Even while ISIS summarily executed French citizens and influenced the attack in San Bernardino, Christians were prodded to question their own approach to these horrid events. They wondered how they should respond…how Jesus would respond. Much of the time, the answer to that question evolved from a perception of who they thought Jesus was. However, the response often lacked consistency across the whole of scripture. Neither did the representation consider the fullness of who He was or who He is. Who was Jesus? What do the scriptures proclaim about him?
A recent Facebook post suggested that Jesus was a pacifist. Although one can understand the comment and intent it does pose serious problems as well. To reduce Jesus to a label, often to emphasize a point of view, minimizes his nature. The weightier truth, that Jesus is Deity and one with the Father reveals both the simplicity and complexity of who Jesus is, and it illuminates the interconnectedness of the Father and the Son.
The predominant perception that the world holds of God and Jesus often defaults in terms of cliché: an Old Testament God who exhibits wrath, anger, and judgement and a New Testament Jesus who loves all and passes no judgement except on religious leaders. It’s a bad cop/good cop dichotomy. This view is often, albeit more subtly, found in the Church as well.
Neither of these descriptions accurately portray the picture revealed in scripture. God (the Father) and Jesus (the Son) (alongside the Holy Spirit) embody the Deity (singular) and cannot work independently from each other: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus)” Col 1:19. “For in Christ all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form” (Col 2:9). Through Jesus, all of God was made plain. All.
Why does the picture of a God of wrath, judgement, and anger persist? It certainly has no foundation in Jesus, for He mirrors the very nature of the Father.
While Jesus lived among us, the Father simply expressed all of himself through the Son. Jesus, who while on earth lived fully as man, lived a life filled with and sourced by God himself through the Holy Spirit. Again, Jesus visibly manifested all of God’s fullness.
In Jesus then, the Old Testament “God of wrath” is revealed as a God who is indeed “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love“(Neh 9:17). To see who the Father truly is, look to the Son, where the fullness of deity lived.
The interconnectedness of the Father and the Son goes even deeper still. “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” Colossians1:15; “no one has ever seen God…” John 1:18; “now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible…” 1 Tim 1:17; “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see…” 1 Tim 6:16, etc.
These verses reveal one commonality: God the Father, is spirit… invisible, unseen and unseeable. These verses are paramount to our understanding of God, especially regarding the God presented in the Old Testament. From the very beginning of scripture then, a paradox is seemingly presented.
In Genesis 2-3 for example, The Lord God put Adam in the garden, He brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them, He made Eve as a helpmate for Adam, He talked with Adam and Eve, and they “heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”
The one talked about here, the one who walked and talked with Adam and Eve, could only be Jesus, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ! Scholars refer to this and other similar sightings as Christophanies, a physical appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. No surprise should exist then that Jesus, the author of creation (Col 1:16), was active and present in His creation much in the same way He longs to be active and present in our lives today.
This phenomenon is not only found in the Garden. In Genesis 18, The Lord and two angels met Abraham and had a meal with him. Not only was this another Christophany, but the Hebrew word used here for “The Lord” is YHWH, the divine name of God! Although the Godhead consists of three persons, God is indeed One! There is no daylight between the Father and the Son. To see one is to know the other.
Dr. John Walvoord in his book, Jesus Christ Our Lord, makes this statement: “It is safe to assume that every visible manifestation of God in bodily form in the Old Testament is to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Asher Intrater further explores this theme in his book Who Ate Lunch With Abraham?
Jesus alludes to his relationship to the Father in John 14:9 when He said to Philip “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”! In John 5:39, Jesus also said “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me!”
The prophet Isaiah illuminates this truth when he writes of his own revelation:
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.””Isaiah 6:1-5 NIV
Then Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord say “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” After Isaiah agrees to go and speak for the Lord, the passage goes on to say “Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”” Isaiah 6:10.
Who did Isaiah see on the throne? The apostle John asserts the truth in chapter 12 of his gospel:
“Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere (Isaiah 6:10): “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.”
John declares Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him! Isaiah “saw the Lord, high and exalted and on the throne, with the angels singing Holy Holy Holy”! Amazing!
Jesus wasn’t a pacifist. He is, however, the Prince of Peace. He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Rider on the White Horse in Revelation 19. Even more important though, in this time where the world seems upside down, where white is black and black is white, where fear wants to press in on all sides, the angels are still singing Holy Holy Holy!
In this advent season, the babe in the manger is still in on the throne. Jesus is the only God you will ever see. He wants to be your Prince of Peace? Will you let him?