We know Jesus' name today because of the claims Jesus made about Himself, and the claims His followers made about Him. The Apostle Paul put it this way, "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
The New Testament Scriptures begin with four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of these books were written to answer the question of Jesus' identity. Who was He? What is the meaning of His death? What are we to do with Him?
Those questions help us know who He is.
In the Gospel of John, John knew Jesus at a human level. They were close friends. But he introduces Jesus by saying 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 1:1-18
The Bible says Jesus is God. But it's still mysterious as John says He was in the beginning with God and He was God. The Apostle Paul, one of the first Christians, put it this way,
- By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:16-17
It is astounding that Jesus Christ was both God and man. But what is more astonishing is that He became a man. As John puts it, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." In Jesus Christ, the invisible God is made visible.
In the course of introducing Jesus, John says that,
- The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. – John 1:9-11
But why did God become flesh? Why did light enter the darkness?
If we are to understand the reason for Jesus' coming as a man, we must understand the reason for His death on a cross as a condemned criminal. Either His death had no meaning at all, or it gives meaning to everything else in the universe. And if it is true that His death gives meaning to everything else in the world, then the purpose of our lives is bound up with the question of His death as well. So, 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!" (John 1:29)
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 coming 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 men and women, whom He made in His image, to reflect His glory and goodness into the world. He gave them everything for their happiness, including Himself. They were only to trust His Word. When they rebelled, just as God promised, they died. And this death entails the just judgment of God. It means our just judgment under the eternal fury of God's wrath. This is what Jesus means when He spoke about "eternal fire" reserved for sinners (Matthew 25:41). This kind of death is what they deserved. But they did not die right away. Their death came slowly, in part, because God had a plan. Though they were sinners, God promised to turn back all that they had done. He promised that one of Eve's sons would crush the head of the Devil and turn back the curse of death.
As God's story of salvation unfolds, God gives to His people several pictures to help them understand their problem and what this promised savior would save.
As it turns out, lambs figure prominently in God's story of salvation. God required His people to sacrifice many lambs over many years 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 determined 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.
This could not be clearer than when God spoke through His messenger, Isaiah. In Isaiah 53, God hinted that the promised son of Eve would actually die like a lamb, but that through this act of weakness, 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 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. 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 for an answer to the problem of guilt. Not everyone would state it that way, but every religion humans invent is an attempt to solve the problem of what is wrong with us.
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 esteem Him. We crucify Him. But in His death, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was taking away our sins. He was bearing our iniquities. He was afflicted for us. He was crushed for us. He was smitten by God for us.
Jesus was not a criminal. But He died as one condemned. As Peter puts it, "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
This question is as important as the other two, because what Jesus came to do as a Lamb does not count for everybody.
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."
So, what does it mean to believe? Do we have to believe in Jesus like we believe the sky is blue. That is certainly part of it. We have to believe that He is who He said He is, but here are a few other ways that we are told to do the same thing:
- "For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed...While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." – John 3:20
- "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
So, believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life means coming out of the darkness of our sin and coming to the light, who is Christ. That is, agreeing with God about our condition as rebels in His world. Every part of us is dark, even if we appear to ourselves 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. As our bodies need bread for survival, so Christ is the bread of life. When Jesus says, "Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life" (John 6:27), He clarifies what kind of work He is talking about, "that you believe in him whom he has sent" (John 6:29). Believing in Jesus Christ means coming to him for the free gift of eternal 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?" People answered that question in many different ways in Jesus' day, as they do today, but Jesus approved of Peter's response, "You are the Christ" (Mark 8:29).
Jesus is the Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
After raising a man named Lazrus 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" (John 11: 25). Then He asked the question, "Do you believe this?"
So, do you believe this?
We hope and pray you do, and nothing would make us happier than to talk with you more about this man, Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh, the Lamb of God.