Jesus Christ

February 21, 2016 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Doctrine

Topic: English

This morning, as we continue in our study of the great Doctrines of the Bible, we come to the topic of Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ? Or What is Jesus Christ? There is an entire range of answers you can get to that question. But for our purposes today, I really just want to impress upon you the simple answer that Jesus Christ is a union of two natures, fully God and fully man. That may seem like a simple response, but it was something that people have argued about for centuries.

There were groups who denied that Jesus was truly God. Other groups denied that He was completely God. On the flip side, there have been group who denied Jesus’ true and complete humanity. Other groups preferred to erase the unity of these two natures by talking as if Jesus was a man indwelt or empowered by God. Some liked to think of Him as something completely different. You mix hydrogen and oxygen the right way and you get water, which has very different properties than either gas. So you mix humanity and divinity and you get Jesus, but He has a very different property than humans or God. None of those would be faithful to what the Bible teaches.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is one person with two natures. The natures haven’t changed. And yet they are somehow mysteriously united in one person. This is absolutely essential for understanding who Jesus is. Sometimes people want to make so much of Jesus’ divinity (the fact that He is God) that they start to diminish His humanity. Other times, people can be so focused on His humanity, that they diminish His divinity.

Let’s start today with talking about Jesus’ divinity. He is God. I’d like you to turn with me to John 12:37.

 This is the final week before Jesus’ betrayal and death. And the intensity of those who hate Him is reaching its peak. As he is approaching His death, many are falling away from Him, realizing He is not the King they expected or wanted. John 12:37-40.

The rejection of Jesus was not a surprise to God. Isaiah prophesied it centuries before. And why did Isaiah make these prophecies? John tells us in verse 41. John 12:41.

That is an amazing statement. Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus. When did that happen? It happened in Isaiah chapter 6 when the prophet had a vision of the glory of God. What are we getting at here?

What we’re getting at here is that any discussion about who Jesus is doesn’t begin with the Christmas story. It starts with the understanding that Jesus is eternal. Jesus is God. Turn with me now to John 1. This is how John starts his gospel. John 1:1-3.

Now skip down to verse 14. John 1:14.

This is what makes Christmas such an amazing story. It’s not about the sentimentality of a little baby being placed in a manger. It’s about the wonder that the eternal God came down to earth in human form. This is what you need to understand about Jesus. It’s what John the Baptist understood about Jesus. John 1:15.

Jesus did not come into existence when He was born. He has always existed. This is what Jesus was getting at when He said:
John 3:13, 31 – “I have come from above."
John 7:29 – “The Father sent Me.”
John 8:23 – “I am from above.”
John 8:42 – “I came from God.”
John 8:58 – “Before Abraham was, I am.”

Whenever you talk to someone about Jesus, you want to make sure they understand this. They might not believe you, but it’s what Jesus claimed. It’s what the Bible teaches. We’re not just talking about a Jewish rabbi from a couple thousand years ago. We’re talking about God who became a man.

We spent a little bit of time discussion the deity of Jesus when we talked about the Trinity. Jesus is God. Jesus is Lord. The Jews understood this. To say Jesus is The Son of God meant that He was divine. Look with me at John 5:17-18. This is after Jesus healed a lame man. John 5:17-18.

And later in chapter 19, verse 7, it says the same thing. The Jews said: He ought to die because He has made Himself the Son of God.” There is a distinct way that God is Jesus’ Father. It’s different than the way God is the Father of the rest of creation. We are created. Christians are adopted. But Jesus is eternal. He is equal to the Father, yet a distinct person.

That’s what we read in John 1:14. Jesus is God’s only Son. We all know the phrase from John 3:16. Jesus is God’s “only begotten.” That phrase is a little misleading because the Greek word isn’t really talking about giving birth. It’s talking about being one-of-a-kind. It conveys a uniqueness. Jesus is God’s one and only Son.

He is equally Holy, equally righteous, equally loving, equally wise, equally eternal. And it is only through the Son that the Father created all things, sustains the creation, forgives sin, grants eternal life, raises the dead, and judges the world. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on these aspects, but if you want to read more about this, I would point you to John 5, where Jesus discusses the authority and power of Jesus, which perfectly match those of the Father.

But I’d like to get back to a questions we already hinted at earlier. What actually happened when Jesus Christ came as a child? What’s involved when John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh. Romans 8:3 says God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Galatians 4:4 says He was born of woman. Hebrews 2:14 says He partook of flesh and blood.

This is not an easy thing to imagine or fully understand. God eternal took the form of finite man. We looked at this passage a couple weeks ago, but I’d like you to look again at Philippians 2. There are other passages that describe the relationship between Jesus and the Father, but here we get a picture of how it specifically connects to the incarnation. Philippians 2:6-8.

Verse 6 says Jesus was “in the form of God.” The Greek word for “form” means that Jesus had the same nature as God. The same characteristics. But that equality with God was something He did not grasp. That word means you keep something for yourself. You claim it for yourself. You refuse to let it go. It’s MINE! Well Jesus didn’t do that with the glory and privileges of being God. What does verse 7 say?

Your translation will probably say either “He emptied Himself” or “He made Himself nothing.” What does that mean? It means he laid aside the prestige and the privileges of being God. It doesn’t mean He stopped being God. It means He hid the visible characteristics of being God. How? The rest of the verse says how.

He took the form of a slave. He was born in the likeness of men. It’s not a perfect analogy, but you might imagine a king who takes off his crown and his royal robes, and covers himself with the clothes of a peasant. He humbles himself. He stops asserting his rights as the king. But he doesn’t stop being the king. This is humility. And the humility of Jesus doesn’t end with coming as a man. It ends with Him dying on a cross.

Jesus became truly human, and yet was always fully God. He didn’t get rid of some of His deity. He just veiled it. He hid it by adding humanity to himself. This is the Jesus we worship. This is the Jesus whose humility we are called to imitate.

Now we can’t really discuss the humanity of Jesus without talking about His life. What was Jesus’ life like? Not just during His ministry, but before that? What kind of child was He? What kind of childhood did He have?

Well, it might surprise you to know that it was very much like everyone else’s at that time. If you ever see paintings of Jesus as a baby from the Middle Ages, he looks very odd. He wasn’t painted as a baby. He was painted as a little man. And it looks really weird. This was because the church didn’t want to portray Jesus as an ordinary baby. They wanted to convey the idea that He was God. But this can lead to a misguided understanding of Jesus as a human being. Jesus was a baby. He looked like a regular baby. He needed to be cleaned and taken care of. He learned to talk. He learned to walk.

And the only story we get about Jesus’ childhood is found in Luke 2. Turn with me there. At the age of 12, His parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. And they inadvertently left Him there for 3 days. When they found Him, He was in the Temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:47 says this: Luke 2:47-51.

Apart from demonstrating some extraordinary intelligence or insight, Jesus seemed to everybody else to be a normal person. Look at verse 52. Luke 2:52.

He grew up, just like we all do. He got taller. His muscles got stronger. He went through schooling. He learned a trade. He developed relationships with other people. He learned how to relate to others. Chapter 3 traces his genealogy all the way back to Adam, emphasizing that Jesus was a real person, just like Adam was and all his descendants. Jesus had a normal family life. And we see this in Luke 4, which is at the beginning of His ministry.

Jesus went back to Nazareth, which was the town He grew up in. He was in the synagogue on a Sabbath day, and look at verse 22. Luke 4:22.

What did they mean by that question? They meant: This is Jesus. We know Him. He grew up around here. He isn’t anybody special. There was no indication to the rest of His community that Jesus was anything other than an ordinary kid.

Later on in His ministry, Jesus went back to Nazareth. This is from Matthew 13 and Mark 6. And again He was teaching in a way that astonished the people. And their response was the same: “Where did He get all this wisdom and these mighty works? Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mom Mary? Aren’t his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? Aren’t his sisters here with us too? Where is all this coming from?”

Jesus was, in one sense, an ordinary man. There was nothing special about His life as He was growing up. That’s what Isaiah 53:2 is talking about: For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

Jesus, although he was fully God, had nothing visibly wonderful about Him. He didn’t walk around with a glowing halo like you see in paintings or some TV shows. He was a normal-looking guy. You probably wouldn’t even have looked twice at Him if He walked by you on the street. Jesus felt hunger and thirst and fatigue. He felt sorrow. He wept. He got angry. He felt joy.

What’s the significance of all this? The significance, is that even though Jesus is God, He is also a man. He is like you and me. Go with me to Hebrews 2:14. Hebrews is an amazing book that points us both to the deity of Christ and to His humanity. Jesus, in one sense, because He is human, is our Brother. He partook of flesh and blood just like us. And the impact is eternal. Hebrews 2:14-18.

Jesus died for men. So He became a Man. If He wasn’t a human person, then He could not take the place of humans. He couldn’t satisfy God as our Representative. Jesus is a Man. And as a man, He brings you forgiveness through His death, and He also brings you help in times of difficulty. Jesus suffered. Jesus was tempted. And so He knows how to help you. Look over at Hebrews 4:15.

This verse give us three absolutely essential qualities of Jesus. Number 1, we see the compassion of Jesus. Number 2, there is the temptation of Jesus. And number 3, you have the perfection of Jesus.

Listen to how the writer points out Jesus’ compassion: We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. Sometimes you can focus so much on Jesus being eternal, exalted God that you forget that He is near to you. He sympathizes with you. He knows what you’re going through. He helps. The language here is not just that Jesus feels compassion. It’s that He actually helps you. He is moved to action. He helps His brothers.

What kind of help are we talking about? It’s talking about help in your weaknesses. This is talking about your moral weaknesses. Your constant struggle against sin. You repeatedly fail to live up to God’s commands. You keep trying by you keep disobeying. Well, Jesus understands what you are going through and He helps you. How can He understand what you’re going through?

This is the second quality: The Temptation of Jesus. Jesus was tempted. The temptations of Jesus were as real as His humanity. Look at what it says: In every respect, He has been tempted as we are. How can it say that? Did Jesus really experience all the temptation that you are experiencing?

Well, no and yes. He was never tempted to steal a car. He never had to face pornography on the internet. I don’t think He had to deal with missing his morning cup of coffee. But the point here is that the nature of sin and temptation is the same, even if the expression changes. That’s why Paul could say in 1 Cor 10:13 that all our temptations are common to man. All temptation, at its root, is the same. Jesus went through suffering rejection, disappointment. He was tempted to do things in a way different than God’s way. So His sympathy is not just because He is omniscient. It’s because He’s been through it all.

But, there is one major difference. And that is the perfection of Jesus. Hebrews 4:15 ends with this phrase: “yet without sin.” Jesus was perfect and blameless. I remember we went with a group from church some years back to a rock climbing center. And at one point we went to a place that was extremely difficult to climb. None of us could do it. But the employees could. They didn’t look any stronger than the rest of us. They looked like ordinary people. What if you asked them: How do you do it? How do you climb like that?

How would you feel if they answered: Oh well, the guy on the other end of the line is pulling me up. It only looks like I’m climbing. But I’m just being pulled up by this rope. You wouldn’t be impressed at all! You’d realize it was all an act!

Some people think the same thing about Jesus Christ. They figure it was all an act. We can’t let ourselves slip into that kind of thinking. Don’t imagine that Jesus defeated sin just because He was God. It wasn’t Jesus’ deity that kept Him from sinning! What was it? It was His connection to God through the Holy Spirit and His dependence on prayer and the word of God. That is so important! That’s why  #36 in our catechism, when it asks, “How did Jesus relate to the Father?” The answer is He depended on prayer and the Holy Spirit. You could add “the word of God.”

Jesus obeyed God as our substitute. He was obedient in our place. Which means that He did it as a man. Jesus defeated sin the same way we are supposed to. When the devil tempted Him, He responded with Bible verses, the sword of the Spirit. He depended on the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer, and the power of God’s Word.

And the fact that Jesus was perfect doesn’t diminish His temptations. It intensifies them. Jesus experienced more severe temptation than us because He could handle more. And because He knew the glory of God. Imagine what it was like for the King of Kings to eat a bad-tasting meal. He wasn’t ignorant, but He humbled Himself to serve others.

One final thing to mention. The fact that Jesus had no sin, doesn’t take away from His humanity. Adam and Eve were human before they sinned. You and I will be humans in heaven. Having sin is not an essential part of being human. It’s like pimples. If you met someone without any pimples, you wouldn’t say they weren’t human. You would just realize they were special. Well, Jesus was special. He was a special man, but He was a man nonetheless. He was without Sin.

And as the spotless Lamb, He offered Himself to the Father as the perfect sacrifice for sinners. As a human being He perfectly sympathizes with your temptations and He helps you. So go to Him. He prays for you. He intercedes for You. So trust in Him.

Listen, if the time ever comes for you to get a root canal, who would you rather have as the dentist. A man who had 6 root canals but had never performed one? Or someone who had never had a root canal on himself, but had performed hundreds of them? Jesus may never have sinned Himself, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t know about sin. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t know how to help and how to heal.

Who else are you going to trust in for salvation? Who else are you going to turn to? Yourself? Some other believer who was also a sinner? No. Jesus is the only path to salvation.

Turn with me to one final verse. First Timothy 2:5. First Timothy 2:5. Paul is talking about salvation. He’s talking about God’s plan to save sinners from all over the world and from every walk of life. 1 Tim 2:5-6.

Jesus is our perfect mediator. He perfectly represented God to us. And He perfectly represents us to God. He is the God-man. Two natures, but one person. He has all the characteristics of God and of man. God did not come to the earth IN a man or UPON a man. God came to earth AS a man.

He came as the only true solution to the problem of sin and evil. In His sacrifice on the cross, He provided forgiveness. In His exalted state, at the right hand of the Father, He offers help and intercession. And one day He will come again to take His place on the throne of this world. And He will rescue all who are His, giving them a glorified human body. And He will judge all who reject Him, casting them into the eternal lake of fire.

Don’t play games with Jesus. Repent of your sin. Believe in Him. Recognize who He really is. And proclaim His message to a world that needs to hear.

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