Who Is This?
By Pastor Chip Hammond
“Who is this?” It was a funny question. They knew who he was. Why, one of them – Philip – had said to his brother, “We have found him of whom Moses and also the Prophets wrote.” And yet in the aftermath of the storm that they felt sure would scuttle their boat and take their lives, they were faced afresh with this One at whose rebuke the wind and waves obeyed, they were compelled to ask it again. “Who is this?”
As the air turns cold, and frost kisses the ground; as the smell of pumpkin pie and seasonal spice, along with the welcome warmth and soft light that greets you as you come in from the cold air of a dark afternoon; and as you get down from the attic those traditions which you haven’t seen since last Advent season; I pray that you may be compelled to turn your thoughts toward Whom and what this season celebrates, and ask again, “Who is this?” and wonder again that He is the One of whom Moses and all the Prophets wrote.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Moses started a book with similar words (Gen. 1:1-2). He told us that in the beginning the earth was chaotic, formless and void. But the Spirit of God was there hovering over the surface of the deep to bring the creation to its consummation. And so John tells us that Christ, the inaugurator of the new creation who will make all things new walked on the surface of the waters (John 6:19).
On the first day of the old creation, God called forth the light (Gen. 1:4), and divided light from darkness. So also God sent forth his Son to be the Light of the fallen world (John 1:4, 9), to divide the darkness from the light (John 8:12, 3:19).
Because sin entered the world, Cain hated his righteous brother, Abel, and killed him (Gen. 4:8); and Christ’s own people would hate and kill him (Luke 23:21). As Abraham’s son carried the wood, the harbinger of his own death (Gen. 22:3), so Christ would carry (at least part of the way) the wood he would be nailed to. For Isaac, God provided a substitute, but for Jesus there would be no substitute. No, He would be the substitute. Like Abel, Joseph was despised and done away with by his brothers (Genesis 37) but arose as ruler to bless them and do them good (Gen. 50), and Christ would do the same for us (cf. Acts 8-9).
The Prophets had told of a coming day when wine would flow (Joel 2:24), and so Christ made wine as plentiful as water (John 2). His “time was not yet,” but he brings blessing even before “the time.”
It could be seen even at His birth. After man sinned God had posted angels at the entrance to Eden with flaming sword to threaten immediate death should paradise try to be retaken by the efforts of man (Gen. 3:23-24). When Christ was born, who was the fulfillment of the promise of all that had Eden had symbolized and more, angels once again appeared, fearsome beings constituting a stratia, an army (Lk 2:13), but sent not to wage war or threaten judgment, or to say “keep out,” but to invite with a new message commanded them by Almighty God: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:8-14).
Moses had given them the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34) to remind them that when they traveled in the desert, God had gone with them in cloud and fire. But now God has “tabernacled among us” (John 1:14), “veiled in human vesture” as the ancient hymn writer had said it, to be with us for a time, but by his resurrection, not only show us the Promised Land to which we are heading, but to be the firstfruits of it, and to be with us forever.
When Solomon built the magnificent temple, the People believed their dwelling to be forever secure. They trusted in it, charging Jeremiah with treason and sedition for daring to say that God’s holy temple would be destroyed (Jer. 7:4, 26:1ff). But Jeremiah, the man of God, was right. And when the People finally returned from their captivity, what was built in its place seemed pathetic by comparison (Ezra 3:12), until Herod came. Surely nothing could shake Herod’s temple! For the Prophets had said that the temple would be rebuilt. But they misunderstood. Jesus told them what the Prophets had really meant. Speaking of his own body he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it again” (John 2:19).
Since the days of Ezekiel, though they could wish and pretend otherwise, Ichabod (“no glory”) had to be written over the temple door, for God’s glory had departed (Ezek. 10:18-19), and it seemed that what the Prophets had promised would never come. But then it happened. The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as the Only Begotten of the Father full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
And out from that Temple, where the glory of God forever rested, would come water. The water of the “sea,” the great laver of the temple, would become a living stream, and as it flowed it would give life to all it touched, even to the Dead Sea, which was so inimical to life (Ezek. 47). And John tells us that where Christ is honored, living water springs up from within (John 4:10, 7:38), flowing ultimately from the true Temple, the throne of the Lamb (Rev. 22:1ff).
It’s the tip of the iceberg. The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms all speak of Him (Luke 24:44). If you let your mind wonder through all of the themes of redemption in the Scripture – no, through each passage, each jot and tittle – Christ is there. To try to connect it all is overwhelming, like drinking the Living Water from a firehose.
But all of it – all the Scriptures – Moses and the Prophets – all the promises – the hopes and fears of millennia – all of it was there, laying swaddled in a manger, dependant on his earthly mother to change his diaper.
I know who He is. But as I think of His Advent, and I muse upon all these things I’m compelled to ask again, “Who is this?” I pray this season, in quiet and peaceful moments, you will ask the same. And you will marvel again, and bask in the glory of the answer.