Who is Jesus? Was He the second greatest prophet, as some followers of Islam have said? Was He just an itinerant Jewish rabbi of the first century, who after acquiring a substantial following during His lifetime was executed by the Romans, only to have it subsequently grow to become a primary religion of the world? Or was Jesus something more? More to the point, is He still something more??
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1, 14)
Certainly, Jesus was a human being who walked the face of the earth about two centuries ago in what is present day Israel. And while He was a prophet, He was not primarily a prophet. He was a Jewish rabbi of the first century, as recorded by Josephus, a Jewish historian. He acquired a substantial following during His lifetime and was executed by the occupying Roman authority, yet after this His following grew into one of the main religions of the world. Yet why was this? And was this all? If so, how can we explain the fact that rather than dying out Christianity continues to attract new converts daily? The reason Christianity, the belief system of those who follow Jesus, has not died out is because in addition to being human, Jesus was also the second person of the Triune God.
Each and every human being born to Adam and Eve has a sin nature in him. This does not mean that the precious and beautiful little child you’re holding is a fully developed liar, adulterer, or even murderer. What it does mean is that he or she has the beginnings of these sins in him or her. Just as a baby has the potential for great future physical accomplishment–such as standing, walking, and even running well enough to possibly some day win the Olympics–in him at birth, albeit not yet fully developed, in the same way he has the beginnings of sin in him. Not a bright prospect, I’ll admit, but true nonetheless. This does not mean that we all grow up to do the same evils or to the same degree, but it does mean that under the right circumstances we could be quite terrible, because the potential is there.
And it is because of this sin that, ever since it was introduced into the human genome, we are unable to fellowship–to love, appreciate, enjoy, and even be–with the incredible God who made us and loves us. The structure of things is that there is Divine justice–it cannot be otherwise. “The soul who sins shall die…” (Ezekiel 18:20) Yet while many of us try to do right and avoid the seemingly really big sins, the dilemma is that none of us can–because of our sin natures–avoid sinning at all: it is impossible.
Some thinking person would at this point, question why God would hold us accountable for that which we cannot help. But the simple answer is that we struggle to understand the holiness of God–that He cannot coexist with sin, that nothing sinful can stand before Him. And ultimately, it was Adam and Eve, not God, who brought sin into the world–genetically, into each and every one of their descendants. “…Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
So why would He whom the Bible calls the Son of God, the second person of the Holy God eternal in the heavens, humble Himself to be born a human baby to parents of modest means in an apparently insignificant part of the world? Because, as the only One uninflected by sin, it was the sole way to help humankind out of their dilemma. Hence the famous verse:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes [not merely that He existed, but in such a way as results in subsequent obedience to God] in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16-19)
But why would Jesus’ death be any different than the death of any other person? In other words, how could His death pay the penalty for all of our sins–why, how could He escape the sin nature we are all born with? The answer is in the angel’s direction to Mary’s fiancée, Joseph:
“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.'” (Matthew 1:20-23)
So who is Jesus? What’s so special about Him? And why did His following, rather than dying out after His crucifixion, grow into a primary religion of the world? It is because Jesus was God.
Thank You that You were in the beginning, that You were with God, and that You were God. More than that, thank You that You can and do save your people from their sins! Amen.