The Bible is a book full of stories, descriptions, speeches and statements about a whole cast of characters who walk through its pages. From the beginning of the book, when we meet Adam and Eve and hear about the great God who created them, these characters come to life in our minds. The people who fill the pages of the Bible are as widely varied as humans could be – they’re from many places, many times, and many backgrounds and cultures. For most of us there will be a particular character with whom we strongly identify, or someone we think we can relate to more easily than others.
Like any book, the Bible has a main character – Jesus. From the first moments of creation to the final closing chapter of Revelation, God designed His word for us to be a complex account of His plan to redeem our world by the death of His perfect Son, Jesus. In the Old Testament, there are hints and prophecies about a coming hero – a character we haven’t met yet – about someone who would right what was wrong with the world, about one who would set people free, about one who would be the savior. But as we read, the picture seems incomplete – the story can’t end, because the hero hasn’t arrived.
Then, in the New Testament, we are finally given the story of that unknown character. When we read about Jesus’ birth, His life and His death, we get a sense of Him as a human being. We see this hero of the story walking, talking and eating with His friends and those who chose to follow Him. We read about His family coming to speak with Him, about the religious leaders persecuting Him. We even read His own words; His own account of Himself. For many people, this story makes Jesus seems more ‘real’ than God or the Holy Spirit, because He was an actual person – a human being, living on earth.
The believers living in the New Testament days, after Jesus returned to heaven, went back over these stories hundreds and thousands of times, just like we do today. As they ate together, worked together, sat together, they talked over the Old Testament to search out what it had said about Jesus. And they also repeated to each other over and over the many stories of what Jesus did during His time on earth – their own experiences with Him and those of their friends.
When we read what these early Christians wrote about Jesus, what we see is the combination of those things. They discussed who they themselves knew Jesus to be, from their experiences with Him, and added in what the Old Testament had taught about Him before. Through this, they began to see more clearly who Jesus really is.
The beauty of the Bible is that all of its pieces come together to create an intricately complex picture. Reading the words of the early Christians who wrote the books of the New Testament – like this passage, which is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians – allows us to look at that picture through a focused lens – and when we do, what we see at the front and center of the whole incredible landscape is Jesus, our Redeemer – God who became like us, so that we could become like Him.
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.