How Jesus arrived at the consciousness of being the Messiah we cannot explain, but still there are some points connected with the question which can be established. An inner event which Jesus experienced at his baptism was in the view of the oldest tradition the foundation of his Messianic consciousness. It is not an experience which is subject to any criticism; still less are we in a position to contradict it. On the contrary, there is a strong probability that when he made his public appearance he had already settled accounts with himself. The evangelists preface their account of his public activity with a curious story of a temptation. This story assumes that he was already conscious of being the Son of God and the one who was intrusted with the all-important work for God’s people, and that he had overcome the temptations which this consciousness brought with it. When John sent to him from prison to ask:— “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” the answer which he sent necessarily led his questioner to understand that he was the Messiah, but at the same time showed him how Jesus conceived the Messianic office. Then came the day at Csesarea Philippi, when Peter acknowledged him as the expected Messiah, and Jesus joyfully confirmed what he said. This was followed by the question to the Pharisees “What think ye of Christ, whose son is he?”— the scene which ended with the fresh question: “If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” Lastly, there was the entry into Jerusalem before the whole people, together with the cleansing of the temple; actions which were equivalent to a public declaration that he was the Messiah. But his first unequivocal Messianic action was also his last. It was followed by the crown of thorns and the cross.
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