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The odd sermon title is a smoke screen for a question I’d like to ask: “Who is Jesus?” It is the same question that the disciples asked when Jesus’ calmed the waters. Whether you’re an atheist or a believer “Who is Jesus” is a question you must ask yourself. An atheist must know who is this Jesus that I don’t believe in. A believer of course wants to know more about this Jesus who died for their sins. Now there is a problem that imposes itself upon us when we ask the question, “Who is Jesus?”. Because there were a lot of Jews called ‘Jesus’ in 1st century Palestine. The Jewish historian Josephus records two other Jesus’ for us during the period of the Jewish revolt against Rome in AD 70.
Jesus Son of Shaphat (J.W. 3.9.7)
The Roman General Titus was concerned about the city of Sennabris as he had heard that rebel elements were attempting to force them to support the rebellion. So he sent a delegation led by Valerian in order to make peace with the city and ensure their faithfulness to Rome. Valerian and five of his colleagues dismounted their steeds outside the town. They didn’t want to enter in on horse back as it could be perceived as an act of aggression. As they entered in on foot they came across Jesus son of Shephat; a well know leader of rebellious gang who attempted to fight them. Valerian was on strict orders not to fight but to make peace so and his men fled away from Jesus on foot.
Jesus led the Roman horses into the city rejoicing and bragging that he had single handedly defeated some Roman soldiers.
Some perceive Jesus of Nazareth to be like Jesus son of Shaphat. They see him as a zealot. There are some similarities.
1. Both were Galileans
2. Both lead a small group
3. Both were perceived as a threat to peace.
But Jesus of Nazareth was not a zealot or military Messiah. He called people to repent of their program to bring in the Kingdom of God by force. Whereas the Zealots thought that the Kingdom would come with swords, sieges and soldiers; Jesus taught that it would come like a mustard seed, wheat or a lamp stand. It was Jesus’ outright refusal to embrace a nationalistic agenda that led to his rejection by the Jewish people. It’s why they choose Barrabas (an insurrectionist) to be released over Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus, son of Ananus (J.W. 6.5.3)
4 years prior to the revolt against Rome and during the feast of Pentecost a man called Jesus, yelled out in the Temple: “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” He went about the city crying this out day and night, in all the streets. The local leaders were undignified by him and had him flogged, but still he continued. Finally he was taken before the Roman governor. There Jesus offered no plea, made no case and answered no requestion. When he was flogged, after every last, he cried, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem.” The governor dismissed him as a madman and let him go. Jesus spent the next four years wandering around Jerusalem saying, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem.” During the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans Jesus son of Ananus kept up his ministry by wandering outside the walls of Jerusalem,
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