Jesus is … (‘according to John’)
Jesus once asked his followers,
“Who do people say that I am? And what about you, who you do say that I am?”
We’ve invited Aussies into that same conversation. ‘Jesus Is ______.’ What goes in the blank? We want to listen respectfully to your opinions.
Of course there are many ways Christians could complete the sentence. But here I outline the basic gospel message of Jesus by using five simple phrases to fill in the blank.
Each time I will demonstrate the point from a section in John’s Gospel (one of the biographies of Jesus) and illustrate it with a brief story.
1. JESUS IS THE CREATOR
Firstly, Jesus is the Creator. Referring to him by the title, ‘the Word’, John 1:1-3 says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
So with God – that is, the Father – and as God, Jesus was totally involved in creating the Cosmos. So he is the source of life.
Now every time you buy a new car, you find the manufacturer’s manual in the glovebox. The car maker provides it to help you operate the particular model and maintain it safely. And because he made the car, the manufacturer knows the engineering and how it runs best. We’d be mad to ignore the manufacturer’s instructions.
In the same way, the Bible says Jesus is the Creator or Manufacturer of life itself. And the Bible is his instruction manual. Yet we’ve all rejected the Maker’s instructions many times. As it were, we’ve all driven irresponsibly through life, making up the rules ourselves, as we go along.
2. JESUS IS THE JUDGE
That leads to a second way of completing the sentence: Jesus is the Judge. Not a popular topic! But the Bible says it many times over. E.g. in John 5:28-30, Jesus said,
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. […] I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
Three things to notice from these verses about Jesus and his judgment.
- It is post-mortem. Everyone, believer or unbeliever, will rise from the grave and face God. So we’ll all have to give an account for our lives.
- If we’ve done wrong, Jesus says we’ll be condemned. And no one talked about hell more than Jesus, even though we notice it with tears.
- But Jesus’ judgment is totally fair. He judges by exactly what he sees and hears. Not just on rumour. But with justice.
I tell you what: on that day I wouldn’t like to be explaining away all my evil thoughts and deeds before Jesus. My excuses are so pathetic.
And any sin is enough to condemn us. Imagine a doctor who murders his wife. He says to the judge, “Don’t my good deeds outweigh my bad? My operations have saved thousands from death. But I’ve only murdered one wife. Surely the good outweighs the bad.” How ridiculous! One act of rebellion against the holy God is enough to make us unfit for his perfect heaven.
3. JESUS IS THE SACRIFICE FOR SIN
Thankfully, the third point is that Jesus is the sacrifice for sin. In John 1:29, the famous preacher, John the Baptist, saw Jesus coming towards him and said,
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
In the Old Testament, God provided a system of sacrifice. It involved the literal sacrifice of animals. The symbolism was clear. You pick a perfectly white, unspotted lamb, healthy and pure. And you killed the animal. And God said you were forgiven for sins.
The animal died. That shows the punishment sin deserved. A spotless lamb died. That showed the sacrifice had to be perfect. The lamb died for your sins, instead of you. That showed God was willing to accept a substitute.
Of course, an animal can’t remove human sin. That was just a visual aid demonstrating God’s merciful attitude. But Jesus became truly human, lived a ‘spotless’ life, serving unseflishly and never violating God’s commands. So when he died on the cross – though innocent – he was offering the one perfect sacrifice. Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away sin!
4. JESUS IS ALIVE
But fourthy, that’s not the end. The Bible says that on the third day after his death, he rose again. Jesus is alive.
And John’s Gospel provides some eyewitness testimony to this amazing claim. Here’s the incident of ‘doubting Thomas’ in John 20:24-29.
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
This shows it’s OK to have doubts. Thomas had a concern for solid evidence. And he got his wish. He got to see and feel it really was Jesus. Not just a ghost.
And plenty more evidence like this was written down in the New Testament within the same generation, with the names of the eyewitnesses often attached, so people could track them down and cross-examine them if they wished.
Jesus is alive. And I have one more piece of evidence for it too. The evidence is that he’s changed my life. For the better! Not only has he forgiven me. He’s given my life purpose and helps me face the future with confidence. He’s made me part of a loving church family. And he’s blessed me in many other ways.
Thomas’ conclusion was to say, “My Lord and My God.” And that’s right! Jesus has conquered the grave. So a true Christian treats Jesus as his Lord and God, just like Thomas.
5. JESUS IS MY FRIEND
So the final point in my summary of Christianity could rightly say, “Jesus is My Lord”. But I’ve chosen to express it this way: Jesus is My Friend.
They are not alternatives. Because all who take Jesus as their Lord find he is their greatest friend. As Christians we’re given the rights to a very special intimacy with God. Jesus reveals this precious truth to his followers in John 15:13&15.
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Jesus has let us in on God’s plans! And we know he’s our friend because he laid down his life for us, even while we were rejecting him. And through him, we can call God our Father in heaven! How deep the Father’s love for us!
So there’s my summary of the Christian message:
- Jesus is … the Creator.
- Jesus is … the Judge.
- Jesus is … the Sacrifice for Sin.
- And Jesus is … Alive.
- But can you say Jesus is My Friend?
If you’ve still got questions about those first four points, then that’s fine. Let’s keep talking. Keep reading the Gospels, John’s Gospel especially, since that’s what I’ve referenced here.
But if you know you’re fine with those first four points, then have you ever made it personal with Jesus? Many people will say they believe this stuff about Jesus, but they’ve never really made it personal. Get over the embarrassment and ask a practising, church-going Christian you know for help. Or let us know here and we’ll do our best to get someone in contact with you.
Then you’ll be able to say, “Jesus is My Friend”.
Sandy Grant, Senior Minister, St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral, Wollongong
“Two Ways to Live” is an easy-to-follow presentation (with diagrams) about the message at the heart of Christianity. Read it in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Portuguese, Croatian and Polish.
The full text of the Bible is also available in many different languages, for those who want to read further.