We often talk of Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King. Yet there is another Old Testament role Jesus perfectly embodies, one we have seen in our study of Daniel: wise man.
The most explicit reference to this is Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 12:42. “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”
The force of this should not be lost on us. Solomon is associated with wisdom more than any other figure in the Old Testament. He famously asked God for wisdom at the beginning of his reign (2 Chronicles 1:7-13), and God answered in spades. “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:29–30). No other character in Israel’s history embodied the role of the wise man more than King Solomon.
Yet, Jesus told the crowds, “something greater than Solomon is here.”
It is unlikely that the crowds had the slightest notion what Jesus meant. By the time he hung on the cross, people may have been hurling his own words back at him: “wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19). His teaching and healing ministry was now capped with an ignominious execution, calling into question his status as wise man.
Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds, and Jesus’ claims to speak from a divine perspective and navigate life skillfully were justified in his resurrection from the dead. Indeed, his shameful crucifixion was God’s very means of upending human assumptions about power and wisdom.
Paul captured this in his letter to the (wrong kind of) wisdom-loving Corinthians. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Corinthians 1:21–25).
In Christ crucified and risen we find ultimate wisdom–heavenly perspective, eternal priorities, and an example of how to live well in this world. As we trust him more each day, may he make us wise like him.