The question, "Who is Jesus?" is one of the most important questions we can ask. How we answer will determine how we live our lives. Today's culture wars are really about who is Jesus. Will we live according to the words of Jesus or will we live our own way? So, the question of Jesus is important even for our national culture.
There have been many answers to the question concerning the identity of Jesus. Some have said that Jesus was just a man around whom a lot of mythologies were written. Some have called Him a sorcerer or a healer. While others say he was a confused man who others used for political gain. One modern writer said that he was insane.
Some theologians have said that Jesus was a social rebel fighting against social injustice. Other scholars say that he was a heroic figure such as one might find in Homer's Iliad or the Odyssey. Some of these scholars are associated with the Weststar Institute, better know as the Jesus Seminar. These are the men and women you often see on the programs about Jesus on PBS or the Discovery Channel. They have decided that we can't really know much about Jesus other than that he lived and died. They don't deny that he lived. They do claim that most of the biblical claims about Him are not true.
All of these attempt to make Jesus more human and less God. Most are not willing to deny that Jesus existed. The evidence is far too strong for that. They try to either damage the evidence or to change the meaning of the evidence. What they want is a frail, pale Galilean, a tamed Jesus. They want Him to conform to our faulty image. Theydon't want this One to have the authority to call us sinners. They want Him to be a meek and mild teacher, not the demanding God-Man who calls us to decision.
However, what they want is impossible. We cannot read the testimony of Jesus in the four Gospels and believe that Jesus was a mere rebel or social reformer. C. S. Lewis once wrote:
Lewis doesn't leave us any room to compromise does he?
Scripture is the faithful recollection of the acts of Jesus. Each of the writers has his own style and own point of view. But what they record of Jesus is a historical and honest remembrance of Him. Many, many scholars have sought to invalidate the historicity of the Bible and they have failed. There are tons of books written that more than adequately defend the validity of the Gospels. In particular, the Gospel of John has been attacked over and over. Yet it has withstood the attacks of those who sought to destroy its witness.
John was unique among the New Testament writers because he begins with a beautiful theological statement. John noted that in the beginning was the Word. It is mind boggling to think of always existing. But, Jesus, the Word, was with God and is God. John establishes who Jesus is. He is not an idea, he is not an ordinary man, he is not a little god. He is the Word, the only begotten of the Father. The word for "word" is the Greek Logos. Logos for the Greeks was the divine creative force, which generates all things. For the Hebrew mind, the Word was the manifest wisdom and the presence of God. In the very first verse, John was saying that Jesus is God. And not only is he God, he has existed forever as God. There was never a time when he did not exist.
The next phrase is the one that is mysterious to me. The Word became flesh and dwelled among us! We are awestruck by the very idea. The fulness of God was localized in this one we call Jesus. The One who created all things comes to us as a lowly child, born to poor parents, into a hostile world. We might be inclined to say to John, come on now, we can believe a lot of things, but God became flesh? John reminds us that he was an eyewitness. He knew Jesus. In his letter we call First John he makes the point that what he talks about, he and others have seen, heard and touched. He is real.
As an eyewitness, we should be interested in John's testimony. He is quite clear that there was something very different about Jesus. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." When they saw Jesus, they saw God in all his glory. John saw Jesus by the Sea of Galilee as He called John and his brother to be disciples. He saw Him heal the sick and even call Lazarus from the grave. He reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper and he heard Jesus say take this bread that is my body broken from many and drink this cup. He saw Jesus arrested and beaten. Only he of all the disciples witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus and he was the first of the twelve to arrive at the empty tomb. And like the others, he saw Jesus risen from the dead. John saw it all. And like the others, he was willing to die for Jesus. Do you know anyone who is willing to die for a lie, a myth?
Why would God do these things? John says, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The King of Glory came to die for us. His death made provision for our sin and all who come to faith in Him will be saved from their sin. He came to save us.
But, why did he become flesh? Why the incarnation? Phillip Yancey said that he learned about the incarnation when he kept a saltwater aquarium. Apparently a saltwater aquarium requires a lot of work. The water has to be monitored and treated with the right chemicals. The water has to be filtered and exposed to ultraviolet light.
He said that with all the energy he expended on those fish, you would think that they would recognize Him and at least be grateful. But every time his shadow would pass over the tank they would flee from Him. They showed Him one emotion only; fear. Even though he opened the lid daily and fed them, each time he visited, it was like torture to the fish. No matter what he did, he could not convince them of his true concern for them. To the fish he was deity; his actions were incomprehensible. His acts of mercy were seen as cruelty and his attempts at healing were seen as acts of destruction.
That's why He did it. Jesus is God in the flesh. He became one of us so that we might understand. He did it so that we might understand his own unique love language. He became flesh so that God might speak his Word to us. He died for us so that we might be reconciled to God and He rose from the dead so that we might live with Him forever. In it all, He did it so that, by faith, we might become the children of God.
So it comes back to that question. Who is Jesus? How you answer determines how you live–and how you spend eternity.
Do you know Pascal's Wager? It goes like this. Accept Jesus and if you win, you win everything. If you lose, you lose nothing. Reject Jesus and if you win, you win nothing. But if you lose, you lose everything. Who do you say Jesus is?
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