On Christian Life

Who Is Jesus? pt 1

I used to really hate my name. It was hard being named Chip when I was little. I’ve heard it all: Chips Ahoy, Chip ‘n Dale, Chipmunk, Potato Chip, Chipster, Chippie, Chipper, and even Vanilla Chip (my buddy Nate told me I was too white to be Chocolate Chip). The names used to really bother me. It was just more ammo for the bullies. I was already a nerdy kid. Having the name Chip, I might as well have had a bandage on my glasses and worn suspenders.

But now I love being named Chip. It’s different, which suits me. I don’t meet many Chips. I occasionally run into someone that knew a guy once, but for the most part when someone says, “Hey, Chip!” it’s a safe bet they mean me. I like that assurance, just in case they’re warning me about danger ahead like a giant pothole or a Buckle salesperson.

If we were to make a list of the most unique names in history (and by “unique” I mean, those that became revered because of who held it not because it was spelled with unnecessary letter y’s) the list would include names like Mahatma, Elvis, Plato, and Jesus. These names point us to the person and all they said and did that goes along with it. Hearing these names brings thoughts, emotions, and memories. But specifically when it comes to Jesus, why is his name so recognizable and unique?

The name Jesus isn’t unique. In fact, Jesus is just the Greek version of Yeshua or Joshua. There were probably lots of guys named Yeshua during Jesus’s time on earth. So how did such a common name become such a big deal?

We could point to his success with the Christian movement. As the founder of the religion with the most followers in the world, Jesus is clearly a revolutionary. Who else can put on their resume that they have billions of followers, friends, or volunteers in their organization? Jesus was definitely a leader.

We could point to his teaching. Instruction such as “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” and the Golden Rule are more than just clever. Their truth has not only stood the test of time but has transcended culture and society for 2,000 years. Jesus was definitely engaging and wise.

We could point to his way of relating to the marginalized. His love for the outcast is well-documented. He touched lepers with his bare hands. He included tax collectors and prostitutes in his inner circle. And wherever he went he spread hope to others in their brokenness. Jesus was definitely kind and compassionate.

The picture starts to emerge – Jesus, caring and kind but strong and wise. Is it enough to say that Jesus was a good man? He was, after all. If you want to know who Jesus was, look in the Bible at his biographies: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They provide us with details about Jesus’s birth, life (including his ministry, teaching, and beliefs), and his death on a Roman cross.

Within these books you’ll see that Jesus was a revolutionary, that he was a teacher, and that he was a warrior for the outcast, but is that all he was? Our calendars use B.C. and A.D. as a way of counting down to a point in time then starting over at 1. That point on the timeline is Jesus and his time on the earth. How is it that the timeline of history turns on his life? Of all the people to affect human history, why is a homeless Jewish carpenter the epicenter of the earth-changing events of the last two millennia?

He created a following for sure. But what was it Jesus said to his followers? He must have convinced them to continue the movement after he was gone. Not only did they continue it, but they died for it. What kind of voodoo magic hypnosis did Jesus pull on them to get them to submit to torture, imprisonment, and death? And not only did his initial followers submit, but for the last 2,000 years followers of Jesus have been murdered for believing in Jesus and his teaching. Surely the last 2,000 years’ worth of followers couldn’t also have been put under some spell by a long-dead revolutionary. No one is that charismatic. Except Kanye. I’m sure his followers will stand the test of time.

Jesus said some extraordinary things during his time on earth. When given the chance to condemn a woman caught in adultery he said, “If there’s anyone here who has never done wrong and needed mercy, you can throw the first stone.”

When asked how to love he said, “Love God first. Then love your neighbor as yourself.” And then he continued by teaching that our neighbor is anyone who shows us mercy, even if they’re not someone we would show mercy to ourselves.

We read about how Jesus did miracles. He healed blind people, sick people, lame people, epileptics, psychotics, and even dead people. Yep. Dead people. As in 4 days, wrapped in bandages, already rotting, inside a tomb, dead people. That’s pretty unusual, don’t you think?

So if it wasn’t his charisma that earned worship, what was it?

Of all the strange things Jesus said and did, in the book of John we read this in chapter 10.

30 The Father and I are one.

Sprinkled throughout the stories about Jesus are insinuations about where Jesus came from, where he got his authority to tell us how life should be. Sometimes he dodged the questions from the skeptics. Other times, like this one in John, Jesus came right out and said who he was.

God.

If there’s anything that sends a revolution down the toilet, the leader saying he’s a god is definitely on the list. If he had said he was a toaster, he might have gotten some strange looks, maybe even a question, “What’s a toaster?” In this case, Jesus wasn’t just saying he was a god, like the Caesars or the Pharaohs of Egypt did. He was telling other Jews that he was the one God, the Creator of the universe. That wasn’t just shocking. That was angering. That was the height of arrogance, dishonor, and blasphemy. How could a man claim to be God?

So they murdered him for it.

What does it mean for Jesus to claim he was God? Please respond with comments below.

I am a husband, a father and a follower of Christ. I have been an entrepreneur, a pastor and a politician. Through many hardships I have learned lessons about faith and life. I am also a contributing writer on faithbeyondfear.com. Follow me on Twitter @twelve2nds. If you want to contact me, write me at chip@chipmattis.com.

40 Comments

  • Wendy Wallace

    It means that Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. Phil 2:6-8

    Jesus was, is and always be God. Our Creator, our Savior.

  • Paul Ward

    Well first of all, you’re correct, Jesus’ Hebrew name was common. In fact there have been over 70 burial remains of people with that name from that time period.

    Secondly, to answer your question. Jesus being God means so many things. Some we can comprehend, some we cannot. It means that Jesus has always been, in coexistence with God. Therefore He has been involved in human history since creation. The same creative qualities that we find in the God of Genesus, we find in Jesus. The same sovereignty, power, authority, wisdom, knowledge, righteousness, and love are all found in Jesus.

    It means that we can trust Him with our v loves because He’s the very author of them. It means we must submit our lives, because He’s the authority over them .

    It means that He can make anything happen in our lives. It means that He deeply loves us and is constantly cheering for us.

    Jesus is God, and that means more that I can ever truly express or comprehend.

    • Chip Mattis

      Thanks for sharing your really great thoughts, Paul. I fully agree. In fact, your point about Jesus being a part of human history is a great one. I’m sure on some level I’ve always accepted that fact, but over the last year I’ve heard and read about Jesus appearing in the Old Testament. It’s what we call theophany. There are several instances of a divine being showing up, and the Hebrew implies he was more than an angel. It’s fantastic. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Galina

    There are a lot of questions to ponder in this post. The name of Jesus carries a lot of weight and I love how you unpack the different aspects of it. It is fascinating that His name is significant even for non Christians as in the example that you give with the Him being the pivotal point of our history timeline. Looking forward to reading Part 2.

  • Bob Hayward

    Great challenge Chip – btw I never liked my name Bob (or Robert as Mum called me) I wanted Simon then – now like you I have more than settled on Bob.

    What does it mean for Jesus to claim he was God? I love the reply, I learned when running the Alpha Course, it means he was either Mad. Bad or He is correct He is God.

    It is fairly simple to prove He wan’t Bad – Mad? Well He was seriously radical from the context of life styles 2000 years ago – No Mad doesn’t stack up either. One choice left = He is God.

    What does that mean to me? I have choice to follow Him or go my own way. Simples.

    • Chip Mattis

      I love this response, Bob. Most people don’t really think about the claims Jesus made in those terms. It’s the Liar, Lunatic, or Lord proposition from Josh McDowell. And as you explained, the only one that fits is that Jesus is exactly who he said he was. And yes, it’s a pretty simple choice after that. Either he’s worth following as Lord, or he’s not. I choose to follow him.

  • Luisa Rodriguez

    Often people like to say that Christians lack reason, but if you approach Jesus from a logical, reasonable perspective you have to ask yourself how a mere man can have such a profound effect on history. Even just looking at the role of women in Judaism at the time, you have to ask why would a man-centered society write that women where the first ones to see Jesus after the resurrection. Women would have never made it into the narrative, at least not in a positive sense. I think if you truly are interested in looking at the evidence—you would have to come to the conclusion that there is a strong possibility that Jesus was more than a mere man.

    • Chip Mattis

      Absolutely, Luisa. I couldn’t agree more. The trustworthiness of the Gospels on many accounts is strong. Lots of source materials available in close proximity to the original writing, verifiable historical and geographical points, and, as you mentioned, social taboo around the inclusion of women. It’s scandalous, but thank God for the Gospels. It gives us a picture of Jesus, the greatest man to ever live. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Stephen De La Vega

    Hi Chip. This is intriguing. I can’t wait for Part 2! Jesus being God, for one thing, means He is the Creator of everything from nothing, and as such, He also has no beginning. This is mind-boggling and awe-inspiring.

    • Chip Mattis

      Oh good call! Yes, Jesus as I AM has such a profound meaning. It means he’s been around since before the beginning. It’s a humbling and an empowering thought. Thanks for reading!

    • Chip Mattis

      Interesting. Could you expound on your last comment? What do you mean by elevating ourselves as our own god in our hearts and minds? I think I know where you’re going, but I want to better understand. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Chip Mattis

      That says it all, doesn’t it? That had to be so jarring for the disciples, good Jewish people. For a man to claim he was one with the Father was one thing. But then he proved it, time and again and finally by rising from death. That is life altering.

  • Deb Allard

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the Word. Also Isaiah 53 describes what the Savior will look like and what will happen to him. Jesus fulfills every one of those predictions.

    • Chip Mattis

      Yes, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah is a huge prophetic picture of the Savior. I have really loved diving into OT prophecies about Jesus. It makes me appreciate the perfect plan of God.

  • Anne Mackie Morelli

    Chip, while some may like to claim that there is inconclusive or insufficient evidence to believe in Jesus – the eye witness accounts in Scripture, ancient and historical writings, and revelation in nature all point to Jesus being exactly who he says he was. Like you, I chose to believe.

    • Chip Mattis

      Yes! You’re so right, Anne. The evidence is profound that Jesus is exactly who he says. It’s the Liar-Lunatic-Lord scenario. Either Jesus was lying, which is inconsistent with how loving and compassionate he was, he was lying unintentionally because of he’s mentally unstable, which is clearly not true since he taught with such clarity and depth and demonstrated it with power. The only alternative is that Jesus is who he said. Excellent!

  • Yvonne

    Jesus being God means so much to me but is also confusing as I try to fully understand the trinity. The part that means mist to me is that CHRIST gave it all up to become human to save me and spend eternity with Him. That amount of grace is extremely hard to comprehend but I am very thankful for it.

    • Chip Mattis

      Great thoughts, Yvonne. You’re right. That’s a lot to give up for me. I’m nothing special in the history of the world, and Jesus still thinks I’m special enough to come and die for. That’s love at its finest.

  • stephaniemgammon

    I have to admit, I just assumed Chip was a nickname. I laughed out loud at ‘Vanilla Chip’. ‘Smelly Dwelly’ sympathizes with your childhood wounds. 😂 But on a serious note, you had so many thought provoking lines in this post. My favorite was here:

    What kind of voodoo magic hypnosis did Jesus pull on them to get them to submit to torture, imprisonment, and death?

    (I also loved the toaster line!)

    But this is a question I’ve asked myself many times. It’s a question that has bolstered my faith. Why would ordinary men be willing to submit to hideous fates unless the truth was in fact that they had encountered the God of the universe?

    • Chip Mattis

      Thanks, Stephanie. I really appreciate your comments. Yes, the profound change in the disciples was that they were ready to die for the blasphemy that Jesus was murdered for. Except the joke is on the murderers, Jesus was telling the truth. That fact of history changed everything for the world. More importantly, it changes everything for me. God thought I was worth coming to save and not leaving for dead. And I’ll do whatever I can to love him and serve him for it.

  • karentfriday

    Hey Chip, I always enjoy looking at the life of Christ and the claims He made. You do a good job here of reflecting on who Jesus is. What’s so astounding is this, there’s not a created being or man-made god who can take on God’s identity. Satan tried, but we know he isn’t very smart. Through the ages, attempts have been made to be God or to be a god who is God’s equal. Like Baal, Muhammad, Buddha, Zeus, and many others. Many. Jesus is not a created being for the Bible is clear, Christ was there when the world was created. And Jesus is not a man-made god. So He’s the only One who claims to be God and can actually back it up.

    And oh, that name. Jesus. He cannot be matched in name or in who He is…for He is matchless!

  • Emily Saxe | To Unearth

    A good perspective to keep in mind. Jesus didn’t just claim to be a god, but THE God. I have to remind myself that the pharisees and sadducees weren’t just evil men bent on murder. Yes, they were caught up in politics and success. But many of them simply were blinded by lies and didn’t understand Jesus truly was the Messiah. It can be so easy to convince ourselves of what we believe to be truth when God’s truth is actually something different. And I’m reminded to pray for wisdom and discernment so I don’t “murder” anyone who speaks God’s truth.

    • Chip Mattis

      Good point, Emily. Would I have been any different than the religious leaders of Jesus’s day? Probably not. To say otherwise is a bit snobbish. Like you I need wisdom to see whether God is in something.
      Many of the banners the Church takes up today are noble, maybe even moral. But are they true? Are these the kinds of issues Jesus would be taking up were he living on earth today? It’s an excellent question. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Lisa Q

    I like your name, and am aware that most kids will tease you on just about anything that’s unique. That is just kids being kids. But Jesus, yeah. that is a whole new ball game! He claimed to be God, and that is what throws people off today. They can’t wrap their brains around the Trinity concept and well, they should not be able to do so easily. It is a challenging idea, to be sure, but God does tend to challenge us, doesn’t He? I love tackling these theological issues. It makes our faith richer and deeper.

    • Chip Mattis

      Oh thank you, Lisa! I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes my name.
      I read a book by a philosopher at Boston College named Peter Kreeft. He wrote a little book called Jesus. In it he makes a statement that saying Jesus’s name in public is tantamount to swearing or some other slur. It brings the conversation to a halt. Why is that?
      And you’re right, God loves to challenge us. It’s how we grow as his kids. I’m glad he does. Thanks for reading and commenting, Lisa.

  • Joey

    I used to hate my name, too along with the stares when I stepped forward in gym class after hearing my name called. Joey? Did your Dad want a boy? What kind of name is that for a girl, anyway? But, like you, I’ve learned to love my name. And I can’t help but smile when I’m out somewhere and I hear a mother call “Joey” and a little girl comes running to her. It’s very rare, but it has happened.

    To answer your question, what does it mean for Jesus to claim He was God? It means everything. There is no room for doubt or reasoning when He claimed it and proved it and lived it. And it draws us closer to God because we know He came to be right alongside of us, walking with us, and loving us so close and personally. He came and admitted who He was/is so we can truly know Him and the extent of His great love for us.

    A wonderful post. Blessings to you!

    • Chip Mattis

      Oh dang! You’re right, Joey. I’m sure you understand what I went through with my name.
      And while I don’t think about the name of Jesus as much as I should, you’re totally right. It means everything that a man came who was God. It’s not just a nice story, but it’s the center of all that’s important, the meaning of life. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Jennifer King

    Chip, you crack me up! Your comments about Buckle and Kanye got me! But on a serious note, I’ve heard it said that, “Either Jesus was insane or a con-man when He claimed to be God, and all his teachings are lies. Or He really is God and everything He taught is truth. Being that His ways have proven themselves true and effective throughout history, Jesus must be God.”

    • Chip Mattis

      Yes! That’s it exactly. The Liar-Lunatic-Lord Proposition. CS Lewis and Josh McDowell both unpack this concept, so I can’t do it justice. You’re spot on. Jesus is exactly who he claimed. There is no better explanation for a man such as he was. Thanks for chiming in!

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