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Who was Jesus?

Your Savior — was He man, God, or what?
Where did He come from?
How did He get here?
Was He really divine?
Could it be true that Christ and the God of the Old Testament are one and the same Person?
Many have asked these most basic of all questions.
Here, from the book of John, are the answers.


Most all human beings either have or have had a "best friend," or a "closest buddy" — someone with whom they share a side of themselves seldom seen by others.

Though Jesus loved all men, He was especially close to His disciple John. The apostle himself revealed this warm relationship in his own Gospel. He is a bit bashful about mentioning himself in the first person — although he wasn't at all hesitant about mentioning the other disciples by name.

He is the only one of Christ's biographers who was bold enough to point out Simon Peter as the man who severed the servant's ear during Jesus' arrest in the garden (John 18:10). Yet he never mentions himself by name in his entire book; when he writes of "John," he refers to John the Baptist.


"The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved"

At His last Passover, "Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, 'I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.' His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, 'Ask him which one he means"' (John 13:21-24, The New International Version).

Who was this "disciple whom Jesus loved"?

Some days after Jesus' resurrection from the dead, Peter engaged in an extended discourse with the risen Christ. Concluding the conversation, "Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the [last Passover] supper and had said, 'Lord who is it that is going to betray you?' When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, 'Lord, what about this man?'

"Jesus said to him, 'If it is my will that he remain [alive] until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!' " (John 21:20-22)

Verse 24 then reveals the identity of this disciple and future apostle: "This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true." This could be none other than the author of "the Gospel According to John." John remained alive to write the book of Revelation long after Peter's martyrdom. Apparently John was the only apostle whose life did not end in martyrdom. It is thought that, although imprisoned, he was allowed to live out his last days in relative peace on the Isle of Patmos.

John was also favored to be among the small inner circle of disciples who witnessed a foretaste of the Kingdom of God in vision. "And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart" (Matt. 17:1). There they saw Jesus transfigured before them, with Moses and Elijah.

It was also John who was the first disciple to believe Christ had risen from the dead. Shortly after Christ's resurrection, Mary Magdalene came and saw that the tomb was empty. "So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. . . " (John 20:2).

John outran Simon Peter to the tomb, but impetuous Peter went in first (verses 3-7). "Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed" (verse 8).


John's Deeper Understanding

Perhaps in part because of his special closeness to Jesus, John was given of God a deeper and broader understanding of his Savior. Matthew, Mark and Luke each begin their "minibiographies" of Jesus with an account of John the Baptist or with the conception of the human Jesus.

But John's beginning pre-dates even the events in the Old Testament: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-3).

Verse 14 explains who this "Word" was: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we [the disciples] have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." Jesus Christ is the only heavenly Being who ever became a fleshly human being and lived in this world.

These very few verses tell us a great deal about the nature of Jesus Christ: 1) He was God; 2) He was with another Being called God from the very beginning; 3) He was the "Word" (Greek: Logos) or Spokesman for the Father ("No one has ever seen God," meaning the other Being called God, verse 18).

John's first letter and two of Paul's epistles provide us with an excellent commentary on these beginning scriptures in the fourth Gospel. As if of habit, John begins his first epistle with "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (I John 1.1-3).

This letter, as the first verses of John's Gospel, makes it plain that the Being with whom they had lived, worked, played, swam and fished was none other than a member of the Godhead — with, and like, God the Father.

The apostle Paul wrote: "He [the Father] has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son [Jesus Christ], in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things. . ." (Col. 1:13-17; compare with Eph. 3:9). Paul here points out the broad and massive extent of the work and authority of the pre-human Christ.


John's Theme — the Godship of Christ

John emphasizes over and over again, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see II Tim. 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21; John 14:26), the pre-existence of Christ as God before His human birth. It is a prominent theme running throughout his entire Gospel. Notice it again in the very first chapter. "He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not" (John 1:10). If He made the world, then He preceded His own creation. Yet when He came in the human flesh, the vast majority of those who had the opportunity to know Him rejected their own Creator.

John the Baptist picks up this same theme. "John bore witness to him, and cried, 'This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me"' (John 1:15). Was the Baptist indulging in some kind of spiritual doubletalk here? No! John the Baptist was begotten and born into the human flesh before Jesus was (Luke 1:35-36, 57-60). But Jesus was God long before John was ever conceived. The Baptist repeats it in verse 30: ". . . After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me. "


Jesus' Supernatural Knowledge

John revealed that Christ possessed powers that no normal human being had, although He was certainly subject to the pulls and temptations of the flesh (Heb. 4:15).

When Christ called Nathanael to a discipleship (and future apostleship), "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!' Nathanael said to him, 'How do you know me?' Jesus answered him, 'Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.' Nathanael answered him, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God!'. . . Jesus answered him, 'Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things [miracles] than these"' (John 1:47-50).

Notice also the last three verses of John, chapter two. "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw his signs which he did; but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man" (verses 23-25). Christ the Creator had made mankind and He knew all about people's human weaknesses.


Jesus — From Heaven

John knew Jesus' true origin. Quoting Christ Himself, John 3:13 declares: "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man."

John continues this theme in the second half of the chapter: "He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one [the vast majority] receives his testimony; he [only a few] who receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit" (verses 30-34).

While Jesus Christ was yet in heaven (before His human birth), our Savior saw and heard the message that He later spoke on earth. Here, in a conversation with the religious leaders of His generation, He said: "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from [heaven] and where I am going [heaven]"

(John 8:14, The New International Version). He continued in verses 23 and 28: "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. . . . When you have lifted up [crucified] the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me."

Backtracking to verse 26, ". . . But he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him."

Verse 38: "I speak of what I have seen with my Father . . . ."

Verse 42: ". . . I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. "