Who is Jesus Christ?
There are many differing opinions about Jesus today. Someone once helpfully reduced them all to four: a liar, a lunatic, a legend, or who he said he was, Lord. When we say that Jesus is fully God we mean he is God as described in the Bible, the God of the Old and New Testaments, perfect in every way. He is the Creator and Lord of the universe, and we matter to him. In the New Testament, John records:
John 5:18 ‘This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.’
John 10:10-30 ’10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” 19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”‘
John 14:9 ‘Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?’
Jesus is also fully man. When he was on earth he ate and drank, worked and slept as any other man. He did what was right – always, pleasing his heavenly Father in all things, was tempted as any man is tempted, yet was totally without sin. At the end of his life he died a horrendous death for the sake of others. The person of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian message, and John records examples of his true humanity:
John 4:6 ‘Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.’
John 11:35 35 ‘Jesus wept.’
What is Jesus’ Diagnosis of Human Nature?
Jesus views us all as having a basic disease, sin, which defiles us and cuts us off from the only living and holy God who cares about us. Sin has a variety of symptoms and comes from within us. We can’t blame anything or anyone else for it. From experience we know no-one needs to teach a child to sin. We have all lied or cheated, been cruel, hateful, jealous, covetous, self-centered.. Jesus taught that the root of all these is the disease of rebellion against God, of living with the attitude we know better than God at how to run our lives. This relational separation from God lies at the heart of our sense of guilt, boredom, loneliness, moral weakness, lack of purpose and more. Many give up the Christian message at this point, but these truths have been there from the beginning, and must be accepted. The New Testament Gospel of Mark records Jesus’ view:
Mark 7:1-23 ‘Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘ This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God)- 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” 14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 16 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”‘
The Fact and Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion
Without the purposeful death of Jesus, the world would be a hopeless story. The four New Testament Gospels each provide detailed records of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. In Matthew 26:28 Jesus gives the reason for his death as ‘for the forgiveness of sins.’ Earlier he had said he would ‘give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Matthew 20:28) He would pay the demanded price for the release of captives. Later in the New Testament the disciple Peter writes ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God..’ (1 Peter 3:18) The message is clear: Jesus stepped into the place of sinners, received the punishment due to them, and freely offers forgiveness and reconciliation with God through his own death.
The Fact and Meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection
The dramatic account of Jesus rising from the dead is also recorded in each of the four Gospels. His body, not merely his spirit, was resurrected. This single, inarguable fact is the supreme validation of his deity. After his resurrection, the disciples returned to their fishing boats. But by showing himself to them and giving many proofs of his resurrection for 40 days he revolutionized their lives. From defeat and fear on Good Friday, and shock and awe on Easter Sunday, the early Christians soon became an unstoppable movement. The implications are staggering. He is alive and powerful to invade the life of all who are drawn to invite him into their lives. This resurrection power, available today, makes the Christian message unparalleled and unique. The New Testament record in Luke vividly captures the events:
Luke 24:36-49 ‘As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”‘
Becoming a Christian
The facts of Jesus’ person, life, death, resurrection, and his views concerning sin demand a response that involves a change of mind about how we view sin, and a turning to God. This is what it is to repent, having heard the message of the good news. (Acts 26:20) To view our condition as Jesus sees it will involve a ‘godly sorrow’ (2 Corinthians 7:10), when our feelings follow our change of mind. And the test of true repentance will be when we act on our new mindset and feelings about these truths, when, like the prodigal son, we get up and go to the Father. (Luke 15:18-20 ”I will set out and go back to my father’…So he got up and went.’)
John 1:12 records plainly what is involved in becoming a Christian: ‘To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’ Believe. Receive. Become. There is something to be believed and someone to be received. And a new status is the result: declared righteous and accepted before God.
The picture of marriage is used in the Bible to illustrate the Christian’s relationship with Jesus. We may believe in another person, and be emotionally involved, read books on marriage, attend weddings, yet if we do not personally say ‘I do,’ and commit ourselves to another with mind, emotions and will, we remain unmarried! So too, like a bachelor who never marries but believes marriage is a good thing, are those who have a grasp of the central truths of the Christian faith but never give up their independence to live in a relationship where another (Christ) is the center of their lives. Jesus alone must become the one we trust in, rest on, and rely upon.
To receive Jesus, like receiving any guest at our home, we must open the door (of our lives) and invite him in. The New Testament compares our lives to a house in several places, but it is in the final book of the Bible we find a striking scene. Revelation 3:20 records Jesus words, ‘Here I am, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.’ He enters at our invitation. Our invitation can simply be made in our own words in prayer. And when we receive him, he promises to come in and be with us for eternity. Things will never be the same again. This is grace.
The message of the gospel is central to our mission at Toberkeigh, and we sincerely desire to communicate this good news to all our neighbours respectfully, clearly and faithfully.
Based on How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little, a recommended resource for sharing the good news of Jesus.