Who is Jesus? (Personhood)
Our understanding of Jesus is foundational to our faith. Delve into John 1 and see who John describes Jesus as.
Last week we listened to what AI was able to determine about Jesus from all of the input on the internet. Some of the definitions were great, and some were a bit weak.
Of course, any attempt to define who Jesus is would be incomplete, right? Even the Bible admits that it cannot contain all of the things that Jesus did:
John 21:25 CSB
25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if every one of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written.
And those would just be his actions - not even his character and all his teachings. So, I suppose if we are going to have a topic of “Who is Jesus”, we must first come to peace with the reality that we cannot fully comprehend who Jesus is. The finite can only grasp what the infinite is willing to reveal.
So, again, whatever definition we try to compile about who Jesus is will lack in some way, shape or form. However, each definition of Jesus that is compiled in a true and accurate manner is still helpful as it gives a glimpse into who Jesus is.
For instance, if I confess that I am a technology nerd. What does that tell you about me? What does it NOT speak into? So it is a true representation of one aspect of who I am , but certainly is not a complete picture.
So, how do we compile a definition of Jesus in a true and accurate manner? While AI can concatenate information from endless sources and create a summary, it is not actually a source. Rather, it needs sources. One of the fascinating conclusions we read last week was that AI suggested,
“If you are interested in learning more about Jesus, there are many resources available to you. You can read the Bible, talk to a Christian friend or family member, or attend a church service.” ~ Google Bard
This morning, I want us to continue exploring the question, “Who is Jesus?”. However, we are going to do so from a source - the best source we have - our Bibles.
BUT how do you pick a passage? Where would you start and end? Genesis 1? You could. Revelation 22? That would work also. The entire Bible shows the need for a Messiah, the story of the Messiah and the ultimate results of the work of the Messiah. It ALL points to Jesus!
So where should we start if we want to explore the question of, “Who is Jesus?”
If you want to know more about ME, you can ask me. If I am not physically here, who are some of the best people to ask if you want to learn about me? [my kids, my wife… those closest to me that spent the most time with me]
One of my favorite passages to learn about Jesus comes form someone who was very close to him. He spent a great deal of time with Jesus and was even considered one of Jesus’ favorites - JOHN. John is called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. I would call that a pretty close relationship.
How does someone that was so close to Jesus describe Jesus to others? He did so in the Gospel according to John, and chapter 1 is one of my favorites.
John 1:1–18 (CSB)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ ”) 16 Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.
EXCERPT FROM: Exalting Jesus in John Introducing Jesus (John 1:1–5)
We live in a culture increasingly spiritual yet hesitant to commit to saying there is one absolute truth. To many in modern society, Jesus was a philosopher. Others view him as a good man with important things to say. Still others view Jesus as just another prophet who came to point us to God. This is why the first words of the Gospel of John are so vitally important. They answer the questions, Who is Jesus, and why did he come to earth?
In the Beginning
Let’s start right at verse 1.
John 1:1 CSB
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
When you hear the phrase, “in the beginning”, what comes to mind? Genesis 1, right? John’s introduction to Jesus begins by connecting him to the beginning. The beginning of the Messiah can be understood by looking at the beginning of the creation of this world.
[SEE - I told you that trying to understand Jesus could start in Genesis 1!]
If we were Jews living at the time of John’s gospel, we would have the Torah and the Prophets as our scripture. We would be very familiar with the Torah and the very first words of it. John is purposefully drawing his readers back to Genesis 1 to make a statement and connection.
Genesis 1:1 CSB
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
John 1:1–3 CSB
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.
Moses wrote that God created. John says that Jesus created. John is saying that God = Jesus.
John uses some beautiful poetry to make his statement:
In the beginning was the word
and the word was with God
and the word was God
He was with God in the beginning
All things were created through him (positive)
Apart from him not one created thing exists (negative)
This poetry highlights some of the key theological statements about the deity of Jesus that John unravels in his gospel. Let’s unpack this together as we seek to understand WHO is Jesus.
“In the beginning was the Word” - Jesus’ Eternal Nature
To say that the Word existed in the beginning is to declare that he existed prior to all of creation. He was not a created being like Adam and Eve. The Word WAS there in the beginning. This is certainly meant to demonstrate the eternal nature of Jesus. John goes on to make more statements about the Eternal nature of Jesus:
John 1:15 CSB
15 (John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ ”)
The Apostle John quotes John the Baptist who declared that he, too, understood Jesus to have existed before he did - even though we have a recorded history in the synoptic gospels of John being born before Jesus was born.
John adds a third reference to the preexistence of Jesus by stating “the world was made through him” in verse 10. That statement, in connection with John 1:3 “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created”, lays the foundation 3 times that John is declaring that Jesus is eternal.
Later, in John’s gospel, he will quote Jesus this way:
John 17:5 CSB
5 Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with that glory I had with you before the world existed.
• Jesus existed before creation, so he was not created
• all things that were created, in the beginning, were created through Jesus
• though he was physically born after John the Baptist, Jesus existed before John
“the Word was with God” - Jesus is part of the Trinity
To state the Word was WITH God declares the presence of a godhead - of a single God who has more than one person.
EXCERPT FROM: Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered What Are Sabellianism, Modalism, and Monarchianism?
It is impossible for us as finite human beings to fully understand an infinite God. The Bible presents God as one God, but then speaks of three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How these two truths harmonize is inconceivable to the human mind. When we attempt to define the indefinable (God), we will always fail to varying degrees.
However, John places Jesus as the Word that was WITH God in the beginning. That accounts for 2 of the three persons of the trinity, right? However, many scholars have also found the entire trinity in the beginning:
Genesis 1:1–3 CSB
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
So we have God creating, and the Spirit of God hovering over the earth. John places Jesus in this passage as the Word and would see this as a trinitarian creation act.
We have three distinct persons of the trinity. Notice I did not say we have 3 expressions or manifestations of the godhead. Why? Because there is a belief that denies the trinity, called Modalism.
MODALISM -> is a false belief that there is one God who appears in different forms at different times. So that one God appeared predominantly Yahweh in the OT, predominantly Jesus in the gospels and predominately the Spirit from Pentecost onward. This is not consistent with the rest of scripture, and John would certainly not agree! It is safe to call Modalism heresy.
Perhaps one of the best ways we have to explain in our finite words this infinite and transcendent concept is that there is on God who exists in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. While they all have different roles or functions in the godhead, they all share the same divine essence or being.
Jesus even talked about being separate from the Father, but connected to the Father:
John 16:28 CSB
28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
John 15:26–27 CSB
26 “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Jesus defines the godhead, or the trinity, quite plainly to his disciples. He says that he will go to the Father and send the Counselor (Holy Spirit). Other gospel accounts demonstrate the trinity at the baptism of Jesus as well. And then there is the commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel:
Matthew 28:19–20 CSB
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In that commission we have the eternality of Jesus as well as the trinity.
“Word was God” - Jesus is deity
It is with that understanding we then comprehend that the Word WAS God. John was NOT saying that The Word was the current form of Yahweh. They are both part of the godhead - Jesus and the Father (and the Spirit). Stating that the Word was God does not mean that Jesus was the Father and then manifest himself as the Son (Modalism) but that he shared the divine nature and essence of the Father. He is God just as much as the Father is God. What could be said to describe the Father’s nature and character could also be said of the Son, the Word.
There are many false religions and false teachers that will change or distort one verse in order to make their own teachings make sense.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe God is the Creator and Supreme Being. Witnesses reject the Trinity doctrine, which they consider unscriptural. They view God as the Father, an invisible spirit person separate from the Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is described as God's "active force", rather than the third part of the Trinity.
We follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and honor him as our Savior and as the Son of God. (Matthew 20:28; Acts 5:31) Thus, we are Christians. (Acts 11:26) However, we have learned from the Bible that Jesus is not Almighty God and that there is no Scriptural basis for the Trinity doctrine.—John 14:28.
How do they come to the conclusion that Jesus is NOT God? They change the scriptures and this passage to say, “the Word was a god”. One of the challenges of this translation of “a god” is that the rest of the time in John’s gospel, the JWs translate the same phrase as “God”- without the “a”.We understand that John, and the rest of scripture, clearly teach that Jesus was/is God.
EXCERPT FROM: Exalting Jesus in John Who Is Jesus? (John 1:1–3)
When Jehovah’s Witnesses meet to discuss their religion, they pick up a translation of Scripture called The New World Translation. If you opened that book, turned it to the Gospel of John, found verse 1, and looked at the last phrase, you would read, “and the Word was a god.” Does that small change matter? Does a simple little monosyllable make any difference? By adding that little word a, they are making a statement that Jesus is something less than fully God. He may be a god in some sense. He may be one of many “gods,” but he is not the true God. From the beginning of his Gospel, John argues that Christ is not one of many gods but is God himself. John MacArthur writes,
Confusion about the deity of Christ is inexcusable, because the biblical teaching regarding it is clear and unmistakable. Jesus Christ is the preexistent Word, who enjoys full face-to-face communion and divine life with the Father, and is Himself God. (John 1–11, 20)
Of course, the most blatant statement about Jesus being deity would come from Jesus himself.
John 10:30 CSB
30 I and the Father are one.”
So, through this poetry we see that Jesus is God, part of the trinity (godhead) and is eternal.
Any teaching that contradicts these truths is not Biblical and should be tossed aside. Our goal is a true and accurate understanding of who Jesus is, and that means we must be consistent with our interpretation of scripture in the context of other scripture.
I think John summarizes all of these teachings in his statement:
John 1:18 CSB
18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.
“The Word became flesh” - Jesus was human
Part of the challenge of understanding who Jesus is comes in the fact that we have no category for anyone who is God in a human form. So our minds explode when we try to put them both together.
We just looked at Jesus being God, being eternal and being part of the trinity. Then we read this:
John 1:14 CSB
14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
So Jesus also became flesh and bones. Human. And he tabernacled among us. He dwelt among us.
This also takes us back to Genesis. In chapter 2 we read about God walking among mankind - in the garden with Adam and Eve. That was broken when they were kicked out of the garden.
Jesus was not just God among mankind, he was God taking on the human form and coming among us. In Genesis God talked with Adam. With Moses and the tabernacle God’s glory appeared in a cloud. With Jesus, he was a human, who came as a baby. He cried and laughed. He grew up:
Luke 2:52 CSB
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.
He wept at the loss of a loved one, he felt the pain of being betrayed. He was not JUST fully God, he was also FULLY human -> knowing the struggles of this life but living in obedience to the Father.
The Apostle Paul explains it this way:
Philippians 2:5–8 CSB
5 Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. 7 Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.
Jesus took up residency, but it was defined as a tent or tabernacle. He “tabernacled” among us. That is a temporary dwelling, and Jesus mentioned that he was going back to the Father.
John 16:28 CSB
28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
The phrase “dwelled among us” comes from a Greek word σκηνόω. The only other place this word is used is in John’s writings - in Revelation. While Jesus’ time physically among mankind was temporary, it points to a day when God will be among men permanently:
Revelation 21:3–4 CSB
3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.
[SEE I told you we could go all the way to Revelation to learn about Jesus!]
As we wrap up these thoughts on the PERSON-HOOD of Jesus, we have seen how John describes Jesus as the Word, and then make these statements:
• “In the beginning was the Word”
• “The Word was with God”
• “The Word was God”
• “The Word became flesh”
What was he saying in all of this about who Jesus is?
• Jesus is eternal.
• Jesus is the Son of the Father - part of the trinity.
• Jesus is God.
• Jesus was Human.
As God he is able to accomplish the will of the Father without issue. He is eternal and death cannot stop him. He is part of the trinity. As human he understands what we go through - the joys, sorrows, triumphs and temptations - and gave us an example to live by. He gets us.
Who is Jesus?
Jesus is both God and man. He is a member of the trinity. He existed before time and will exist and rule in eternity. As both God and man he places himself as both the creator of the world and savior of the world.
1 Timothy 2:5–6 CSB
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.
There is ONE God (though both Jesus and the Father are God) and Jesus became a human to accomplish the work of God - redeeming humans for relationship with God.