THE SON, JESUS CHRIST
Reflections by Ronn Johnson
Biblical & Theological Studies Department
Jesus Christ is not merely part of our doctrinal statement here at UNW—he is the focus of our institution, our families, our very lives. May our work never distract us from Jesus.
Two young men came to my house a few years ago wanting to talk about God and the human hope of eternal life. I was excited to talk with them, but was busy at the time. So we arranged to meet at a nearby restaurant later that night. I remember this evening with interest because our conversation—meant to concern God, as they said—quickly turned to the person of Jesus Christ. I was made curious, however, by my friends’ noticeable lack of comfort in talking about Jesus. It was as though they wanted to skip over, or even completely dismiss, God’s Son from the story of eternal life. As our conversation went deeper into the night they finally asked, “So what do you believe?” I told them I teach the Bible for a living, and asked if they would be willing to hear a lengthy description of what I believe about Jesus. They smiled and told me to go for it. What I have written below is basically what I said for the next ten minutes, trying to turn to as many passages in the Bible as possible. I am reminded even now of my “speech” corresponds to our UNW doctrinal statement about Jesus Christ. But it wasn’t a speech as much as it was a plea for their belief.
“Guys, I believe that God the Father is intimately related to his unique Son Jesus Christ. As difficult as the idea of a ‘Trinity’ is to understand, I relish the statement made by Jesus himself as he prepared for the cross: ‘And now, O Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was’ (John 17:5). Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God—not created—but one with the Father in quality and purpose and intimacy.
“Jesus came into the world by miraculous means and lived a perfect life through the power of his Father (‘He who has sent me is with me. The Father has not left me alone, for I always do those things that please him,’ John 8:29). I would admit that Jesus’ life itself gets little press in the statements and documents of the early church. Peter made the passing comment in one of his sermons that Jesus ‘went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him’ (Acts 10:38). But this lack of attention is due to an emphasis placed elsewhere—that on Jesus’ own death. Jesus had come to live, yes, but more so to die (‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this world’ John 12:27).
“But why did Jesus die? Going toward the event, Jesus predicted numerous times that he would die as though it was part of a perfect plan. The book of Mark, for example, mentions Jesus’ death eight times before the event itself (Mark 2:20; 8:31; 9:12, 31; 10:33, 45; 12:10, 24). But in all these predictions we are never told just why it was going to happen. True, the disciples should have been better prepared for the cross, but I can imagine with them that the death of our Messiah would have been hard to compute. It would seem so senseless, as though the plan of God’s kingdom had gone awry. The ‘prince of life’ (Acts 3:15) was not supposed to die!
“But the death of Jesus did have a purpose after all, as designed by God. It triggered the grandest news ever revealed to the human and angelic world: ‘This Jesus God raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God . . . let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:32, 33, 36). No wonder Peter’s audience replied with ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ They had just killed the One that God—their God as worshipped throughout the Old Testament—had raised to the place of highest honor. They were in trouble and they knew it!
“The Apostle Paul would have been like Peter’s hearers who had grown up believing (as taught in the OT) that no one but God was to be worshipped. He had surely memorized Isaiah 45:11: ‘I have sworn by myself; the word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.’
“So follow what happened. It’s what the New Testament—or new covenant or deal—is all about. In time Paul turned his worship toward Jesus Christ when he realized that this was the will of God his Heavenly Father. On the Damascus Road Jesus was revealed to be the person the Christians claimed him to be: ‘That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:10-11). In worshipping Jesus Christ Paul now realized that he was doing the very will of the God he loved the whole time!
“Guys, it is so important that we see Jesus for who he is today. He not only forgives our sin—he is reigning over our present world (‘God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and might and dominion,’ Ephesians 1:20-21), and from this position Jesus will someday return to execute God’s judgment upon the world (‘He was ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead,’ Acts 10:42). To deny this is to put one’s eternal life into jeopardy—the very thing you wanted to talk with me about.
“I have spent most of my adult life wondering about Jesus. One of my favorite verses comes from his own lips: ‘All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal him’ (Matthew 11:27). It is consoling to know that, in essence, I am supposed to worship Jesus Christ while not having to know everything about him. I can join Paul in saying with hope ‘That I may know him’ (Phil. 3:10).
“I have come to believe that God sent Jesus Christ to the earth, at the same time committing all judgment to him. This is important, for now I need to honor the Son as I would honor God himself. ‘For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him’ (John 5:22-23).”
I could tell my friends were tracking with me this whole time. But I saw some concern in their eyes. So I asked, “Do you believe what God says about Jesus?”
They hesitated, so I asked them to read 1 John 5:10. I will never forget the silence that fell over the table as the words of this verse ended: “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has give of his Son.”
Unfortunately, this night ended with two men leaving the restaurant unwilling to believe in Jesus Christ. It was as though there were scales over their eyes, a hardness in their heart toward Jesus. I invited them to “believe in their heart that God had raised Jesus from the dead” (Romans 10:9) but they admitted they could not, they would not. I still pray for them.
I invite us all to review, even every day, what we believe about Jesus and why. And may we never take for granted that we serve at an institution which has committed itself to the belief that Jesus Christ is God’s beloved Son and present Lord of our world. Maranatha!