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Bible Dictionaries
Jesus Christ

Holman Bible Dictionary

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(jee' zuhss krisst) Greek form of Joshua and of title meaning, “Yahweh is salvation” and “the anointed one” or “Messiah.” Proper name of the Savior of the world. The title “Christ” gathers all of the Old Testament prophetic hopes and infuses into them the meaning associated with the proper name Jesus, Man of Galilee—Man of sorrows. Jesus is the clearest picture of God the world has ever seen—that is the affirmation of believing hearts. In Jesus Christ are united the vertical of God's revelation and the horizontal of history's meaning. Christians see in this one proper name a conjunction of God and man.

The believers of the New Testament did not first “read” Jesus Christ chronologically. That is, they did not set down to construct a doctrine called Christology that would move from preexistence to parousia (final coming). Rather, they were caught up in the historical reality of what God was doing for them and all the world through Jesus Christ. Looking at the different episodes of the Christ event should show the New Testament understanding of Jesus, God's Christ.

Resurrection Jesus' resurrection grasped the early believers. The walk of the risen Christ with those burning hearts en route to Emmaus, the appearance of the risen Christ first to Mary Magdalene, the appearance and commissions of the risen Christ to His disciples—these things which no other experience can duplicate nor any other religious movement validate claimed the Christians' attention in an unforgetable way. People of the first century had seen people die before. None before or since had seen a person bring God's resurrection life to bear on this world's most pressing problem, death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the center of the Christian gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1 ).

The Death of Jesus Christ He who was raised on the first day of the week was the same as the One who had died three days earlier. His was not simply a natural death. It was a ritual murder carried out by the authorities of Rome, engineered by the religious leaders of that day, but made necessary by the sins of all who ever lived. Jesus was delivered up by His own people and put to death by a cruel political regime, but the earliest New Testament communities saw in this tragedy the determinate will of God (Acts 1-12 ). Paul connected Jesus' death to the sacrificial ideas of the Old Testament and saw in the giving of this life a vicarious act for all humankind. Jesus' death was a major stumbling block for Israel. How could God's Christ be “hung on a tree” and fall under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:1 ) when He did not deserve it.

Jesus as Doer of God's Mighty Works This One who was raised, the same One who died, had performed the miracles of God's kingdom in our time and space. John testified that in the doing of God's mighty works Jesus was the prophet sent from God (John 6:14 ). He healed all kinds of persons, a sign of God's ultimate healing. He raised some from the dead, a sign that He would bring God's resurrection life to all who would receive it. He cast out evil spirits as a preview of God's final shutting away of the evil one (Revelation 20:1 ). He was Lord over nature, indicating that by His power God was already beginning to create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1 ). The spectacular impact of His mighty works reinforced and called to mind the power of His teachings.

Jesus' Teachings “Never man spake like this man” with such authority (John 7:46; compare Matthew 7:29 ). His teachings were about “the Father,” what He wanted, what He was like, what He would do for His creation. Jesus' teachings required absolute obedience and love for God and the kingdom of God. He dared claim that the kingdom had begun in His ministry but would not be culminated until Christ's final coming. Until that coming, Christians were to live in the world by the ethical injunctions He gave (Matthew 5-7 ) and in the kind of love He had shown and commanded (John 14-16 ). To help earthly people understand heavenly things, He spoke in parables. These parables were from realistic, real-life settings. They were about the kingdom of God—what it was like, what was required to live in it, what was the meaning of life according to its teachings, what the kingdom promised. One of the promises of the kingdom was that the King would return and rule in it.

Jesus' Ultimate Coming Just as the first coming of Jesus Christ was according to prophecy, so the final coming of Christ is to be by divine promise and prediction. The earliest Christians expected Christ's coming immediately (1 Thessalonians 4:1 ). This must be the expectation of the churches in every age (Revelation 1-3 ). It was the same Jesus who ascended who will return (Acts 1:1 ). His return heralds the end and brings an end to the struggle of good and evil, the battle between the kingdoms of this world which must become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15 ). In the meanwhile His followers must work to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:1 ). His followers must go and tell; His followers must unite the hope of eschatology and the life of ethics in a fashion that will share the gospel with all the world (Matthew 28:19-20 ). The time of His final coming is not a Christian's primary concern (Acts 1:5-6 ). Natural calamities, man-made tragedies, and great suffering will precede His coming (Matthew 13:1; Matthew 24-25 ). All of these will find His people faithful, even as He is to His promise—found faithful even as God was to God's promises in sending this Child of promise to the world.

The Birth of Jesus Christ The Gospels began in the heart of God and in the resurrection faith of the writers, but Matthew and Luke begin with the story of Jesus' birth. His conception was virginal. His advent was announced by angels. His actual birth occurred in a place and time that seemed to be no place and time for a baby to be born. Angels announced. Shepherds heard, came, and wondered. Magi came later to bring gifts. A wrathful and jealous King (Herod) killed many innocent children hoping to find the right one. The “right One” escaped to Egypt. Upon returning, He went to Nazareth, was reared in the home of the man Joseph, was taken to Jerusalem where His knowledge of His Father's business surprised and inconvenienced them all—the doctors and the parents. At birth He seemed destined for death. At baptism He was sealed to be a suffering Messiah. Those were times in which He and the Father were working things out, so that when ministry came Jesus could “work the works of him that sent me, while it is day” (John 9:4 ). But Bethlehem was not the beginning of the story.

Jesus' Preexistence Eternity began the story. If this one is the Son of God, then He must be tied on to the ancient people of God. He must be in the beginning. with God (John 1:1 ). Preexistence was not the first reflection of the early church about Jesus Christ, nor was it merely an afterthought. The purpose of Jesus' preexistence is to tie Him onto God and to what God had been doing through Israel. Matthew 1:1 established by His genealogy that Jesus is related to David, is related to Moses, is related to Abraham—one cannot be more integrally related to Israel than that. Luke 3:1 established by His genealogy that Jesus is vitally related to all humans. Jesus came from Mary; but ultimately He came from God via a lineage that extends back to Adam, who was the direct child of God. Paul spoke of the fully divine Son of God who came down from God, who redeems us, and who returns to God ( Ephesians 3:1 ). This heavenly Christ emptied Himself and became like us for our sake (Philippians 2:1 ). God determined, before the foundation of the world, that the redemption of the world would be accomplished through Jesus, the Lord of Glory (Ephesians 1:1 ). John began a new Genesis with his bold assertion that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God” (John 1:1 ). This Word (Greek, logos ) has become flesh (John 1:14 ) so that qualified witnesses can see, touch, and hear the revelation of God (1 John 1:1-4 ). It may have been in this way from resurrection to preexistence that early Christians stitched together, under the guidance of God, the story of Jesus. But His story lay also in His names, His titles, what He was called.

The Names and Titles of Jesus Jesus' own proper name is a Greek version of the Hebrew “Joshua,” salvation is from Yahweh. His very name suggests His purpose. “He shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 ). This One is Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23 ). Mark began his brief Gospel in some manuscripts by introducing Jesus as the Son of God (Mark 1:1 ). Luke's shepherds knew Him as “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 ). John pulled out all the stops in his melodic introduction of Jesus Christ: the Word who made the world (John 1:1-3 ), the Life (John 1:4 ), the Light (John 1:5 ), the Glory of God (John 1:14 ), One full of grace and truth (John 1:17 ), the Son who makes the Father known (John 1:18 ). Paul addressed Him as “the Lord”—the earliest Christian confession was that Jesus (is) Lord. The lordship of Christ is tied to the reverence for the name of God and is an assessment of Jesus' worth as well as Paul's relationship to Him. Since Christ is Lord (kurios ), Paul is servant (doulos ). The Gospels herald the message of the Son of Man, He who was humbled, who suffered, who will come again. Hebrews cast Jesus in the role of priest, God's great and final High Priest, who both makes the sacrifice and is the sacrifice. Thomas, known for his doubting, should also be remembered for faith's greatest application about Christ: “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28 ). The metaphors of John's Gospel invite us to reflect on Jesus Christ, God's great necessity. John portrays Jesus as the Water of life (John 4:14 ); the Bread of life (John 6:41 ); the Light (John 8:12 ); the Door (John 10:7 ); the Good Shepherd (John 10:11 ); the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25 ); the Way, the Truth, the Life (John 14:6 ).

Summary Christ is the way to God. His way of being in the world was a way of obedience, faithfulness, and service. The earliest Christians saw who He was in what He did. In the great deed of the cross they saw the salvation of the world. The inspired writers offered no physical descriptions of the earthly Jesus. The functional way the New Testament portrays Him is found in the statement that He was a man “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38 ). The good that He did came into dramatic conflict with the evil all mankind has done. This conflict saw Him crucified, but a Roman soldier saw in this crucified One (the) Son of God (Mark 15:39 ). God did not “suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27 ). With the one shattering new act since creation, God raised Jesus from the dead. See Christ; Christology.

J. Ramsey Michaels

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Jesus Christ'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​j/jesus-christ.html. 1991.
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