As the church observes ‘Good Friday’ and the season of ‘Easter’, it may be very easy, especially with the commercialisation in society, to forget who is at the centre, and who is the focus in these observances. But surely the church should not forget the unique and incomparable Christ, who is the centre as well as the reason why we observe this ‘season’ in the church calendar. The Apostle John, in the closing verse of the gospel of John, wrote:
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written”
But John was only referring to the things He did; what about who He is as well? I suppose that many books, beyond our estimation, have been written about Him that there may not be enough room for them, not just then, but even now.
An overview of Him may not just be helpful; it is edifying and leads us to worship of Him:-
a) Jesus is the centre of history
At least a large proportion of the human race continues to divide history into BC and AD by reference to His birth. A great proportion of the human race, from all tribes and nations, professes to know Him and follow Him through the centuries.
b) Jesus is the focus of Scripture (Bible).
The Bible is not a random collection of religious documents; as Jesus Himself declared: “The Scriptures..bear witness to Me” (John 5:30) and the great leader of the early Church, Jerome, wrote that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
Luther similarly, in his lectures on Romans, was clear that Christ is the key to Scripture. He wrote: ..’everything must be understood in relation to Christ’ and ‘the entire Scripture deals only with Christ everywhere’.
c) Jesus is the heart of mission
What prompted many believers to go across land and sea as missionaries is not to commend a civilisation, an institution, or an ideology, but rather a person, Jesus Christ.
Sadhu Sundar Singh, born in an affluent Sikh family, grew up to hate Christianity. He even expressed his hostility at the age of fifteen by burning a Gospel publicly. But three days later, he was converted dramatically through a vision of Christ and later went wandering throughout his homeland to declare that he had become a Christian. He encountered much persecution, even from his family (who sought to kill him on one occasion) and in one incident, he was accosted rather aggressively by a lecturer in a Hindu college who asked him what he had found in Christianity that he did not have in the old religion.
Sadhu replied, “I have Christ,”. “Yes I know,” continued the lecturer impatiently, ‘but what particular principle or doctrine have you found that you did not have before?” “The particular thing I have found,” replied Sundar Singh, “is Christ.”
Many missionaries have encountered various individuals from different beliefs and their response to their queries about Christianity is “Consider Jesus”, not just many Jesuses on overcrowded shelves of the world’s religious market, but the Jesus witnessed by the New Testament, the Jesus portrayed by the church, and the Jesus loved, treasured and worshipped by many who have come to believe in Him and to commit their entire lives to Him. God willing, we have much more to share about Him subsequently.
One word is associated very closely with Jesus Christ – “fulfilment”
a) He is the fulfilment of the Old Testament
His gospel serves as a bridge between the two testaments, between preparation and fulfilment. He said, “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matt. 13:16-17) The saints in the Old Testament were given the prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah and the dawn of a “New Age”, but they were not able to see clearly what they all meant. God’s people in the New Testament context have this privilege of seeing and hearing clearly what the kingdom of God (heaven) is all about.
b) Christ is the fulfilment of prophecy
Following from (a), everything predicted in the prophecies of the OT regarding the coming of the Messiah had been fulfilled – the theme of fulfilment is most clearly displayed in Jesus’ inauguration of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God (heaven) is both a present reality and a future expectation (for at the end of history the King (Jesus) would sit on His glorious throne and judge the nations (Matt. 25:3`1-46).
In the story of Jesus we see a recapitulation of the story of Israel. As Israel was oppressed in Egypt under Pharaoh, the baby Jesus became a refugee in Egypt under the despotic Herod. As Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea, in order to be tested in the wilderness for forty years, so Jesus passed through the waters of John’s baptism at the River Jordan in order to be tested in the wilderness of Judeas for forty days. As Moses gave Israel from Mount Sinai, so Jesus gave His followers the Beatitudes, a true and clear interpretation of the law and an amplification of it. Jesus is also the fulfilment of Israel; He saw Himself as the sole surviving representative of authentic Israel – He alone remained faithful even though the whole nation had become apostate – He was the beginning of a new Israel, and all those who believe in Him and are united with Him (from all nations and tribes) belong to the new Israel.
c) Christ is the fulfilment of the law
Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17-18,20).
The disciples were puzzled when they heard this; the Pharisees were regarded as the most righteous people in those days – then how could the followers of Jesus be more righteous than them?
Christian righteousness is greater than Pharisaic righteousness because it is deeper – it is a righteousness of the heart, a righteousness not of words and deeds only, but especially of thoughts and motives (Matt. 5:21-30). Jesus looked beyond a superficial understanding of it to its radical demand for heart-righteousness. In this sense He was the fulfilment of the law; He would bring about the new covenant when the law will be written on the hearts of believers and the Holy Spirit would enable them to fulfil the requirements of the law.
Jesus brings about the highest possible relationship for believing humans
To know God our Creator as our Father and ourselves as His children is the highest privilege and richest relationship of which any human being is capable. Not to know God in this way is to be in a state of fallenness and guilt, cut off from the life of God, exposed to His judgement, and under demonic control, from whence flows only misery.
But it can be changed by Jesus – a filial relationship to God is only possible through relating to Jesus and His mediatorial ministry – “To all who did receive him who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). The Son of God, “Christ…suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:8); the only begotten Son presents those who believe to His Father as His brothers and sisters, making us adopted children of the Almighty.
Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, reigning – and now in the power of His atonement, calling, drawing, welcoming, pardoning, renewing, strengthening, preserving, and bringing joy – remains the heart of the Christian message, the focus of Christian worship, and the fountain of Christian life. Other things may change; this does not.
d) Christ is the Christian’s hope
God created us to be creatures with hope, whose nature is to look forward, and to get excited about good things that we foresee, and to draw joy and strength to cope with the present from our expectations of the future fulfilment and delight. In the absence of anything to look forward to, existence itself becomes a burden and life no longer feels worth living.’
But this is not so for Christians; God has never intended for humankind to live without hope and He has, in fact, given Christians the most magnificent hope that ever was.
The Apostle Paul wrote…”the riches of the glory of this mystery (the gospel message), which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus Christ Himself, to whom we who believe are united even now, is the Christian’s hope. Each of us is travelling along a path that He has appointed for us to an eternity of joy in which He will be the centre, the focus, and the source of our endless delight -this is new ‘Exodus’ to the”new promised land”, led by Jesus our Lord and Master – what a wonderful hope we have in Him!!