Who is Jesus?
There is no more important question for you to answer than this. There is no more authoritative place to begin than the Scriptures.
What does the Bible Say?
The Bible comes to us in two parts, which we call the Old Testament and the New Testament. We like to say that the Old Testament anticipates Christ, while the New Testament announces Christ. The first four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were written to answer questions like these:
Who was he?
What is the meaning of his death?
What are we to do with him?
To answer the question, “Who is Jesus?,” we will explore how John (the writer of the fourth gospel), addressed these three questions in his book.
Who was he?
John starts out the story of Jesus’ life in an interesting way. He knew Jesus at a human level since they were close friends for many years. But he introduces Jesus by saying, not so subtly, that he is the God who created the world and everything in it:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
– John 1:1–3, 14, 18
Jesus Christ was a man, but he was no mere man. He was the eternal Son of God.
Why did he die on the cross?
If we are to understand the reason for the divine Son’s coming as a man, we must understand the reason for his death on a cross as a condemned criminal. The Bible’s claim is that this event stands at the center of history. If it is true that his death gives meaning to everything else in the universe, then the meaning of our lives is bound up with the question of his death as well. Indeed, this is a crucial question.
We find the answer in the way that Jesus is first identified by his own divinely sent announcer, John the Baptist. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus Christ, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Now, if the story of Jesus Christ began right here, we would have no way to understand what John meant by calling Jesus a Lamb. But the story does not start here. Before the curtain opened to Jesus’ arrival, there were several acts in God’s story of salvation which set up his arrival as the “Lamb of God.” For the background we go to the Old Testament, the books of the Bible that lead up to Jesus’ coming.
In the first three chapters of the Bible, Genesis 1-3, we learn that God made the world, and he made the world as a home for humankind, whom he made in his image, to reflect his glory and goodness into the world. He gave Adam and Eve everything for their happiness, including himself. They were only to trust his Word. When they rebelled, they died—just as God promised. This was the just judgment of God, and this judgment applies to us also. We have also rebelled against God, and therefore suffer just judgment under the eternal fury of God’s wrath. This is what Jesus describes as “eternal fire” reserved for sinners (Matt. 25:41). But God had a plan, a plan of salvation for Adam and Eve and all their descendants. He promised that out of Eve would eventually come one who would defeat sin and death.
As God’s story of salvation unfolds, God gives to his people a number of pictures to help them understand their problem and how this promised savior would actually save.
Lambs are prominent in God’s story of salvation. Over many years, God required His people to sacrifice lambs every year in order to cover their sins. When God accepted the death of a lamb in the place of a sinner, he was teaching his people that sin deserved death. He was teaching them about his holiness and his settled opposition to human rebellion, and he was teaching them about his love, his mercy, and his grace to provide a way to him. The repeated sacrifices of many lambs pointed to a day when God would provide a perfect substitute Lamb for His people—Jesus.
God spoke very clearly through His messenger Isaiah. In Isaiah 53:4-7, God hinted that the promised son of Eve would actually die like a lamb, but that through this apparent defeat God would rescue sinners.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
– Isaiah 53:4-7
Humanity wrestles with guilt. Every major religion humans invent recognizes there is something wrong with us all and attempts to solve the problem.
In these verses of the Bible we see the extent of our problem: we go astray; we are filled with iniquities; we transgress God’s perfect law. Our rebellion against God is so great that when he sends one to suffer in our place, we do not even esteem him. We crucify him. Yet in his death, Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was taking away our sins. He was bearing our iniquities. He was afflicted and crushed for us. He was smitten by God for us!
Jesus was not a criminal, but he died as one condemned (2Cor. 5:21). As Peter puts it, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1Pet. 3:18).
What are we to do with him?
This question is important, because even if you know who Jesus Christ is, and you know why he died on the cross, you still may be unsaved. You have to go a step further.
The answer to this question can be found in a verse you may recognize. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
What does it mean to believe? Do we believe in Jesus like we believe the sky is blue? Yes, certainly, but it goes further than that. We need to believe that he is who he said he is, the Lamb of God, come to take away the sins of the world. Here are some verses that further explain who Jesus is and how to believe in him:
— John 3:20
“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
— John 12:36, 46
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
— John 6:35
Believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life means coming out of the darkness of our sin and coming to the light, who is Christ. We must agree with God about our rebellion against him. Every part of us is dark, even if we appear to ourselves as brighter than some of the people we know. Before the brilliance of God’s glory in Christ, we are all dark. We must come to him who is the light.
Believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life also means that we come to him for the satisfaction of our souls. He is the bread of life. Just as our bodies need bread for survival, so we need Jesus Christ as the bread of life—the sustenance of our souls. Believing in Jesus Christ means coming to him for the free gift of eternal salvation and satisfaction.
The question of Jesus’ identity is the most important question you can ask. Jesus even asked his own disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” The people of Jesus’ day answered that question in many different ways. The people of today do the same. Jesus approved Peter’s response in Mark 8:29, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus is the Christ, a title which means, Messiah, or Savior. He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
After raising a man named Lazarus from the dead, Jesus said these words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (Jn. 11:25). Then he asked the question, “Do you believe this?”