To discover more about Jesus, the best place to begin is to find out his identity.
So who is this Jesus?
For some he was just a good teacher. For others he was just a good man. Many have seen him as a prophet who gave a message from God. Yet, as we look at the Bible we see some claims that go way beyond these statements.
First, the Bible claims that Jesus is God – the one who made all things. In John’s gospel we read, ‘In the beginning was the Word [when John uses Word here he is referring to Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). The incredible statement that the Bible makes is that Jesus is God.
The second claim that the Bible makes is that Jesus is king. In the book of Colossians we read, ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him’ (Colossians 1:15-16). This is not a small assertion that Jesus is just a king on an earthly throne but that he is King of everything and everyone in all the universe – including us.
The third claim is that Jesus is saviour – a rescuer sent from God to save us. What from? we might ask. The answer the Bible gives is our sin and rebellion against God, something so offensive to him that he has decreed it deserves the punishment of hell. ‘You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21).
So, if the Bible is right, Jesus is far more than simply a good teacher. He is someone we need to take notice of. If all, or any, of these claims are true the question who is Jesus is perhaps the most important we could ever ask. Yet, how many of us have honestly asked whether they are true?
Why did Jesus come?
The 20th January 2007 was a momentous day in the lives of four men. Henry Cookson, Rory Sweet, Rupert Longsdon and their guide, Paul Landry made history by being the first to reach the centre of Antartica (the pole of inaccessibility) without any mechanical assistance.
It was an incredible feat. A trek of 1750km (1100 miles) across the frozen wastelands of Antartica. It was also a grueling feat. Seven weeks of braving the bitter cold with wind chills often reaching below -50C (-58F).On top of that the sheer isolation of one of the most barren places on the face of the earth.
When I try to think of the strain and fatigue that these four men had to endure I am often left wondering why anyone put themselves through so much. But these men didn’t do it aimlessly. They had a goal they were working towards. They wanted to make history and, at the same time, raise money to help disabled people.
The same thoughts come to mind as I think about Jesus coming as a baby and dying on the cross. It is an incredible step of humility and sacrifice that God would come in this way. Yet, just like the four explorers, he did not do it aimlessly.
There is a verse in the Bible that describes the goal of Jesus’ life and death. It says this, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). The message of the Bible is that Jesus came to save. That was his goal and purpose. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and he died on the cross so that people might be forgiven for rebelling against God and come into a personal relationship with him.
What did Jesus do?
People are remembered for their achievements. Think of it, why do we remember Churchill? It is because he was the prime minister that led our nation to victory with the allies in the second world war. Why do people know who Shane Williams is? It is because he is the highest try scorer that Wales have ever had. The question here is what did Jesus do that means we should remember him?
If we are honest there are many things in the Bible that we are told about Jesus that could make him memorable. His teaching and miracles would surely be worthy in and of themselves. Yet, there is one event that the Bible centres on above all others and that is the death and resurrection of Jesus.
But what was the cross all about and what does it mean that Jesus rose from the dead? The Bible uses two words that answer these questions.
The first is the word propitiation – which means a sacrifice to turn aside the wrath of God. On the cross Jesus died in the place of others to take the punishment that they deserved, in order that a just God could forgive them (Romans 3:25-26).The second word is victory. Jesus won at the cross, he defeated sin. He opened up a way for us to be made right with God. The resurrection declares this victory.
The cross and resurrection of Jesus are at the heart of the Christian gospel. The Bible tells us that people were designed by God to live for Him and to love Him. Yet, because of disobedience and sin we have been alienated from God because we have rebelled against Him. The result of our rebellion is that we deserve God’s judgement. The cross is where Jesus paid the price for our rebellion and opened a way to God for all who would put their trust in him.