JESUS IS THE CHRIST, by Michael F. Bird

Published on June 8, 2023 by Eugene Ho

IVP Academic, 2013 | 219 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

by Steve West


About the Author

Michael F. Bird is lecturer in theology at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of numerous books of biblical and theological studies.


Table of Contents

Introduction: When Did Jesus Become the Messiah?
1 The Gospel of Mark: The Crucified Messiah
2 The Gospel of Matthew: The Davidic Messiah
3 The Gospel of Luke: The Prophetic Messiah
4 The Gospel of John: The Elusive Messiah
Conclusion: Believing in the Messiah




Introduction: When Did Jesus Become the Messiah?

That Jesus is the Messiah of Israel was an early, basic, and universal claim in the early church. Mark’s Gospel is clear that his Gospel story is about Jesus the Messiah, and the other Gospel writers follow suit. Although John is markedly different from the Synoptics in many respects, the messiahship of Jesus is pivotal in his narrative, and his Gospel is written so that people may believe in Jesus the Messiah (John 20:31). Despite what some scholars say, the messiahship of Jesus was always fundamental to Christology, and the gospels revolve around this central understanding of Jesus. In the first century, there were multiple understandings of who the Messiah would be and what he would do, and there were not many messianic claimants. One common theme, however, was that the Messiah would be a royal, eschatological deliverer who would restore the kingdom of Israel.

If Jesus did not claim to be the Messiah, it is difficult to know why he was crucified as a messianic pretender, why the early church saw him as the Messiah, and why the Gospels all tell his story with messiahship as a central, vital theme. All through the Gospels, Jesus demonstrates a messianic self-understanding in his teachings and works, and his self-understanding is why his followers saw him as the Messiah. Nobody was expecting the Messiah to be crucified and resurrected, but the resurrection vindicated Jesus and showed that his messianic ministry was continuing. The Book of Acts clearly shows that the early church proclaimed that Jesus was the messianic king.

So vital was his messiahship that Christ—the Greek word for Messiah—functioned as both a title and a proper name for Jesus. That the early followers of Jesus were quickly called Christians ties them to messianic proclamation and being disciples of the Messiah. Paul uses the term Christ constantly, and both the titular and nominal forces are present. He had originally persecuted the church, but on the road to Damascus, he was converted to the understanding that Jesus was the risen Messiah. There are some sections of Paul’s epistles where it is indisputable that he is arguing for a messianic understanding of Jesus. Despite the crucifixion and death of Christ, the movement started in Jerusalem and proclaimed the messiahship of Jesus from the very beginning.

Although many scholars argue that the messiahship of Jesus was a late Christological development, or that it was minor in the early witness of the church, the evidence is against these claims. Furthermore, such hypotheses generate more problems than they solve. It was so scandalous to refer to a crucified person as the Messiah that nobody would have thought of doing so unless they firmly believed from the beginning that the crucified one was in fact the Messiah of God. The cross seemed to put an end to the validity of Jesus’s claim that he was the Messiah, but the resurrection vindicated him. His eschatological restoration of the kingdom awaits the Parousia. The claim that Jesus is the Messiah is paramount, and it binds together many strands of the early witness to Jesus. . . .

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JESUS IS THE CHRIST, by Michael F. Bird

IVP Academic, 2013 | 219 pages

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