In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
The gospel of John begins with this premise: Jesus is God. The Word was revealed to us as He became flesh and made His dwelling among us — the Son of God that came from the Father (1:14). And this Son of God is Jesus Himself — the one whom John the Baptist prepared the way for (1:19–34), the one Nathanael declared (1:49), the one John wants us to believe in by reading his gospel (20:31) so that we may have life in His name. So how do we know that Jesus is the Son of God, God Himself?
The Word was God
To claim that One is God is to claim the immortality of the Being. He was not a mortal like us, one under the curse of the sin of the flesh. He is what it means to be holy, to be set apart, to be so supernaturally different our feeble minds may not be able to comprehend. “The Word became flesh…” (1:14) can only make sense because He is not of flesh to begin with. He is different from us. He transcends matter, not made of atoms and molecules and proteins, of no physical and observable substance. John would continue to provide us with signs and proof throughout the gospel of the claim of the immortality of this made-mortal Person, because He indeed truly is.
The Word was with God
John made this interesting distinction between Jesus and God the Father, of what we would understand as the concept of the Trinitarian God. Yes, Jesus is God, yet at the same time a distinct Person from the Father. Both (and the Spirit) co-exist in this unique relationship right from the beginning (1:2). Just as all would understand how God exists above all creation, Jesus exists in the same way because He was with God. And Jesus is always with God, there was never a second (as if God works by relative time), that Jesus is never with God. And to co-exist (short of a better terminology) with God, surely He transcends space, for God is the invisible and Spirit God, and not limited by the three-dimensional and linear x-y-z axis of space like all matter of mass do.
In the beginning was the Word
And lastly, Jesus also transcends even time for He existed before time itself and claims His eternal nature. John draws parallel to a well-known book in the Scriptures (Genesis 1:1): “In the beginning, God…” Jesus existed prior to creation, He was at the beginning even before beginning ever existed. Not only was He at the beginning, it was through Jesus all things were made, and nothing was made without Him (1:3). Paul reinstates this truth of how Jesus has primacy over all creation in Colossians 1:15–17. Jesus transcends time; He existed even before time. He is eternal: He has no beginning and end, as the relative linearity of time would dictate all creation under it.
Jesus transcends time (in the beginning), space (with God) and matter (was God) and here we arrive at the conclusion of the hypothesis that we made at the beginning: Jesus is God. And thirty years since the day He was made flesh, on this day we call Good Friday, here at the Cross of Calvary, we ask: Why does this matter? Why is it important to establish fully that Jesus is the Son of God? Because the Man who died on the Cross was no mere man. He wasn’t just merely a miracle worker, a good teacher, a faithful friend, a charismatic leader, a sinless mortal: He is the Son of God. And it was The Son of God who died on the Cross, for you and me this very day.
We already established the fact that Jesus is the Son of God: He was in the beginning, He was with God, and He was God. Yet on the cross, He experienced the absence of the three.
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
In the beginning was the Word: On the cross, Jesus experienced death, a stop to His eternal nature.
If it wasn’t mind-boggling enough to see the Son of God made Himself into human flesh, it’s even harder to imagine that Jesus would humble Himself to death, and no ordinary death — it was death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). Jesus, whom we already established as One who existed even before time, One who is eternal, puts a stop to His life on that cross. He experienced death for the very first time. He breathed His last for the first time (Mark 15:37). Death reigned since Adam’s first act of sin (Romans 5:12) — death, both the inherited and consequence of our sins. However Jesus did not need to die — for neither was He born of Adam with sinful nature, nor did he commit any act of sins to suffer its consequence, yet this path He chose on the road to Calvary. This road He chose because of you and me, because the wrath of God needs to be satisfied.
And the Word was with God: On the cross, Jesus experienced separation from God.
And on the cross, Jesus was forsaken by God the Father as He took the sins of the world, along with the wrath of God on His shoulders when He cried out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) And Jesus, who for eternity past has always been in this loving relationship with God the Father faced the agony of the separation of fellowship of the Trinity. Jesus’ death on the cross was real, and it was terrible. He was an object of wrath, not just of Jewish and Roman wrath, but primarily of His Father’s wrath — the most just, righteous and terrible wrath there is. And in experiencing that wrath, He experienced the forsakenness and separation from God. For this wrath was the wrath of sin, God’s understandable judgment for what is wrong with this world, yet not the wrath of His sin for He sinned not, it was the sin of the world, the sin of man since Adam, the sin of you and me. And His blood was shed, that we may be saved from God’s wrath intended for us (Romans 5:9).
And the Word was God: On the cross, Jesus experienced sin, the very opposite of the nature of God.
Perhaps the worst of it all, He who is holy, set apart, the very nature God, experienced sin as He took the wrath upon Himself. Darkness filled the world for the judgement of sin was laid upon the Creator Himself (Mark 15:33). He who knew no sin, became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21a). We already established that Jesus was not born of flesh — lest He inherit the sinful nature. Neither did He commit any acts of sin — for which He would have been condemned for His own. Yet on the cross He did die, because our sins, along with its judgment was imputed upon Him. He was made sin, so that we on the other hand, may be made righteous (2 Cor 5:21b). On that cross, the Great Exchange happened. In the same way Jesus became a “sinner”, we also put on this imputed righteousness that is Jesus Himself, which became ours through faith, by grace — the free gift of God. Jesus took our sin not only so that sin can be done away with, but His righteousness can also be given.
Jesus, the Son of God, made Himself a “non-god” for us. And as we come to understand and see the depth and distance of how far the Son of God Himself would go, that He would bind Himself to time, space and matter to make dwelling among us and ultimately to die on the cross, that He would receive God’s wrath meant for us upon Himself — being the sacrificial Lamb of God who took the sins of the world (John 1:29), that He would make Himself sin when He knew no sin so that we could become the righteousness of God, do we not worship? Do we not give our lives to Him? Do we not believe?
But perhaps the greatest reason how we can know that Jesus is the Son of God? The Cross of Calvary. That He died and took away our sins, that we are now saved, justified and reconciled (Romans 5:6–11), that we can now come before the throne of God freely after the curtain was torn into two (Mark 15:38), that we are here today being able to partake of the Holy Communion to remember His death and the New Covenant we are under (1 Corinthians 11:23–26), show us more than ever that He is God because no one, absolutely no one can ever do that for each of us. Only God can. Only Jesus can. And that cross, one of the worst, most fearsome devices of torture, most gruesome forms of capital punishment, may not only show us the justice of God but the greatest and most awesome love that is — the love of God (Romans 5:8) so that we may echo the centurion at the foot of the cross and proclaim: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)