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Did Jesus Ever Ask, “Who Am I?”

Did Jesus Ever Ask, “Who Am I

Note: You’re reading Part Two of a two-part blog mini-series by Dr. David P. Murray. For Part One, read How Human Was Christ’s Humanity.

In Part One, I wrote about how Christ learned in His humanity. Today, I’d like to make some suggestions about what he learned.

His Past: “Where Did I Come From?”

One of the most fundamental human questions is, “Where did I come from?” It explains the deep interest human beings have in their ancestors. They want to know who led up to them. They value those who had a role in their past. They admire those whose wise or brave decisions contributed to what they themselves are. They are humbled by the “skeletons in their cupboard,” by the discovery of the less virtuous characters and their role in their own story.

Jesus was no different. In fact, as the most important figure in all of human history, Christ would have had a special interest in the history that led up to Him. With what interest would He have listened to His mother’s Bible stories? Would He not have had a special interest in, and love for, those whose wise and brave decisions contributed to His own arrival and His own identity? How He valued Israel, His “kinsmen according to the flesh.” But Gentiles also had a special place in His past. As the only four mothers included in His genealogy were Gentiles, Gentile blood ran through Jesus’ Jewish veins.

And what about all the “skeletons in His cupboard,” the sinners in His family tree? And they were not just “ordinary sinners” either. Among them was a pagan moon-worshipper (Abraham), prostitutes (Tamar and Rahab), adulterers (David and Bathsheba), a child-murderer and a persecutor (Manasseh), etc. What lowly roots! What humble sympathy this family tree would give Him with lowly sinners!

His Person: “Who Am I?”

When Christ asked that very basic human question, “Who am I?” the Old Testament supplied a large part of the answer. As Christopher Wright says:

It was the Old Testament which helped Jesus to understand Jesus. Who did he think he was? What did he think he was to do? The answers came from his Bible, the Hebrew scriptures in which he found a rich tapestry of figures, historical persons, prophetic pictures and symbols of worship. And in this tapestry, where others saw only a fragmented collection of various figures and hopes, Jesus saw his own face. His Hebrew Bible provided the shape of his own identity (Christopher Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, p. 108).

How thrilled Christ must have been as He saw that He was the seed of Abraham through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. How awed He must have been as a young child to gradually learn that He was the son of David whose kingdom and name would endure forever.

Above all, imagine what He learned about Himself from the nation of Israel. The New Testament presents Christ as the perfect fulfillment and embodiment of all that Israel was meant to be and yet failed to be. Israel was put in the world as a uniquely privileged nation in order to reveal God and His redemption to the world. And though Israel so dismally failed at this, Christ dramatically succeeded. God completed through Christ what had been left undone by Israel.

His Purpose: “Why Am I Here?”

Having answered, “Where did I come from?” and “Who am I?” the next major existential question is, “What am I here for?” And, the Old Testament again provided the primary source of Christ’s answer to this question. It provided Him with the models, pictures, and patterns that taught Him what He was here to do.

For example, think how much Christ would have learned as He read about the Old Testament sacrifices. With what feeling He would have read about the transference of guilt, the flaying, the bleeding, and the burning! However much greatness He saw in the temple, He knew one greater than the Temple was here (Matt. 12:5-6).

How He must have wept when He read in Isaiah of the hardness He predicted would characterize Israel’s reaction to His sermons (Mark 4:12). How much Jeremiah’s tearful experience revealed to Him the painful response to be expected in Jerusalem, as He labored night and day, against the power of the religious establishment, to save Jerusalem from certain destruction—only to be mocked and then branded a traitor.

How much he learned of His suffering, “entombment,” and resurrection as He studied Jonah (Matthew 12:39-41). What hope of Gentile converts did the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon give to Him (Matthew 12:42). With what confidence He looked forward to the day of coronation when He read of David’s enthronement (Luke 20:41-44)!

In his unique article on Jesus’ emotions, B. B. Warfield talks about the sincerity of Jesus’ questions:

He repeatedly is represented as seeking knowledge through questions, which undoubtedly were not asked only to give the appearance of a dependence on information from without that was not real with him: he is made to express surprise; and to make trial of new circumstances (B. B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. I, p. 161).

Warfield warns that errors are committed when we grasp and emphasize one nature but openly discard the other. Worship along with him in this rich paragraph!

The glory of the incarnation is that it presents to our adoring gaze not a humanized God or a deified man, but a true God-man—one who is all that God is and at the same time all that man is: on whose almighty arm we can rest, and to whose human sympathy we can appeal. We cannot afford to lose either the God in the man or the man in the God; our hearts cry out for the complete God-man whom the Scriptures offer us (Warfield, p. 166).

Join the Conversation

What can we apply to our lives and ministries from how Jesus asked and answered three of life’s most fundamental questions? “Where did I come from?” “Who am I?” “Why am I here?”

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  • Anonymous

    If Jesus was viewing the Old Testament through “Messiah is Me” lenses, then His perspective requires an innate foreknowledge of His identity.  I do not see His identity being self-actualized in Scripture.  Perhaps we are treading too far into the hypothetical in this series?

    I believe there to be little conclusive Scriptural evidence regarding Jesus’ incarnate knowledge and His intellectual and volitional development.  One clear reference is found in Hebrews 5:8 which tells us that He “learned obedience.”  We also know that the knowledge of Christ’s Return was also veiled from Him as stated in Mark 13:32. 

    Apart from these references it is difficult to speculate what He knew and how he developed knowledge.  Luke 2:52 says that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  Yet, in the same passage it seems that Jesus had a highly developed sense of who He was, where He came from and why He was here at a fairly young age.  In Luke 2:49 He is recorded as having said as a child, “Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business.”  This was in response to his parents search after they had mistakenly left Him behind in Jerusalem where He was found interacting with the temple teachers during the Passover.  (I always wondered if His response saved Him from a good shalacking.)  His identity is assumed and therefore His origin is as well.  However, His purpose is clearly stated.  So what it means that He “increased in wisdom” and the content of this wisdom can only be speculated.

    To say that He had to learn His identity in the flesh, to me, is a stretch.  Afterall, He is the only human to enter this world as “the Word,” “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). 

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