Who is Jesus?
by Bob Poley
We are thrilled that you are looking for answers about Jesus, the central figure in human history. There is no question that this figure, Jesus, existed. No serious historian questions the historical existence of Jesus. In fact, much of what we read about Jesus in the scriptures is also accounted for by non-Christian historians. It stands to reason that any thoughtful person should look at the evidence and answer the question for themselves, "Who is Jesus?". Before I try to speak to who Jesus is, I would like to answer the question, "Why Jesus?".
Genesis 1:26-28 records the creation of mankind: 26 Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
God created mankind in his own image so that we could represent God, caring for God's creation. We were tasked with being his ruling representatives. God intended us to care for his creation and bring order and productivity to it. We were intended to do so according to the will and character of God. So our relationship to God and our submission to his leadership would enable us to make creation all God intended it to be. God vested so much power, trust, and importance in humanity.
Genesis 3 tells the story of humanity rebelling against God. The story of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is essentially all about us choosing our way above God's. The evil one convinced mankind that God was holding us back, and we could do more without his limits. Whether you believe that story to be literal or figurative, hopefully you can see the absolute truth contained in it. This is the central human issue. We have all struggled with the notion that obedience to God might hold us back. We have wondered if submission to God would cause us to miss out on the life we want. If you continue to read through Genesis you will see the stories begin to pile up of the pain and heartache that come our way as result of life lived on our terms.
Sin and rebellion are certainly not something we just read about in the Bible. If we are honest, we can all see these things and their cost in our lives. Romans 3:23 tells us, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". What this is saying is that God intended so much more for us. While we thought our way would give us more; it has actually stolen from us. Sin has cost us a great deal. As Romans said, it has deprived us of the glory that was intended for us.
Now this is the point where we should begin to see the answer to the question: "Why Jesus?". We all have this problem that doesn't seem to get better. We all have this flaw that does not go away. We see it in the details of our own lives. and we see it in societies. People are messed up! Life is messed up! This is because those who were given dominion over creation (us) have turned from the plan!
God sent Jesus to rescue those created in his image. He planned to restore those charged with caring for creation. By restoring the caretakers of creation, eventually all of creation will be restored. It starts micro and eventually the impact is macro.
So Jesus is God's plan to restore those made in the image of God. Romans 3:23 actually doesn't stop with just a statement about sin and glory lost. It goes further, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Jesus is God's plan to redeem humans. The word redeem is a metaphor for buying someone back out of slavery. Sin and rebellion become a slavery in our lives. We start in the drivers seat, but, at some point, our rebellion and vices master us. At some point, we become enslaved. That is why we continue to do things that we know hurt us, others, and the world. Jesus came to free us.
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us this: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us , so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus came as a human and lived a human life that all of us should have lived. He lived as God's representative in the world: submitting to God and engaging the world around him in a way that honored God's intentions and character. Jesus was perfect and faithful in that role. He was without sin, without rebellion against God the Father. But when Jesus hung on that cross he was accepting the punishment of the sin of humanity on behalf of humanity. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." The results of our sin is death, destruction, judgement, and separation from God. So on that cross, Jesus was embracing our wages for us. So that he could give us the gift of his good, righteous life being credited to our account also. So Jesus became humanity, accepting our punishment and meeting the standard in humanity's place. Through faith in Jesus, our sin is forgiven. We are now in good standing with God. We can re-engage with the purpose God put us here for.
Jesus also shows us what it really looks like to be human. This is why Jesus repeatedly invited any who trusted him to actually "follow" him. Jesus invites humanity to look to him for a model of what it really looks like to live as God intended. 1 John 2:3-6 spells out what faith in Jesus translates into in real life:
"We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is Truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever clams to live in him must live as Jesus did"
Following Jesus is a life of sincere imitation of him. Our obedience is evidence of our faith, but is not what earns our good standing with God. Through Jesus our sin is forgiven: past, present, and future at the moment we surrender our life to Jesus. And the moment we surrender to him, we are given his righteousness by faith. So our good deeds and obedience are the result of the power and truth of God at work in us.
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