Who is Jesus Christ? Mark opens his gospel with these words: ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ (Mark 1:1) St. Paul also says the Jesus Christ is the light of the gospel and the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4) He is a portrait of God’s likeness, the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:14) What are images but photographs or impressions that we either take with a camera, draw with a pencil or paint with a brush? Paul is not saying that Jesus is an image taken or drawn by human hands or art. He is saying that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. God cannot be seen and is therefore beyond the art and craft of human minds or abilities. There are many examples of these gods in the ancient world, drawn or sculptured, made from stone or brass to represent a god and most nations had not one god but many. They were created to represent other beings than themselves who had powers far greater than human beings. But no one really knew whether there was one God or many. There were gods of the hearth, gods of war, gods of the sea and gods of death. All these gods were created out of fear, imagination and the need to explain how the world came to be. But now God has made himself known through Jesus Christ, his Son. The invisible God has removed the veil of his Being and disclosed himself through Jesus Christ, not an image made by man but an image in flesh and blood that St. John says, ‘lived among us and we beheld his glory.’ (John 1:14) John said, Jesus Christ ‘Is the Word (Spirit) made flesh, who lived among us, whom we saw, his Godliness straight from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14 Modern English translation) That is why Jesus is the image of God, an image visible to us in his Son who became man and dwelt among us. He is not a sinful man made image of God, superstitious, blurred and distorted by man’s sinful nature but holy, pure, loving and just revealed by Jesus Christ, his Son.
BEGOTTEN Everything about Jesus hinges upon the word ‘begotten’. Jesus was not born out of the imagination or the need to explain God but as the begotten Son of God. To be begotten means to come from God. Just as you are begotten of your father so Jesus is begotten of his heavenly Father. Your father did not make you, hence you were begotten of him. This is precisely what to be begotten means, to come from but not to be made by. Hence Jesus was not made by God. He is not a created human or divine being. God did not create him for like God, his Father, he is uncreated and uncaused. The Nicene Creed puts it this way: Jesus Christ is ‘begotten not made’, and so acknowledges that the life of Jesus is not caused or created. Nor is he known for his eternal being is beyond the knowledge of man. This is also confirmed by the words of Jesus, ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ (Matthew 11:27 NRSV) God and Christ are not a compound that can be examined like a body. There is a consanguinity (begotten of) in the only Son that is identical with the Father. Yet Jesus never spoke of himself as God and he called his Father the true God. (John 17:3)
GOD Just as we are human beings, human being the essence of our species, Jesus is God’s being, Godness being the essence of his being. In every respect he shares in the being of God just as we share in the being of humans. The only difference is this, whilst Jesus is like God, or the image of God, he does not share in the same attributes of knowing or being almighty. Jesus acknowledges that he does not have all foreknowledge: ‘But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.’ (Mark 13:32) The Apostles creed asserts quite rightly that, “I believe in the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth...’ Nevertheless Jesus is described by the Nicene Creed as ‘Light of Light, true God of true God’. In other words his light and his Godness are the same as his Father’s. This is sometimes taken to mean that Jesus is God. This is a mistake if by God we mean the greatest of all beings. Jesus never asserted that he was God. There is a relationship of Oneness between the Father and the Son that is consubstantial, (having one nature) but not contiguous, (the closeness of position and place). Speaking of his Father Jesus said, ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. He speaks of himself as being sent and of his Father the only true God who sent him.