Who is Jesus?
Who is Jesus? And what does it matter to us who He is?
In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae, Paul describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God” (1:15). The Greek word Paul uses here is eikon. A diminutive form of that word is found in an ancient letter from a Greek soldier named Apion to his father Epimachus. Apion writes, “I send you a little portrait of myself painted by Euctemon.” The use of eikon here gives us a bit of an idea about who Jesus is: His is the visible portrait of the invisible God. As John 1:18 puts it, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.”
In his commentary on Paul’s letter to the Colossians, William Barclay adds a further explanation: “When a legal document was drawn up, such as a receipt or an IOU, it always included a description of the chief characteristics and distinguishing marks of the contracting parties, so that there could be no evasion and no mistake. The Greek word for such a description is eikon.” In today’s context, the distinguishing mark of a person would be the person’s signature, or fingerprints, or DNA. That’s who Jesus is. He is the signature of God. He is the fingerprint of God within this world. He bears the very DNA of God. If we want to know the character and nature of God, what we need to do is to look at Jesus.
Paul also describes Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation” (1:15) and as “the firstborn from the dead” (1:18). The wording here can be a bit confusing to us. We may think Paul is suggesting that when God got around to creating things, the first “thing” He created was Jesus. But in the writings of that time, the term “firstborn” was not as much a description of time or sequence as of stature and honor. Paul was not implying that Jesus was the first “thing” God created, but he was stressing that Jesus has the place of honor over all of creation and over the resurrection from the dead. Paul makes this clear in verses 16-17: “For in Him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Jesus is the One who has sovereignty over creation and over resurrection. If we want to be at peace with creation, and if we want to be at peace with death and resurrection, the way to do it is through the One who has authority over them.
Paul also describes Jesus as the One through whom God was pleased to reconcile all things to Himself (1:20-22). According to the Associated Press, on July 15, 1994, Victoria Hoffman accidentally drove into a rain-swollen lake. While holding her 7-year-old son up, she struggled to keep her own head above water enough to scream for help and gasp for air. When rescuers arrived, she used her last bit of strength to shove her son to the rescuer before she was pulled under water to her death. On the cross, Jesus gave us into the hands of our Rescuer while giving up His life to save us. Jesus is the One who reconciles us to God! As Paul put it in Colossians 1:21-22, “And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His fleshly body through death, so as to present you hold and blameless and irreproachable before Him.”