Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away. And who can speak of His descendants? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the Lord's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Since the very beginning, since creation, God has been speaking to men and women who have ears and hearts that are willing to respond to spiritual truths. God has spoken through the prophets. He has communicated His message to humans through angels.
God has also spoken in the hearts of people through the wonders of nature. Just listen to the beauty of these words from Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Romans 1:20 says “Since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
The ultimate revelation of God though, is through Himself. In the flesh of Jesus Christ, God came into this alien world, and He revealed Himself to us. In the opening verses of the book of Hebrews we read, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful Word.” There is enough in those 3 short verses to keep us going for all of eternity.
The book of Hebrews was written specifically to recent converts from the Jewish faith to Christianity, and the writer makes the point that Christ was and continues to be superior to the angels, to Moses and the prophets, all of whom God used to reveal Himself to us, and the message in the climax of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ is superior to the Aaronic priesthood as a mediator between sinful humankind and the holy God. Jesus Himself is the great High Priest, while at the same time, He is also the sacrificial Lamb who gave His life as a sacrifice for our sin.
The high priest used to enter the Most Holy Place annually on the Day of Atonement to offer the blood of a lamb, but now, as the Great High Priest, Jesus has entered heaven itself to offer His blood as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of a guilty world.
Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God, and He remains the prime means of God speaking to us today, so just what is the unique message that He brings us?
Firstly, in Christ God speaks to us concerning His unique nature. We have always wondered about the nature and character of God. People have looked for an explanation for the origin of the universe and just how and where we fit into this world.
Some think of God as the all-powerful principle behind the universe. Some regard Him as a kind of detached mechanical engineer who started the whole thing off, but has left us to our own devices, with no real concern for what happens down here – they see Him as an unloving being who lives in the distant somewhere and is unmoved by the predicament of humans.
As Christians we hold to the first principle, that God is the all-powerful source behind the universe, but we also believe that He remains intimately involved in His creation. The Old Testament is a record of God’s progressive self-revelation. He revealed Himself continually as people were able to receive and respond to that revelation. However, because of our sin, the extent of God’s revelation has always been limited – not that the problem lies with Him, but with us.
But despite our unwillingness to allow God to speak and our reluctance to listen, He continued to reveal more and more of Himself to the prophets, the priests, and the psalmists. This is the central theme of the Old Testament, but the picture which they received was limited. It was only partial.
As we move to the New Testament, there is a fundamental change in the revelation of God. This is what the writer of Hebrews meant when he said “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”
The moment God began walking this earth in human form, everything changed. Jesus consistently taught that God is good and that God is love, and He taught His disciples to think of God not as just a king but also as our heavenly Father. He pictures God as the Shepherd who goes in search of a lost sheep, as a father who longingly waits with anxiety and eagerness for the return of a wayward son. He pictures God as a God who rejoices and welcomes the wayward son and immediately prepares a banquet. To understand the nature of God, we need to examine the nature and character and motives of Jesus Christ.
The simple answer to the question “Do you want to know what God is like?” is this: “Look at Jesus.” In our second reading from John 14 today, Jesus says much the same thing to Phillip.
In the introduction of John’s gospel he writes “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.”
So the first point is that in Christ, God reveals His true nature.
Secondly, through Jesus God clearly speaks about our need of salvation.
Jesus defined His purpose for coming into the world as meeting our need for salvation. Joseph was told by the angel in Matthew 1 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” John the Baptist said “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Jesus Himself said in Mark 10:45 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
The depth of our sin and what it has actually done to us is dramatically revealed in the death of Christ on Calvary. We are far too flippant about our sin, but God isn’t and never has been. To understand the true horror and awfulness of sin we need to see what sin did to Jesus when He died on the cross for our sins.
The penalty of sin is revealed by the death of Christ on the cross. It was a substitutionary death. The most terrible part of the suffering of Jesus that day was His feeling of utter loneliness and isolation from the Father. For a time He was quite literally cut off from God because He had taken upon Himself our sins, and God turned His face away from His own Son.
He had to, because at Calvary we were also given a clear picture of the Father’s inflexible justice. The God of love and grace and mercy is also the God of justice. It is the law of God that the wages of sin is death. In a mysterious but miraculous way the God of justice has provided for our salvation by giving us a Saviour, Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was a substitutionary death, and in a way the human mind cannot fully comprehend, God let Christ be our substitute. He paid the wages of our sins.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Isaiah prophesied the death of Jesus in our Old Testament reading today: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
The just, perfect law of God states that sin results in death, and the God of grace and mercy has provided a Saviour who died for our sin, so that we are now able to receive the gift of eternal life. So in and through the Cross of Calvary God speaks about His desire and His determination to redeem people from the tyranny and penalty of sin. God hates sin, but He is gracious, and He loves the sinner, so He has made provision for His forgiveness and cleansing. That provision is through Jesus Christ. The Cross is one of the most powerful means of God speaking to us today.
Thirdly, in Christ, on Calvary, God reveals His love and concern for the unsaved. John 3:17 says “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Do you want to measure the love of God? Then look at the Cross.
In his wonderful prayer for us in Ephesians 3, Paul says “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
God demonstrated His immeasurable love for us by the suffering that His Son went through on our behalf when He was crucified for our sins. But the question is, what are we to do? How are we to respond to something which we could never possibly repay?
One of the ways we can respond to be inspired by God to work with Him in His on-going task and mission to save the lost. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5, “Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” There is that wonderful hymn written by Isaac Watts, ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died.’ To meditate on the Cross and on what it means is a life-changing experience. But it needs to spur us into action. Isaac Watts’ hymn ends with the words ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’
The love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus brings countless blessings into our lives, but it also places us under a heavy debt of gratitude that should cause us to devote our lives to telling others the good news of God’s love.
God has spoken through the law, through the prophets, through the priests and through angels. But He speaks most powerfully through His Son. Have you heard Him? Are you listening for His voice?
Each of us needs to react in one way or another to the message of Jesus. Our choice is to either accept and believe His message, and then to respond by being salt and light in this dark world, or we can choose to reject Him, but we cannot be non-committal when it comes to hearing the message of God through Jesus.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”
MacDonald’s Believers’ Bible Commentary says about this key verse: “First, the writer contrasts God’s revelation by the prophets with His revelation in His Son. The prophets were divinely inspired spokesmen for God. They were honoured servants of Jehovah. The spiritual wealth of their ministry is preserved in the OT. Yet their ministry was partial and fragmentary. To each one was committed a certain measure of revelation, but in every case it was incomplete. Not only was the truth doled out to them in instalments; they used various methods in communicating it to the people. It was presented as law, history, poetry, and prophecy. Sometimes it was oral, sometimes written. Sometimes it was by visions, dreams, symbols, or pantomime. But whatever the method used, the point is that God’s former revelations to the Jewish people were preliminary, progressive, and various in the manner of presentation. The periodic, partial, and differential prophecies of the OT have now been overshadowed by God’s pre-eminent and final revelation in the person of His Son. The prophets were only channels through whom the divine word was communicated. The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the final revelation of God to men. As John said, ‘No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known.’ The Lord Jesus said concerning Himself, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father.’ Christ speaks not only for God but as God.”
God has spoken to us right from the beginning, and He continues to do so today, ultimately through Jesus and the written Word of Scripture. Are we listening, and how will we answer His call on our lives?