This is one in a series of Advent sermons. The series is entitled Why Did Jesus Come?
Tonight we answer the question of why Jesus came by considering what we are told in the prologue of John’s Gospel.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:1-5, 14, 16-18).
I want to zero in particularly on this last statement, “he has made him known.” One of the reasons Jesus came into the world was to make the Father known. This is not stated as explicitly as the the other reasons we have mentioned, but it is nonetheless clear. Jesus came into the world to reveal the Father.
It is not that the Father was entirely unknown before. He had been revealing himself to men from the very beginning through the prophets. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets, but in these last days [meaning more recently, from the perspective of the writer], “he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).
He is making a contrast. What he is getting at is this: as wonderful and as glorious as it was to have the word of God delivered to them by the prophets, it was even more glorious to have his word delivered by his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The reason why this should be so is explained by John.
John explains that Jesus existed with the Father from all eternity: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.” The Word—who is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ—was with God in the beginning. This is John’s way of saying that Jesus participates with the Father in the attribute of eternity. Jesus himself spoke of this when he prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (Jn. 17:5). He was in the beginning with God, long before the creation of the world. He is thus uniquely qualified to reveal the Father. No one has known the Father as long as the Son.
But it is not only his long-standing relationship with the Father that qualifies him to bear a unique testimony concerning him, it is also and chiefly the fact that he shares in the same divine nature as the Father.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn. 1:1).
This is the most astonishing thing about Jesus of Nazareth, and we must never forget it. He is God manifest in human flesh! In this way, he is utterly unique. There is no man like him. Never was before; never has been since; and never will be. He is absolutely unique.
It is true that he looked like any other human being. You wouldn’t have been able to pick him out in a crowd. There was no aura about him or any light emanating from his body that set him apart from others. He looked like any other human being; but he was like no other human being. Do not misunderstand me. He was fully human, and in that sense he was like every other human being. But he was more than merely human. And this is the extraordinary thing about him.
The hymn-writer, Charles Wesley, expressed this very beautifully when he wrote,
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity;
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Emmanuel means God with us. Jesus was the Word made flesh. He was God clothed in human nature, living with his people Israel.
The Scriptures bear very eloquent testimony to this fact—the fact of the deity of Christ. The writer of Hebrews says,
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb. 1:3a).
Paul tells us in Colossians that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). In other words, if you wish to see God, look at Jesus. He is the visible expression of the invisible God. As Paul goes on to say in the same letter, “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). And this is why he could also say in his letter to the Romans that “Christ…is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 9:5). He is God over all.
It is for this reason that Jesus could say, as he did in John 10:30, “I and the Father one,” not one and the same Person, but sharing one indivisible divine essence. And this is also why our Lord could tell Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9). Not that he is the Father, but that he is a perfect expression of the Father.
Philip had said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (Jn. 14:8). Jesus was always talking about the Father, saying things like the Father sent me into the world, I have come forth from the Father, the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. He said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (Jn. 6:37), and “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him” (Jn. 6:44). He spoke of the temple as his Father’s house, and said that he must be about his Father’s business (Jn. 2:16; Lk. 2:49).
Jesus was always talking about the Father. In fact, he had just said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). And this is when Philip said, “Lord show us the Father and it is enough for us.” And Jesus said,
Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’? (Jn. 14:9)
He would go on to say, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn. 14:10). There is an inseparable bond, an inseparable union between the Father and the Son. In our opening text it says, “No one has ever seen God; the only [begotten] God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (Jn. 1:18). Now, this is an odd phrase, “the only begotten God.” But it points to our Lord’s divine nature. He shares the same nature as the Father, and has been at the Father’s side, a place of close companionship, forever. And he has come into the world in order to make the Father known. No one knows the Father, like the Son, and so there is no one better to make him known.
We who could not otherwise have seen the Father, have him made known to us in Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God. What we see in him—in both word and deed—is a revelation, an unveiling, a disclosure of the Father. Consider what Jesus says in John 12:49.
I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak (Jn. 12:49)
When Jesus speaks, therefore, it is a revelation of the Father’s will because he says only what the Father has given him to say. Likewise, when he acts, he does only what the Father would have him to do.
Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise (Jn. 5:19).
So, for instance, when Jesus was moved with compassion to heal the sick, he was revealing the Father’s compassion for them. When he was dealing tenderly with sinners and calling them to repentance, he was revealing the Father’s will for them to repent and find grace and forgiveness. In everything he said and did he was revealing something of the Father’s purpose, power, and glory.
Because of his divine nature, Jesus is superior to the prophets, even the greatest of them. He is greater than Moses; greater than Isaiah; greater even than Abraham, who is referred to as God’s friend.
Jesus is greater even than the angels. This is a point that the writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to make. He says,
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
What wonderful things are said here about Jesus! It was necessary that we should have such a Savior! By man sin and death came into the world, and so it was necessary that salvation should also come by a man. It was a man, a human being, who robbed God of his glory when he rebelled against him, and so it was necessary for a man to make restitution for man’s transgression. But what man is adequate to the task? Only one, our Lord Jesus Christ: perfect God and perfect man in perfect union. Amen.