Who Is Jesus, and Why Is He So Important to Us?
Jesus is central and foundational to Christianity. And as Seventh-day Adventists, we affirm that He is God’s only Son and humanity’s Savior, who loves us with immeasurable love and died on the cross to bear the consequences of our sins.
It only makes sense, then, that someone who loves us enough to die for us is worthy of the time it takes to get to know Him, which brings us to the purpose of this article.
This post is a basic overview of His life, mission, and identity.
We’ll look at:
- Who Jesus is
- What His name means
- Qualities of His character
- Prophecies about Him
- His ministry on earth
- How He changed people’s lives
- His death and resurrection
- His role in the plan of salvation
- How He is still relevant to us today
Let’s dig in and learn more about who Jesus is.
Who is Jesus, according to the Bible?
Jesus Christ is fully God as a member of the Godhead. He became a human being when He was born to Mary in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, or deliverer of the people (Genesis 3:15). He came to the earth to live and die so that He could deliver us from the sin and selfishness that started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Jesus, as God the Son, came to this earth to show us who God is, set us an example, and be crucified so that we could have hope for the future (John 1:1, 14; 1 Corinthians 8:6). We find the story of Jesus coming down to this earth in the New Testament Gospels.
During Jesus’ time on this earth, He lived a sinless life of ministry (1 Peter 2:22). And this sinless life was lived out as a human, or as Philippians tells us, in “the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7, NKJV).
At the core of who Jesus is, we find a humble Son of God who loves us endlessly and wants to heal us of the sickness that sin brings.
In fact, we see this mission in the very meaning of His name.
What does the name Jesus mean?
According to Scripture, the name Jesus means, “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, NKJV). The meaning of His name tells us His life purpose, which was to die for us and to redeem us from the consequences and power of sin in our lives.
In the Bible, names are very significant because they tell us about the qualities and characteristics of an individual.
For example, in Genesis 17, God changed Abram’s name (meaning “exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”), which symbolized and confirmed God’s promise of making him a “father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5, NKJV).
Similarly, Jesus’ many names reflect His qualities. Here are some of them:
- Almighty (Revelation 1:8)
- Bread of Life (John 6:35)
- Deliverer (Romans 11:26)
- Immanuel or “God with us” (Matthew 1:23)
- Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
- King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1–2)
- Lamb of God (John 1:29)
- Light of the World (John 8:12)
- Lord of All (Acts 10:36)
- Messiah (John 4:25–26)
- Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
- Rabbi (John 1:38)
- Savior (Luke 2:11)
- God (Isaiah 40:3)
- Son of God and Son of Man (Matthew 26:63–64)
- Christ (Matthew 16:16)
Think about it this way:
A person who is faithful, true, devoted, and dependable is likely to be called “loyal,” just like a person who is trustworthy, honest, caring, and empathetic can be called a “friend.”
Likewise, Jesus’ names reveal that He is our teacher, guide, provider, and deliverer. And they give us glimpses into what He is like.
Let’s explore some of those qualities next.
What are some of Jesus’ qualities revealed in the Bible?
The Bible tells us that God—and Jesus—is love. Every other quality of His is a result of that ultimate characteristic. He is:
And that’s just the start! Jesus’ qualities are too numerous for us to count.
But let’s take a moment to see how these qualities surfaced in His life. As you do, you might just find your love for Him growing.
The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8)—not just loving. Every part of Him is selfless, other-focused love (1 Corinthians 13), and all the other qualities He has are reflections of that love.
Jesus came to show this aspect of God (John 3:16). Though He was sinless, He came down to this earth as a human to serve us and eventually be crucified for our sins. He is the prime example of what love is and how we should love those around us.
What’s also amazing is that Jesus loves and cares for us so much that He gives us the privilege of being called His friends (John 15:13).
John tells us that “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).
Jesus has a forgiving heart toward each one of us, not holding our sins and mistakes against us. He’s not keeping track of what we’ve done wrong, and He doesn’t push us away in disgust.
Rather, He’s drawn to those who are struggling and sinning.
Even when He hung on the cross, dying for the very people mocking Him, He asked His Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, NKJV).
When Jesus came down to this earth, He didn’t come as a literal king to sit on a throne and rule the world, though that’s what the people and the religious leaders expected. Instead, He embodied the kingdom of God, which is all about humility and selfless love.
The Bible says,
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NKJV).
We find an example of this in John 13 when He washed His disciples’ dirty feet. As their teacher and Savior, He deserved to have them wash His feet, but that didn’t stop Him. No position was too low or shameful for Him.
Service and humility were a large part of Jesus’ lifestyle and who He was as a true king.
While here on earth, Jesus stood for justice for those who were traditionally ignored or abused. After all, love doesn’t sit by and allow others to be hurt and mistreated.
We see this exhibited in the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8). When the religious leaders wanted to stone her, Jesus humbly held up justice. He bent down, wrote in the dust, and then said to the scribes and Pharisees, “He who is without sin, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7, NKJV).
Though the Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote in the dust, it’s likely that He wrote the sins of the scribes and Pharisees, helping them to see that they were not innocent in their attempts to condemn the woman.
Through this situation, Jesus not only showed justice but also made it clear that God, and God alone, is the judge.
Jesus’ patience shines in the way He treated the people around Him throughout His earthly life.
He was especially patient with His disciples, who were with Him during His three-and-a-half-year ministry. Many of them had misconceptions about Jesus’ mission and prejudices toward Gentiles (non-Jews). They learned so slowly!
And yet, Jesus didn’t give up on them.
For example, one of His own disciples, Peter, often faltered in his faith, even denying Jesus three times to those who asked him if he was a disciple (John 13:31–38; 18:25–27).
But after the resurrection, Jesus didn’t scold Peter. He didn’t express anger or impatience at Peter’s denial. Above all, Jesus didn’t exclude Peter from being one of His disciples. Instead, He forgave Peter and gave him a mission: “Feed My sheep” (John 21:15–17, NKJV).
Jesus always had a soft spot for those who were in need; He longed to alleviate their suffering.
Over and over again, His healing miracles reveal this compassion. Even when He was exhausted and needed a rest Himself, His compassion drove Him to help those who were hurting and hungering for truth (Mark 6:30–34).
On one occasion, two blind men sitting by the road heard that Jesus was going to pass by. Despite the crowds demanding they be quiet, the two blind men cried out to Him in desperation:
“Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” (Matthew 20:31, NKJV).
Unlike the crowds, Jesus didn’t see these men as an annoyance. Instead, He “had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him” (Matthew 20:34, NKJV).
Instead of a hurried and hectic life, Jesus showed us a life of peace and gentleness. He also promises this gentleness towards us:
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29, NKJV).
We often think of Jesus as a serious person, and He certainly knew how and when to be serious. But it’s also important to remember that Jesus had the joy of God in His heart.
This joy is illustrated through the way He welcomed children to Him to be blessed (Mark 10:13–16), how His first miracle was at a wedding feast, a time of great celebration (Luke 14:7–14), and how He desires joy for us (John 15:11)!
Now that we’ve gotten to know more about Jesus’ character, let’s see how His life fulfilled Bible prophecies.
Prophecies about Jesus
The coming of the Son of God was long awaited! For hundreds of years, the Jewish people had hoped for the Messiah, who was promised at the beginning of this earth’s history. They based these longings on the Old Testament, which is filled with prophecies about the Messiah’s appearance and ministry.
The following are some of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled:
- He spent His early years in Egypt (Hosea 11:1)
- He preached in parables (Psalm 78:2)
- He performed miracles of healing (Isaiah 35:5-6)
- Rulers plotted against Him (Psalm 31:13)
- He suffered and died for our sins (Isaiah 53:1-10)
- His hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16)
- He was resurrected (Psalm 16:9–11)
But let’s back up even further:
The earliest mention of a Messiah is within the first three chapters of the Bible, shortly after the story of Creation. Genesis 3:15 foretold that a woman would give birth to a Saviour, who would defeat Satan and save the human race from his deceptions.
Later, God promised Abraham that the Savior would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:3; Numbers 24:17), which was fulfilled as told in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1–16.
Isaiah the prophet foretold that Jesus would be born of a virgin:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV).
And even the exact location of Jesus’ birth was prophesied in the Scriptures. Bethlehem was a small, humble town, yet it became the birthplace of the Messiah:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2, NKJV).
The Old Testament prophets described the Messiah’s life in great detail. And Jesus fulfilled each prophecy with perfect accuracy.
But even though His birth and life satisfied the prophecies of the Old Testament, Jesus lived in a way that many people didn’t expect. They expected Him to come to this earth as royalty. To sit on the throne and wear a crown, as a regular king would. And to overcome the Romans—the oppressors of the Jews.
This led to some people being greatly disappointed and a little bit confused when Jesus showed up in a humble robe, wearing everyday sandals with no intentions of claiming the current king’s throne as His own.
We’ll see next what His life really looked like.
The earthly ministry of Jesus
The life of Jesus was all about ministry to others. His goal was to be able to relate to us so that He could help us. He came into daily contact with temptation just like we do. The only difference is that He overcame each and every one of them through His connection with His Father God, setting us a perfect example of how we can overcome too (1 Peter 2:22).
The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, show us how our Savior took on every aspect of human life—its hardships, its pain, its temptations (Hebrews 4:15).
He knew what it was like to work hard day after day to make ends meet, to have tension within family relationships, and to feel misunderstood and mistreated.
He experienced the constant battle between good and evil that we have to live through every day.
And He had to choose God on a daily basis.
The apostle Paul says that because Jesus “Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18, NKJV).
All the while, His focus was on those around Him.
He ministered to people’s physical and material needs and then addressed their spiritual needs. He left us a perfect example of what serving those around us looks like.
Christ didn’t pay attention to popularity, wealth, or status, but instead treated every person He came in contact with as a friend who deserved compassion, acceptance, and understanding.
To Jesus, good relationships—both with His Father and with humans—were above all earthly comforts and pleasures.
And by placing others above Himself and following His Father’s will, He changed lives.
How did Jesus change people’s lives?
Jesus changed people’s lives through the way He interacted with them. He acknowledged their worth and value, met their needs, and then called them to follow Him.
Here are some of the ways He did this in the Bible:
- He performed miracles to bless and help people
- He freed people from their sins
- He removed burdens of religious restriction and showed how to keep the law
- He showed us what love looks like
He performed miracles to bless and help people
Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus performed many miracles—from calming horrendous storms to raising people from the dead.
In each case, the miracles were not for Himself. He refused to perform miracles to meet His own needs or prove Himself (Matthew 4:3–4). Rather, He performed them to bring healing and emphasize spiritual truths.
John the disciple says that the works of Jesus were so many that “if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NKJV).
So, a list of some of the miracles will have to suffice:
- He turned water into wine (John 2:1–11).
- He stilled a storm on the sea (Mark 4:35–41).
- He fed 5,000 people using five loaves and two fishes (John 6:1–14).
- He walked on water (Matthew 14:22–33).
- He healed a leper (Mark 1:40–45).
- He healed and forgave a paralytic (Luke 5:17–26).
- He healed a blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22–26).
- He cast out an unclean spirit from a man (Luke 4:31–37).
- He healed two demon-possessed men (Matthew 8:28–34).
- He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:40–56).
- He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1–44).
And while Jesus’ miracles were important, they don’t really get to the core of how Jesus changed people’s lives. Find out more next.
He freed people from their sins
Jesus changed lives by offering people forgiveness and freedom from sin. Jesus didn’t just heal physically; He offered spiritual healing from the sickness of sin. He did this by lifting guilt and condemnation and showing that victory is possible.
The forgiveness that Jesus offered was (and still is) revolutionary, especially for a people and culture who had practiced animal sacrifices for forgiveness and had lost sight of what they pointed to.
Can you imagine practicing that and then realizing that the God who forgives sins is walking among you?
It was so revolutionary that when Jesus proclaimed to someone that their sins were forgiven, the scribes and Pharisees exclaimed: “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21, NKJV).
They didn’t know that they were talking to God Himself.
Jesus changed people’s lives by forgiving their sins, but He also changed them by offering them freedom from their sins.
Consider again the story of the woman caught in adultery.
The scribes and Pharisees who brought the woman demanded that she receive the punishment of death as prescribed in the law of Moses for adultery (John 8:5).
But Jesus knew the hearts of these men and their hypocrisy: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7, NKJV).
After the men had left in a huff, Jesus turned to the woman:
“‘Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’” (John 8:7–11, NKJV).
Jesus commanded her to “go and sin no more.” She no longer had to live under the power and condemnation of sin that had held her in its grip. Jesus gave her forgiveness and freedom.
At the same time, Jesus took the law that the Pharisees had twisted and set things right again.
He removed the burdens of religious restriction and showed how to keep the law
The people of the day took the Ten Commandments and applied them so harshly and legalistically that they were keeping the letter of the law without keeping the spirit of the law.
The teachings of Jesus showed them how to return to the spirit of the law.
For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus’ famous sermons, He talked about how the law says not to murder and not to commit adultery. But He took it down to the heart level by pointing out that hatred is just as much of a sin as murder, and lust is just as much of a sin as adultery (Matthew 5).
The law is meant to be a means for changing our lives, not just a set of rules to blindly follow.
Jesus summed up what the law is actually all about when He was asked which law is the most important:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40, NKJV).
This was shocking to the Pharisees. They were keeping the law, but they were failing to love others, and they were failing to truly love God.
Jesus makes it clear: love is at the core of the law of God. And to obey it requires a heart transformation. This was certainly a paradigm shift and a life-changing idea.
Speaking of love…
Jesus changed lives by showing people what love looks like
Jesus’ life is the perfect example of love. His selfless, other-centered ministry was the foundation of the early Christian church. And it continues to inspire us to treat others with this same kind of love today.
All of the previous points—His miracles, freedom from sin, and reframing of the law—are examples of His love for us.
But perhaps the greatest and most poignant example of love is His choice to die for us so that we could be healed from sin-sickness.
Let’s discover more about this amazing display of love now.
Jesus’ death and resurrection
Jesus’ death and resurrection are the core of the story of salvation. They are the climax of Jesus’ life and the greatest example of selfless love.
The build-up to Jesus’ death and ultimate resurrection was certainly a tense one.
During His time on earth, Jesus gained a large following. But with that came a large opposition as well.
There was always someone who opposed His teachings, ridiculed Him, or falsely accused Him. Jesus was constantly persecuted by religious leaders who didn’t believe He was the Messiah (Matthew 9:34).
About three years into His ministry, Judas Iscariot—one of His disciples—betrayed Him in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14–16).
Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by Roman soldiers and put on trial. The Pharisees misconstrued His words about being a king of the Jews and accused Him of rebelling against the Roman Empire (Mark 14:53–65; John 18:33–37). Roman law stated that rebellion against the king was to be punished by death.
Then He was brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who was not confident that Jesus was worthy of punishment. But because he was afraid of the people’s reaction towards him, he wanted to give them what they were asking for—the death of Jesus.
Pilate openly let the Jews know that he didn’t find any fault in Jesus that deserved death. He even washed his hands before them, symbolizing that he wasn’t going to take responsibility for Jesus’ death. Then, he handed Jesus over to the people to be beaten and crucified (Mark 15:16–20).
After being led to Calvary, a site outside Jerusalem, the Son of the living God was crucified.
In the first century, crucifixion was the most painful and humiliating death imaginable. It was used to kill criminals, slaves, and enemies of the Roman government.
So Jesus died the death of a criminal.
But it wasn’t the crucifixion that killed Jesus. Jesus died from the weight of the sins of the world and the pain of separation from His Father (Mark 15:34; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53). In fact, it was unusual for crucified individuals to die as quickly as Jesus did.1
During His short time on the cross, the whole world and all the heavens mourned Him. The sky became completely dark, the earth shook, and the temple curtain split from top to bottom (Matthew 27:45, 51–53).
After being buried on Friday night, He rested in the grave on the Sabbath and, as prophesied, resurrected on the third day (Psalm 16:9–11).
Some women went to embalm Jesus’ body on the Sunday morning after His death. But they found the tomb open, and an angel of the Lord announced, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:5–6, NKJV).
The women ran to tell the other followers of Jesus about His resurrection but met Jesus along the way. He instructed them saying, “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28:10, NKJV).
Jesus appeared to His disciples on different occasions for a period of 40 days. Then finally, on His last day on earth, they witnessed Him ascend to heaven (Acts 1:9–11).
At that time, Jesus promised His disciples (and us) that He will send the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, and give them the power to live righteous lives and witness for Him to other people (Acts 1:8–9)—the fulfillment of this promise began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
And as Jesus was ascending into heaven, an angel talked with His watching disciples and gave them the promise of His return. He said:
“This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11, NKJV).
Because of this, we have the hope and security that Jesus will come again to take us to heaven, which is the beautiful result of accepting Him as Savior.
Jesus’ role in the plan of salvation
Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for the sin of humanity. It fulfilled the justice demanded by the violation of God’s law. In other words, His death was a sacrificial offering for the salvation of humanity (Matthew 20:28).
This was symbolized in the Old Testament sanctuary service where God commanded that a lamb was to be sacrificed for sin.
When the people sinned, they had to bring a perfect lamb, free from all blemishes, that would take on their sins. This lamb was called a sacrificial lamb.
When Jesus started His ministry, John the Baptist called Him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, NKJV).
So, when Jesus died on the cross for us, He became that lamb offering. He was sinless and perfect in all aspects of His character. And even though He didn’t have to, He proved His love for the human race by giving His life for us. His death gives us eternal life and makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God.
The Bible clearly states that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NKJV).
Through Christ, we are able to have eternity with Him, instead of eternal death.
What Jesus can be for us today
And to help us live a righteous life, He is our perfect example and mediator in heaven.
Jesus is the only way to salvation for the human race. And He wants you to experience all that He had in mind when He came down to live on this sinful earth to give us hope and a bright future.
Jesus also wants you to know Him as your faithful friend. He hears us when we pray, guides us in our difficulties, and rejoices with us in our victories. He never changes. He is the one who was, is, and will forever be our God (Hebrews 13:8).
For Seventh-day Adventists, Jesus is central to all our beliefs. And we believe that the Word of God is the perfect place to get to know Him and build a relationship with Him
Want to learn more about Jesus and how He wants you to live eternally?
Have you ever been on the verge of sleep in the middle of a long lecture or sermon when suddenly the speaker takes a turn and begins to tell a story?
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He selected certain individuals to help with and continue His work. They would be referred to during that time as His “disciples.”