Conclusion

Our examination of the relevant evidence is not yet complete. There are other aspects of the matter still to be discussed, but better dealt with in the next chapter. Even so, however, some appropriate conclusions can already be drawn.

In one sense our findings thus far are disappointing. We have to conclude as likely that Jesus made no attempt to lay claim to any title as such; also that he rejected at least one which others tried to fit him to. We can sharpen the point a little. It would appear that Jesus saw it as no part of his mission to make specific claims for his own status. The nearest we have to such a claim is his use of the non-title bar too ambiguous to be a demand for explicit faith in himself, more an expression of his own hope for vindication. Allusion to his own role comes out more as a by-product of his proclamation of God's kingdom; his role was a role in relation to that, rather than an assertion of his own status as such. Evidently, it was his proclamation of the kingdom which was important; the identity of the proclaimer was a secondary matter.227 To push further down that line would raise the interesting question as to whether Jesus saw faith regarding God's kingly rule as dependent on faith in him, whether the discipleship to which he called required a particular belief in Jesus. Or did it simply involve a sharing in Jesus' abba faith in God as Father and in his mission to live in the light of the coming kingdom?

On the other hand, our review of the data has underlined the unwisdom of pitching the discussion in terms of clear-cut titles (the Messiah, the Son of Man, etc.). Should the discussion not be pitched rather in terms of more amorphous concepts, of embryonic insights, of roles taken on rather than titles claimed? Are the indications not more of a man who read/heard his Scripture with eschatologi-overtones and who saw there possibilities and patterns which broke through the more established and traditional categories? In which case, we can begin to speak more firmly of the man who was remembered as one who above all took on the role of eschatological spokesman for God. And from that we can deduce, without strain, something of Jesus' own self-understanding regarding that role — his conviction of being God's eschatological agent at the climax of God's purposes for Israel, his sense of intimate sonship before God and of the dependence of his disciples on him, and his probably strong hope for final acknowledgment as the man who was playing the decisive role in bringing the kingdom to fulfilment and consummation.

At a responsibly historical level, can we say more?

227. Cf. Harvey, Jesus 145.

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