Jesus was, is, and always will be in a league of his own.
Many are happy to honor him as a good teacher and social reformer, and some religions even admit that he was a great prophet of God. But none of them go far enough.
The Greatest Messenger
Jesus was not just another prophet like those who had come before him. Nor was he merely a great moralist and motivator. He was, and is, qualitatively different.
Jesus is, as the Father himself testified at his baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration, God’s beloved Son (Mark 1:11; 9:7). And as God’s Son, “he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). You cannot get any greater than this.
So Jesus surpasses every other messenger God has sent, or ever could send, because by his very nature, he far exceeds all other contenders.
The Greatest Message
Not only is Jesus the greatest messenger. The message he brings is also the greatest, trumping every message that has ever, or could ever be, proclaimed.
Certainly Jesus’s ministry was not disconnected from, or contrary to, what God had spoken through his earlier prophets. They were, after all, speaking God’s words. But Jesus is himself the very Word of God incarnate (John 1:1, 14). His message has exceeded the prophets, because it is the fulfillment of everything they had previously promised. He is the fulfillment.
It’s similar to why a woman’s “I do” at the altar is better than her “Yes” at engagement. “Yes” is the happy promise to marry, but “I do” is the actual marrying (which is the reason she said “Yes” in the first place — and the reason he asked!). So “I do” is the goal and fulfillment of “Yes.”
In the same way, Isaiah’s prophecy that the Suffering Servant will “make an offering for guilt” (Isaiah 53:10) is surpassed by Jesus’s words from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). “It is finished” was the goal, and is now the fulfillment, of “he will make an offering for guilt.” And Jesus himself is that offering.
If He Had Not Come
What would be our lot if Jesus had not come? What realities and beauties and graces we live in would become untrue? What would we not know if he had not come?
On the one hand, it’s an impossible question. The whole universe is in him, through him, and for him (Colossians 1:16). Without him, everything comes apart. But on the other hand, it can help us appreciate his coming to consider some of the numerous individual blessings owing directly to it. Which are some of the most important truths in all the world and throughout all time.
If Jesus had not come, we would not know God’s complete faithfulness. We would not know the fulfillment of every last promise, including the very first one he made: that an offspring of Eve would crush the head of our great adversary, Satan (Genesis 3:15).
If Jesus had not come, we would not know the fullness of God’s love. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
If Jesus did not come, we would not know the depths of God’s humility and compassion toward us. According to Hebrews 2:17, Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Jesus was made like us in every respect — he took on all of our weaknesses and temptations and sufferings. And he did it that he might be a more merciful advocate for us.
Finally, if Jesus did not come, we would not know his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and thus we would not know our own salvation. There would be no salvation for sinners. “If while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
Seeing and enjoying Jesus as the incomparable Son of God, and the embodiment of his greatest blessings, is the only true way to have him.
This is the most urgent item on the agenda today and every day. May God give you fresh eyes to see and enjoy the Son, and the grace to keep seeing and enjoying him with ever-increasing clarity, joy, and awe.