Who Jesus was
At the very heart of the Christian faith is not just a person; not even a special person; but a unique person – Jesus, the Son of God.
Why is Jesus unique? Because he is fully God, yet fully man – all at the same time! Our human minds find that hard to grasp. To our thinking, add 100% man to 100% God and you get – well, what? 200% man-God?
But our God is not a God of addition, but a God of multiplication. Let’s use a very simple illustration from mathematics to show what a difference that makes:1+1=2, but 1x1=1.
It is rather like that with Jesus. Somehow – quite miraculously (but then, what is the point of having a God who can’t do miracles?) – he was both God and man, all in the same one person: God become man.
So how did the first Christians come to this conclusion? By looking at the evidence before their eyes:
1. Jesus – fully a man
a. The facts
Note down from the following Bible verses, all taken from the four Gospels (accounts of Jesus’ life) in what ways Jesus’ real humanity is shown:
Luke 2 v52
Matthew 4 v1-2
John 4 v6-7
Mark 4 v36-38
John 11 v33-35
John 19 v33-34
Jesus was a real human being. That was why John, one of his closest followers and friends, could begin one of his letters in the Bible like this: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life (i.e. Jesus).” (1 John 1 v1)
OK – so Jesus was fully human. But what is the significance of that for us?
b. The significance
Because Jesus was a real human being – just like us, but without any sin in his life – it means that:
He can understand us and our circumstances:
Hebrews 4 v15
He can pray to God (‘intercede’) on our behalf:
Romans 8 v34
He can represent us before God: Because it was a human being (Adam) who sinned and thereby brought separation between all human beings and God, it is only just that it should be a human being who represents us before God when it comes to putting things right. Adam led us all into death; but Jesus can lead us all into life. This is what Paul teaches in the passage that follows:
Romans 5 v12-18
As you think about this section, in what ways do you find it encouraging to know that Jesus was a real man? What difference do you think this fact will make in your Christian life –
- at home?
- at work?
- at leisure?
Good as it is to know that we have someone who can fully identify with us, it is of no help at all if that someone has no ability to help us. But that is not how it is with Jesus. For Jesus was not only fully man, but also fully God …
2. Jesus – fully God
At this point, we really get to the heart of what makes Christianity different from any other religion in the world: our belief that Jesus was not just a good man, or a man of astounding spiritual insight, but God himself come to earth in human form.
On what do we base these beliefs?
a. What others saw in him
In each of the following passages from the New Testament, note down what it was that people saw about Jesus, and why they saw it:
Matthew 16 v13-17
Mark 1 v21-24
Mark 2 v1-2
John 20 v 26-28
b. What Jesus himself claimed
Jesus made many claims – direct and indirect – to be ‘God among us’. For example, he claimed:
- to have existed before he was born! (John 8 v58-59) His enemies obviously understood this to be a claim to be equal with God, because they were about to stone him (the penalty in those days for blasphemy – offending or making yourself equal with God).
- to have lived without any sin or wrongdoing in his life (John 8 v46) – something that only God could do
- to have the right to forgive other people’s sin (Mark 2 v5,10-12)
- to have done miracles because of his unique relationship with God his Father (John 14 v8-11)
Only when circumstances seemed to point to his being anything but God, did Jesus at last quite openly acknowledge who he really was:
Matthew 26 v62-66
Why do you think Jesus waited until now – the most unlikely of points – to acknowledge openly that he was the Son of God?
c. What God himself said
There were several occasions when God spoke very plainly from heaven, underlining the truth of who Jesus was. Note down at what stage in Jesus’ earthly life each one came:
Luke 1 v26-33
Mark 1 v9-11
Mark 9 v2-7
At key points in Jesus’ life, God was ready to confirm the ‘unbelievable’ for those who were open to receive the truth.
d. What the church understood
In the light of Jesus’ resurrection, many of the things he had said and done while with them suddenly began to make sense! The more they reflected on it, the more they saw that there was only one conclusion they could come to: the man that they had spent the last three years of their life with, that they had seen at close quarters, that they had had ample opportunity to catch out, was none other than God himself with them.
Here are just some of the ways they summed this up:
Colossians 2 v9
Hebrews 1 v1-3
John 1 v1-4,14
In the light of all the evidence before their eyes, the first Christians realised that they had no alternative conclusion they could come to: this man Jesus was indeed Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’.
Let us sum up then:
It was because Jesus was fully man that he could represent us; it was because he was fully God that he could truly deal with our sin, failures and problems.
And this is why we can be so sure! Nothing depends on us – everything depends on him; and what a one to depend on!
© Oxfordshire Community Churches 1999