Jesus on clouds

Tom Davis provides an overview of 5 extremely important aspects of Jesus’ life: his birth, baptism, claims to deity, death and resurrection, and ascension.

The Birth of Jesus

Knowing about Jesus, who he was, what he did, and what he taught is essential for Christian discipleship. By studying Jesus, we know how we ought to live and what the redemption that he provides for us means. In this article we discuss five things you need to know about Jesus, starting with the meaning of the birth of Jesus.

download-podcastThe story of His birth is found in Matthew chapters 1 and 2, and in Luke chapters 1 and 2. Matthew gives us his understanding of what Jesus’ birth meant in the angel Gabriel’s proclamation to Joseph and in an Old Testament prophecy.

When the angel appeared to Joseph the angel told him that Jesus will “save his people from their sins.”{1} Jesus left heaven to come down to His people at His birth.

In order for His people to be saved from their sins Jesus must come to His people. The virgin birth of Jesus is directly linked to His death and resurrection.

The first prophecy is, “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel.”{2} This prophecy comes from Isaiah 7:14. In Isaiah this prophecy is a promise to King Ahaz of Judah that God will defeat His enemies. Immanuel is an important name because it means “God with us.” Matthew is telling us that through the virgin birth of Jesus God is with us, and is a sign that sin and death will be defeated.

In Luke, the praise of a man named Simeon and the proclamation of the heavenly host helps tell us what Jesus’ birth means.

When Simeon saw Jesus in the temple he prayed, “For my eyes have seen your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples-a light for revelation to the Gentile and glory to your people Israel.”{3} Simeon tells us that Jesus will reveal God to all people. God’s salvation is for all people, not only for the Jews.

When the heavenly hosts appeared to the shepherds out in the fields they proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!”{4} The proclamation of the angels tells us that the people Jesus favors, those who follow and trust Him, will have peace.

To recap, we see that the birth of Jesus is God coming down to be with us, and to save us from our sins. This salvation is not only for the Jews, but is for all people.

Jesus’ Baptism

Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention that when Jesus was baptized the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.{5} A voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”{6}

Jesus was sinless, so why does he receive baptism from John? Jesus told John it was to fulfill righteousness. Jesus is identifying with Israel, and all mankind, and fulfilling righteousness for our sake. Because Jesus identifies with us and our sins, His baptism is the beginning of His ministry of atonement that is accomplished at His crucifixion.{7}

All the gospels mention that the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. Have you ever wondered why in the form of a dove? In Genesis when God created the heavens and the earth the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. This signifies God’s presence at creation. Some biblical scholars think that Noah sending the dove out from the ark signifies a kind of new creation after God destroyed the world with a flood. In the same way, the Spirit appearing in the form of a dove and descending on Jesus means that Jesus is the beginning of new creation.{8}

At Jesus’ baptism the Father pronounced, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”{9} What does this mean? Most Bible scholars think this statement references Psalm 2:7{10} and Isaiah 42:1.{11} Psalm 2 is a Psalm that was used at the coronation of a new king. Isaiah 42 is about God’s suffering servant who will bring “justice to the nations.” Biblical Scholar Craig Blomberg concludes, “Therefore it would appear that God is forthrightly declaring Jesus to be both kingly Messiah and suffering servant.”{12}

Jesus’ baptism means that Jesus identifies with us. Jesus is the beginning of new creation and begins His ministry of atonement for our sins. God’s voice from heaven also declares that Jesus is the kingly Messiah and the suffering servant.

Jesus’ Claims to Deity

Jesus claimed to be God in several ways. He not only used words to make these claims, but His actions also made a claim to deity.

Jesus’ actions showed that he had authority over evil spirits by repeatedly casting out demons. Jesus commanded the weather. This is something mortal men do not do, but God and heavenly beings do. Jesus was a man, but this event shows that he was more than a man, he was God in human flesh.

But let’s look specifically at how Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of Man during His trial by the Jewish authorities. The night before His trial Jesus was arrested and tried by the Jewish authorities. There were many who accused Jesus of various things. The problem was that the testimony of the witnesses who were accusing Jesus did not match. This led to the high priest asking, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with clouds of heaven.” The Jewish authorities then condemned him for blasphemy.{13} Why?

Jesus was condemned because he identified himself with the Son of Man in Daniel 7. In this chapter the Ancient of Days, God the Father, is sitting in judgment when the Son of Man comes with the “clouds of heaven” and approaches the Ancient of Days. The Son of Man is given dominion, glory, and a kingdom that will not be destroyed. The Son of Man is a human and divine figure who seems to sit in judgment alongside the Ancient of Days. When Jesus claims to be the Son of Man he is claiming to be a human and divine figure. Jesus is claiming that he will be vindicated and that the Jewish authorities will be condemned by God.{14}

Jesus claimed to be God by casting out demons, calming a storm, and by claiming to be the Son of Man in Daniel 7.

Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Jesus’ death and resurrection is the foundation of Christianity. The death and resurrection of Jesus is a climactic confrontation between God and Satan that involves forgiveness of sin, the abolition of death, and the defeat of evil.

The narratives of this event are found in all four gospels. However, the most important passage that helps us understand the meaning of the resurrection is not in one of the Gospels; it is in one of Paul’s letters, 1 Corinthians 15.

In verse 3, Paul states that “Jesus died for our sins.” In Hebrews 9 and 10, the author explains that in the Old Testament sacrificial system bulls, goats, and sheep had to be sacrificed every year to purify the people. However, Jesus only had to die once to cover the sins of all people. Therefore, the death of Jesus for our sins is superior to the sacrificial system and makes it obsolete.

Paul states, “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”{15} We live life knowing that someday we will die. We live in the shadow of death’s approach. Jesus confronts death on the cross, then returns from the grave three days later. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, death has been abolished. New Testament scholar Craig Keener states, “As death in every case is established in Adam, so life in all cases is established in Christ.”{16}

In Colossians 2:15 Paul is addressing the implications of Jesus’ resurrection. He writes, “He (Jesus) disarmed the rulers and the authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them in him.” The rulers and authorities that Paul mentions are Satan and his demons.{17} Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, Satan and his demons are defeated publicly. When Christians proclaim the resurrection, these rulers and authorities are humiliated publicly for everyone to see.

The death and resurrection of Jesus cleanses us of our sins, pays the penalty for our sins, abolishes death, and defeats Satan and the forces of evil.

Jesus’ Ascension

Jesus’ return to heaven is described in Acts 1:9-11. After His resurrection Jesus spent forty days with His disciples. After forty days the disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven in a cloud. But what does this mean?

In John chapter 16 Jesus told His disciples that he will be leaving them. Jesus said, “It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you.”{18} The Counselor that Jesus referred to is the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ promise to the disciples is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Jesus told His disciples “When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”{19} When Jesus ascended into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to us. The Holy Spirit does not only counsel us; he guides us to truth and intercedes for us.

Jesus’ ascension has other implications as well. Paul tells us, “Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.”{20} There are two things to pay attention to in this verse. First, Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is on His throne, which means he is ruling now. Second, Jesus also prays for us. There are many other things that could be mentioned in a discussion of things we need to know about Jesus. One example is Jesus’ temptation in the desert. When Adam and Eve were tempted in the Garden of Eden, they failed to resist Satan’s temptation. Jesus succeeded in resisting Satan.

When we consider Jesus’ birth, baptism, claims to deity, temptation, casting out evil spirits, death, resurrection, and ascension, we have an image of a God that became man. God rescues us from our sin and from the evil powers and principalities that are active in this world. Jesus will return and make all things new with the new creation and new Jerusalem in Revelation 20 and 21. The first Christians saw all of this. New Testament scholar N. T. Wright sums things up this way, “The first Christians saw the message and accomplishment of Jesus as the long-awaited arrival of God’s kingdom, the final dealing-with sin that would undo the powers of darkness and break through to the ‘age to come.’”{21}

1. Matthew 1:21
2. Matthew 1:23
3. Luke 2:30-32
4. Luke 2:14
5. Jesus’ baptism is found in Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and is alluded to in John 1:29-34.
6. Mark 1:11 CSB
7. Keener, Craig S., Matthew (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press,1997), 85.
8. Evens, Craig A., The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew-Luke, (Colorado Springs, Victor, 2003) 78.
9. Mark 1:11 CSB
10. I will declare the Lord’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. — Psalm 2:7 (CSB)
11. This is my servant; I strengthen him, this is my chosen one; I delight in him. I have put my Spirit on him; he will bring justice to the nations. — Isaiah 42:1 (CSB)
12. Blomberg, Craig L. Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville, Broadman & Holman Press, 1997), 222.
13. Matt. 26:62-65; Mark 14:60-6
14. Quarles, Charles L. “Lord or Legend: Jesus as the Messianic Son of Man,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Vol. 62, No. 1 (2019) 103-124. Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Bellingham: Lexham Press), 249-151.
15. 1 Corinthians 15:22 CSB
16. Keener, Craig S., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IVP Academic 2014) 494. Gilbrant, Thoralf Ed. The Complete Biblical Library: The New Testament Study Bible Romans-Corinthians (Springfield, World Library Press 1986) 465.
17. Ibid., 574.
18. John 17:7 CSB
19. John 16:3 CSB
20. Romans 8:34 CSB
21. Wright, N. T. The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (San Francisco, HarperOne, 2016), 280.

©2024 Probe Ministries

Tom Davis is a research associate with Probe Ministries. Before joining Probe, he served as an intern with the Baptist Student Ministries and a Chapter Director with Ratio Christi. Tom studied philosophy at Collin College and Dallas Baptist University, where he earned an A.S. and a B.A.S. He earned an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Tom’s research interests are in Christology, Historical Jesus studies, and philosophy of religion. He loves the outdoors and his hobbies are football, basketball, and good movies.

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