Text: Heb.12:2 "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,"
"The Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, and lived a sinless life in obedience to the Father. He taught with authority and all his words are true. On the cross he died in the place of sinners, bearing God's punishment for their sin, redeeming them by his blood. He rose from the dead and in his resurrection body ascended into heaven where he is exalted as Lord of all. He intercedes for his people in the presence of the Father."
The Lord Jesus Christ
Born some 2.000 years ago into a poor family in a relatively obscure part of the Roman Empire this man has exerted and continues to exert a massive influence upon world history.
But what do you know about him?
Oh yes, you’ve probably all heard his name but what did he do to have such an influence on people of his own day and on people down through the running centuries?
What makes this man so special that churches, groups of his committed followers, regularly gather together in his name? And they do this not just here in the UK but throughout the entire world. They gather to think about this man, to consider what he said and what he did. They gather to sings hymns and songs of praise to him and in his honour. Thousands upon thousands pledge themselves to follow him wherever he might lead them and thousands upon thousands willingly suffer abuse and ridicule and worse because of their attachment to him. Hundreds of thousands, millions, are determined to live out their lives as his disciple.
Many find their job prospects hampered by their commitment to following this man. Promotion at work may be out of the question for them but they remain nevertheless committed to this man. Others may find themselves having to give up on the idea of ever finding a life partner because being true to this man and his teaching is more important to them than anything else.
For year after year the followers of this man will give sacrificially of their income – many have been guided by the principle of tithing, that is they don’t give a little bit of what they might have left at the end of the week but rather they set apart 10% of their income at the beginning of the month. And that for a man who walked on earth in the first century of the Common Era – although of course for a long, long time we called the Common Era by a different name! And yet this man, although he walked on earth twenty centuries ago, tops the list in poll after poll, in census after census, in questionnaire after questionnaire and even in sophisticated analytical computer programs, as the most influential man in the whole of history.
What do you know of this man?
Our text encourages us to look to this man, to consider Jesus. To do so we need to understand who he is and what he has said and what he has done. Here are the major things that the Bible tells us about Jesus of Nazareth.
He was (and is) a man
We probably won’t have to stay long on this point as most people in the UK don’t really have a problem thinking of Jesus as a man. Indeed if they think about him at all that is likely how they will think of him.
It wasn’t always so! So highly has Jesus been esteemed and so highly has he been praised that there have been times in history when his followers have almost lost sight of this incredibly important fact that Jesus was a real man. Jesus had a real body, and a reasonable soul – he was just like us; in other words he was fully human!
As a man he ate and he drank; he worked and grew tired and he slept. He related to others speaking to them and listening to them. He enjoyed good times and he knew what it was like to cry. When he was wounded he bled real blood.
As such he is able to relate to you because he knows from the inside what it is like to be human – he is no stranger to the different experiences of human existence.
He was (and is) God
Yes, Jesus was a man but that is far from being the whole story. This man has an utterly unique life story because he is not just a man but God.
Pre-existence – a baby was born at a particular moment in history who was subsequently given the name Jesus, but the extraordinary thing is that this person did not suddenly start to exist then. He referred to himself as having actively existed before ever he was conceived in his mother’s womb.
On one famous occasion he really annoyed his Jewish audience because he said:
Jn.8:58 "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
They took up stones in order to kill him – they thought he was blaspheming and stoning was the penalty for blasphemy.
In prophesying Jesus’ coming into the world the prophet Micah, centuries before his birth, had declared:
Mic.5:2 "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days."
On another occasion Jesus had acted in a way that had provoked a similar reaction.
Jn.5:18 "This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."
Indeed if Jesus did not consider himself to be God then he was very careless in the way he spoke to folk and had obviously failed to learn the lessons because he didn’t take more care about what he said. No, the evidence is consistent: Jesus thought of himself as God.
And the Bible tells us many things about Jesus all of which point in this same direction:
He did things that only God can do eg. Forgive sins. On one memorable occasion he said to a man lying on a mat in front of him:
"Your sins are forgiven" Mk.1:5
This statement immediately caused some murmuring discontent in the crowd. Some thought he was blaspheming because they knew that only God could forgive sins.
Now had Jesus wanted to he could easily have told them that they had misunderstood what he really meant, that of course he didn’t think he was God or something or the sort. But he didn’t take that line at all but instead performed a miracle designed to demonstrate his divine authority, the very authority they refused to recognise. He wanted all to know that he did have that authority that is uniquely God’s, he could forgive sin!
He told the crowds that he was one with his Father. And the crowd’s reaction was once again to pick up stones in order to kill him. What had he done wrong? According to them they intended to stone him:
"for blasphemy, because (you), being a man, make yourself God." Jn.10:33
To Thomas, who was one of his disciples, Jesus declared that if anyone had seen him he had seen the Father (Jn.14:9).
And it wasn’t just Jesus who spoke about himself in this way.
This same Thomas when confronted by the risen Lord Jesus worshipped him. This is what he said:
"My Lord and my God" Jn.20:28
And how did Jesus respond? Did he rebuke Thomas? How did he react?
There is no hint of a rebuke in what Jesus has to say to Thomas. No rebuke but as we hear what Jesus had to say he seems to be saying, "At last! But why has it taken you so long to realise this?"
How different was that of the angel who appeared to John in the Book of Revelation – when John was overwhelmed by the angel and the truth the angel showed him John wrote:
Rev.19:10 "Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God."
The writers of the NT were Jewish from an exceedingly strong monotheistic background but they didn’t hesitate to speak of Jesus in the most exalted manner imaginable:
Paul wrote referring to Jesus as "the Christ who is God over all" Rom.9:5 and then to Titus concerning the Christian hope he wrote describing that hope as:
"the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ," Tit.2:13
Peter opened his second letter by referring to the Saviour in just the same way:
"our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." 2Pet.1:1.
More remarkable truths about Jesus
Prophesied his coming into the world was announced beforehand as were the major events of his life.
Incarnation – his birth was so unusual that it is referred to in this special way. This was not the birth of an ordinary person but God breaking into the world and taking human flesh to himself. Because of the special and unique combination of two natures in one person (the divine and the human) Jesus’ human birth came about in an extraordinary way. His mother conceived him without the intervention of a male. Once conceived he grew normally in her womb and was born in usual circumstances. We often refer to this birth as the virgin birth.
Teaching – he taught in a manner that set him apart from the other rabbis and teachers of his day because he taught with authority, teaching what he had received from his Heavenly Father. This firm note of authority was readily noticed by his listeners who were amazed by him. They were all the more amazed when his teaching was backed up by the wonder-working power of his miracles as he didn’t not merely teach but acted with power as well.
Miracles – this man went around doing good and that involved him in performing a wide range healing miracles: he cleansed lepers from their skin diseases, he enabled the deaf to hear and the blind to see. Cripples were restored to perfect health and even the dead were brought back to life.
Nor were these the only types of miracle that he carried out: he turned water into wine and saved the embarrassment of the hosts of a wedding banquet, he fed hungry crowds with the most meagre of resources, he controlled the weather with a word causing raging seas and high winds to quieten down at a simple word of command.
He spoke to destructive and evil spirits that were destroying the lives of those they had taken possession of and cast them out. – again done simply and calmly with no histrionics and never with the slightest failure.
Obedience – with such power at his disposal he could have done whatever he chose and could so easily have used his power and status to promote personal and selfish interests – indeed he was tempted with just this sort of temptation as Satan tried to lead him astray. Satan offered him more power, more wealth and influence than has ever been offered to any man and what did Jesus do? He rejected all of those temptations and went on resolutely committed to keeping his Father’s will and seeking to please his Heavenly Father.
This obedience was neither temporary nor partial but perfect and complete. In other words there was nothing in his life that was in even the slightest way tainted by sin. The Father spoke from heaven on two distinct occasions to commend his Son:
At both his baptism and at his transfiguration the words were the same "This is my beloved Son, with whom I all well pleased" (Mt.3:17, 17:5)
His enemies would have loved to have found solid grounds for accusing him as their only desire was to get rid of this man but they had to resort to false witnesses to try to obtain some semblance of guilt. When Jesus asked: "Which one of you convicts me of sin?" (Jn.8:46) none was able to bring a charge!
His most intimate followers having observed him in a wide variety of situations gave this assessment of his life:
1Pet.2:22 "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth."
Sufferings – Jesus pushed his obedience to the extreme and was prepared to suffer injustice, hatred, torture and death for the sake of the ones he came to help, to save. As the good shepherd Jesus laid down his life for his sheep! His death was a substitutionary sacrifice – he offered his life to pay the debt that we owed to God but which we had not the slightest hope of paying. Isaiah described all this hundreds of years before the event:
Is.53:5 "But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed."
Resurrection – here is another most remarkable miracle! And it gives us firm grounds for putting our trust in the Lord Jesus. He died a real, bloody and excruciatingly painful death exposed to the gaze of many – everyone knew he had died. Yet on the third day after his execution he was alive again not as someone who had somehow survived his tortures and was simply clinging on to life, no, he was alive with the full and vibrant life of one who had overcome death and emerged victorious in the struggle!
This resurrection is a sign of the Father’s approval of the work the Son had carried out on the cross, it is proof that his sacrifice on our behalf has been accepted!
Not only was the resurrection amazing and unprecedented event it was also an event that Jesus had taught before he suffered and died!
And now he is alive!
Ascension – after a period of forty days during which time the resurrected Jesus met with and taught his apostles leaving them with no doubt whatsoever concerning his victory over death he ascended to heaven where he continues to be actively involved in securing and promoting the well-being of all those who belong to him.
Promised return – this Jesus, whom we are urged to consider, invited to trust and commanded to follow as disciples has also promised to return to the earth and when he does he will usher in the Final Judgment at which he will be God’s agent of judgment.
There you have it in a rushed, whirlwind attempt to gain an overview of this man Jesus. There has never been anyone like him and there will never be another like him either. He is the Saviour that each and every one of us needs. In order for his work to be effective for us we must be born again by the Spirit of God. Left to our own devices we will maybe try to reform ourselves but our old heart won’t and can’t function properly. We need the Spirit to give us a new heart that will trust Jesus and follow Jesus.
Well, we’ve been looking at Jesus but we must do more than contemplate him at a distance – we must come to him in faith.
Friends, if you do nothing about all this you will remain under the just condemnation of God because of your sins which remain unpardoned. So I urge you "Be reconciled to God", "Call upon him while he is near" "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved".
And to God alone be the Glory.