Jesus Christ – Our Saviour
Is the ultimate reality friendly or antagonistic toward us? It is easy to come to a conclusion that this universe is not a friendly place, or is not positively inclined towards us. Earthquakes, floods, epidemics and other catastrophes take a high toll on human lives. Whether we go to a desert, the North or South pole, fly out to cosmic space, our existence is in real danger because of the environment, dangerous viruses or bacteria. It is easy to conclude that nobody cares and that ultimate reality is antagonistic towards us.
Yet Christianity maintains that there is a God, who is a God of love, a good God who is like a gentle Father to us. How do we know? Hard to believe based on observation alone. The Bible tells us that this God one day came to us in the person of Jesus Christ to live among us and to be one of us so that we get a better grasp of who He is.
When Christ lived on this earth he asked an interesting question of his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Mat 16:13-17) The basic question in Christianity is not what people say about Jesus’ teaching. Sure, the element of teaching is important in Christianity (as in other religions). But the most important aspect of Christianity is to find the right attitude towards the person of Jesus. We could say that Christianity equals Jesus. The significance of Christ’s teaching is based on who Jesus is. Almost always when people have hard time living out a biblical teaching, it is because there is a deficiency in experiencing the person of Jesus Christ.
Let’s have a look at who is Jesus. In Mat 16:17 Christ says that if our knowledge is to be correct, it needs to be based on God’s revelation, not only our thinking or other people’s understanding.
1) The Person of Jesus Christ
Early Christians believed that in Jesus God himself came to our earth (John 1:1-3.14.18). This explains why they saw and evaluated everything about their lives from the perspective of what this first century Jew said and how he lived and died. They were willing to give up everything for him, even their lives.
Who was Jesus?
Who was Jesus Christ? First and foremost he was human. His disciples never doubted the human nature of this man from Nazareth. He grew in stature and strength (Luke 2:40), also grew in wisdom (v. 52). In suffering he learned obedience (Heb 5:8), he was hungry (Mat 4:2), thirsty (John 19:28), he was tired and needed sleep (John 4:6; Mat 8:24). As a man he lived in full dependence on God (John 6:38), was tempted (Heb 4:15; cf. Jas 1:13) a needed to sustain his relationship with God in prayer (Mk 1:35; Luke 11:1).
But Jesus was not just a perfect man, he was also truly God. He existed before his birth in Bethlehem (Mich 5:2; Is 9:6; John 8:58; 2 Cor 8:9). The apostles stated that he is the creator of everything (John 1:3; Col 1:16-17). He has the right to forgive sins (Mk 2:10.27). Forgiveness comes from him as much as it comes from God (Col 2:13; 3:13), he is put on the same level as the Father (Mat 28:19; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 13:13; Rev 20:6; 22:3; cf.. John 10:30). He expected that his listeners will believe in him (John 6:40; 14:1-3) and this faith, or lack of it, determines their eternal destiny. He is due the same honour as the Father (John 5:23).
Christ’s self-understanding is clearly seen from the fact that he uses statements like: “I am” – the bread of life (John 6:35), light of the world (8:12), resurrection and life (11:25), way, truth and life (14:6). It would be very difficult to make it plainer than this. The connection between Jesus and the great “I am” which was the name of Yahweh in the Old Testament (Ex 3:13-14) cannot be overlooked. When Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” he made things so plain that his listeners picked up stones to kill him. They understood that he just stated that he is God (John 8:58-59).
What the Old Testament ascribes to Yahweh, the New Testament applies to Jesus. See e.g. Rom 10:13 -> Joel 2:32; Phil 2:10 -> Is 45:23; Mat 3:3 -> Is 40:3; 1 Cor 1:30 -> Jer 23:9 and in other places. The conclusion is clear: In Jesus God himself came to this world.
It needs to be stated that the implications of this are clear. Either Jesus is who he claims to be (God Himself) or he cannot be a good man, a teacher of morality. That’s why Christians came to accept him as true God, fully divine.
- Work of Jesus Christ
Once we are clear on who Jesus is, we can understand and appreciate what he came to do. He could not have accomplished what he did, if he was not who he claimed he was.
What did Jesus do?
In Christ God himself took care of our sin and its consequences. The Apostle Paul said it this way: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” (2 Cor 5:19). To accomplish this, it was necessary that:
1) Jesus’ birth into this world was unique – supernatural. It was not possible to solve the problem of sin by divine proclamation, command or power. John says that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). God in a miraculous way entered our world and started to exist as a human being (Mat 1:23). His virgin birth is seen as a part of the mystery of godliness which cannot be explained by using the usual laws of human reproduction. This event shows that God loves us and enters our situation because he wants to serve us, not to rule over us. He wants a relationship of love not blind submission.
2) Jesus’ mission in this world was unique. Jesus is our Saviour not only because of who he was (God Himself) but also because of the way he lived his earthly life and what he accomplished. With his words and deeds he proclaimed God’s kingdom – a new quality of life under God’s rule. He introduced God’s offer of salvation to all people even those who have been rejected, marginalised, and ruled out of salvation in the minds of religious people of that time.
His ministry transcended all human barriers. His teaching explained the principles of God’s kingdom – that everybody is invited into it. His deeds illustrated God’s character and attitude toward people. The Greek word for “salvation” and “healing” are the same. Jesus’ miracles of healing were signs of salvation. Health is not just an absence of illness, but harmony of body, mind and spirit. Through Christ God wants to renew His original image in us, marred by sin, thus to “restore” us to the way he intended us to be at creation.
3) Jesus’ life in this world was unique. Because Jesus came to “save his people from their sins” (Mat 1:21) he himself must have been without sin (John 8:46). It is remarkable that even his enemies were not able to refute this fact and produce evidence to the contrary. The New Testament writers confirm this fact repeatedly (Luke 1:35; Mk 1:24; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Jesus was not sinless because somehow, thanks to his nature, he was above temptation. His temptations were real and cruel (Heb 4:15; Mat 4:1-11; Luke 22:39-46). His temptations are another proof of his humanity and his victory in them is the result of his continuous dependence on his heavenly Father (John 5:19.30).
It is true that Jesus used to say to his potential disciples: “Follow me” (John 21:19) and that by his grace and in his power we can and should follow his footprints. It is also true that Jesus showed that in total dependence on God it is possible to be victorious over sin and temptation. But we need to keep in mind that he is our Saviour and we are his disciples. He is first our Saviour and only then our Example. Our life on this earth will never equal his sinlessness as our sinful nature remains till the second coming. (Phil 3:20-21). His mission was to become a sinless and perfect sacrifice. That’s why he did not need a Saviour; he is the Saviour. We have been born in sin, so we will never be “little Christs”. There will never be a time that we do not need him.
4) Jesus’ death was unique. Christ came not only to live on this earth but to die a sacrificial death (Mk 10:45; Is 53). In spite of the fact that he was sinless, he died the death of separation from God, the death that sinners will die at the end of ages (2 Cor 5:21; Rom 6:23). This happened because he was “given up for our transgressions,” “died for our sins (Rom 4:25; 1 Cor 15:3), tasted death for everyone (Heb 2:9). So Christ death was substitutionary, unique and unrepeatable (Heb 10:28). The immediate cause of his death was not that he was nailed to the cross (others died that way too, yet they are not saviours), but that God forsook him (Mat 27:46; Rom 4:25; cf. Rom 1:24.26.28). This way Jesus became the reconciliation, proof of God’s justice for the whole universe (Rom 1:17; 3:25; Col 1:20; Eph 1:10). The cross is at the same time the proof of God’s inexpressible love towards us. Jesus did not die to convince the Father to start loving us, as the Father himself “gave” Jesus because of his great love towards us (John 3:16; 16:26-27). God proved before the whole universe that death is the result of sin. Separation from God, who is the only Source of Life, unavoidably brings death.
In the Garden of Eden Satan said to our first parents: “You will surely not die” (Gen 3:4). On the cross God supplied proof that Satan was wrong and God was right. His words: “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen 2:17) were not a threat but a loving warning about the consequences of a broken relationship of trust and dependence on God. The cross shows God’s true character and that we can serve God on the basis of selfless love not fear of punishment or thought of gaining a reward (Job 1 & 2). On the contrary, those who sent Jesus to the cross where those who did not know God’s character (John 16:2-3).
5) Jesus resurrection was unique. When the apostles talked about the death of Jesus they added immediately also the fact of his resurrection. “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life (Rom 8:34). “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-4). The fact the Christ was resurrected belongs to the essence of the apostolic faith. If Christ was not resurrected, our faith, our hope, our preaching would be in vain, our life would not have the right perspective (1 Cor 15:13-20).
It was the resurrection of Jesus that completely changed the perspective of the first disciples on Jesus’ life and death. The feeling of a defeat and failure suddenly disappeared. The fact of the resurrection was for them the decisive proof that God was behind Christ and his death on the cross was not a sign of God’s rejection and curse (Dt 21:23).
When Jesus is called “the firstborn from among the dead” (Col 1:18) it does not mean the he was historically the first resurrected person in time. All other people who have been resurrected (with the exception of Moses), were actually just revived back to life and then they died again. Jesus’ resurrection is a true resurrection because he “lives forever,” he is able to save completely those who come to God through him” (Heb 7:24-25).
Jesus’ resurrection proves that death will not have the last word in human existence. There is a future that goes beyond the grave (1 Cor 15:12-20). His resurrection is a guarantee of our resurrection. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
The centre of the Christian religion is the person of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not based on acceptance of some kind of creed or minutely defined set of fundamental beliefs. In its essence, Christianity means to have positive relationship with the person of Jesus. To be a Christian means to say “yes” to Christ, a “yes” which is unequivocal, total, and unconditional, because in Christ God said to us his unequivocal, total and unconditional “yes”.
In Christ we see that the problem of sin was never in God’s relationship with us. Sin only changes our relationship with God. God who went after Adam & Eve asking, “Adam where are you?” comes to each one of us today and says: “I love you, I accept you the way you are.” His love is never: “Yes, – but…” That’s why the response of a person who understood and experienced God’s unconditional, total and unequivocal acceptance will be a total, unequivocal and complete yes to God.
If your heart sometimes longs to really know God the way he is, if He does not seem real to you because of all that you have done or in spite of it, if God still seems distant to you, then focus on his Son who is the “the exact representation of God’s being” (Heb 1:3) and you can be sure that if you get to know Jesus you will know the Father. And to know him means to have eternal life (John 17:3).
Pilate asked the right question: “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Mat 27:22) If you find the right answer, just like Thomas, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28), you will truly experience joy.