Who Jesus Is
WHO, WHO is this Jesus whom we celebrate today as the Risen Lord, worthy of our trust and devotion?
Who, who is He? The answer comes echoing down through the Ages from beyond the dawn of time; first, through the prophetic Hebrew Scriptures and then from the recounting and observations of those who knew Jesus best and followed him to the end of His life on earth.
From the book of Genesis, we see God acting creatively. We notice there the Hebrew word for God, “Elohim,” is singular with a plural meaning: that God is a many faceted, complex being. So we hear:
“Now let Us conceive a new creation—humanity—made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority over all the earth—the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, the domesticated animals and the small creeping creatures on the earth.”
In that scripture we hear “Us” and “We.”
This great engine of Creation had a complex “pilot.
From a Roman prison, the Apostle Paul writes to his friends in the churches of Colossae and Ephesus in Asia Minor concerning Jesus Christ’s role in creation. We hear:
“Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and, in fact, Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can’t; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory. He was before all else began and it is his power that holds everything together.”
To the accomplished people at Ephesus, Paul reminded them:
Moreover, because of what Christ has done, we have become gifts to God that He delights in; for as part of God’s sovereign plan, we were chosen from the beginning to be His, and all things happen just as He decided, long ago.
Though it may be hard for us to understand, the Creator had his eye on His creatures who would rise up every now and then, to call Him blessed. God multiplexes.
The Almighty could foresee that our kind, we humans, would be stubborn from the very beginning. Out of the mists of time, Genesis lays out the nature of rebellion in the Garden of Eden story. We are just the same, fickle and arrogant, heady with our freedom.
Creator God has entered time and space again and again, tending His beloved, sometimes sending messengers, sometimes face-to-face.
God spoke directly to Abraham.... Remember, back then there were no guidelines, no scriptures, no prophets or priests!
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to him and told him, “I am the Almighty; obey me and live as you should. I will prepare a contract between us, guaranteeing to make you into a mighty nation. In fact you shall be the father of not only one nation, but a multitude of nations!” Abram fell face downward in the dust as God talked with him.
The Word spoken to that man on the ground was a promise to bless all future generations through this ordinary man, with his face in the dirt, probably in shock.
Once, when Moses was dealing with God in person, His people were terrified. God spoke through thunder and lightning. So overwhelming was this, the people begged Moses to shield them from God’s dazzling presence.
Later, we come to the narrative lesson about job. Job endured more trauma than any human ever should. But his victory was in his enduring, unwavering faith. Here Job’s Language soars describing our future Redemptor:
“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He will stand upon the earth at last. And I know that after this body has decayed, this body shall see God! Then He will be on my side! Yes, I shall see Him, not as a stranger, but as a Friend! What a glorious hope!”
The remarkable book of the prophet Isaiah affirms, even through the Dead Sea Scrolls, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, how the Redeemer was to come:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name 'Emmanuel,’ God with us.”
The Almighty uses Isaiah to foreshadow Jesus’ final payment through the writings of this devout man:
He was treated badly, but he never protested. He said nothing, like a lamb being led away to be killed. He was like a sheep that makes no sound as its wool is being cut off. He never opened his mouth to defend himself. He was taken away by force and judged unfairly. The people of his time did not even notice that he was killed. But he was put to death for the sins of his people. He had done no wrong to anyone. He had never even told a lie. But he was buried among the wicked. His tomb was with the rich.
God’s ultimate plan, worked out slowly through the ages. God tried to mold His people into a nation of believers, but what most of them did was complain and rebel. Through the songs of King David and the prophets, we find more and more specific hints that someone special would come as the Redeemer.
The prophet Micah foretells where this special child will be born:
And you Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means the least of the leaders of Judah, for out of you shall come forth a Ruler, who will shepherd my people Israel.
We all know this announcement from the Angel, Gabriel:
“Greetings, Mary; you are full of the grace of the most High. The Lord is with you!”
Announcing Jesus’ birth, the skies filled with hosts of angels lifting praises to The Lord God of Hosts.
Later, an angel of the Lord guided Joseph and his family to Egypt, escaping the wrath of King Herod, as the prophet Hosea foretold:
Out of Egypt did I call my Son.
At Jesus’ circumcision, temple regulars, Simeon and Anna rejoiced in their recognition of the Child with Mary and Joseph as the One they had waited for, so very long…echoing Isaiah:
“… as a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.”
Jesus’ cousin, John, was born to prepare the way for the Messiah. John’s parents, an elderly couple, were devoted temple worshippers. God sent his Holy Spirit into John, even before he was born. A miracle birth, in itself!
Later at Jesus’ baptism by John, God’s blessing came down from heavens:
“You are My Beloved Son. In you, I am very pleased.”
Through His short ministry, He confronted the seats of power, taught of the Kingdom He was opening for everyone, and healed every kind of affliction, just as Isaiah predicted:
Encourage those who are afraid. Tell them, “Be strong, fear not, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” 5 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame man will leap up like a deer, and those who could not speak will shout and sing! Springs will burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.
At Jesus’ mystical experience of Transfiguration on the mountain top, through the radiant glory on the mountain top, the disciples actually recognized Elijah and Moses, talking with their Master about what He should prepare for ahead:
The Lord God spoke to the group:
“This is My Beloved Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him.”
The greatest honor God paid to Jesus, was to raise3 Him from the dead!.
Was that too hard for the Creator of the heavens? Everyone back then, knew that Jesus’ friend, Lazarus had been raised from death as witness to Jesus’ power.
Jesus had moved purposefully ahead through His trial and crucifixion and was laid to rest in the tomb of a righteous man, a member of the Sanhedrin. This compassionate man had not agreed to the council’s illegal plan of action. Joseph went to Pilate, asked for Jesus’ body, and prepared it for burial in his own tomb.
The door was sealed by a huge stone, with a Roman seal, attended by Roman guards.
Then the Angels came to attend Jesus in his transition from a human being to a new being, He endured a unique process of transformation.
Jesus’ final affirmation from the Lord God came at the end of His life on earth.
After Jesus went upward, out of sight, two angels appeared. They asked the crowd there why they were looking up:
“Why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way you have watched Him go into heaven!”
Jesus, himself did signs and wonders while he was alive, which testified to his compassion and spiritual power. His beloved disciple, the magnificent John, writes:
[I am] the same disciple who was eyewitness to all these things and wrote them down. And we all know that his eyewitness account is reliable and accurate.
There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can’t imagine a world big enough to hold such a library!
So, this is the Jesus of the Holy Scriptures, Prince of Israel, Redeemer of the world:
He who was, and is, and is to come! What more can you ask……???
Now, this is the one great challenge of faith—that we accept the reality of the mysterious, the other worldly, the numinous, that One rose from the dead, whom Angels attended, as an event that truly happened. It may be only through faith, that we grasp as fact, that Christ arose, to become part of our consciousness. Through our movement into “another realm,” faith becomes essential in our lives. For many, this movement is hard.
We have been given the brains and tools to measure and deal with this beautiful world in all its challenges. The danger is that we, the world’s creatures, can be chained down by our own measuring tools. The worldly power of our tools is immense. It is seductive.
- We can see beyond the stars through immense telescopes back to black holes, quasars, pondering what “dark matter” is. No one knows, yet, what dark matter even is!
- we can recover from life-threatening diseases through medicine’s creative researchers.
- we can put people on the moon, and maybe beyond (but don’t include me!)
- we can understand the working of our bodies’ systems
- and we can understand our planet’s systems and how to help for good and bad.
- we can communicate around the world in an instant!
- And NOVA, the TV program, has also shown that the interior of the big Egyptian pyramids can be examined, without turning a shovel!
To the intellectuals, the business people in the cosmopolitan church at Corinth, Paul warns:
“For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools, by a fool. But for those of us who are already experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is nothing short of God’s power. This is why the Scripture says:
I will put an end to the wisdom of the so-called wise,
and I will invalidate the insight of your so-called experts.
So scripture warns that our creations can become our idols. They are our creations but lack the power to address the spiritual side of our nature, where the image of God resides. This is the reason for faith.
I believe “faith” has two dimensions, one internal, and one external. The outward elements of faith are what we do in caring for the needs of the world; and through worship, as we pay tribute to the gifts of God. We call that, “the Faith.”
But the inward work of developing our own, personal faith is a purposeful effort. We must cultivate a personality, a psyche, a brain of faith, through the adventure of prayer, a unique dialogue with God. He speaks, we listen; we speak, God listens. The Almighty bows low to hear of our concerns. We cannot specify or describe the words of such dialog; that would indeed be foolish. But when it happens, it is in God’s time and in God’s way, a venture out to a friend in belief.
We must read and study the written Word. As we open ourselves to what is written for our benefit, faith will acknowledge that God speaks through His scriptures, using his Spirit. Although brought to us through efforts of imperfect people, God sends us an inerrant message of lasting love.
And within our communities of faith, we deepen our soul-depths as we interact with and care for others who are on their own serious journeys of faith.
We must again, repeat, that building faith does not come easily to quite a few of us. First, we must give assent to the fact that God is “there.” As recounted in the Bible, we see our loving God, working through a terrible history of denial, rebellion and broken promises by His people, up to the time when He came in Person. We are just like those people. Jesus came because He had to come.
The legal structures of old did not move us toward God; in fact, we let them trap us in legalism. The old laws were a step forward but failed because they offered external structure only. Even the church today can enwrap us in legalistic rituals.
So, God sent His personal representative, Jesus, the Expected One, to lead the way through His life and sacrifice.
We do not understand all the symbolism of the blood being shed, the sacrificial lamb, whose dying released us from the bondage of law. Whatever it means, God acted on a cosmic scale, offering forgiveness to every person. No repetitions of sacrifice are needed. The Gift has been given.
“IT IS FINISHED !!”
Jesus came as an act of the goodness of God. We know we did not deserve this extreme love. It is God’s gift to us. It is grace, love’s action completely unmerited.
I have often thought about after the angels had left the tomb, and Mary saw the risen Jesus and recognized Him. What was Happening? Mary was warned not to touch Him (because He had not gone to His Father).
What is it like to be a regular human being and then changed through death, into another, more advanced being? A person who teleports through time and space, but also knows where the fish are pooling and is able to eat them when cooked? Who shows up when completely unexpected, not needing a door; and is seen later by hundreds of people,? What is it like? Why couldn’t Mary touch Jesus outside the tomb? We may have a parallel here on earth:
Several months ago we were visiting Jim’s Pennsylvania relatives, the Fishers, who are a farm family. The children had found two caterpillars and realized that they could watch the whole metamorphosis process, if they were very careful. These creatures began the chrysalis stage. I believe it was Easter when this radical change was to end. Everyone watched as wings and bodies poked out slowly through their silk cocoon. Then the newly emerged butterflies crawled out, found a twig, and just sat and breathed. We could not touch them then. They were adjusting to being new creatures, with a set of new abilities. It took a while. Then the butterflies took off and flew away.
We readily acknowledge that most all of us carry baggage, quirks and subtle forms of resistance to faith. A big one is the inability to trust; to let go to the unseen. Simply, Gordon Cosby called the step of faith “putting your weight down.”
Jesus talked about common things, farmers, fishermen and shepherds. We have learned that a good shepherd used his crook to tend and defend his sheep. In ancient times, the sheep pen was a corral or a cave. But there was no door.
At night, the shepherd lay down across the threshold of the sheep pen, so no harm could come to the sheep. Nothing could go in or out without his control.
I would suggest that through His sacrifice, Jesus has laid himself across the threshold of the Kingdom He came to bring. Everyone gains entrance, no matter the direction they come, through Christ laying down Himself. The gates are wide open to all who would be “the sheep of His pastures,” as the Psalmist David wrote.
And I have a couple of parables of my own about faith:
Imagine your hotel has caught on fire, the room door is hot, so you run to the open the window. As you lean out the window you see the firemen below with their huge, round net. They yell “JUMP!” Who me, jump?
Yes, jump! Let yourself go! Or you will burn to death! “Jump!” It’s a horrible thought to let go, from what seems so solid, and to throw oneself into the air, hoping for rescue!
That jump is FAITH.
Let me give you an example of my own resistance to the new: I.e. “fear of certain heights.”
Out on the edge of the Grand Canyon, a native tribe, the Hualapai, has a reservation. The tribe did not want to build a casino to make money, so they came up with a creative idea, which was to build a little museum and a canyon walk. However, this canyon walk is not down into the canyon itself, it is out into the empty space above the Canyon abyss.
They have constructed a huge semicircular glass and concrete walkway on which you can pay to walk. Then you can look down from out there, over the side, or down between your feet, to enjoy the canyon views.
Although, I can see other people out there enjoying the view, and benefitting the tribal welfare, do you think I will buy a ticket? Maybe….Do you think I will put one foot on that well-constructed glass pathway. Oh NO, OH NO!!!
It would have to be a matter of life or death, before I set one foot out there, and must be accompanied by several experienced people to keep me from fainting and falling over the side! I would need lots of help!
This, however, is how many individuals are bound up by life’s traumas, personality quirks, embarrassment, intellectualism and perhaps heredity, laying a very rocky road toward faith.
And as the Faithful, the church, we must recognize these situations and offer light and companionship on the Way.
I have also come to the conclusion that “belief,” another word for faith, is now shrunken to an intellectual agreement that God really is, up there, somewhere.
But in looking at the word, belief, we see that it is “By--life” the deep, whole commitment of trust. We give our very essence to that which we cannot touch… or visually see. It is by our very Life that we bridge the vast Grand Canyon, separating us from the One who loves us, loving us far more than we can ever imagine.
This brings up another issue of faith. Is our God immense enough to control the stars, to have generated the Big Bang? That thought can fry some of our grey cells!
“In the beginning God….”
From that immensity, can there be a creator of the universe, who is interested in your particular needs? Is He focused enough to carry me through the valley of death? To support you when your child dies? When I see cruelty and corruption everywhere? When prayer does not, through our eyes, seem to be answered? Life throws at us awful events. Some people blame God, but this is the way life happens. In the South we call it, “being hit upside the head!” Life hurts, it can be horrible, as we have seen so recently in Florida.
I believe none of us can capture God’s abilities and compassion with our minds. Through faith we experience that He does act in time and space, He really does. That is God’s business. He has sent part of Himself to companion us on the Way.
This part of God does not go by any rules. The Spirit moves as is needed to move. God’s Spirit wants to companion us, guiding us in the way of maturing spiritually and dealing with life.
Every day we put out trust in persons we cannot see:
- We trust in Mr Otis when we ride the elevator.
- We trust in the pilot and plane builders when we fly Southwest Airlines
- We trust in the structural engineers who design buildings.
We never see them.
Once, our family was visiting San Francisco, and found that our bed and breakfast was on the other side of the Golden Gate inlet. This meant going on the Golden Gate Bridge. My mother was driving for some reason, and she followed the instructions to get on the bridge. However, when you look at the bridge approach, it is enormous, and my mother looked as if she was going to faint. But she persevered. We had already been to their museum and had seen how the great cables were built and how it was monitored and cared for on a daily basis. Faith in what we had seen, but also that which she could not see, finally got us across to the other side, to a lovely evening of recuperation.
So, in the final analysis, it is the gift of God’s wonderful grace, by sending His personal representative, this Jesus Christ, which no one, neither you nor I, deserves. God’s loving grace is still operational, still a reality, still working; always available to all.
And through faith we can enjoy, and be grateful for all the loving benefits which He showers on all who put their lives in His Hands.
And that’s the truth, Hallelujah!!!