by Bob Wheeler


Fra Angelico, The Annunciation


If Jesus were merely an ordinary human being His birthday would be no more worth celebrating than those of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. But Jesus was no ordinary human being. He was the Son of God come into the world. There has never been anyone like Him either before or since.

The anonymous Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament was apparently aimed at Christians from Jewish backgrounds who were tempted to give up the Christian faith under social pressure. The author of the epistle argues that that would be a tragic mistake, tantamount to losing one’s salvation. Why? Because of who Jesus is.

In the opening verses the author gives us a description of the unique position that Jesus occupies. He makes several significant statements about who Jesus is and what He did.

The text tells us that God “has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things . . .” (Heb. 1:2: NASV). Jesus is, in some special and unique way, God’s very own Son; and as such, God has made Him “heir of all things.” The universe and all that is in it belongs to God, because He made it. And because Christ is His Son, Christ is His heir, as it were. That, in effect, makes Christ the Lord of the universe, the One to whom everyone owes allegiance.

This does not mean, however, that Christ is somehow separate and distinct from God Himself, for the text goes on to say that Christ is “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (v. 3). A “radiance” is inseparably connected to the luminous body from which it emanates, thus underscoring Christ’s connection with the rest of the Godhead. “The exact representation of His nature” is a perfect likeness of the divine essence. In other words, Jesus was a visible manifestation of God’s being and attributes. He was nothing less than God Himself in human form. Jesus was God made flesh.

But our text also says that Christ was the One through whom God made the world (v. 2), and that Christ “upholds all things by the word of His power” (v. 3). Christ was directly involved in the creation of the universe, and He continues to sustain it by His power. Thus all of created reality is, in a very real sense, dependent upon Him for its very existence.

And then the text says that Christ “made purification of sins” (v. 3). The language is borrowed from the temple ritual in the Old Testament, in which sin was viewed as a stain or an impurity which must be cleansed with the blood of a slain animal. As the author of the epistle will go on to show, only Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, can really purify us from sin. If He had been a mere human being, He would have been a sinner like the rest of us, and would have had to atone for His own guilt. But as the sinless Son of God He could come into the world to atone for our sins. Apart from Him we would be lost and helpless.

And in the end He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (v. 3), thus occupying a position of preeminence over all of created reality.

This, then, was the extraordinary Person who was born that day in Bethlehem. He was nothing less than God incarnate and the Savior of the world.   His birth was the great turning point in history. Up until that time the world was sunk in heathen darkness – violence and corruption overflowed the earth. Only one tiny nation, the nation of Israel, possessed even a tiny glimpse of the truth.

But with the birth of Christ there dawned a new era. An atonement would be made for sin; the gospel would go forth unto the ends of the earth, and salvation would be offered to all mankind. Millions would ultimately find peace and joy in salvation. And we owe it all to Christ. It was His incarnation that day in Bethlehem that made it all possible.