus of Nazareth. Let us first look at him as a historian would look at him. What do you even know?

Now the next best thing to do is to simply look at the reports about Jesus: the Gospels. But that's where the difficulties begin: Anyone looking for reliable information about the person Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels will quickly find that it is not that easy at all.

The text of Mark, probably the oldest gospel, does not begin its account until we are baptized. Nothing at all is said about the time before. Nor does the Gospel of John speak a word of what happened before Jesus appeared in public.

In addition, the Gospels - with the exception of the account of the suffering of Jesus - are composed of many short stories. Hardly any of them really give us a clue as to when and where exactly the events reported took place.

Birth before the birth of Christ

At least when Jesus was born, we can infer with some certainty from the reports. Because if it is true that Jesus was born at the time of King Herod the Great, then one can say with some certainty that he was born around the year 7 BC.

But that also means that he was certainly not born in the assumed zero hour. Abbot Dionysius Exiguus, who introduced our calendar in the 6th century, simply miscalculated. At the time of his assumed zero hour, Herod the Great had been dead for almost four years.

Jesus' curriculum vitae

We know for sure that Jesus grew up in Nazareth and was brought up as a devout Jew. This is already indicated by its name, which is actually pronounced "Yeshua". This first name, common among Jews at the time, means something like "Yahweh is salvation".

We can also assume that Jesus - like all Jews in Israel at that time - spoke Aramaic, but that he also understood Hebrew, which was only used in worship. He could read and write, and was probably not particularly influenced by contemporary Hellenistic culture - at least there is no evidence of that.

As a profession, he probably learned the carpentry trade in his parents' workshop.

After quietly growing up, he caused a public stir for a short time - perhaps a few years - and was then crucified on a Friday during the feast of Passover.

Some believe that this could have been April 7th, 30th. Other researchers put the year 27 as the year of death. This only makes it clear again how difficult and uncertain exact dating is here.

With these few details we come to the end with the historically tangible facts.

From the limits of tradition

It becomes difficult when we ask what this Jesus preached at the time and what he actually said himself. The words of Jesus in the Gospels were not written down until after Easter, and were often passed down orally for a long time - and that by people who had come to believe that Jesus is the risen Christ. With this belief in mind, these people passed on Jesus' words.

So they were not handed down like in a newspaper report, but more like in sermons. They were put together anew, sometimes expanded and adapted to the particular situation of the congregation.

But what did Jesus actually do historically? What message did he deliver?

Jesus' consciousness of a mission

We must - with all due caution - assume a development in the life of the person Jesus of Nazareth.

He seems to have gone public, moved by the conviction that God's intervention was imminent. That was not uncommon in his time. Some others excelled in the same way and began in this "end time" to gather together "the prodigal sons and daughters of Israel". We can paraphrase Jesus' first concern in a very similar way. At first it was all about Israel.

"Do not go to the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans" (Mt 10,5),

he told his disciples, because obviously Jesus felt

"sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 15:23).

An event in his life seems to indicate something like a rethinking: In the area of ​​Tire a Syrophoenician - a pagan - came and asked him to heal her daughter.

And the way Jesus reacted now seems so cruel to me that it can hardly have been invented afterwards. After all, you hardly put anything in the mouth of the Messiah that, in retrospect, makes him, whom you venerate, bad. But the answer that Jesus gives this woman in the Gospel shows him from a cruel side.

Jesus rejects her request with the words:

"Let the children be fed first"

- and by that he means Israel -

"for it is not right to take bread from children and throw it to dogs" (Mk 7:27).

He describes the mother who is praying for her sick daughter with one of the most terrible swear words in the Orient: he calls her dog. And he does it and rejects her solely because she is a foreigner, a stranger, a pagan.

What this woman does then fascinates me more and more the more I read this passage. In no case does she withdraw offended. She answers confidently and with a pride of her own:

"Yes, you are right, Lord! But also for the dogs under the table some of the bread that the children eat falls off" (Mk 7:28).

This woman must have made a tremendous impression on Jesus. He reacts to it as if it were falling like scales from his eyes. He heals her daughter and as a result sees his mission more and more as a mission for all people.

Development in the Life of Jesus?

But can that be? Did Jesus go through any development? Can the Son of God develop? God knows everything - and accordingly Jesus must also have been omniscient. But then he must have known his actual program from the start. And he must have known or at least suspected his own fate beforehand!

This is what Christians have meant at all times, and they have increasingly emphasized the divinity of the Savior as time has passed. This process begins in the Gospels themselves.

For example, when Jesus is rejected in his homeland, the Gospel of Mark, if translated literally, clearly states:

"... and he could not do an act of power there either" (Mk 6.5).

About two decades later, this was obviously considered offensive. You couldn't honestly say that God's Son could not work miracles in Nazareth. And so the later Gospel of Matthew closes the same report with the clearly weakened formulation:

"... and he did not do many powerful deeds there" (Mt 13:58).

This is not an isolated case. From the painful cry while dying on the cross, which Mark narrates (cf.Mk 15:37), Luke turns into the loud cry:

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23:46).

As time progressed, Jesus' divinity was emphasized more and more, the descriptions became more and more sublime, the miracles more and more magnificent, but the person of Jesus in return became more and more bloodless.

In the end, the shining but pale face of a Nazarene Christ remains on a kitsch devotional picture: with a rigid, as it were piercing, but otherwise empty gaze. And all because we simply cannot imagine that God really became human. Not God was walking around on earth, but God became man! And being human also means that we are imperfect, vulnerable and also not omniscient.

I am convinced that Jesus did not know he was God and he had to learn the things of this life just as we do. Nothing fell into his lap. And that's why he has only slowly understood the destination to which his path will lead. All of this is part of being human.

Jesus, the Son of Man

How much Jesus understood himself as a person is shown by the only title that he presumably applied to himself: the title "Son of Man". After all, according to the Jewish understanding of language at the time, "son of man" initially means nothing other than "man".

Jesus, the miracle rabbi?

Therefore I do not want to attach the great importance to the miraculous work of Jesus that is often given to it. This does not mean that Jesus did not work miracles or that we now have to question all gospel accounts. The healings of Jesus naturally occupy a large place in the Gospels. But miracles are reported by others too, and they are nowhere near enough to describe the meaning of Jesus.

If Jesus had only been that miracle rabbi who had cast a spell over people with his healings, then he would hardly have been so dangerous to the Jewish leadership. But Jesus never saw himself as a miracle rabbi.

The message of Jesus

What Jesus had to preach was far more important to Jesus. And the epitome of his preaching was the message of the kingdom of God, a rule of God, which is shaped by the fact that God offers his love to people: a love that forgives, that accepts people, that applies to all people and that ultimately - like himself always saw more - reaches to the ends of the earth.

It was a matter of realigning oneself to this rulership of God. It obviously requires a reorientation of the whole of life.

When Jesus also made it clear that God's love for people is independent of frozen rituals, independent of cultic regulations and religious power apparatus, when he made it clear that man himself stands above cultic regulations, he got along with the authorities of himself Time more and more closely related - a dispute that ultimately ended with his death.

He probably wouldn't fare very differently today.

The suffering servant of God

As time went on, Jesus seems to have interpreted his own path more and more in the image of the suffering servant of God. He found this picture in the Scriptures, with the prophet Isaiah. There he could read:

"He bore our sickness and brought our pain upon himself. We thought he was struck by God, struck and bowed by him. But he was pierced because of our crimes, because of our sins. For our salvation the punishment was upon him, through his wounds we are healed "(Isa 53: 4-5).

Perhaps he has become more and more aware that he himself was meant by this servant of God. And it is possible that it was precisely with this awareness that he started his way to Jerusalem - although he could easily figure out that this would not end well.

But Jesus could find another clue in the songs of the servant of God. In the end it says:

"But the Lord took pleasure in his broken (servant); he saved him who gave his life as an atonement" (Isa. 53:10).

So it may well be that Jesus walked this path in the end with the awareness that God will ultimately bring everything together for good, because God stands - he could infer this from the prophet Isaiah - on the side of this servant who is ready To give life.

The risen Lord and the doubts of men

We know by faith that Jesus did not betray his conviction that God stood by him. By faith we know that God raised this Jesus from the dead. And I say quite deliberately: We know that by faith.

Because there is no scientifically solid proof of this. Even the empty grave is no evidence of that.

Therefore, on the other hand, it is of no use if scientists keep coming who want to prove that the grave was not empty, or that Jesus did not die on the cross at all, but only died later, and so on.

Since the event of the resurrection cannot be grasped, it cannot be refuted either. Even if the grave was not empty, that would not change the faith, because Jesus was risen into a reality that transcends space and time - and accordingly also our kind of physicality.

There is no getting around it: At the resurrection, the spirits will part, because only in faith can I support the insight that God did not leave this Jesus, the Christ, in death.

But only this belief reveals the real meaning of Jesus. Because through the resurrection of his Son, God makes it clear that death does not have the last word, but that he who adheres to this God is also held by God through death.

Is Jesus Founding a New Religion?

Actually, the belief in God overcoming death is an insight that people could have come to before Jesus. This was nothing new. Jesus didn't teach that much new here. Almost everything he said is already in the first testament of the Bible. And research into the Qumran texts - the writings from the caves by the Dead Sea - has made it clear that much of it was already discussed in Jesus' time and was definitely present at the time.

Jesus doesn't bring anything new directly - and certainly not a new religion. Rather, he peeled out what was hidden in the encrustations of his time and in a frozen religious practice, anew and finally. He makes it possible to hear what God has always wanted to say to people as the ultimate and unsurpassable messenger (cf. Mk 2,1-12).

And through his death and resurrection he is ultimately responsible for the fact that this divine message in the missionary work of the church based on him overcomes the provinciality of a single national religion and becomes the global message of salvation for all people.

This is ultimately where the historically tangible significance of this Jesus of Nazareth lies, of whom we believe that in him God has come close to us in an unsurpassable way, that God has become man in him.

God and man

How exactly this connection between God and humanity is to be thought, how we can imagine this incarnation, I cannot say. And I won't even try. Because all attempts to penetrate this secret through thinking end up looking helpless and sometimes even ridiculous.

The only good interpretation that I know is also the oldest. And with her I would like to conclude these considerations. It is the early Christian hymn from the letter to the Philippians. Basically everything is said here that we can really say on the subject of God and humanity in Jesus Christ. We should be humble with this information.

In the letter of the Philippians it says:

"(Jesus Christ) was equal to God,
but didn't hold on to being like God
but emptied himself and became like a slave
and like people.
His life was that of a man;
he humbled himself and was obedient to death,
until death on the cross.
That is why God exalted him above all
and gave him the name
who is greater than all names
so that everyone in heaven, on earth and under earth
bow their knees to the name of Jesus
and every mouth confesses: "Jesus Christ is Lord" -
to the glory of God the Father "(Phil 2: 6-11).

(Dr. Jörg Sieger)

Our Faith - An Attempt at Timely Answers