Before you read any further, think about it for a second. Who is Jesus? How would you describe Him to someone who had never heard the gospel?
Outside the church, many think Jesus was a good teacher, the protagonist of a story made up to enforce morality, or a complete narcissist bent on gaining power. To believers in the church, the question might feel elementary, but we still need to have an answer. If belief in Jesus is the core of our faith, we ought to know in whom we believe.
I am still learning who Jesus is. At the beginning of the semester, I would have told you that He is my Savior, Redeemer, and Friend and that I rely on Him for salvation and strength — and I would not have been wrong. But recently, through my college small group, God brought my attention to Jesus’s character in a new way.
We were reading Revelation 1, in which the apostle John, who is in exile on the island of Patmos, has a vision:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.Revelation 1:12-16 ESV
“One like a son of man” refers to Daniel 7:13-14, where Daniel sees a vision of “one like a son of man” to whom the Ancient of Days gives an eternal kingdom. Jesus often refers to himself as “Son of Man” (for a non-exhaustive list, see Matthew 8:20, 9:6, 12:8, 12:40, 17:9, 17:22, 20:28, 26:2; Mark 9:31, 10:33, 14:21; Luke 9:26, 9:44, 12:8, 12:40, 19:10). The Son of Man that John sees is Jesus.
And Jesus, this Son of Man, is quite intimidating. He has a sword coming out of his mouth (this imagery is used elsewhere to describe God’s Word; see Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17), and His face is bright as the sun. He is pure, holy, and powerful — and frankly, He’s a little frightening. Jesus is God, worthy of all of our adoration and reverence. And when John sees Him, he rightly falls on his face before Him.
But do you know what Jesus does? What Jesus says to John?
He lays his right hand on John and says,
“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”Revelation 1:17-18
Jesus doesn’t follow “Fear not” with a list of attributes that make John less afraid. Instead, He reminds John that he is falling on his face before the One who holds the keys to death, who lives forever, the Alpha and the Omega.
And yet He says, “Fear not.”
Revelation 1 reminds us of Jesus’s holiness and power and awesomeness, but it also reminds us not to shrink away from Him in fear. This Jesus whose face is bright as the sun is the same Jesus who says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). This same Jesus who sits on a throne and reigns over an eternal kingdom tells us, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15).
Who is Jesus? He is powerful and just. He does not tolerate sin. He has power over life and death. And yet, despite our sin and mess, He died for us. The Jesus of Revelation 1 is the Jesus of Matthew 11:29. He tells us not to fear, not because He does not inspire fear, but because His total power and majesty and wisdom is put into motion for our good.
If you don’t have an answer to who Jesus is, I encourage you to seek an answer by reading the Bible, talking to Christians, and praying. If you do have an answer, I encourage you to continue reading His Word and spending time in prayer. We get to know people better by spending time with them, and that’s how we learn who Jesus is, too. And as we grow in our knowledge of this Jesus, we can say with John in Revelation 1:5-6, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”