The Pre-Identity of Jesus ~ 20091129 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/29/09 - the pre-identity of Jesus
We are in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Christmas is a time we use to celebrate and honor the birth of Jesus the Christ. Of course, honoring Jesus is what we seek to do every week, and we should be honoring and celebrating Jesus every moment of every day throughout the year, but there is nothing wrong with using this season to focus our attention collectively on Jesus. So I would like to take the next several Sundays and reflect together on who it is that we gather together every week to worship and honor. I would like to take some time to look at the character and personality of Jesus, to gaze into the wonder of the incarnation, and to meditate on the appropriate response to this man who claimed to be God, who was born in a stable. But today I want to begin our meditation on Christ by going back; way back; all the way back to the beginning. The Bible starts this way: 'in the beginning God...' and I want to go back at least that far, to stand together on the brink of eternity, to peer back into eternity past and see if we can get a glimpse of who Jesus is.
We have Jesus' own warrant for asking who he was before he was born, because he is the one who said things like 'the Father has sent me' and 'before Abraham was I AM' and 'I and the Father are one' and 'Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.' We'll start with some of these statements that Jesus made about himself, and then we'll look at the testimony of the apostles about the identity of Jesus, and we'll take just a moment to look back into Old Testament prophecy to see confirmation about who this child is. We'll be looking at large chunks of several texts and I want God's word to speak for itself, so I'd like you to follow along in your bibles.
Let's begin by looking at some of Jesus ' own words in the Gospel of John:
God created the world in 6 days, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” [Gen.2:2]. God rested from his work of creating the world, but he has never taken a break from maintaining and sustaining the universe that he had made. That's what Jesus is referring to when he says “My Father is working until now”, and then he adds, as justification for why he was doing mighty works on the Sabbath “and I am working.” If we are ever confused by what Jesus says, the Jews let us know exactly how we should understand him:
Jesus claims to do everything the Father does. Whatever God the Father does, I can do too. And to clarify what kinds of things he's talking about, he gives a concrete example: giving life. Jesus here claims to be the life giver. Jesus can grant life according to his own sovereign will. But he goes on:
Jesus claims to deserve the same honor that the Father deserves. This is a stunning claim! Not secondary honor, not even slightly less honor, but the very same honor. In fact, Jesus says that if you don't honor the Son with the very same level of honor that the Father deserves, you are dishonoring the Father. Jesus demands the worship that the Father deserves, and when we read the gospels, we see on several occasions that he gladly receives worship as God.
Jesus claims to know where he came from and where he is going. I know where I came from - I was born in Minnesota and I came from my mother and father. I had no existence before God knit me together in my mother's womb. Jesus claims to have been sent from the Father - to be from above. As it says in Luke 1:35 ..."The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy - the Son of God."
Jesus again claims to receive glory or honor - this time glory from God his Father. The question of the Jews is the question we should be asking - who do you make yourself out to be? And we should receive Jesus' testimony about himself and the Father's testimony about Jesus - 'before Abraham was I AM.' Here Jesus clearly claims to predate Abraham - in fact he identifies himself as the self-existent one - YHWH - the great I AM. The Jews got it - they picked up stones to throw at him. Any mere man making the claims that Jesus made would be blaspheming and worthy of immediate execution.
Jesus here claims again to be the life-giver. And he claimed to be one with the Father. The Jews again clarify what Jesus was claiming - 'you, being a man, make yourself God.'
Here, in Jesus' prayer to his Father, he claims that eternal life consists in knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ. Eternal life isn't a place, and it isn't defined by length, but by being in the presence of the Holy One. And Jesus puts himself right beside the only true God - eternal life is knowing the only true God and knowing Jesus Christ. Then Jesus requests that his pre-existent glory be restored. “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Jesus is the glorious one that will satisfy our deepest longings.
Here we probably have a reference to the triune God - The Father, the Spirit and the Son. Eternal glory and dominion are here attributed to Jesus, and the Lord God claims to be the Alpha and Omega - the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet - 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.' Then, down in verse 17, Jesus claims to be the first and the last when he says:
In chapter 3, Jesus claims to be victorious and seated on his Father's throne in glory.
Then in Revelation 22, Jesus says:
Here, Jesus clearly claims to be the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. And he claims to be not only the descendant of David, but the root of David - the source from which David came - predating David.
So Jesus claimed to be the eternal all glorious pre-existent self existent one, sent from the Father, equal to and one with his Father and worthy of the same honor as the Father. Let's look now at the Apostolic testimony about Jesus. We'll start back at the beginning of the gospel of John.
The Word is identified in verse 14 as the one who became flesh and dwelt among us - Jesus, the only Son from the Father. This verse begins the same way Genesis 1:1 does - 'in the beginning...God' but it draws our attention backward. Genesis starts at the beginning and moves forward with what God did in creation. John brings us to the beginning and points us to who was already there. The Word, Jesus was in the beginning. It doesn't say that he came to be - he simply was - he existed. He is the self-existent one.
And he was with God in the beginning. Here is the distinction between Jesus and the Father. Jesus is not the Father and the Father is not Jesus. Jesus was with his Father. They are two distinct persons each with his own mind, emotions and will; two centers of consciousness. It is because of this truth that we can say God is love. There can be real communication, real affection, real relationship, real enjoyment of one another, true intimacy. And this is before God said 'let us create'.
In the beginning the Word was, and the the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Here is the unity of the trinity - there is only one God. Three distinct persons or centers of consciousness, one self-existent uncreated creator of all things. God, the ultimate existence or being has for all eternity existed as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
John here claims that Jesus, the Word, is the Word that spoke all things into existence, and he is the source and origination of life and light. This passage, like the others we are glancing at, are worthy of a hundred sermons, but today we will keep moving.
Here Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. If we want to know what God is like, we can look to Jesus, who is God with flesh and blood on. Firstborn of all creation does not mean that Jesus was the first created thing - the rest of the verse prevents us from drawing that conclusion. Jesus is the creator of all things - both the visible and invisible, in fact every authority that exists. In fact not only is he the creator of all things physical and all things spiritual, but he gives meaning to all things - all things exist 'for him'. All creation, visible and invisible exist for the pleasure of Jesus. All things that exist exist to bring him praise. But he goes on - he is before all things. So he cannot be the first thing created among many - before anything existed he existed - he is the self-existent one. Firstborn points more to the position of primacy or preeminence than it does to the event of birth. And the concept of birth in the word sets him apart from creation. The relation of Jesus to God is more like that of a son to his father; not creature to creator. The Father and Spirit and Son together created all things. And these verses tell us that it is Jesus who is holding all things together. When Jesus told the Pharisees that “my Father is working until now and I am working”, there was more to what he said than simply that he was doing mighty works on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees had no idea that it was Jesus who was at that very moment holding together the protons, neutrons and electrons that made up every atom of their bodies. The point is that in everything he might be preeminent. In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. This is human language groping for other ways to express this great truth - Jesus was not partial deity; he did not become God; he was not a human that had deity grudgingly granted to him. Jesus is all the fullness of God pleased to dwell in a human body.
Jesus receives honor from his Father. He is the crowning act of God's communication to us, and everything is for Jesus - he is appointed heir of all things. It is through Jesus that God created the world. It is Jesus that displays the glory and nature of God to us, so that if we want to understand what God is like, we can look to Jesus for an accurate display of his character. Oh, and by the way, Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of his own power. That's who Jesus is!
There's so much more that could be said, but let's conclude by looking at just two Old Testament prophesies that point to the identity of who the Christ was before he was born.
The virgin birth - that Jesus did not have a physical human father - is essential to Christianity. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin by the Holy Spirit. The name he was to be given displayed his true identity - Immanuel means 'God with us'.
A child is born - that's part of the truth of Christmas - but we must understand the other part - to us a son is given. 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son'. His Son given - Mighty God, one with the Father, the eternal all glorious self-existent one, who is worthy of all the glory that the Father is worthy of, this dearly loved eternal companion of the Father was sent to be born, sent to live a perfect life in our place. Sent to be beaten and bruised and abused. Sent to die in our place so that we could be given the infinitely valuable gift of eternal life - life that consists in knowing this all glorious God, knowing this Jesus!