Who was Jesus?
It is clear that the understanding of the identity of Jesus is central to one’s faith journey. I know that both genuine Muslims and Christian have much common ground in the respect for the prophet Jesus and his uniqueness in many ways. The divergence in view and understanding comes when we consider the person, nature and actions of Jesus in relation to the work of God.
The Name Jesus
Jesus is the English transliteration of the Greek name Iesus. Joshua is the English transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshuah. Both Jesus and Joshua mean Yahweh saves or Jehovah is salvation. The name Jesus appears in the Bible more than 900 times.
The Word Christ
Christ is not actually a name, but a title. When the Bible talks about the Messiah in the Old Testament, it is referring to the same title as the New Testament calls Christ. Both Messiah and Christ mean anointed one. Jesus was anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38) and was the promised redeemer. The first promise of a redeemer in the Bible was in Genesis 3:15. The word Christ appears in the Bible more than 500 times.
Jesus’ Titles For Himself
Jesus said He was the bread of life and the living bread (6:35, 48, 51). He was the light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus was the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14). Jesus outright claimed to be the Son of God (John 10:36). He also liked to call himself the Son of man (Matthew 20:28). He said He was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
Foods Jesus Ate
Jesus ate bread (Matthew 26:26), which has been a common food throughout history. He ate clean meats such as lamb (Luke 22:15) and fish (Matthew 14:19). He may have eaten eggs because of His statement that eggs is a good gift (Luke 11:12, 13). The Old Testament says that Jesus would eat butter and honey (Isaiah 7:15). Luke 24:42 and43 says that Jesus ate broiled fish and honeycomb after His resurrection.
Jesus Was a Carpenter
Jesus was known to be a carpenter (Mark 6:3). This indicates that He not only grew up in the house of a carpenter (Matthew 13:55), but He worked in the trade at least long enough that people knew Him to be a carpenter too. There is a question of exactly what the word translated as carpenter really means. The Greek word is tekton, which is a generic word for anyone who makes things. This was applied to craftsmen of various objects. Early writings, tradition and culture indicate that Jesus probably worked with wood in some form. Therefore carpenter is a fine translation of this word.
Jesus’ birthday is generally celebrated on December 25 each year. However, the Bible does not tell us exactly when His birthday was. Various scholars have put the Birth of Christ sometime in winter or early spring. We celebrate His birth at Christmas, but there is no record in the Bible of the early Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Jesus and John the Baptist
John the Baptist was Jesus’ second cousin. Mary (the mother of Jesus) and Elisabeth (the mother of John) were cousins (Luke 1:36). John was about 6 months older than Jesus (Luke 1:36). In John chapter 1 when John the Baptist declares Jesus as the Lamb of God (v. 36) this is probably not the first time they met. They were likely together often as children and young men growing up.
Jesus Was Passionate
Some portrayals of Jesus in films and popular culture have Him walking around like a disconnected being who is hanging around to solve problems. However, the Bible shows some very passionate scenes from the life of Christ. He overthrew the tables of the money changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12, 13). He was moved to tears at the news of Lazarus’ death (John 11:35). The Bible says many times that Jesus was moved with compassion (Matthew 9:36-38; 21:12, Mark 1:41 and others).
Jesus and Simon
There was a man conscripted to help Jesus carry the cross up to Golgotha. This man’s name was Simon (Matthew 27:32). This man was from Cyrene which was also called Niger in Acts 13:1. This is not in the country known as Niger today. Rather he was from the country of Libya. Simon had two sons who were apparently known to the early church. Mark 15:21 says that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus as if the readers of the Gospel would know those two men.