People did not know what to make of Jesus. They tried to understand Him by comparing Him with famous figures from the recent and more distant past – ‘ John the Baptist … Elijah … Jeremiah or one of the prophets’. Into this situation of confusion came something new, something different – ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’. Where did this come from? It came from God – ‘flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 16:14,16-17). What we have here is divine revelation. Our thinking about Jesus is not to be limited by what people say about Him. We must listen to what God says about Him – ‘This is My beloved Son’ (Matthew 3:17). What is so different about Jesus? Those who came before Him were servants of God. He is God’s ‘one and only Son’ (John 3:16). They preached God’s Word. He is God’s Word. Seeking to convince his readers that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’, John begins and ends his Gospel in a way that leaves us in no doubt about the absolute uniqueness of Jesus. Describing Jesus as ‘the Word’, he begins his Gospel with the astonishing declaration – ‘the Word was God’. Toward the end of his Gospel, we have a similar declaration of Christ’s divinity – ‘My Lord and my God’ (20:31; 1:1; 20:28).
The great words of John 1:14 – ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth’ – are echoed and expanded upon by Paul, in Philippians 2:5-11. Emphasizing that though ‘He was in the form of God, Christ Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men’, Paul goes on to describe Christ’s crucifixion – ‘being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’. Paul, then, takes us beyond Christ’s crucifixion – ‘Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name’. Paul’s next words – ‘that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ – take us far beyond the beginning – ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). They take us on to the end. They prepare us for the great words spoken by the risen Christ in the book of Revelation ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega … the Beginning and the End … the First and the Last … the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’ (1:8; 21:6; 22:13).
This wonderful Story – the eternal Word, the Word become flesh, the Suffering Servant, the glorified Lord – is the great fulfilment of the prophecies of Isaiah. The ‘Mighty God’ has become ‘Emmanuel (God with us)’. ‘He makes himself an offering for sin; and ‘He shall see His offspring … the fruit of the travail of His soul’ (9:6; 7:14; 53:10-11). This is the Story of our salvation, the Story of Jesus Christ, the ‘Mighty God’ who became ‘God with us’. For our salvation, we need both – the ‘Mighty God’ and ‘God with us’. Apart from ‘God with us’, the ‘Mighty God’ might seem remote, great in power yet detached from us. Apart from the ‘Mighty God’, ‘God with us’ might seem too homely, too much like a ‘god’ created in our own image. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. He is the ‘Mighty God’. We know that He is able to save. He has become ‘God with us’. We know that He is willing to save. The Story continues. He has become the Suffering Servant. He has ‘borne the sin of many’. Now, as the risen Lord, He has ‘prolonged His days’ (Isaiah 53:12,10). ‘Jesus Christ’, our Saviour and Lord, ‘the same yesterday and today and forever’, continues to speak to us His gracious words of salvation – ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have mercy on him, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon’ (Hebrews 13:8; Isaiah 55:6-7).
Jesus is the Lord – ‘In the beginning … the Word was God’ (John 1:1). He is the Christ, the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. The prophets looked forward to His coming. The apostles proclaimed ‘the good news’ – the Christ has come. The prophets and apostles speak with one voice concerning ‘the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory’ (1 Peter 1:10-12). Together, they declare to us the ‘good news’ of our salvation – ‘Jesus … will save His people from their sins’ (Luke 2:10; Matthew 1:21). From the very beginning of His life on earth, Jesus is clearly marked out as different from the rest of us – ‘that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 1:20). This uniqueness continues throughout His life on earth – He is ‘without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15). His uniqueness is powerfully demonstrated by His resurrection from the dead – ‘designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead’ (Romans 1:4). Throughout His great Story, we see Jesus Christ as our wonderful Saviour, the only One who ‘is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him’ (Hebrews 7:25).
The uniqueness of our Lord Jesus Christ is indicated early in His life when, at the age of twelve, He speaks these wonderful words, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?’ (Luke 2:49). Hearing these words, we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ unique relationship with God the Father. From there, we look back and notice earlier indications of the unique place held by Jesus in God’s plan of salvation – the divine protection of the child and the divine victory over the child’s enemies (Matthew 2:13,20). When Jesus sets out on His public ministry, it becomes clear why His life was preserved. Jesus is a special Person – ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). He has a special purpose – He is ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). As soon as Jesus is publicly announced as God’s one and only Son and our one and only Saviour, Satan takes action, seeking to divert Jesus from His God-appointed pathway, the way that brings salvation to the world. Satan is, however, one step behind God. At Jesus’ baptism, something remarkable had happened – ‘the Holy Spirit descended upon Him’ (Luke 3:22). Jesus had been filled with the Holy Spirit since His conception – ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you … therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’ (Luke 1:35). There is, however, in Jesus’ baptism, a mighty empowering for service which equipped Him for victory over Satan. When Jesus goes into the wilderness, He does not go alone. He is ‘led by the Spirit’, ‘sent’ by the Spirit, ‘full of the Holy Spirit’. ‘The Spirit descends and remains on Him’ (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1; John 1:34). Jesus is ready for Satan. When Satan comes, questioning Jesus’ divine Sonship – ‘If you are the Son of God’ (Matthew 4:3; Luke 4:3,9), Jesus is ready for him. Armed with the Word of God – ‘It is written’ (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4,10) – Jesus triumphs over Satan.
Moving forward in triumph, ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit … to preach good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:14,18). Jesus’ preaching is unique. Others preach the Gospel. Jesus is the Gospel – ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6). We find an echo of Jesus’ preaching in the message given by Peter in Acts 4:12 – ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’. As well as pursuing a ministry of ‘preaching’ and ‘teaching’, Jesus also exercises a ministry of ‘healing’ (Matthew 4:23). In this healing ministry, we see the uniqueness of Jesus. His miracles proclaim Him as God’s Son and our Saviour. The ‘miraculous signs’ are recorded by John so that we might ‘believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, we might have life in His Name’ (John 20:30-31). Jesus’ ministry is not only a ministry of preaching, teaching and healing. It is also a ministry of prayer. In John 17, we see Jesus praying. In His prayer, we see His uniqueness. We see Him committing Himself to the pathway that leads to the Cross, the place where He will fulfil God’s purpose of salvation – ‘Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You’ (v.1). We hear Him praying not only for His first disciples. He prays also for believers of every generation (v.20). As we look at the praying Jesus, we catch a glimpse of Him as our Lord who is ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, our Saviour concerning whom we can still say, ‘the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’ (Hebrews 13:8; 1 John 1:7).
On our way towards the crucifixion of our Saviour, we travel by way of His transfiguration, the great event in which we hear these wonderful words concerning Him – ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 17:5). Learning to view Jesus’ death in the light of this divine declaration, we join with Paul in his great words concerning Jesus – ‘the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). Together with Paul, we give thanks to God for the great message of the Gospel – ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3). We rejoice, with him, in the great love which lies behind the death of Christ for our sins – ‘God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).The death of Jesus is not the end of His Story. As we move from Jesus’ death to His resurrection, His ascension and His return, we see that He alone is worthy of the marvellous description given of Him in Revelation 19:16 – ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’. We hear the Gospel proclamation – ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’. We confess Him as our Lord (Acts 2:36; Romans 10:9). The Story is unique. Our Saviour is unique. His Salvation is unique. It is only this Story, this Saviour and this Salvation which gives us the strength to face the future with the confidence which says, ‘Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57).