During his earthly ministry Jesus Christ served as Prophet. He predicted his own betrayal and denial at the hands of close friends (John 13:21-38), his own sacrificial death by crucifixion (Matthew 26:2; Luke 24:7), his miraculous resurrection in an exact period of time (John 2:19, Luke 24:7), the complete destruction of the temple (Luke 21:5-7), and the gift of the Holy Spirit who would tabernacle among his followers and orchestrate the Father’s mission in the world (Acts 1:4-8). Each one of these prophecies took place just as Jesus predicted and are well documented by eyewitnesses.
Jesus also made predictions of future events which are still anticipated by his church. He predicted the Gospel being preached in the whole world before the end comes (Matthew 24:14; Luke 24:47). Jesus predicted his bodily return and physical reign on the earth (Matthew 25:31). He predicted that the existing heaven and earth would pass away, but that his words would remain forever (Luke 21:33). In fact, one of the final statements written in Scripture is Jesus’ triumphant and prophetic declaration, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (Revelation 22:12 NIV). Those of us who hope in Christ by faith and embrace his precious promises declare with John the Apostle, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20 KJV).
The second portrait I have chosen is taken from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth in which he revealed Jesus as the Resurrected Christ. In the first twenty-eight verses of chapter 15 alone, Paul used the name “Christ” thirteen times. He believed that the message of Christ, the anointed one of God, who died for our sins, was buried, and was raised again on the third day, was of “first importance” (vs. 3-5, NIV). Paul camped out on the resurrection component of this Gospel message, explaining the necessity of this divine act. “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith… we are found to be false witnesses about God… we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15: 14, 15, 19 NIV). Then he emphatically stated, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (vs. 20, NIV). In this portrait, Paul contrasts the death that came to all mankind through a man (Adam) to the resurrected life that is offered by Jesus to all those who are “in Christ” (vs. 21-22). This truth is what allows the Apostle Paul to declare in worship, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. ‘Where O death, is your victory? Where O death, is your sting?’…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 54, 55, 58 NIV).
The first portrait of Christ I have selected from the New Testament is Jesus as The Lamb of God. This portrait is found in the gospel of John and refers to the exclamation of John the Baptist when he saw Jesus coming toward him. “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NIV). John the Baptist goes on to declare that this Lamb is a pre-existent being, who “was before me.” I am moved by the fact that Scripture reveals Jesus as “the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8, NIV). This was Plan A of the Triune God from all eternity; there was no Plan B. Jesus is God the Son, eternally begotten of the Father, and the Lamb who was set apart to be slain for the sins of the world. This is why Jesus referred to Abel as the first prophet in Luke 11:50-51, because his blood was shed after he offered a “better sacrifice” which was itself a prophetic picture of the Lamb of God who was to come to reconcile men to God. This portrait of Christ is even seen in the future when the Apostle John is told not to weep in Revelation 13 because, “See, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then John sees “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne” and a worship song for the ages breaks out declaring Jesus worthy to take the scroll and open it. Why? “Because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 13: 5, 6, 9 NIV).
There is a tension to be managed when it concerns the idea of accountability in missional unity. On one hand, we cannot control the behavior of anyone other than ourselves. We are also in no place to judge their behavior. In Romans the Apostle Paul declares, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant. To his own master he stands or falls… So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:4, 12 NIV). On the other hand, there is the idea of accountability to a group in the following chapter where Paul states, “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Paul continues, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Jesus” (Romans 15:2, 5 NIV). Each person is personally responsible to glorify God with his/her life while living on mission, but in a larger context he/she is responsible to other members in the body of Christ to edify and encourage the group by following Jesus and maintaining group unity “so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 6).
What a beautiful thing it is to reflect on the eternal mission of God through the lenses of the theology of the Trinity. God has always been a missionary God, who has from eternity past willed that this mission would flow naturally out of the eternal relationship and self-giving love of Father, Son, and Spirit. When the Triune God said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26), the capacity for unity with God and with each other was placed in humankind, as well as the ability to communicate the need and opportunity for others to enter into a personal relationship with the Eternal God through faith. God appeared to mankind in the person of Jesus who prayed that the church would be one just as He and his Father were one, that we would love each other just as he loved the Father, and that we would be sent into the world, just as He was sent by the Father. Jesus then promised the Holy Spirit whom He would send out from the Father to testify about him and tabernacle with his people, his body, the Church. The privileged task of each follower of Jesus is to cultivate a self-giving, missional lifestyle that flows naturally out of our intimate relationship with the Triune God and our unity with each other.
Chapters 13-17 in the book of John are some of my favorite portions of New Testament Scripture. I love how Jesus starts with table fellowship and then shows the full extent of his love for his disciples by washing their feet. This example was intended to set the tone of missional unity. It was in this context that Jesus began to cast the vision of what his expectations were for his disciples after he left them to return to the Father in Heaven. He gave them a new command to love each other (John 15:17). He promised them another Counselor who would prepare the way for their message by convicting the world of “guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-11). Jesus, through his intimate relationship with the Father, provided the example and the capacity for the disciples and therefore, the church, to love, serve, experience shalom, achieve unity, and be sanctified by the Word of truth so that he could send them out into the world as authentic Christ-bearers on mission (John 17:18). The things he offered – love, humility, peace, unity, sanctification, a bold mission, the enduring presence of the Holy Spirit – these explain who we are and why we are here. They explain our identity as his church. These anticipated blessings were all given for the purpose of helping an unbelieving world believe that God sent Jesus (John 17:21-22). Jesus anticipated that the world would come to know him through the lifestyles and message of the church; therefore, he gave us commands that are not optional if we want to see the mission fulfilled.
Keith West is the founding President of Latitude GLC, a non-profit ministry in Rockwall, Texas. Keith believes his calling is to be a "Barnabas" to the next generation of spiritual leaders.