Humans are driven to make sense of reality.
One philosopher has said we are “hurled into existence.” And now we find ourselves asking the question, “What just happened?”
All of us engage with “metanarrative” and “metaphysics,” which are just fancy words to describe the basic question, “What is this life all about?” The question addresses the entirety of our reality. This is not a question about America, or about snowboarding, baseball, history, psychology, or topics like these. This is a question regarding all things. This is a question about life.
Why do we exist? Why does the world around us exist?
I am reminded of the little kid that incessantly asks, “Why?” no matter how many times you give him an answer.
“Why are you going to the store?” “ Because we need eggs.” “Why?” “Because we need to have them for breakfast tomorrow.” “Why?” “Because we need to eat breakfast to have energy for our day.” “Why?” “Because we need energy to feel good and work hard and take care of our responsibilities.” “Why?”
If we would follow this seeming rabbit trail we would actually stumble upon some of life’s most metaphysical questions.
“Why work?” “Why eat food?” “Why try to keep ourselves and the ones we love alive and healthy?” “Why seek pleasure?” “Why be a good person?”
These questions will lead to the ultimate question, eventually: “What is life all about?”
So these are not irrelevant questions just for kids. They are some of the most important questions to be considered. And this goes to show that metaphysics is for children, not just the philosophy club.
Ralph Waldo Emerson knew that “all things with which we deal, preach to us.” He was convinced that every aspect of our life and our universe has a message, that our world is telling us something. Every atom. Every ocean. Reality is filled to the brim with meaning.
Some people claim our reality is a dream or an illusion. Others claim our reality was created and set in motion by God. Others claim that multiple gods or spirits created our world. Others claim that God used to be a man, just like us, and we have the opportunity to become gods, just like him. Some say Jesus is God. Some say it isn’t possible to know the origins of our world. Some say Muhammad speaks God’s word to humanity in the Quran. Some believe the gods must be appeased by animal or even human sacrifice. Others believe there is no God or gods or intelligent beings which are not physical.
But one thing is for certain, none of us go without an opinion of our existence. The handful of ideologies I listed are only a drop in the ocean of the creeds, religions, mottos, and spiritualities which attempt to explain our existence and the existence of our world.
Humans are driven to make sense of reality.
This book assumes that Jesus is the answer to these questions. Jesus, the Jewish carpenter who lived 2000 years ago, is the Creator and the Meaning of the world. He is the Creator and Meaning of food and drink, sex, work, trees, and philosophy itself. He is the Great Metanarrative. This is his story.
Jonathan Edwards believed that creation is “full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words.” Like Emerson, Edwards believed that our reality speaks a meaningful message to us. Our reality is essentially a spiritual lesson. But unlike Emerson, Edwards believed that the world speaks a specific message: the glory of Christ Jesus.
Even more specific than the claim that life is about God or a god or a Creator or spirituality in general, Christians believe that life is about the person Jesus Christ.
The Scripture makes this claim in many places, but perhaps most clearly in Colossians 1:16:
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
This claim is a big one, and I hope to scratch the surface of its implications. Creation and history, from start to finish, from top to bottom, is all about Jesus. This includes big things like mountains and kingdoms, and it includes the little things like a fresh cup of coffee or a hike in the Gorge. This includes your relationship with your spouse as well as your career.
The point is that Jesus is intimately related to everything we know and experience.
Karl Barth puts it well: “The Ground and Goal of the entire cosmos means Jesus Christ.”
One of Benjamin Franklin’s personal mottos was, “all things in moderation.” Alcohol is okay, in moderation. Enjoying food is okay, in moderation. Sleep, exercise, and play are all good things in moderation. Everything in moderation.
And he was right about everything, except Jesus. This is because he didn’t necessarily believe that Jesus was the Great Metanarrative.
Everything should be in moderation, except Jesus. Alcohol, food, sex, money, exercise, sweets – these should all be in moderation because they are not what life is all about. Jesus is what life is all about. These created things we enjoy are only a part of the show. Yes, they are good things, but they are good precisely because of what they mean: Jesus.
Therefore, to obsess over something like crossfit or vegetarianism to the point where that thing becomes the meaning and identity of your life and the only thing you talk about is ridiculous, and, from a biblical perspective, idolatrous. The world does not revolve around crossfit or vegetarianism. Everything in moderation.
Except Jesus, because the universe does revolve around him.
The Bible teaches us many times that God has made Jesus the center of our universe. All nations, all peoples, and all creation point to him.
Many passages in the Psalms present the Messiah as the Son of God and a King who will reign over all peoples and the entire world.
“I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”
“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool… The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.”
Isaiah 9:7 uses similar language to describe the Messiah in the well known Christmas passage:
“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. “
Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13-14 describes the Son of Man:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
The Apostle Paul declares this about Jesus:
Phil 2:9-10 “… God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Then at the end of Scripture, the book of Revelation gives us a powerful picture of the glory of Jesus, the Lamb:
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’”
From start to climax to conclusion of the Scripture, the glory of Jesus is portrayed as the central purpose for the world’s existence. The Father has designed and directed all of creation and history, all peoples and persons, all for the glory of Jesus.
The reason I walk through the Scripture’s exaltation of the Son of God is to show that, for the Christian, there is a clear answer to the question of the meaning of life: Jesus. The meaning of life is therefore not a vague notion that we attempt to grasp. Rather, the meaning of life is happily found in Jesus. He is the reason God created the world.
If you miss Jesus, you miss everything.
So, on the outset, it is important to ask the question, who is Jesus?
Why would the universe be all about him? What is so significant about that Jewish Rabbi? Why would Jesus be the meaning of life?
The answer lies in understanding how the Scripture reveals Jesus. We will spend eternity answering these questions and exploring the depth of the character and person of Jesus.
But what better place to start than considering what the Scripture says about Jesus?
Here are six claims the Bible makes about Jesus.
Jesus is the Glory of God.
The Glory of God can be an extremely allusive and vague idea. Many theologians say that God does all things for his glory, often perhaps to excuse some of the more scandalous things God does.
But, the implications of God doing all things for his glory depends on the meaning of the phrase, “The Glory of God.”
What is glory? What is God’s glory?
Glory, as I understand it, is basically the best someone or something has to offer or show for themselves. People’s highest achievements are their glory.
Glory is like the father who is proud of his son, and wants everyone to meet his son or see his son hit that home run in baseball. His son is his identity, and he is proud of his son. His son is his glory.
Glory is like our Facebook profile picture. It is that picture of us hitting the jump on a snowboard, or playing guitar on stage, or hiking with good friends. We upload our favorite pictures that display the best of our lives. Profile pictures show our glory.
Glory is that thing we like about ourselves and so we showcase it, and set it out front so everyone sees it.
When we look at the culmination of the biblical picture of God’s glory we find Jesus:
Heb 1:1-3: “He the radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint of his nature.”
Jesus is God’s Glory. He displays the best of God. Not that God hides other aspects of his identity, like we do with our Facebook profile picture. Rather, God’s Glory is the fullness of his reality: Jesus.
So we do not need to grasp at vague notions of glory, thinking of American patriotism or Kobe Bryant, although these may well be small pictures of glory. But the life and work and person of Jesus ought to be our great teacher. He teaches us what glory is. He is the glory of God.
Jesus is the Fullness of God.
The Bible speaks specifically of the fullness of God dwelling in Jesus:
“In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:19).
“In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9).
The doctrine of the Trinity might lead us to believe that Jesus is one third of God. As if each of the persons of the Trinity are pieces to the entire pie.
But here Paul teaches us that we find the entirety of God in Jesus, rather than one third. There is nothing hidden behind the curtain. We have all of God in Jesus Christ.
There is nothing that is true about God which is not true about Jesus Christ. Of course, God is all-powerful, all-knowing, immortal, invisible (1 Tim 1:17), and Jesus has “emptied himself” in these ways (Phil 2:7). Still, the Scripture would have us understand that Jesus is God in all his fullness.
Jesus is the Word of God.
Throughout the Scripture the Word of God is seen creating and redeeming. This imagery teaches us that Yahweh does not leave his people to be lost in the world, but he continually communicates and makes himself known, and seeks relationship.
In the creation account of Genesis 1 the author repeats the phrase, “And God said.” This is to emphasize the power of the Word of God to create the world.
Psalms 33:6: “By the Word of Yahweh the heavens were made…”
God creates the world by his Word. But he also redeems his people and brings death to life by his Word. One of the clearest pictures of this is Ezekiel 37. In this story, the prophet describes the instructions God gives him: “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the Word of the Yahweh.’”
The Word of the Yahweh then creates life and flesh in a valley of dry bones.
Through countless stories, the Hebrew Bible gives us a full picture of the Word of Yahweh creating the world, leading and redeeming his people, and judging evil nations.
So, it is significant that John begins his Gospel with this claim about Jesus, the Son of God:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
The Word of Yahweh, which created the world and redeems people and brings down nations is Jesus, according to the New Testament:
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Jesus is the Image of God.
In Colossians 1:15 Paul says, “He is the Image of the invisible God.”
And 2 Corinthians 4:4 speaks of “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
The New Testament authors clearly understood Jesus to be God’s image.
The gist behind this idea is that God reveals himself concretely in Jesus. There is no physical representation of the eternal, invisible God like the man Jesus Christ.
John 1:18 puts it this way: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s right hand, he has made him known” (John 1:18).
John is telling us that there is a God who is at the Father’s right hand, who is the “only God”, or the “one and only God.” In the context of these verses, John is speaking of Jesus, the Son of God (v 14) This means that Jesus is as much the one and only God as the Father is the one and only God.
John also states that no one had ever seen the one and only God, but that Jesus, who is the only God, has made him known. Jesus has made him concrete and visible, taking on a human body.
Human beings are in a condition of separation from the the one and only God. We cannot see God. We are left to philosophical speculations. And speculate we do.
Yet, according to John, there is no need to be left to speculation. If we want to know what God looks like we must only observe the person and work of Jesus, his life, his compassion, his miracles, his hatred for injustice, his care for the marginalized, his giving up his body and spirit to crucifixion for the forgiveness of human sin.
When we observe the life of Jesus we learn what God looks like. There is no clearer picture of God than Jesus. We understand God to the extent that we understand what Jesus is like. The path to knowing God is found in knowing Jesus and meditating on his character.
Jesus is God’s image.
It is true that all humanity is created in the image of God, and given the purpose and significance of reflecting his character in our world. But we have rejected this identity and shamed the Name of the Father who created us.
But the story of Scripture is that God himself has become a human being, so that human beings may see what God looks like once again because of Jesus, the image of God.
We, like Jesus’ disciple Philip, might be tempted to ask Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be good enough!”
And Jesus would answer us like he answered Philip: “Have I not been with you so long, and you still do not known me?” (John 14:8-9)
Jesus is Yahweh.
The New Testament immediately teaches us that Jesus is the Lord, that he is Yahweh, the Name of the God of the Old Testament.
Matthew tells us that John the Baptizer fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of Yahweh, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Isaiah 40:3).
John was preparing the way for Jesus, the Lord. The New Testament recognizes the coming of Jesus as the coming of Yahweh, the Lord.
And even more direct, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58), upon which the Jews attempt to stone him, knowing he has identified himself with the Great I AM of the Scripture, Yahweh, the Hebrew God.
Yes, there are explicit verses in Scripture which affirm that Jesus is God. But more specifically, and perhaps the clearest claim that Jesus is God himself, is the identification of Jesus with the name of the Hebrew God: Yahweh.
Christians call the second book of the Bible “Exodus”, which means “going out.” But the Hebrew name for this book is “the Book of Names.” And we find in the Book of Names that God tells us his name (Ex 3). His name is Yahweh.
There is much discussion and debate around meaning of the word “Yahweh.” It comes from the Hebrew verb “to be.” Most translate the name, “I am who I am.”
But, with all the discussion and debate of the meaning of God’s name, it is easy to forget this astounding fact; God has a personal name: Yahweh.
God is a personal being who wishes to know and be known.
And Jesus is Yahweh.
Jesus is the Son of God.
One of the most well known biblical claims about Jesus Christ is that he is the Son of God. But we often fail to meditate on the significance and the meaning and the implications of this Truth.
This means that Jesus teaches us that God has a Son. Not a son who was created and came into being at a certain point. But rather, the Son who existed with the Father when only God existed. There was never a time when God existed without his Son. If the Son of God did not exist then God would not exist, because God is the Father of his Son, in the love of the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus is about to go the cross, he prays these words to his Father: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5).
Before the world existed, Jesus was in the presence of the Father, and it was glorious.
Before creation, when only God existed, the glory of the Father and the Son together in the Holy Spirit existed. Community existed. Love existed.
This is why Jesus, the Beloved Son of God, is such an important person. He shows us that God is eternally love, eternally relationship, eternally a Father loving his Son, eternally community. God lives in the fullness of these things apart from his creation.
It is not that God merely has the potential to be a Father, as if God needed to created sons and daughters to manifest his fatherhood. No, the biblical God eternally flourishes in his fatherhood, because he has a Beloved Son, who is Jesus.
When John baptized Jesus, the Spirit descended on Jesus, and the Father said, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).
This book is about Jesus, and it suggests that every object, every moment, every person, molecule, tree, story, and idea is an image or picture or “type” of Jesus. But this suggestion is outlandish unless we understand Jesus to be the Jesus of the Bible.
Jesus is the image of God. He is Yahweh. He is the Son of God. You cannot possibly glorify Jesus without also glorifying the Triune God, because Jesus contains the fullness of God in his body. And we cannot think about God, his glory, his name, his fame, or what he is like without thinking about Jesus. If we do, we sever ourselves from basic biblical theology.
I do not believe the world points to some Unmoved Mover, or to the Big Man Upstairs. I believe the world points to Jesus, who reveals the Triune God to us in all his fullness. The world exudes images of love, relationship, and community. Everywhere we look we see a oneness which reflects Jesus’ oneness with the Father: basketball teams, business departments, components to a product, atoms which make up molecules.
Look around you. Is there one thing that is not made up of multiple parts?
Think about your life. Does it not center around the love of family and friends?
The world uniquely points to the Triune three-in-one God revealed in Jesus, and not the Mormon God, the Jehovah Witness God, or any God who is not the eternal Love of the Father and Son and Spirit. The world uniquely reflects the God who is one and who is many, who is Jesus Christ.
His character is the warp and woof of our existence.
He is the sense behind our reality.