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Did Jesus Claim to Be the Messiah?

A theological problem that crops up in any academic discussion of Christology is how Jesus saw his role: did Jesus claim that he was the messiah? If Jesus did, indeed, make such a claim, at what point did he come to this belief? And there is a further, related question: did Jesus declare himself to his disciples and to the world at large as the messiah?

Messianic Consciousness

The idea that Jesus was conscious of himself as the messiah is by all accounts a large hurdle in understanding Jesus the man, his life, and his teachings. With messianic consciousness there comes an attendant presupposition of mystical abilities that are beyond the norms of human behavior. The Old Testament prophets predicted that the messiah would perform signs and wonders, bring salvation and world peace. These acts would seem not to be within the realm of ordinary men. Did Jesus believe that he had singular or divine abilities?

If one takes a look at the reasons behind the crucifixion, the idea of a proclamation of messiahship becomes persuasive. This would be the most rational explanation for the crucifixion of Jesus. The Romans welcomed everyone who wished to join them wherever they were in power. The growth of the Roman Empire was due to the practice of including the conquered in every facet of Roman life, leadership, and philosophy. A proclamation of messiahship would have seemed, to the Romans, to be the ultimate treason against them, and like any other act of treason, punishable by crucifixion. A professed messiahship, in this case, is the only crime that fits the punishment.

So, did we blink, or did Jesus say it aloud: I am the messiah? Scriptural texts hint but fall short of an outright proclamation. We see such a hint when Jesus questions Peter in Mark 8:29, "And he said to them, But whom say you that I am? And Peter answers and said to him, You are the Christ."

And in Mark 14:62 he seems to be making a proclamation to the High Priest, "And Jesus said, I am: and you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."

It is certain that those Jews who chose to accept Jesus as the messiah during the lifetime of Jesus believed that he had the ability to redeem them from the bitterness of Roman rule. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, they called, "blessed is the Kingdom that comes, the kingdom of our father David" (Mark 11:10).

Killed for Sedition

There is more than a suggestion that Jesus did, indeed, proclaim himself as the messiah when one examines the evidence: the charge for which he died on the cross, the mockery of him as "King of the Jews," and the placement of his crucifix between those of two villains. All of this points to the idea that Pilate charged Jesus for sedition. And this sedition could only have come in the form of a claim to messiahship.

 


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