Dr. Richard L. Strauss
December 8, 1991
Purpose: To help us understand who Jesus is and grow in our love and appreciation for Him.
The Christmas season is upon us. We see it everywhere we turn. The world has missed the significance of the season and pays little attention to the One for whom it is named. But for us who know Him, it provides a wonderful opportunity to remind ourselves again of who this Person is whom we worship and serve. We call ourselves by His name: "Christians," people who belong to Christ. By that name we declare that we not only believe in God, as so many others claim to do, but we are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We belong to Him.
Who is He, really? William Dix asked that question in one of our well-known Christmas carols:
What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
And then Mr. Dix answered his own question:
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
This, this is Christ the King,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Christ the King! He is that. But that's not all He is. Some other amazing answers to the question of who Christ is were given to us by the writer to the Hebrews. I thought it would be of value for us these three weeks before Christmas to examine what he said in the first two chapters of his book about this glorious Person to whom we have devoted our lives.
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2a).
Who is this child in Bethlehem's manger? He is God's final word to mankind!
The thing that strikes us first in this passage is that God has spoken. He didn't have to do that. He had no obligation to reveal Himself to us. He could have left us in the dark with no information about where we came from, why we're here or where we're going. He could have left us to grope around blindly in a maze of meaninglessness, aimlessness and uncertainty. But He didn't. GOD HAS SPOKEN!
He spoke in the Old Testament era through the prophets--Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and all the rest. He spoke at different times (a very literal rendering is "in many portions" as translated in the NASB), a little bit here and a little bit there. No one prophet gave us all of God's revelation. And He spoke in different ways: dreams, visions, circumstances, direct communication, preaching, writing, dramatic illustrations of truth. None of them contained all the truth. They were the truth, but not all the truth. But now we have a full and complete word from God. He has in these last days spoken to us by "One who is a Son" it says literally (anarthrous).
This is God's final word to mankind. There is nothing more He needs to say. When God sent His Son He provided the answer to every human question and the solution to every human need. The Jews had long believed that when Messiah would come, He would reveal God's complete and final truth. Even the Samaritans accepted that. Remember the Samaritan woman who talked with Jesus by a well in Sychar? "The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming' (who is called Christ). 'When He comes, He will tell us all things'" (John 4:25). She was right. He did. He told us all we need to know about being rightly related to God in time and for eternity. He is in Himself God's final word.
When Steve, our firstborn, was just a little tyke he loved to talk (he still does). But there was one time of day that his motor mouth really got revved up, and that was at bedtime. We would have him tucked in and be ready for a peaceful evening, and he would come trotting out with, "I just want to tell you one more thing." And we would listen, and send him back to bed threatening him with his life if he got out again. And sure enough, out he would come with, "Just one more thing." Some nights we would suffer through five and six "one more things."
God isn't like that. When He says "one more thing," He means it. And He has given us His last word, His full and complete self-revelation. He has spoken to us by His Son. From that introductory statement, the writer launches into seven reasons why Jesus Christ is God's final word. And in so doing, He gives us one of the most magnificent descriptions of the Person of Christ found anywhere in the Bible. It's a description I hope you turn to often, especially in this Christmas season to help you keep turning your mind back to Him. This is the One in whom we have put our trust, the One we worship and serve: the Christ of Christmas!
Who is this Jesus? He is the heir of all things.
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:1-2a).
Everybody knows what an heir is. Some of you stand to inherit a considerable amount of money from your parents, and some of you already have. But let me tell you about the Heir of all heirs. He stands to inherit everything! All things.
The writer to the Hebrews is reaching into the future and anticipating the day when the babe in the manger returns as King of kings and Lord of lords to rule the whole earth. It was foretold in Psalm 2 (which he quotes in Hebrews 1:5), a psalm of Messiah's triumph and reign. "You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me"--this is God the Father speaking--"and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession" (Psalm 2:7b-8).
The day is coming when that usurper Satan will be set aside and Jesus will inherit the nations. Jesus is coming again. And when He does, He will establish His kingdom on the earth, a rule of righteousness and peace over all the earth. It will all be His!
The prophet Daniel described it in vivid detail in Daniel 7.
"I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).
What a glorious day that will be. Such greatness is incomparable. No wonder He is God's final word--heir of all things.
Jesus is also the Creator of the universe. Now the writer moves from the future to the far distant past, "Through whom also He made the worlds."
God, "has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:2).
The One, this Jesus, who will someday rule the whole earth is actually the One who created it all--the entire universe of space and time--He made it all. That is consistent with other passages in the Bible. John said, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:3).
Paul said, "All things were created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16).
Jesus is the Creator. What an amazing truth! That babe in that smelly stable in Bethlehem was none other than the Creator of the entire universe.
The world scoffs at such a suggestion. They think it's ridiculous that we believe that baby born in a manger was God. And it's almost more than our own minds can grasp. But we believe it! We believe it because the evidence is overwhelming. That's why we have committed our lives to Him and become His followers. That's why we call ourselves Christians. That's what makes this season so special for us. And that's why He is God's final word.
He's the heir of all things and the creator of the universe.
One day a curious woman asked a famous artist, "Is it hard to paint a picture?"
"No," replied the artist. "It's either easy or impossible."
If you're an artist, it's easy. If you're not, then it's impossible. I can testify to that. It's impossible for me to paint a picture because I'm not an artist. But the same truth holds true for the creation of the universe. For God, it was easy. He's omnipotent; He can do anything. For anybody else, it's impossible. The very fact that Jesus created the universe testifies to that He is God; it testifies to His deity. And that is the next thing mentioned.
From the future, to the past, and now to the present--who He is right now. Jesus is God's glory.
"...who being the brightness of His glory" (Hebrews 1:3a).
God's glory, as you know, is the sum of His attributes, the weight of His divine majesty.
Jesus is also the "brightness" of God's glory--the radiance, the brilliance of God's glory. That word "brightness" describes the rays shining out from a brilliant source of light, like the sun. The rays of the sun are identified with the sun and they reveal the glory of the sun.
You can study the sun and learn all the facts about it--that it is 93 million miles from earth, that it is 865,400 miles in diameter, that it is 6000 degrees centigrade at its outer atmosphere. You can calculate how much energy it generates every second through nuclear reactions. Those are wonderful facts. But it's more valuable just to enjoy its beauty and warmth. What can compare to the rays of the setting sun, turning the sky ablaze with brilliantly changing colors? What is more comforting on a cold winter day than the warm rays of the sun streaming through the window? That's when we capture the brightness of its glory: when we just enjoy its rays.
Jesus Christ is likened to those rays. He is identified with the Father and reveals His glory. You can learn lots of facts about Him, but it's more valuable just to enjoy Him as the wonderful outpouring of God's wondrous majesty and might.
Read the Gospel record and listen to Him still the angry storm. Follow him up the mountain and see Him transfigured before His three inner-circle disciples, and His divine glory break through His veil of flesh. Listen to Him teach sublime truths and silence hostile critics. Watch Him heal the sick, and cleanse the lepers, and raise the dead, and feed the hungry multitudes. That's when we capture the brightness of God's glory. This is the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. No wonder He is God's final word to mankind. Jesus is the brightness of God's glory.
He is also the image of God's person.
"...Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3a).
The word "image" (charaktar) was used of the imprint made by a stamp or die. The image on a coin, for example, was an exact impression of the die used to make it. In like manner, Jesus is the exact representation of God's character. Just as the imprint of the die perfectly represents the original design, so the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly represents the nature and character of God. He perfectly represents Him because Jesus is God in human flesh.
Jesus claimed that for Himself when He said to Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9b). That's an astounding claim.
And the Apostle Paul repeated it of Him in Colossians 1:15 when he said, "He is the image of the invisible God." You can't see God but you can see Jesus, and you see God when you see Jesus.
Just a few weeks ago Mary and I were with some friends who told their 3-year-old grandson to go wash his hands before dinner. "Why?" he asked in typical 3-year-old fashion.
"To get rid of the germs," they answered.
"Germs and Jesus," he sighed. "All I ever hear is germs and Jesus, and I can't see either one."
No, we can't see Him, but we have the record of those who did. We can read it, and get to know Him more intimately, and learn more about God, for He is the image of the invisible God.
So often people will ask, "What is God like?" Children are particularly fond of that question, but we would all like to know. If you want to know what God is like, study the life of Jesus. He is God in human flesh. That babe in Mary's arms bore the image of God, the inspired writer of Hebrews tells us. What an encouragement to know that the One who claims to be our Savior is truly divine.
One old churchman (Bishop Moule) said, "A Savior not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end." But we have nothing to fear. The bridge to heaven is intact. Jesus is God. And as such He can secure our eternal salvation. And beyond that, He can perfectly reveal the mind of God. That's why He is God's final word.
Furthermore, Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power. He is the sustainer of all things.
"...Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3a).
The universe is held together, not just by laws of nature, but by the divine Son of God. It says that right here. And Paul wrote much the same to the Colossians in that passage I've quoted twice already, "by Him all things consist" or hold together (Colossians 1:17).
As many of you know, my second son Mike has a Ph.D. in elementary particle physics, and continues to work in a post-doctoral program at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, a two-mile long particle collider that is helping scientists discover the basic particles of which the universe is made. They are way beyond protons and electrons that I learned about in school, or the quarks and leptons they discovered some years back. They've now discovered, with certainty, gauge bosons. Did you know that? I didn't know that until I talked to Mike last night on the phone.
But no matter how far they probe, they keep finding that there is some strange force that holds everything together, some sort of "cosmic glue" that keeps everything from flying apart and disintegrating. They call it the "strong nuclear force." But the writer to the Hebrews gives us his name for it. It's not an "it," either, it's a Him: JESUS. He maintains all things by the word of His power. And maybe He's using this strong nuclear force. That's OK; it doesn't bother me a bit. He's still the one doing it.
He upholds all things by the word of His power. No wonder He is God's final word.
The text says, "...when He had by Himself purged our sins" (Hebrews 1:3b).
Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins.
Now we've come to the greatest problem with which mankind struggles: the problem of human sinfulness and the devastating guilt that it brings. People all over the world are asking the same question: "What's wrong with the human race? Why can't we get it together and make it work? Why is there so much war, crime, violence, bloodshed, hatred and corruption?" The answer is one three letter word: SIN!
Never a day goes by that our newspapers don't expose some new evidence for the utter depravity of the human heart--another serial killer, or rapist, or financial swindler. And even among us professing Christians the sin problem hangs on--selfishness, pride, greed, lust, anger, envy. We know we're guilty, and we wonder how God can ever accept us.
Well that's why Jesus came to earth--to purge our sin. It's a major theme of this book of Hebrews.
Over in Hebrews 9:26 we read, "But now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
That's the good news of Christmas. God sent His Son to purge our sins. He has the power to put away our guilt, whether it's nagging guilt from years ago, or guilt from an angry interchange with your family on the way to church today. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Jesus is God's final word to mankind because He has solved our sin problem.
The writer of this book of Hebrews offers one final reason why Jesus is God's final word: He is the highly exalted one.
"When he had by Himself purged our sins, (He) sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3c).
"The Majesty on high" is a reference to God. We know that God is a spirit and has no literal right hand, but this is a way of describing Christ's position of exaltation and supremacy. The right hand was the place of honor and authority. It's the same thing Paul indicated to the Philippians when he wrote, "God has highly exalted Him" (Philippians 2:9).
But don't miss the fact that Jesus sat down. That's not just incidental; it's extremely significant. The Temple in Jerusalem was a magnificent structure that took 46 years to build. In today's economy it would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But even in a building that elaborate there were no chairs. The priests of Israel never sat down because their work was never done. The blood of bulls and goats could not permanently put away sin. It was just a stop-gap measure, so they had to keep offering them, day after day, year after year. But because Jesus paid for our sins in full at Calvary, He sat down. At the Father's right hand. The work of providing salvation for a sinful race was finished, completed, and perfect.
And now He is the satisfaction for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2). The baby in that cattle stall was the gem of heaven's glory who came to earth to pay for the sins of the world. No wonder He is God's final word to mankind. He proved it when He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
If you reject Him, there is no other hope of eternal salvation. "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The provision has been made, but you must receive it by faith.
I read of a soap manufacturer talking to a pastor as they walked along the street: "The gospel you preach can't be very good, for there are still a lot of wicked people in the world."
The pastor was quiet, until they passed a child making mud pies. He was covered from head to toe with dirt. The pastor said, "George, your product can't be very effective, for there is still a lot of dirty people in the world."
"Oh, but my product only works if you apply it," he protested.
And no sooner had the words come out of his mouth when he saw the truth of it! Christ's provision is perfect and sufficient for the sins of the world, but we must apply it by faith. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. That doesn't mean you just agree with that fact.
To believe means to have confidence in, to rest upon, to put your whole weight on. Don't put your faith in your church or your religious activities or your good works, but put your faith in Him, totally and completely.
Oh, He might make some changes in your life. He might make some demands in days to come. But He brings you salvation.
If you haven't made that decision to trust Christ, I hope you won't put it off another day. I hope you'll decide right now.
Let's bow our heads prayerfully in His presence. With our heads bowed, can I ask you if you know Christ, personally, as your Savior from sin? Have you admitted that you're a sinner and you need a Savior? Some of you are still trying to excuse yourselves and rationalize that away.
Do you believe that Jesus is the only one who can wash away your sin? Do you believe that He paid for your sin at Calvary? Have you put your trust in Him? Will you do that right now? You can do it right where you sit. You do it by faith, and faith doesn't require the movement of a single muscle. Talk to God right now, in the quiet of your own soul, within your mind:
"Lord, I'm a sinner, and I believe that Jesus paid for my sin when He died at Calvary. Then He rose to give me His life. Lord Jesus, come into my life and save me and give me that wonderful gift of eternal life."
Father, I thank You for those this morning who have made this decision. I pray that it will be a life-transforming decision for them. A glorious new beginning.
And I pray for those who have already made that decision. We're not all living in the light of it. There are some things in our lives that don't please You. Oh God, I pray, that we will honor You by our manner of life. Not just by the words of our mouths but by the way we live. I pray that this Christmas season our minds and our hearts and our attention will be focused on Jesus. I pray that all those other things that are there to distract us will not succeed. Help us to look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. In His name we pray. Amen.
Continue to CHB-2: Christ Is Greater than Angels