Against the backdrop of all human history, "Jesus, who is called Christ" (Matthew 1:16) stands out as the singularly most remarkable individual ever to dwell upon the earth; remarkable not only for His faultless character and wondrous works, but also for His profound impact on the lives and destinies of me. The personal name "Jesus" (corresponding to the Hebrew "Joshua") means "Jehovah is Salvation." Very significantly, therefore, this name sets forth the most vital aspect of His activity in human affairs. In the angel's words to Joseph: "thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
Equally significant and instructive, the title "Christ" (corresponding to the Hebrew "Messiah") means "anointed." It denotes one chosen and consecrated by God to carry out His purposes. Through the Hebrew prophets God promised to send His Anointed to provide deliverance from sin: "as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Romans 11:26). Accordingly, when Peter presents the risen Christ as that Deliverer he declares: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
The Deity of Christ
However difficult an idea it may be for us to comprehend, the Scripture clearly attibute Deity to Christ. First we note that Christ definitely claimed Diety for Himself. When, for example, His Jewish opposers argued that He could not have seen Abraham because He was not yet fifty years old, Jesus replied: "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). The Jews immediately sought to stone Jesus because they regarded His claim as blasphemy since God at the burning bush had revealed Himself to Moses as "I AM" (Exodus 3:14).
John is just as explicit. He writes: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). This personal Word "took upon him the seed of Abraham" (Hebrews 2:16), "was made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7), and was "declared to be the Son of God" (Romans 1:4). John thus reports: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
If Christ is indeed the Son of God then we would expect Him to be credited with attributes of Deity. And that is just what we find. Scripture reveals, for instance, that God "created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9). "All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). It is further recorded that Christ controlled the forces of nature (Matthew 8:26-27), knew the thoughts of men (Matthew 9:4), forgave sins (Matthew 9:2), and raised the dead (John 11:43-44), all of which are unquestionably powers and prerogatives of God.
The Humanity of Christ
When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary, he said: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David" (Luke 1:32). This verse clearly indicates that Christ is both the Son of God and the Son of David. He consequently referred to Himself sometimes as the Son of God and at other times as the Son of man.
We also read that "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman..." (Galatians 4:4). He thereby was made a partaker of "flesh and blood" (Hebrews 2:14) and so became "the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5). It is thus evident that although Scripture pictures Christ as being more than a man, it nevertheless also depicts Him as being as fully human as you and I.
Like us, He hungered (Matthew 4:2) and thirsted (John 19:28). He ate and drank (Matthew 11:19). He grew weary (John 4:6) and He slept (Matthew 8:24). He rejoiced (Luke 10:21), He wept (John 11:35), and He experienced sorrow (Matthew 26:36-37) and suffering (I Peter 2:23). There is one vital area, however, in which Christ differed greatly from us. He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:25).
The Mission of Christ
We should note first that Christ tells us His mission originated in heaven and was an expression of His Father's will. He states: "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38). Regarding the fundamental object of His mission, Christ says: "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).
In order to save the lost it was necessary for Christ to do what no other man has done--i.e., He rendered perfect obedience to the Father's will, even to giving His life. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:8-9).
The Death of Christ
The death of Christ, Paul indicates, is the supreme expression of God's love for sinful and undeserving men. He writes: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). To understand why the death of Christ was necessary, we must first understand the consequences of sin. Sin not only alienates men from a holy God, it also makes them liable to His righteous wrath and the ultimate penalty of death. God could not remain righteous and forego the punishment of sin. But He so loved us that He sent Christ to bear our penalty for us.
We must not, however, overlook the equally great love of Christ in voluntarily giving His life for us. In Paul's words: "Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God..." (Ephesians 5:2). Through this loving sacrifice we not only receive forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, but also are graciously "made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7).
The Resurrection of Christ
The Scriptures set forth Christ's resurrection as an essential element in the salvation of man. Paul, for example, reminds his readers that Christ "was delivered up for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25). So significant an event must be confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt. Christ therefore "showed Himself alive" to His disciples "by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days..." (Acts 1:3). On one occasion, moreover, "he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once" (I Corinthians 15:6). With good reason, then, such witnesses "preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (Acts 4:2).
The Ascension of Christ
Luke depicts for us what must have been a very moving scene when, forty days after His resurrection, Christ led the eleven disciples "out as far as Bethany... and blessed them. And... while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:50-51). While this glorious event signaled the end of Christ's redemptive ministry on earth, it also heralded the beginning of His intercessory ministry in heaven for the redeemed. Hence Paul says: "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Roman 8:34).
The Second Coming of Christ
As the disciples watched Christ ascend, a messenger of the Lord announced: "this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). "Behold," says John, "he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him..." (Revelation 1:7). It is then that all who "are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).
This incomparable Jesus Christ, the "one mediator between God and men" (I Timothy 2:5), stands at the crossroads of every man' life, calling for a decision of eternal moment--a decision to follow Him. He proclaims: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6).