The Surprising Sayings of Jesus Christ: Who Was Jesus Christ? - Part 2

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The Surprising Sayings of Jesus Christ

Who Was Jesus Christ? - Part 2

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As addressed in the previous article in this series, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15 Matthew 16:15He said to them, But whom say you that I am?
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). Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 Matthew 16:16And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
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)—which Jesus affirmed (Matthew 16:17 Matthew 16:17And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.
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). We examined the significance of Jesus coming as the Christ, the Messiah. But how are we to understand His being the Son of God?

To some of Jesus’ day, “Son of God” was simply a title for the messianic king of the line of David. For, when God promised David that He would establish a perpetual dynasty through his descendants beginning with Solomon, God said, “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son” (1 Chronicles 17:13 1 Chronicles 17:13I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before you:
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).

“This remarkable statement,” notes The Nelson Study Bible , “affirmed that the dynasty of David had such an intimate relationship with God that its kings would be considered God’s sons in an extraordinary way” (note on verse 13).

But was Jesus simply a special royal heir of David?

It is vital that we understand the truth. John wrote: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15 1 John 4:15Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God.
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). He further explained that “only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” can live a godly life of overcoming sin (1 John 5:5 1 John 5:5Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
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, New International Version). Indeed, John said, “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23 1 John 2:23Whoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father: he that acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
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).

So Jesus’ identity is of supreme importance. It is essential, therefore, that we study who He was—who He is. As we will see, He made some rather surprising statements about His identity.

The only begotten

The issue is further clouded by Scripture’s reference to the angels of the spirit realm as “sons of God” (Job 38:7 Job 38:7When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
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). Even Adam, the first man, was a “son of God” (Luke 3:38 Luke 3:38Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.
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). In both cases, God is “Father” through producing these beings through an act of creation. Converted Christians, spiritually begotten through the Holy Spirit, are also referred to as “sons of God” (Romans 8:14-16 Romans 8:14-16 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
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), a fact we will examine more in another article in this series.

Yet Jesus said He was God’s “ only begotten Son” (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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, emphasis added throughout). The apostle John still called Him that even long after there were many Spirit-begotten Christians in the world (1 John 4:9 1 John 4:9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
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). Clearly, then, Jesus’ identity as the only begotten Son of God was unique.

Today, many understand that this crucial aspect of Jesus’ unique identity is to be found in His virgin birth. They are certainly on the right track. Let’s notice what happened.

When Christ’s mother, Mary, was betrothed to Joseph but still a virgin, an angel announced to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God ” (Luke 1:35 Luke 1:35And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come on you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.
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).

When Mary miraculously became pregnant, an angel assured Joseph, “… That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20 Matthew 1:20But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, you son of David, fear not to take to you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
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). Jesus, then, had a human mother but no immediate human father. Rather, God the Father was directly His Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is true of no other person who has ever lived. According to Luke 1:35 Luke 1:35And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come on you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.
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, this is why Jesus was called the Son of God.

Furthermore, it should also be recognized that Jesus’ conception was not only physical, but He was begotten to a spiritual life empowered by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. Although converted Christians are spiritually begotten of God at some point in life—after they repent of having lived in opposition to Him—Jesus’ spiritual conception as God’s Son happened at His physical conception, which again makes Him unique. At no point was Jesus ever converted to God’s way of righteousness, for, though He would grow in spiritual wisdom (Luke 2:40-52 Luke 2:40-52 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was on him. 41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said to him, Son, why have you thus dealt with us? behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing. 49 And he said to them, How is it that you sought me? knew you not that I must be about my Father’s business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
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), He was never unconverted. He was, from conception, the perfect Son of God.

Making Himself God?

Jesus’ claims of being the Son of God were too much for many in His day. They accused Him of blasphemy when He “said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18 John 5:18Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
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). In fact, Jesus provoked them all the more by saying things such as “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30 John 10:30I and my Father are one.
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). Again, the Jews cried blasphemy “because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33 John 10:33The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God.
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). They saw His claim of an intimate family relationship with God as placing Himself on the same level as God—and that, to them, was impossible.

But was Jesus actually claiming to be God? Let’s examine the possibilities.

We clearly see hints that Jesus existed even before His human conception. Referring to an event that occurred before the creation of mankind, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18 Luke 10:18And he said to them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
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). Yet was Jesus really around thousands of years before His own birth? And, if so, might He not have been as one of the angels, which would of course be quite remarkable in itself?

The clearest revelation came when Jesus was directly asked, “Whom do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:53 John 8:53Are you greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom make you yourself?
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)—and was then challenged over His age in regard to His claim of knowing something that Abraham had thought almost 2,000 years before. “Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:57-58 John 8:57-58 57 Then said the Jews to him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
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). Then the astonished crowd tried to stone Him to death (John 8:59 John 8:59Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the middle of them, and so passed by.
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).

Why did His statement so incense the crowd? Not only was He claiming preexistence, He was claiming to be God! The Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains: “ ‘I am’ implies continuous existence, including existence when Abraham appeared. Jesus was, therefore, asserting that at the time of Abraham’s birth, he existed. Furthermore, I AM was recognized by the Jews as a title of deity. When God commissioned Moses to demand from Pharaoh the release of the Israelites, he said, ‘This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you” ’ (Exodus 3:14). [One scholar] states that ‘the phrase harbors within itself the most authentic, the most audacious, and the most profound affirmation by Jesus of who he was” (1981, Vol. 9, p. 99).

This amazing truth is revealed elsewhere in the New Testament as well. Of God, the “Rock” of Israel in the Old Testament (compare Deuteronomy 32:4 Deuteronomy 32:4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
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; Psalms 18:2 Psalms 18:2The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
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), the apostle Paul explained, “That Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
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).

Yet how could this be? And who, then, is God the Father?

In the beginning

To help explain, the apostle John began his Gospel: “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 nothing was made that was made … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us , and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3 John 1:1-3 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
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; John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
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).

Paul confirmed that God “created all things through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9 Ephesians 3:9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
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; compare Colossians 1:15-17 Colossians 1:15-17 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
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; Hebrews 1:1-2 Hebrews 1:1-2 1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 Has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
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). Jesus, then, was no mere man or angel. He was God , along with the Father.

The many scriptures that refer to God the Father and Jesus the Son, who is also God, help us to understand that together They constitute a family —the God family. That family, at present, has two divine members—God the Father and another called the Word, who became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. (As mentioned earlier, we will examine the role of converted Christians as members of the family of God in a future article.) As our free booklet Who Is God? explains in more detail, various scriptures do show that there is only one God, but the one God is the God family .

Within that family the Father is preeminent. Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28 John 14:28You have heard how I said to you, I go away, and come again to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
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). Jesus explained that He serves as the Father’s spokesman :

“… I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught [or instructed] Me, I speak these things” (John 8:28 John 8:28Then said Jesus to them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things.
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). And “I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak … Whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:49-50 John 12:49-50 49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak.
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).

It was in this capacity that Jesus could function as the “Word” of God—speaking and carrying out what the Father instructed Him, even commanding the universe into existence (Psalms 33:6 Psalms 33:6By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
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).

No, Jesus Christ did not appear on the scene just in New Testament times. He was the “Lord” who interacted with people throughout the entire Old Testament. Yet what of the Father? He was, it may come as a surprise, generally unknown to mankind before Christ came in the flesh. In fact, one of the reasons Jesus came to earth was to reveal the Father (Matthew 11:27 Matthew 11:27All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
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; John 1:18 John 1:18No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
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; John 17:25-26).

To see this more clearly, consider that, although Abraham walked and talked with God, and Jacob wrestled with Him (see Genesis 18; Genesis 32:22-32 Genesis 32:22-32 22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. 23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me. 27 And he said to him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed. 29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray you, your name. And he said, Why is it that you do ask after my name? And he blessed him there. 30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. 31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he halted on his thigh. 32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is on the hollow of the thigh, to this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.
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), John 1:18 John 1:18No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
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says, “No one has seen God at any time.” Jesus Himself told the Jews that they had “neither heard His [the Father’s] voice at any time, nor seen His form” (John 5:37 John 5:37And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
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). Yet God had spoken the Ten Commandments to all Israel (Exodus 20:1 Exodus 20:1And God spoke all these words, saying,
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).

This all makes much more sense when we realize that, though there are distinct references to the Father in the Old Testament (as in Psalms 110:1 Psalms 110:1The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.
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; Daniel 7:13 Daniel 7:13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
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), it was Jesus Christ who interacted with mankind as God on the Father’s behalf.

God with us

No wonder Jesus was to be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah 7:14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
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), “which is translated, ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew 1:23 Matthew 1:23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
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).

At His incarnation (coming in the flesh), the Word “emptied” Himself of the glory and might He had had as God with the Father (Philippians 2:7 Philippians 2:7But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
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, New Revised Standard Version). For as a man, He explained, “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:30 John 5:30I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me.
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) —nothing supernatural of Himself, that is—and “the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10 John 14:10Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works.
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).

Yet, although Jesus was no longer omnipotent while in the flesh, He was still God —the same divine Person who had created the universe. So others rightfully worshiped Him (Matthew 2:11 Matthew 2:11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
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; Matthew 8:2 Matthew 8:2And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.
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; Matthew 9:18 Matthew 9:18While he spoke these things to them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay your hand on her, and she shall live.
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; Matthew 14:33 Matthew 14:33Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth you are the Son of God.
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). While human Jesus certainly was more than just a man, being Immanuel , God made flesh. But He was human in the fullest sense, for “in all things He had to be made like His brethren … For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 2:17 Hebrews 2:17Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
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; Hebrews 4:15).

Just like the rest of us, Jesus, who constantly referred to Himself as the Son of Man, fully experienced life in the human flesh and was subject to all of its temptations—feeling the pulls of the flesh and of Satan’s spiritual broadcast of wrong moods and attitudes (compare Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
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). Yet Jesus never gave in and, thus, never sinned (1 Peter 2:22 1 Peter 2:22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
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; 2 Corinthians 5:21 2 Corinthians 5:21For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
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).

As the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29 John 1:29The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
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; Revelation 5:6 Revelation 5:6And I beheld, and, see, in the middle of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the middle of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
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), the sinless Jesus, our very Creator, laid down His life to pay the death penalty for the sins of all mankind, becoming a sacrifice for us so we could live eternally (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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; Isaiah 53:1-12 Isaiah 53:1-12 1 Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
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). In love for us, He died an agonizing death by crucifixion.

Yet that was not the end of the story. Before His death He had prayed to the Father, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5 John 17:5And now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was.
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).

Thus, three days and nights after His burial, Jesus was resurrected to divine spirit life—restored to His former glorified state, again with inherent divine power (Colossians 2:9 Colossians 2:9 For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
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; Romans 1:4 Romans 1:4And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
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). And we are still to worship Him, even as we worship the Father (John 5:23 John 5:23That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent him.
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).