There Is No Denying Who Jesus Is
There Is No Denying Who Jesus Is
Text: John 1:1-14
Jesus had disappeared into the clouds as he ascended into heaven only a few decades earlier, but already controversy was plaguing the Church. A man named Cerinthus seems to have lived in the city of Ephesus and was teaching something radical. Cerinthus claimed that Jesus was not truly God and man, but just a mere man alone.
Meanwhile, a Greek philosophy called Gnosticism was infiltrating the Church as well. Gnostics believed that knowledge is supreme and rules over all. The pursuit of knowledge and gaining knowledge are most important in life. Knowledge is even more supreme than Jesus, gnosticism would say.
This could not continue. People needed to know who Jesus really is. So a man very near and dear to Jesus wrote about it. His name was John. John was one of the twelve disciples and one of the three (Peter, James, and John) that was closest to Jesus. If any human knew anything about Jesus, the apostle John would be one of the few who knew the most—from firsthand experience even.
The words God inspired John to write are so important—critical even—to understanding who Jesus is. They were important then and they are important now because people have always been denying who Jesus is. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Jewish leaders did not believe that Jesus came from God or was the promised Messiah. Cerinthus taught that Jesus was a mere man. The Gnostics taught that knowledge was more important than Jesus.
But it has only continued through the ages. By the third century AD, a heretic named Arius picked up the torch of Cerinthus and started up again the false teaching that Jesus is only a man. All these years later now today Unitarians, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses still wave the banner of Cerinthus and Arius claiming that Jesus is god-like but not truly God. And all the while, from Gnosticism to the Age of Enlightenment to the New Age Movement to Existentialism and Post-Modernism many throughout the ages have considered knowledge and personal truth more important than Jesus Christ.
Think of the world we live in today. Some three billion people do not acknowledge Jesus as being of any value, other than perhaps a wise teacher. Some two billion Muslims think of Jesus as some second-rate prophet to Mohammed. Fifteen million Mormons believe Jesus is the spirit child of a heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother and that Jesus is the brother of Satan. Eight million Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you they are Christian but say that Jesus was created by Jehovah and is not truly God.
Watch TV shows like Saturday Night Live and Jesus is a white-robed, bearded, and sandaled fool who consults with Tim Tebow in the locker room during a football game (that’s an actual skit that took place). Step into a university classroom and Jesus is presented as another teacher, like Confucius or Plato and Aristotle or Gandhi. Watch popular TV evangelists and Jesus is taught to be the ultimate example for living a successful life.
Before we know it, our sinful hearts start biting into this false and fictitious fruit about Jesus. We start wondering if maybe science is right and disproves Jesus or his miracles or his creation. We wonder if Jesus is really who we think he is.
Or we slowly morph Jesus into something we wish he would be. He becomes our good luck charm. We pray to him when we really need help or want something, expecting him to do big things for us. But then if we have troubles and problems and we’re struggling through life, then we become angry with Jesus that he hasn’t made our lives successful. “Hey, what gives, Jesus! I give up so much for you! How about you help me out a little bit here!”
Or sometimes we just feel plain unworthy and limit Jesus’ love for us. “How could he forgive me? How could he forgive the things that I have done? Why would he love me? It couldn’t be.”
We can walk through every age of history—from the Jews of Jesus time to Cerinthus to Arius to modern society today. There has been false teaching, misunderstanding, confusion, and doubt of Jesus since the moment he was born. So what better time than right here right now—on the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth—to look closely at the words of the apostle John to see exactly who this Jesus is.
Look at the opening verses: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” The very first words are meant to draw your attention. “In the beginning.” Those are the exact same words that the Bible begins with in Genesis where it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” John wants to start his story of Jesus way back in the beginning, before anything existed except God and God alone.
What about the beginning? “In the beginning was the Word.” This is a special name for Jesus. In Greek the word for “the Word” is Logos. In some ways this is a slam against that Greek philosophy Gnosticism that taught about logia, or logic. John starts by saying that logia isn’t most important, the only thing that matters is the Logos, the Word.
With this name, consider also how you learn about someone. If you want to know more about Abraham Lincoln or George Washington or Oprah, you read about them in a biography in a book or in an article online. You read some of their quotes. Maybe you even read an autobiography the person wrote himself. Similarly, with this special name, you can think of Jesus as the Father’s autobiography. If you want to know who God is and what God is like and how God feels about us, look at his Word (with a capital W)—look at Jesus.
So what about Jesus, the Word, who was there in the beginning? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” Way back in the beginning, before anything existed or was created, when there was only God, the Word was there. Jesus was there with God, or face to face with God, or alongside of God you could say.
Does that make Jesus second class? Does that mean that Jesus is just a little less than God? No! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Not only was Jesus, the Word, there with God in the beginning. It says Jesus was God. (Which of course would mean that he still is God.) It’s almost as if God knew that there would 2,000 years worth of people denying Jesus’ divinity (of course God knew that!). God planned it out in advance to put it in plain, clear, simple, and easy words to understand. Jesus is God. The only way to mess that up is to change or distort the words to say something else.
Now if Jesus is God, you would expect Jesus do to God-type things, right? Well he did! “Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made.” Consider this thought: How was it that God created the world back in Genesis? “And God said, “Let there be . . . And God said . . . And God said . . . And God said.” God created the world with his words! And what is the special name for Jesus here? The Word! All things were made by Jesus!
Now some, in particular Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim that God made Jesus as the first being of his creation. But how can that be? In plain and simple words it says here all things were made by Jesus. Without him nothing was made that has been made. Very simply it says that if anything at all was made it was created by Jesus, the Word. So how could Jesus himself be created? That doesn’t even make logical sense.
More about the Word in verses 4-5: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” As creator, Jesus is the source of life. But soon this world fell into sinful darkness,. So now Jesus shines as the Light of the world that gives light and new life to all people. But John reminds us that this is something the darkness does not understand.
So God sent someone to testify to the Light and to point to him as the Savior and God of all. Look at the next verses: “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” (The other John, John the Baptist) “He came as a witness to testify concern that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” John the Baptist’s job was to tell people that the Light of the world was coming to the world to shine brightly amid the darkness of sin.
And just as God promised and John proclaimed, that Light did come. Verses 10-11: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” The Light of the world, the Savior, did come just as was promised.
But John reminds us of terribly sad news. Even though Jesus made this world as God, the world did not recognize him as their God. Even though all things belong to him as God, the world did not receive him as God. That is the saddest news we could ever imagine, and we see it all around us. Some claim to be religious or even Christian, but they deny that Jesus is true God. Some acknowledge that Jesus was a great prophet or teacher or role model, but not much more than that. Some deny that Jesus has any value at all. And this people say when Jesus is the very one who has given them life in the first place!
That would be like a child denying who its parent is. That would be like a pot denying it was made by a potter, or a chair denying it was made by a carpenter. That would be like being in the middle of a dark forest in the middle of the night, a flashlight turns on, but someone says they still can’t see the light. It sounds impossible, but in this same way more than five billion people in this world deny who Jesus their maker is.
This is a darkness that we were a part of. We were born into this darkness. We were born with hearts filled with sinful darkness. And often, we have lived according to the deeds of darkness. But by God’s grace, he has revealed the Light to us. So for us who see Jesus as the Light of the world, things are much different: Verses 12-13: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
God has given us a gift by faith. This is not something we have earned. This is not something we have deserved. This not something we received because we have the right cultural heritage or the right family descent or the right color skin. God gave us the right to be his children. It is a privilege and a gift that God has called us his own and made us to be born again as his children.
How could that happen for us, for sinners? Read the last verse. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This is how God made it all happen. This is how God redeemed his fallen, sinful creatures. This is the miracle that we are celebrating today.
Jesus, the Word, the one who was there at the beginning, who is true God and who made all things—that Word became flesh. God came here, to this world. That’s why Jesus also has the name Immanuel, which means God with us. God took on human flesh to dwell among us. From the moment Jesus was conceived and then born Jesus was forevermore both true God and true man. (And if you ever want to learn more about Jesus being both true God and true man, just read this whole gospel of John. No other Bible book presents so clearly to us Jesus’ human side and Jesus’ divine side.) It is absolutely critical to understanding the Bible and to understanding who Jesus is to know that he is both God and man.
This is what our Savior absolutely needed to be. We needed a Savior who would be human and subjected to God’s laws like us. So Jesus needed to be human. But we needed a Savior who could fulfill God’s laws perfectly and live with all righteousness. So Jesus needed to be God to do that. We also needed a Savior who would die to pay the price of sin. So Jesus needed to be human. But we also needed a Savior who would have the power to defeat Satan and pay for all sins with just one death because we couldn’t do that. So Jesus needed to be God.
We have the perfect Savior in Jesus Christ. He is true man, one of us, who lived and died. But he is also true God who offered his life and death in our place. If Jesus was not truly a man, he could not be our substitute. And if Jesus was not truly God, his substitution wouldn’t have done any good for us. Jesus absolutely must be both God and man, or else he would not and could not be our Savior.
So as our perfect Savior Jesus revealed his glory to us as the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth. He revealed his glory in his victory over sin and death. He revealed his glory by the forgiveness and eternal life he won for us. This he gives us in truth by his grace alone.
There are a lot of opinions from a lot of people in the world today about who Jesus is. Some disregard him. Some deny him. Some denounce him. Sadly, this has been happening since he came to this world. The world did not recognize him or receive him, John tells us.
But for us, for those who received him and believe in his name, things are much different. We see the Light of the world as he truly is, and John makes that crystal clear today. Jesus is true God who was with God from the beginning and who is himself truly God, the one who made all things. Jesus is also true man. God came and took on human flesh and dwelled among us to be our substitute. That means finally that Jesus is also our Savior. The God-Man offered his life and death for us to bring us forgiveness of sins and to give us the right to be God’s own children who will live with him forever in heaven.
On this great and festive day, be filled with joy and reassured in you faith that There’s No Denying Who This Child Is. He is true man. He is true God. He is truly your Savior. He is Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Posted on December 26, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged Arius, Cerinthus, Christmas, Christmas Day, Church, Confucious, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus' Divine Nature, Jesus' Human Nature, John, John 1, JWs, Mormonism, Mormons, Muslims, Sermons, True God, True Man, Word, Word Made Flesh. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.