Scot McKnight and the earliest Christian gospel (5): who did Jesus think he was?

Friday and Saturday 11-12 June we had a fantastic 2010 IBI Summer Institute with Scot McKnight. Two full days, 8 sessions, a full house. Scot worked hard and was brilliant.

I’m doing a few posts on what Scot had to say. And I should say that these are just based on my notes.

Much of the content of the lectures will be the material for a new book The Earliest Christian Gospel – so we were treated to a special preview.

If the last post was on ‘Did Jesus preach the gospel?’, the follow up session was on Christology – the identity of Jesus. Who did he think he was?

This was an inspiring session. There are so many to choose from but Scot focused on a number of examples in the gospels of ‘identity texts’. Texts that are all about the identity of Jesus; whether the crowds, evil spirits, the disciples, John the Baptist or Jesus himself being the one posing the question.

Both John the Baptist and Jesus present themselves as being written into the fabric of Scripture. Scot imagined John and Jesus meeting as they grew up and discussing their extraordinary births and their place within God’s purposes. But John nevertheless does not fully ‘get’ who Jesus is. It is Jesus who tells John who he [John] is and who he [Jesus] is. John is Elijah [Mk 9:1].

Who then does Jesus think he is?

Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s Scriptures. He is Israel’s king forming a restored community around himself, he is the fulfilment of wisdom, of the prophets, of the temple, of a new covenant, Israel’s messiah, he fulfils Torah itself – and we can’t really imagine how fantastically shocking and impudent such a claim could be in 1st Century Judaism.

Jesus’ preaching of the gospel is consistently and dramatically to point to himself, to preach himself, to authenticate his mission in word and miracle. He preaches about the saving significance of his death, as one about to die and who will in doing so create a new covenant and save the people from their sins. I like to say in Christology class that Jesus is profoundly self-centred – which tends to make some people a bit nervous.

If this is how Jesus preaches the gospel [that he is the gospel] – then our gospel preaching is to preach Jesus. To narrate the story of Jesus, to not lose sight of the truth that truth is about a person. And that evangelism can be seen as relating who Jesus is and what he done for you and me.

For some this will be framed in terms of:

– love

– deliverance from sin and guilt

– liberation from spiritual and emotional shackles

– joyous hope in the risen victorious Christ

– Forgiveness

Such evangelism is not designed to create a need or engineer guilt, or appeal to self-interest – but it proclaims the attractive good news of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

There was discussion at the end of this session as to how to tell this good news of Jesus in our way in our day.

And much in this discussion reminded me of an excellent short reflection on Jesus by Robbie Castleman I read in Themelios a while ago – Christianity is all about Jesus! [a shame she does not write what was a regularly brilliant column in Themelios anymore after it shifted to its new management in the more overtly male and angular Gospel Coalition site. It was my favourite theological journal when under RTSF / IFES; hasn’t been the same since it moved to America and became narrower – but I digress!]

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2 thoughts on “Scot McKnight and the earliest Christian gospel (5): who did Jesus think he was?

  1. Such evangelism is not designed to create a need or engineer guilt, or appeal to self-interest – but it proclaims the attractive good news of our Lord, Jesus Christ…

    How then do we respond to those who claim ‘you have to get a person lost before you can get them saved’?

    As a non-confrontational person, I’ve always hated that approach but have been told by some it is ‘the’ Biblical way to share the gospel.

  2. There was interesting discussion on this Ruth. Scot’s proposal was that such a guilt-solution approach worked in the past but will not be as effective in a culture where such Christian ideas are increasingle remote. The Bible itself does not reduce the gospel down to a 6 point plan of salvation – we need to be able to talk of the gospel as good news in creative engaging ways that can draw people to that good news biblical narrative.

    I’ve found it helpful to think of different entry points into the gospel for different people, in different cultures and even different times in their lives.

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