There is one question to which almost everyone is quick to give an answer. Hardly anyone who is willing to talk will answer, I don’t know.” Everyone has an opinion. The question is, “What do you think of Jesus?”
While very few people remain neutral about Jesus, almost everyone who has heard of him has an opinion about him. Some say Jesus was a great teacher, others insist that he was a false prophet. Some think of him as a revolutionary, others as a conformist. To some Jesus is an example, to others a guru. And to us who believe, he is, of course, our Lord, our Savior and our Messiah.
In discussing this with an unbeliever, it is important to see who Yeshua himself said he is. Many of our Jewish people insist that he never claimed to be the Messiah. They say he was just a man, and his disciples entertained some strange ideas about him. During his earthly ministry, Yeshua was not one to repeat over and over again that he was the Messiah. When people asked him who he was, he often pointed to his deeds and said in effect, “You’ve seen what I’ve been doing. You decide who I am.” He did, however, speak clearly of his messiahship to the Samaritan woman at the well as recorded in the fourth chapter of John’s gospel. When she remarked, “I know that Messiah cometh,” Yeshua said to her, “I that speak unto thee am he.”
Yeshua also used several illustrative titles to describe himself. Within the Gospel of John, Yeshua called himself “the bread of life,” “the light of the world,” “the good shepherd,” “the resurrection and the life,” “the way, the truth and the life” and “the true vine.”
These are not the claims of an ordinary person. Yeshua used those descriptions to illustrate some very important truths about himself. But in addition, each of these six names can be shown to have a background in the Hebrew Scriptures. If we read Yeshua’s statements in light of that background, there can be little mistaking who he claimed to be.
In John 6:48 Yeshua said, “I am that bread of life.” The day before he spoke those words he had fed five thousand people with just five loaves. But Yeshua said that he was more than bread—he was the bread of life. In the next verse he said, “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.” The mention of manna brings to mind Deuteronomy 8:3: “And he [God] humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” The bread of life, then, is more than bread—more than food. It is the very Word of God. Yeshua was saying that his words were God’s words, and that they led to eternal life.
In John 8:12 Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” The phrase “light of the world” is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, the prophet Isaiah spoke of one special servant of the Lord who would be a light to the nations. In Isaiah 42:6b the prophet (speaking in the Lord’s name) said, “I…will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations,” and in Isaiah 49:6, “…It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give thee for a light to the nations, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” It is not at all inconceivable that when Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world,” he was identifying himself with the servant, the light of the nations, foretold in the writings of Isaiah.
In John 10:11 Yeshua said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” In addition to the fact that here Yeshua said that he would die for our sakes, he was also claiming a Davidic office for himself as proclaimed by the prophet Ezekiel: “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant, David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd” (34:23). Earlier in that chapter, in verse 12, Ezekiel wrote that God himself was the one who cared for the sheep. Thus Yeshua, in claiming to be the good shepherd, also claimed divinity.
In John 11:25 Yeshua told Martha, a grieving sister of Lazarus, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” And in Daniel 12:2 we find a passage that speaks clearly of the resurrection: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Yeshua was saying that he is the resurrection of everlasting life, and to believe in him is to take part in that resurrection of life.
In John 14:6 we read the words of Yeshua: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This passage is self-explanatory. No one approaches God except through Yeshua. Besides being an extraordinary claim, the three words, “way,” “truth” and “life” can all be found in pleas to God in the Book of Psalms. In Psalm 27:11 the psalmist wrote, “Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path.…” In Psalm 25:5 the psalmist pleaded, “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art the God of my salvation.…” Psalm 16:11 says, “Thou wilt show me the path of life.…” Yeshua is God’s way and God’s truth, and in him alone is the path of life.
Yeshua also said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). It is our obligation to abide in him. In Psalm 80 Israel is pictured as a vine, but a vine in trouble: “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt,” the psalmist (Asaph) writes. “Thou hast cast out the nations, and planted it.” (Psalm 80:8). “Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they who pass by the way do pluck her fruit?” (verse 12). Asaph is lamenting that Israel’s protective “hedge,” so to speak, has been broken down and Israel’s enemies are tormenting her. The psalm ends with a plea for revival and restoration (verses 18-19). In contrast to Israel, Yeshua is the true vine, and revival and restoration come only through him.
Yeshua said that he is the bread of life, that his words are God’s words, even words of life. He said that he is the light of the world, the one who will bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. Yeshua said that he, like David before him, is a good shepherd—in fact the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. He said that he is the resurrection of life—in fact the very way, truth and life. And Yeshua said that he is the true vine. We need to abide in him. But do we? By our lives, who do we say Yeshua is?