By Tom Wells
CHAPTER 1: "Who
Let me give you the words of Jesus Christ again:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
To begin with, one would not have to know anything of Jesus Christ to realize that these are gracious words. That lies on their face. But as soon as we ask how they might apply to us, things change. It is clear, for instance, that these are old words, spoken long ago. But I am a modern man. That poses a problem. Gracious or not, how could words spoken two thousand years ago bear on me?
That is not all. The words of Christ speak of coming to Him. Wouldn't that limit His words to His lifetime? He was a teacher in Israel when He spoke these words. People could see Him. They could touch Him. They could come to Him in the most literal sense. But all of that is over now. It ended at a cross. Or so it would seem. If these words were a proverb, some timeless truth, we could understand them. But it is not so. They are an invitation to meet a man who lived twenty centuries ago. How can this be?
The answer lies in the person of the one who speaks. Who is He? We know His name. We call Him "Jesus" or "Jesus Christ". But that is not enough. Those names (in English, at least) do not help us. What is He like? What kind of man can issue such an invitation? That is what we need to know.
What kind of man is Jesus Christ? I can tell you in four words. He is the God-man. But then I must take the rest of this chapter to help you grasp what that means. When you see it, however, you will have your answer. You will know why He still says "Come to Me".
Jesus Christ is the God-man. He is both God and man. Let us first look at what we mean when we say He is "God". Right now that seems to be the hard part. Later, when we get hold of the fact that He is God, His being man* may seem difficult to grasp. But at this point that is not our problem.
I want to start by telling you what Christians do not mean when they say that Jesus Christ is God. They do not mean that He is like God in many ways. They are not using a figure of speech. Just now I am reminded that I have heard a handsome, muscular young man called "a Greek god!" I think I know what was meant. This young man seemed to have reached the ideal of young manhood. He was like the fairest of the ancient Greek deities. In that sense he was described as a "god". But that is not the point in calling Jesus "God". Of course, Jesus was Godlike. I would not want to deny that. But He was Godlike for the same reason that I am Tom-Wells-like. I am Tom Wells, and He is God.
In saying "Jesus Christ is God" I raise at least two difficulties. The first is this. It is hard to conceive how a man could also be God. Yet that is what Christianity says. That is what the Bible teaches. We are staggered by such words as these:
All of this seems too high for us. We hardly know what to say to it. For many, this is the "offense" of Christianity. They will not have it that God has come in human form. That is the end of it!
In a way, I have nothing to say to such people. They need to sit submissively before the Word of God. If they will not do so, I cannot help them. But here I must be very careful. And so must you. The real difficulty may lie elsewhere. It may be my second difficulty. A man might say, "I cannot see how God could come down to us in flesh," when he means something quite different. He may mean that he could conceive such a thing if, and only if, he could think of some reason to require it. That reason would have to be enormous. And he knows of no such reason.
Well, there is such a reason. But it will make no sense at all until we find out who God is, this God who has come to us in Jesus Christ. So that is what we must take up first.
How does one describe God? There seem to be two ways. We may talk about what God is in Himself. We can use words like "omniscient" (knowing all) and "omnipresent" (present everywhere). There is nothing wrong with these words, nothing at all. Theologians use them all the time, and they are right to do so. But! do not think they will help us just now.
There is another way to talk about God. That is the way! hope to take. I want to describe God as He relates to us. By "us" I mean "ourselves as human beings". That is a much more personal way to show who God is. It is like calling a man "my uncle" or calling a woman "my mother". When we talk like that we show people in relation to others. That is more personal than saying "He is a man and she is a woman".
I have three names for God in mind. The first is Creator. The Bible teaches that God made us. We may say, "God is my Creator. God is your Creator". When we say that, we are not speaking impersonally. We are talking about how God touches our lives. We are His creatures. He is our Maker. That is how we relate to Him, and He to us. It is not necessary for us to know all about how God made us. That is beyond us. But the fact that God made us is of first importance.
When God made all things, He had some purpose in view. He made you and me with some goal in mind. If we were sticks and stones we could not ask what His purpose was. But He made us with intellect, with minds to grasp His purpose. We are able to ask the question, "Why am I here?" We are meant to ask that question. And, sooner or later, we do ask it.
Here is one of the most striking facts about human nature. Men may claim that there is no God. They may say that life is without meaning. Yet they cannot avoid asking, "Why am I here?" And they cannot escape the feelings that come in answering that question. Do not be surprised when men around you seem plunged in despair for no apparent reason. They have asked the question, "Why am I here?" And they have answered it without God. Man may deny that he has a Creator. But he must live with the consequences of that denial. He must experience the frustrations and terrors of meaninglessness if he denies his Creator. God has made him that way.
But if God made us for a purpose, what is it? Why are we here?
Now I think you will see something important at once. It is this. The only one who can tell us why we are here is God Himself. We may be sure that when a person makes something he does it for some purpose. That is true of any person, whether God or man. A man, for instance, may make a kite. If we have not seen a kite before, we are sure to ask, "What is that?" And we shall not be satisfied with the answer, "It is a combination of sticks and paper". No, that will not do. We will not let its maker alone until he tells us its purpose. "Why?" expects an answer, and only its maker can give it.
In this way we come to see our need for some word from God. The Bible is that word. In it God has told us a great deal. And, especially, He has told us why He made us. Let us see what God has said.
Here, for a start, are words of Paul the apostle to a crowd of men at Athens:
In this place Paul tells us three things. First, we have a Creator. There is a God in heaven "who made the world and everything in it". Second, God has not abandoned His world. "He gives all men life and breath and everything else". Third, in words that I have underlined, Paul makes plain why God made us. "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him." You and I were created to know God.
But Paul said more to these Athenians:
Here Paul suggests the two other names for God that I promised you. If God is our Creator, He is also our Lawgiver. In Paul's words, God "commands all people everywhere". It is not hard to imagine God as Lawgiver. Since He made us He must know best how we ought to live. He alone could tell us what we ought to do and what we must not do. God's role as Lawgiver follows naturally from the fact that He is our Creator.
And then a third thing follows. God is our Judge. "He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice". Since God made us for His purposes He has told us how we must live. But He is not content to leave things there. At the end of history He will do something else. He will ask us what we have done with His laws. He will know whether we have aimed at His purpose. The three roles go together: Creator, Lawgiver and Judge.
Now let us look back a moment. In the past few pages I have tried to do two things. First I aimed briefly to describe God. After all, it makes no sense to talk of God coming among us if we have no idea who God is. But I also meant to do something else. I tried to lay the groundwork to answer the difficulty we looked at earlier. I am talking about the difficulty which says, "I can't imagine a reason big enough for God to become man!" That is the hurdle we must get over.
The answer is bound up with what we have learned about God. First, God is our Creator. And He made us to know Him, to have fellowship with Him. Now here is the point. If some insuperable barrier to knowing God developed, then we would have a reason great enough to lead God to become man.
Again, God is our Lawgiver. And here is a further consideration. If some insuperable barrier to obeying God developed, then we would have a reason great enough to lead God to become man.
Once more, God shall be our Judge. And here is the last point. If some insuperable barrier to our passing His judgment developed, then we would have a reason great enough to lead God to become man.
And that is what has happened. Each of these things is true. These "insuperable barriers" exist. We could do literally nothing about them. They could not be overcome without God coming among us as a man. And so, that is precisely what He has done. In Jesus Christ we have one who is God in the flesh. He speaks to us with the authority that none but God has. We do well to listen to His gracious invitation, "Come to me..."