Hebrews 1: 1 - 3
We live in a day when Christmas has become a controversial holiday. “Happy Holidays.” At the heart of the matter is this truth: Some people are unhappy with Christmas because they want nothing to do with Jesus Christ. They’ve heard enough and seen enough, and like Ebenezer Scrooge, they say “Humbug!” to the baby who “sleeps in heavenly peace” in the manger.
The first Christmas was met with indifference, unbelief, and (in the case of King Herod) outright hostility. So perhaps it is true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There are still those who would devalue Jesus Christ by making him simply a good man, a teacher of morality, a religious leader or perhaps one among many saviours of the world. The practical effect of this devaluing of Jesus is always the same. If you can reduce Jesus to something less than God in human flesh, then you can put him in a box and forget about him.
Back to the Bible
With that in mind, I propose that we revisit the birth of Christ to ask an all-important question: Who is that baby in the manger? On one level, we know who he is. He is Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary. This we know and this we believe and this we proclaim with all other Christians. But that hardly exhausts the answer. Who is that baby? Who is he to us?
It should be clear at the outset that our only reliable source for answering these questions is the Bible, the Word of God. If we go to the Bible, we quickly discover that it will not allow us to reduce Jesus in any way whatsoever. Who is that Baby? He is truly and completely God. If we disagree with that, then we disagree with God himself.
But is the Bible really so categorically clear on this topic? I answer yes and could prove it to you from 20 different passages. But for this message we will limit ourselves to just one—the majestic opening verses of the epistle to the Hebrews. In 3 verses we discover that Jesus is God’s final word to humanity and we have a 7-fold description of who Jesus really is. (Read)
1. He is the Heir of All Things v. 2
To say that God has appointed Jesus heir of all things means that God has given everything to his Son. The deepest oceans. The furthest stars. The darkest corners. The highest mountains. It all belongs to him. Today it doesn’t appear that everything belongs to Jesus because Satan is a squatter who illegally claims the earth as his domain. But in the end Satan will be overthrown and Jesus installed as the rightful king of the universe. This means that when you come to the end of everything, Jesus is there! It may seem from a brief glance at the scoreboard that Satan is winning in the cosmic struggle between good and evil. But when all the votes are counted, those who stand with Jesus will find themselves on the victorious side.
“Jesus shall reign where ’ere the sun,
Doth its successive journeys run;
His kingdom spread from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.”
2. He is the Creator of the Universe v. 2
Jesus is the agent of creation and the Lord of the epochs of history. At the Father’s command, he brought the universe into being and he wrote the script for the unfolding ages. Through him God made everything. There are really only 2 choices a person can make as he studies the universe. Either you believe that everything is the result of infinite time plus blind chance or you believe that the universe is the result of God’s divine design. This means that all true science leads back to God. All true biology leads to God. All true botany, all true chemistry, all true physics, all true geology and all true astronomy leads back to God. The Father delegated to his Son the work of bringing the universe into being and nothing was made except through him.
Think for a moment about these first 2 great statements. Jesus Christ is the Agent of Creation and the Heir of All Things. He was there at the beginning and he will be there at the end. And he is the Lord of everything in between. Truly he is the Alpha and Omega, the Creator, the Lord, the King.
Everywhere you turn, you run into Jesus. You have to shut your eyes to keep from seeing him! This is why atheism is the most unnatural philosophy in the world. We are made in God’s image, with an inborn desire to know God, and with the knowledge of God streaming in on every side. You have to deliberately reject the truth to become an atheist.
Let’s make this more personal. Not only did the Lord Jesus create the universe, he also created you and me. Psalm 139:14 says that we were “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We owe every part of our physical existence to the Lord Jesus Christ.
How can anyone study the complexity of the human body and think that it all happened by chance? It takes more faith to believe that than to believe that your body was divinely created by God.
3. He is the Radiance of God’s Glory v. 3
The word for radiance was used for sunlight streaming from the sun. Jesus is the blazing radiance of the glory of God. What sunlight is to the sun, Jesus is to God. It would be easier to try to separate sunlight from the sun than to separate the Son from God.
If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. He is not some grimy, blurry image of the Almighty. He isn’t the sun peeking through the clouds. He is the blazing, magnificent revelation of God himself. Jesus is a clear picture of God. He radiates the glory of God. Theologians have a word for this. They say the Son is “co-essential” with the Father. That means the Father and the Son share the same essence. The Father is God and the Son is God.
4. He is the Exact Representation of God’s Nature v. 3
Greek word - we get the English word “character.” Jesus shares in the character of God. This word was used for the impression made by an engraving tool when it was stamped into metal in order to make a coin. The image on the coin was precisely the image on the engraving tool. So Jesus is stamped with the image of God.
He is the “radiance of God’s glory” and the “exact representation of his being.” These 2 expressions taken together are a powerful statement of the Son’s full deity. Theologians refer to Jesus as the “only-begotten.” That term means “one-and-only.” We can truly say that not only is Jesus the Son of God, he is also God the Son. When we see Jesus Christ, we have seen as much of God as it is possible for us to see.
5. He is the Sustainer of All Things v. 3
There is a vast movement in science today seeking to discover what makes the universe hold together. What is the power behind the power behind the power? What is the Ultimate Force in the universe? Our text makes clear that the answer is not a what but a who. What makes the universe hold together? Jesus Christ is the power behind all power. He holds the universe in place by his powerful word.
Note that this is a present tense. Even now Jesus is “sustaining” the whole universe. All things hold together in him and for him and by him. His power is greater than nuclear power and his force is mightier than the mystical Force of the Star Wars movies. His might is mightier than the might of all the mighty men on earth.
Think of it. Just a word and we would all perish. Do you realize that if Jesus stopped thinking about you, you would cease to exist? You owe your next breath to the fact that Jesus Christ is thinking about you. He sustains you so that you can breathe.
Ironic - even atheists must use the power he provides to deny his very existence. They shoot their cannons of unbelief on the ground he has provided. The atheists owe their existence to the One they so vigorously deny. Jesus is the nucleus of creation and “the glue of the galaxies.”
6. He is Our Saviour v. 3
He died once for all time. His death on the cross was the complete payment for our sins. That is why he cried out, “It is finished.” I was dirty … he was clean. He became dirty … that I might be made clean.
This means that all efforts at self-reformation as a means of salvation are doomed to failure. You can clean yourself up if you like, but it will not help you gain merit with God. It is only by Jesus’ atoning death that we are forgiven by God. To add anything else to the work of Christ is nothing less than blasphemy. Biblical salvation means trusting Jesus Christ so completely that if his death is not enough to take you to heaven, you aren’t going to go there.
Jesus died that he might save us. The angel declared - “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” In these days when the world wants to water down what we believe, let us declare the truth very plainly. Jesus is not a good way to heaven or the best way to heaven. He is the only way to heaven.
7. He is Now Seated at God’s Right Hand v. 3
He sat down when he returned to heaven because his work was done. Nothing can be added to the work Christ accomplished on the cross. When it comes to salvation, there is no room for self-cleansing or for human merit. God is fully satisfied with the sacrifice of his Son. Nothing can ever be added to the merit of his blood. Until you come to the end of your striving and trust in him, you can never be saved. Until you are satisfied with what Jesus has done, you are still in your sins.
He sat down at the “right hand” of God. This is the place of highest honour. Jesus sits today at God’s right hand because it is the highest honour God could give his Son.
We may therefore say with confidence that Jesus is at the very centre of the universe. He is Lord and he is King. He is where God is. Even now Jesus reigns from heaven. Even now he reigns over the devil. He reigns over the elements of nature. He reigns over the past, the present and the future. He reigns over cancer and heart attacks and over death itself. Someday soon he will return to the earth and reign visibly from David’s throne in Jerusalem.
God has given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Today we confess this by faith. One day the whole universe will bow—willingly or unwillingly—to openly declare that Jesus is Lord.
Who is that Baby? He is …The Heir of All Things. The Creator of the Universe. The Radiance of God’s Glory. The Exact Representation of God’s Nature. The Sustainer of All Things. Our Saviour. Now Seated at God’s Right Hand.
That’s who Jesus is. That’s the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. This is the true identity of the baby born to Mary that night in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
To the architect he is the chief cornerstone. To the banker he is the hidden treasure. To the baker he is the living bread. To the builder he is the sure foundation. To the doctor he is the great physician. To the educator he is the master teacher. To the farmer he is the Lord of the harvest. To the florist he is the lily of the valley. To the geologist he is the rock of ages.
But who is Jesus to you? Do you know him? Do you know this Jesus? Is he your Saviour?
The Word of God became flesh.
The Son of God became man.
The Lord of All became a servant.
The Righteous One was made sin.
The Eternal One tasted death.
The Risen One now lives in men.
The Seated One is coming again.
Let me encourage you to think carefully about who Jesus really is. Whatever you do, don’t be casual about Christ. What you believe about the Babe of Bethlehem is a life and death matter with eternal implications.
In just a few weeks Christmas will be here. Take time to discover who Jesus really is. Don’t walk away from the manger this year without coming to grips with the tiny baby who sleeps there.