What are we to make of Jesus Christ? It seems to me that people don't take this question very seriously these days. After all, they say, we live in the twentieth century. Jesus Christ lived a couple of thousand years ago. Surely we've advanced beyond Him.
This, of course, does not really make sense. No other figure in history has so profoundly influenced our culture as Jesus Christ. More books have been written about Him than about any other. He has furnished the theme for more songs than any other. Quotes from Jesus Christ have become common knowledge. The principles He taught have influenced the constitution and laws of many lands. We date all the events of history from His birth.
Nevertheless, Jesus Christ is the most underestimated, undervalued figure in history. To many, Jesus Christ is merely a profane interjection-a name to say when you hammer your thumb or when you're shocked by unexpected news. To some, Jesus is a myth. He never lived, they say, ignoring the testimony of the Scriptures, history, and common sense. To many, Jesus is simply an excuse for merrymaking at Christmas time. "Who can't use another holiday?" they reason.
To many, Jesus Christ is the man whose portrait hangs on the living room wall. To those who hold to the liberation theology, Jesus was a revolutionary with fire in His eyes. To those of the counter-culture, Jesus was the first anti-establishment rebel. To some, He is a baby in a manger, or a corpse on a cross.
Perhaps to most, Jesus is a good man, a great teacher on the order of Buddha or Confucius or perhaps even greater, but surely only a man.
These visions of Jesus all have one thing in common: they are too small! The magnificence of Jesus Christ outshines these popular notions like the noonday sun overwhelms a nearly dead flashlight. Somehow the human race has forgotten who Jesus Christ really is. I'd like to share the true story with you as it is recorded in the Bible.
But one caution first. As we attempt to examine the character of Jesus Christ, we face a problem. He is simply beyond us. As the noonday sun overwhelms our unprotected eyes, so the magnificence of Jesus Christ overwhelms our puny intellects. We may look at Jesus, we may see His flashing brilliance, we may even fall awestruck at His feet, but as for comprehending Him, that will have to wait. In eternity, when God enlarges our minds, we will much more fully grasp His majesty. But for now we must rest content with such glimpses as God has revealed to us in the Bible. What does the Bible say about Jesus Christ?
Is Magnificent in That He Is Deity.
The plain truth is that Jesus is God. How He could be man and still be God is beyond me. But the Bible is clear. In words that have fill the hearts of men for generations, Isaiah foretold the coming of God to earth in the form of a baby: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). Only one person has ever been born who justifies such a description, and that is Jesus Christ, "true God of true God." Jesus is the wonder of the ages. He is the one who needs no counsel for Himself, but who has perfect counsel for all others. As the everlasting Father, He is the source of all life. As the Prince of Peace, He is the only one who can bring peace to the troubled souls of men. And He is all these because He is the mighty God.
Jesus Himself, while He was here on earth, frequently said things that make sense only in the light of His deity. Faced with angry Jewish leaders who were accusing Him of illegitimacy while themselves claiming to be sons of Abraham, Jesus said, "Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him" (John 8:56-59). Why? Because they understood that He was claiming to be God Himself. As God, Jesus knows no past, present, or future; all is present tense to Him. "Before Abraham was, I am."
When the people brought a paralytic to Jesus for healing, Jesus said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mark 2:5). Once again, the Jewish leaders were furious. The implication was clear: Jesus was once more affirming His deity because only God can forgive sins.
Now it is true that we as men may forgive sins in a way, but only in a very limited sense. If you deliberately stomp on my toes, I may say, "I forgive you," and reasonably so. If, however, you injured my neighbor's toes, and I said you are forgiven, you'd laugh in my face. I am out of my place; I cannot forgive sins not committed against me. With God, the case is different. All sin is an offense against the God who made us and who holds us accountable for our deeds. And all sin is therefore an offense against Jesus Christ, the mighty God, the everlasting Father.
Evidence of Jesus' deity proves the falsehood of those who like to refer to Jesus with a patronizing smile, as only a great moral teacher, a good man, perhaps even the best man, but still merely a man. Now consider a bit. What would you think of your neighbor if he made such claims as Jesus made? Would you call him a good man, a great teacher? Hardly.
Contemporaries of Jesus had this much right, at least. They didn't prattle about how good He was while at the same time denying His deity. Either they accepted Him as the true Son of God, the mighty God, the everlasting Father who is one with and equal with God, or they called Him an evil man, one to be hated and even destroyed. And those, of course, are still the options today.
Praise God for the magnificent Christ, the mighty God and the everlasting Father!
Is Magnificent in Power.
As the Son of God, Jesus exercises a power that is beyond anything we can conceive of. In order to test the power of any source, you must be able to overload it--you must have a load it is unable to carry. Engineers figure the horsepower of a diesel engine by putting it on a dynamometer and loading it until it begins to die. Educational psychologists measure the achievement of a group of students by devising a power test--one which includes questions none of the students are expected to answer correctly. Only then can they ascertain the "power" of the students.
It is for this reason that the power of Jesus Christ is so mind boggling. He is unlimited! There is no load He is unable to carry, there is no problem He is unable to solve, there is no question He is unable to answer. Nothing is beyond Him. Just before His ascent into heaven, He told His disciples, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).
Power over men is His. The hypocritical leaders of His day were dumbfounded before the onslaught of His logic. Sinners saw the heinousness of their crimes and they trembled. Peasants and priests alike were awestruck with the authority of His teaching. Even the apostle Peter, an intimate friend, when Christ's glory was revealed, cried, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord" (Luke 5:8).
Jesus has power over nature. By a creative act, Jesus transformed water into wine in an instant. Jesus overruled the laws of gravity in order to walk on the sea, terrifying and astounding His disciples. The wind and the waves obeyed His voice when He commanded them to be still. And no wonder, for Jesus is the Lord of nature, the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist [are sustained]" (Colossians 1:17). Nature shuddered--the sun hid its face, the earth trembled, the rocks shattered--when her Lord and Sustainer closed His eyes in death one unforgettable day two thousand years ago.
Jesus has power over disease and over death. Christ knows no incurable disease. No disease is terminal against His will. Jesus never turned away a sick man because He was unable to help. The blind men were restored to sight, the lame leaped to their feet, the lepers were cleansed when they exercised their faith in the power of the great Physician. Merely touching the hem of Jesus' garment delivered a woman from the ravages of a disease that had stymied the doctors for years.
And death. Death, the bane of the human race. Death, the terror of every man. The fear of death binds every man in hopeless slavery. That is, every man but one. The God-man, Jesus Christ challenged Death and won a mighty victory. Though He submitted to the humiliation of death to bring salvation to mankind, Jesus could not be held in the grave. The only grip death has on a man is sin, and Jesus was sinless. Therefore, His flesh did not, could not, see corruption. With a blow that dealt death to Death, Jesus burst triumphant from the grave into eternal life. And this eternal life, this power over death He shares with those who are His.
Jesus has power over evil. To the honest onlooker, it is obvious that there are powerful anti-God forces in this world, pressing mankind inexorably into the depths of sin. Violence and death prevail. Crime balloons while justice falters. Men have lost faith, and at their deepest core, they cringe in fear. "Where is God?" they wonder. "If there is a God, why is the world in such a mess?" questions the cynic. And there are no easy answers. But several things we know. Jesus Christ Himself never yielded an inch to evil. His life was one of perfect holiness and spotless purity. He never had to make a wrong right; He never needed to offer an apology. We know, moreover, that the evil that is in the world is not here of His choosing, nor does it have His approval. All the wrongs under which the world groans are here because He graciously granted mankind the freedom to choose goodness, and man has exercised this freedom to choose evil and thus wreak havoc in God's perfect creation.
But evil will not continue forever. Sin will not triumph in the end. The same Jesus who lived a perfect life on earth, the same Jesus who reigns with God the Father at this moment-this same Jesus will return to this sin-smitten earth in triumph to rout the forces of evil and to judge those who love and work evil. Not one will escape His hand. All the kings of the world will not be able to withstand the Son of God when He comes in peerless majesty as "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." "And every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so. Amen" (Revelation 1:7). Not one wrong will remain unpunished; not one injustice will escape retribution. Every sinner will call for rocks and mountains to fall upon him, every skeptic will confess His Name, every super-sophisticated cynic will bow the knee in deathly fear. Jesus Christ is on the throne, and truth and goodness will yet prevail!
Is Magnificent in Love.
Perhaps this is the greatest marvel of all. Why should God Himself take notice of a mere man? And if He noticed, why should He love him? But Jesus Christ is magnificent in love. Only love could have moved Jesus to create mankind, knowing in the very moment of Creation the ruin that evil would bring and that only His own death could bring healing. Only pure, selfless love could have moved Jesus to leave the stupendous glories of eternity to descend to a cursed and bleeding earth. Only love could have moved Him who was and is God Himself, to become a man, a creature-not an aristocrat, but the humble son of a peasant woman of a subjected nation. Only love could have moved Jesus to spend His years traveling from town to town, preaching in fields and streets, smarting under the disdain of His own creatures, to share their pain, to give them the answer to their needs. Only love could have caused Jesus to lay down His life and partake of the curse of death so that a remedy for sin may be available to all. The Jews thought Jesus was powerless to prevent their abuse; they thought Jesus could do nothing as they stripped His clothes from His body, beat Him, spit upon Him, and finally crucified Him. They thought it was the cruel spikes that held Jesus on the cross. They were wrong, completely wrong. Only the magnificent love of Jesus held Him on the tree while His enemies snarled at His feet and mocked His Name and shamed Him before all. Only His magnificent love could do that.
Jesus the Christ waits today in love for those who will receive the provision He has made on Calvary's cross. In love He calls, in love He disciplines, in love He intercedes for us.
When Jesus faced Pilate in the Roman judgment hall at Jerusalem two thousand years ago, the onlookers thought that Jesus was on trial and Pilate the judge. They were wrong, dead wrong. Jesus was the judge, and Pilate was on test. What was he to do with Jesus? And Pilate failed miserably.
Today we are the ones on trial: what will we do with Jesus? We may shrug off the question, but that in itself is a decision. We may try to wash our hands of the situation; Pilate did that too, but he found, as we will, that guilt cannot be removed by water. We may smile and mock-for now. People have been doing that for years. But remember, Jesus is the judge; we are in the dock. We may reject His pardon and scorn His grace. We are free to decide for Him or against Him, but He does the sentencing. He decides the outcome.
I assure you, the one decision you will never regret is to repent of your sins, receive Jesus' hand of love, acknowledge His lordship, and give Him your heart and service forever.