Summary: “Who is he?” All who encountered Jesus from the peasants of Galilee to the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem to the Roman soldiers were faced with the same question: Who is he?
Who is He?
John 1:1-3, 14
The movie Amistad tells the story of a group of African slaves who seize control of their slave-ship and demand to be returned to their homeland. The captain instead takes them to an American seaport where they are imprisoned. As they await the judge’s verdict, one of the men, Yamba, sits in a corner of the prison cell thumbing through the pages of a Bible. Cinque, the leader of the group, looks over and says, “You don’t have to pretend to be interested in that. Nobody’s watching but me.” Yamba looks up and says, “I’m not pretending. I’m beginning to understand it.” He cannot read English but he can make sense of the pictures. When Cinque comes over to see for himself, Yamba explains the story in their native language. “Their people have suffered more than ours” as he shows Cinque a picture of Jews being attacked by lions. He continues, “Their lives were full of suffering.” Then Yamba flips the page and points to a picture of the baby Jesus with a halo on Jesus’ head, “Then he was born and everything changed.” Cinque asks, “Who is he?” Yamba replies, “I don’t know, but everywhere he goes, he is followed by the sun.”
“Who is he?” All who encountered Jesus from the peasants of Galilee to the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem to the Roman soldiers were faced with the same question: Who is he? And every person through the ages when they have encountered Jesus and the Gospel have had to answer that question for themselves: Who is he? In fact according to our faith, this is the most important question you or anyone else will ever have to face? It’s important because sooner or later, whether in this world or the world to come, you will have to answer this question. Art Katz writes, “The most fundamental question concerning the Person of Christ is this— is Jesus Christ really God? Not merely, is He Divine, but, is He actually God? When I was a boy, to say you believed in the Divinity of Christ meant that you believed in the real Deity of Christ, that you believed that Jesus was actually a Divine Person, that He was God…. our question is not, is Jesus Christ Divine, but rather, is Jesus Christ God? Was that person who was born in Bethlehem 1900 years ago, and who lived 33-34 years here upon earth …, who was crucified on Calvary's cross, who rose from the dead the third day, and was exalted from earth to heaven to the right hand of the Father — was He God manifest in the flesh, was He God embodied in a human being? Was He, and is He, a Being worthy of our absolute faith and supreme love and our unhesitating obedience and our wholehearted worship, just as God the Father is…?” Who is He? How you answer that question not only determines your eternity, the quality and direction of your life but also how you live your life. If Jesus was only a man, then you can safely forget him and go on about your life without any difference or impact. But if he is the Son of God and the Savior of the world as he claimed to be, then you have nothing left to do but yield your life to him and follow and serve him in everything you do and everything you say. So who is Jesus to you?
Our readings this week include the first chapter of the Gospel of John. John has the same purpose as the other three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, that is to present the earthly life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and identify him as the Messiah and Son of God. John writes in 20:31 “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The Gospels were written to help people believe in Christ and have eternal life. But each Gospel begins the story at a different point in time. Matthew begins with the birth of Jesus. Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus. Luke begins with the announcement of the angel of Jesus’ birth and the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. But the Gospel of John goes back to the beginning of time and creation:
In the first chapter of his Gospel, John is telling us the most intimate things about Jesus that he can. First, Jesus existed before all things. This is what John means by “in the beginning.” This isn’t the only place this phrase is used. It’s used in 1 John to speak of the beginning of Christ’s ministry. It’s used in Genesis 1 to speak of the beginning of the creation and bringing the world into being. But the Gospel of John goes beyond that because John says Jesus existed even before God began creating the universe. Thus, he leads us back to the beginning of time. This means that God did not create Jesus because Jesus was a part of him from the very beginning. The Book of Revelation speaks to this when it calls Jesus “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the Last” or the beginning and the End. This makes Jesus a co-creator of the universe as Hebrews says, it was Jesus “whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” So Jesus has always existed.