Big Idea: What’s different about Jesus? He’s the long-promised Messiah, the beloved Son of God, and the Lord over all.
There is something different about Jesus. He’s different from any other religious leader, any other person who has ever lived.
It’s not just his followers who say this either.
Comedian Jim Carrey struggles with believing in the deity of Jesus but he still can’t stop thinking about Jesus. “He’s constantly coming up in my head,” he says.
John Jeremiah Sullivan, an award-winning writer, walked away from his Christian faith, but says, “once you’ve known [Jesus] as God,” it’s hard to find comfort in Jesus as just another man. And even after years of unbelief, Sullivan admits “one has doubts about one’s doubts.”
Charles Templeton pastored Avenue Road Church in Toronto. He was one of North America’s most influential preachers before declaring himself an agnostic. Near the end of his life, Lee Strobel interviewed him.
“And how do you assess this Jesus?” It seemed like the next logical question—but I wasn’t ready for the response it would evoke.
Templeton’s body language softened…
“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”
I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.
“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!” . . . “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”
That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!” (The Case for Faith)
There’s something about Jesus. It’s not just me or even just Christians who say that. Even agnostics admit there’s nobody like him.
And so we’re going to look for a few weeks at the next part of the Apostle’s Creed. We’re in this series about basic Christian doctrine. The Creed begins like this:
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord
We looked at the first sentence last week on God the Father. Today we’re going to look at this extraordinary Jesus. What’s so different about him?
This part of the Apostle’s Creed tells the difference between Jesus and everyone else:
- He’s the long-promised Messiah
- He’s the beloved Son of God
- He’s the Lord over all
Let’s look at these three
Jesus is the Long-Promised Messiah
“…and in Jesus Christ…” We tend to think of Christ as Jesus’ last name. But that’s not at all what the name Jesus Christ means. Jesus was Jesus’ proper name, and not an uncommon one either in Jesus’ day. But Christ is an office-title. It means Messiah, the anointed one. You can see this clearly in Matthew 16, where Jesus asks his followers, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16).
To understand this term, you need to understand a little about the Bible. Thousands of years ago, God chose Israel as his people. In the early days, God raised up patriarchs, judges, and other leaders to lead them. But eventually they wanted a king. They had some good kings, but even the good ones disappointed. They would read the promises that God gave to Israel like this:
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
No king ever showed up who matched this prediction. Things actually got worse and worse. But still they held out hope. They beloved that God would send a Messiah, a Christ, to save his people; a descendent of David who would come to deliver the nation.
And Jesus responds by calling Peter blessed, naming Peter as the foundation of the church, “since believing and teaching that Jesus is the Messiah is what true members of the church do” (ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible).
So when Peter confessed that Jesus was Christ, he was saying that the man standing in front of him is that man, the long promised King, the anointed one of Israel.
Since the Christ was expected to set up God’s reign and to be hailed as overlord throughout the world, to call Jesus Christ was to claim for him a decisive place in history and a universal dominion that all men everywhere must acknowledge. (J.I. Packer)
But he wasn’t the King that Peter or anyone else expected. He’s the King who conquered through death. He began his conquest as King by dying for rebels opposed to his reign. There’s nobody else like him.
It’s really interesting that Peter made this confession in the district of Caesarea Philippi, supposedly the birthplace of the god Pan, the most famous fertility symbol in ancient paganism. All around were temples of pagan religion. Close by was the new temple of the emperor. It’s like all of the ancient religions converged there.
Today we live in a world in which all the religions converge. It’s sometimes tempting to become fuzzy on who Jesus is. And yet it’s in that context that Peter identifies Jesus as absolutely unique.
Friends, when we confess Jesus as Christ, we’re saying that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises. He is the King we’ve been waiting for. He stands uniquely among all world religions. He is the fulfillment of God’s promises.
That’s what it means for Jesus to be the Christ. He is the long-promised Messiah. He has no rival. That’s what’s so different about him.
But that’s not all.
Jesus is the Beloved Son of God
The passage we just read says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
Jesus is God’s beloved Son. Sometimes we read in the Bible that Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. That’s based on a misunderstanding of the Greek word, so you won’t find begotten in many translations anymore. More recent studies of the Greek reveal that the word means something like “one of a kind” or “unique.” Maybe “radically distinctive and without equal.” It’s true that Jesus is also identified as firstborn, as he is in Colossians 1:15, but that signifies rank. He is unique and incomparable, first in rank above all else. It speaks of his unique relationship with God, not his birth.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is God’s one-of-a-kind Son. What this means is simple. It’s not that Jesus came from the Father, because all three persons of the Godhead are eternal. It means that the Jesus relates to the Father as a son does to his father, and that the Father relates to Jesus as a father does to his son.
Who is Jesus? We’ve already seen that he’s the long-promised King who will reign over all the earth who has no rival among other religions. But now we add another layer. He’s also God’s very own Son. He’s existed from eternity. Read Colossians 1 again:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
Jesus is supreme over everything. But what’s most significant about Jesus being God’s Son is how often he’s identified as God’s beloved Son.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)
And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…” (Colossians 1:13)
Friends, Jesus is the Son of God. He is God himself. But he is also deeply loved by God the Father.
Here is a God who is not essentially lonely, but who has been loving for all eternity as the Father has loved the Son in the Spirit. Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is at the root of who he is. (Michael Reeves)
The amazing thing is that the Bible teaches that when we trust Jesus, we enter into a union with Christ, which means that we get to be part of the same love from God the Father. That’s what union with Christ means. We are so connected to Jesus that what’s true of him becomes true of us. The same love that the Father has for the Son become the love that he has for us as well.
What’s different about Jesus? He’s the long-promised Messiah, the beloved Son of God. But there’s one more thing.
Jesus is Lord Over All
We’ve seen who Jesus is. The question is: who is he to us? The creed ends with the only logical answer: Jesus is Lord over all.
Lord has become a flaccid term, like we get to decide whether Jesus is Lord or not. It means something like “Jesus has become my spiritually meaningful religious leader.” That is not what the term Lord means.
To confess that Jesus is “Lord” is to announce that he is Lord of all. At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow—every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every Hindu, and every atheist—and they will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord … Confession of Jesus as Lord implies that all religions are not equal. Jesus is not a leader who has his authority curtailed by politicians or sociologists telling him which areas of life he’s allowed to give people advice on. Jesus is the boss of everyone’s religion, politics, economics, ethics, and everything. Jesus is not interested in trying to capture a big chunk of the religious market; to the contrary, he’s in the business of completely monopolizing it with the glory, justice, and power of heaven. And he has every right to do so; after all, as the firstborn of all creation, the cosmos is his work and inheritance. (Michael Bird)
That’s why Colossians 1 says:
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:18-20)
To declare Jesus as Lord means to submit to his reign, to live every part of life under his control, to declare his victor over sin and death. It means that Jesus has complete authority over every part of our lives.
That’s who Jesus is. What’s different about Jesus? He’s the long-promised Messiah, the beloved Son of God, and the Lord over all.
The question for you is: who do you say that Jesus is? The Bible says that one day every person in heaven and earth will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). But it also teaches that the day of grace will only last so long. One day the choice will no longer be ours — but by then it will be too late. Right now we can bow the knee and acknowledge who Jesus is — the long-promised Messiah, the beloved Son of God, and the Lord over all.
Don’t put it off. Don’t delay for another day. There are no special prayers to pray, no rites to perform. Simply away from your sin and turn to Jesus now.