Who is Jesus? It is a perennial question. And there must be as many diverse answers to that question as any other person who ever walked on this planet. Even during his life on earth, Christ’s very presence was a point of remarkable debate. Some said Jesus was God, and others said he was demon possessed. Some said Jesus was a good teacher, and others called him a liar. Some said he was brilliant, and others labeled him insane. Jesus was applauded as a prophet, and he was dismissed as a babbling blasphemer. So who is this Jesus? In the words of Hebrews 1:3, we are told Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” In a 1996 sermon, John Piper answered the age old question: Who is Jesus?
Who is it that sat down at the right hand? Who is it that went to the cross? Who is it that was buried and rose again? Who is it that upholds all things by the word of his power? Who is Jesus Christ? He is the exact representation of the divine nature, or of God’s nature. What does that mean? Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9). Paul said, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
Radiance of Glory
But do you know what? You could say that sentence — “He is the exact representation of the nature of God” — and be absolutely wrong in the way you think about it. For example:
- You could say that Jesus is the representation of God the Father the way a painting represents a person. And you would be wrong.
- You could say that Jesus represents the nature of God the way an authorized letter from a king represents the king. And you would be wrong.
- Or you could say that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the exact representation of God the Father in that a wax mold has an impress and it perfectly represents the ring. And you would be wrong.
And the reason we know that would be utterly inadequate to talk that way is because the first phrase tells us how he is a representation, and it isn’t any of those. He is an exact representation of the Father in that “he is the radiance of [his] glory” (Hebrews 1:3). He represents the glory of God the way radiance represents glory.
That is very different than a painting representing a person, a letter, a king, a wax mold, and a ring. Radiance coming out from a light, streaming down from the sun, is not another thing. It is not a different essence than the thing. The radiance of the glory is the glory radiating. That is the profound thing to get a handle on here: Christ is not other than God representing God. He is God representing God. He is the Father streaming out in glory, standing forth in another person whose essence is the same divine essence.
We are talking mystery here, I realize. And we won’t begin to exhaust this or end it, but we can see a little bit. The window can be cracked enough so that we can worship aright and not make heretical statements about the Son being a creature or a mere prophet.
Four Ways the Son Radiates the Father’s glory
Let me give you, in closing, four ways that the Son streams out or is radiating the glory of the Father.
1. The Father and the Son are coeternal.
First, let’s compare him with the sun, the sun radiating out its beams. There is no time when the sun exists that its radiant light does not exist. They are so much a part of each other that when the sun exists, the radiance of the sun exists. When God the Father exists, the Son exists. They are coeternal. The Father did not exist and then say, “I think I shall bring into being a Son.” That is not the way it happened. He is eternally begotten, eternally streaming out. Where there is light, there are rays. Where there is God, there is a Son of God. The radiance is the glory radiating out. It is not essentially different. The Son of God is God. He is not by nature another being.
2. The Son is not created or made.
Compare this with a solar calculator. I think of this because I was using one the other night, getting my tax stuff ready. And I asked Barnabas, “Where is the off switch here?” He says, “It is a solar calculator. Just put it back in the cover. It goes off.” Now what that means is that when the sun or the light in my dining room shines on this little window, a little black number appears. Now it would be fair to say that the light created that or made it, produced it in some way. And that number is not the light.
So don’t ever think of the Son of God like the numbers on a solar calculator — that God made the Son; he brought the Son into being like that. The Son is the light shining on the world and making the world. He is begotten, not made, the old creeds say. The point being that you beget like: Humans beget humans, dogs beget puppies, cats beget kittens, and God begets God.
3. The Son mediates the Father.
It is by means of the rays of the light that we see light. In the first service at this point the sun came out and a big beam just landed on about forty people right there. It was unbelievable. It was great. If you try to look up through that window at the sun when it’s shining, first of all, it will blind you. Don’t do that. And that is just a little reflection of God. God would blind you too. You have to have a means to see God. You have to have a mediator. The mediator is the Son of God, and the Son of God is the radiance of the glory of God.
The light that is on your face right now arrived there eight minutes after it left the sun. About eight minutes ago, while I was preaching it left the sun. These beams went out and they landed right on our faces. Now if you look at those rays you can actually see — if you put on the right glasses — you see a ball, or at sunrise and sundown when it is safe, you can see a ball. Are you seeing the sun? Yeah, you are seeing the sun, but actually you are seeing eight minutes later what the means of the sun’s rays give to you to see. What we are seeing is a ball that is eight minutes old, being mediated to us by light streaming over 93 million miles from the sun. But we are seeing the sun, folks. That is the sun. And when you look at Jesus Christ, you are seeing God.