Jesus’ name isn’t first introduced in the Bible until the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament. That means that for the entire Old Testament– what makes up about 80% of the space between the covers of our Bibles– there is no mention of Jesus. Sorry, let me clarify… no mention of Jesus by that name.
In fact, what we find as we traverse the terrain of Scripture is that it’s all revealing Jesus to us. We just have to be aware of where he’s at and how he’s being revealed in any given moment.
As we embark on this journey of seeking out Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures, what better place is there to start than the beginning? The book of Genesis, written to the Israelites as a reminder of their beginnings and their God, provides us a well-known creation narrative. What we’ll explore today is that Jesus is integral to this narrative, that he is not only passively present but active in our beginnings.
While Genesis 1-2 on its own does not explicitly use Jesus’ name, he is there. And John’s Gospel is the lens through which we will begin to see this more clearly.
The Gospel of John begins with a unique prologue, a sort of theological foundation, before it jumps into the narrative. Take a moment and read Genesis 1-2, and then immediately read John 1:1-18.
Now that you’ve read those passages back-to-back, I hope you noticed some of the connections. John, a Jew, wrote his gospel from a clearly Jewish perspective; he certainly penned his prologue with the Genesis account in mind. We see this in his use of many of the same words and phrases, touching on the familiar subjects of beginnings, light, darkness, life, creation, and more.
Let’s zero in on the opening of each book.
Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
John: “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 was not any thing made that was made.”
In Genesis, we see that it is God in the beginning. John then adds a layer of clarity, agreeing that it is God alone in the beginning, but that there is a divine Word who both is God and is with God in creation. Here, we see God’s Trinitarian nature shining through. God alone was before creation, and Jesus is God.
As we continue to work through John 1, we find out that Jesus is the giver of life, the one through whom all things are made, the true light, the glorious Word made flesh, and the image of the invisible God. Jesus did not come into existence the moment Mary became pregnant. God did not become a trinity at that moment. Jesus has always been here, and not just as an absent bystander watching his dad do all the work like a son holding the flashlight as his dad works on their car.
Jesus is the centerpiece of it all. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).
As the creation narrative unfolds, the pinnacle is the creation of human beings on the sixth day. Genesis 1:27 tells us that humans– unlike all other parts of creation– are made in the image of God.
Temples dedicated to various gods commonly house a statue of the god to be worshiped. These are literally images– idols and representations that bear the god’s likeness. This is the world the ancient Israelites inhabited as they read Genesis. Against the backdrop of their cultural context, they would expect that the one true God would also have a temple and that it would have an image of Him inside it. Genesis, with John’s addition, agrees.
God’s temple in the creation story is the whole earth. That was his dwelling place before sin. And, according to Genesis 1:27, humans were going to be his image. Instead of stationary statues within a physical temple, living and breathing human beings would reflect God’s own likeness and nature to the watching world. How amazing is that!
The issue is that we are not a perfect reflection of God’s image. Sort of like how I look (somehow) shorter in a funhouse mirror, we reflect a similar, but distorted view of the God we are supposed to represent. In our maleness and femaleness, we reflect God’s sameness yet uniqueness as a trinity. In the way we are fruitful and multiply, exercising dominion over creation, we reflect God as the creative ruler. In our love, goodness, beauty, and truth– however imperfect those qualities are within us– we reflect God’s own character.
But in light of our sin (not to get too ahead of ourselves in the story), we should anticipate a more accurate image of God. We should be on the lookout for a mirror that reflects reality perfectly, not distorting it like one at a carnival.
John delivers the good news: this image is Jesus. The emphatic conclusion to John’s prologue is that “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). Jesus, the Word become flesh who dwelt among us (v. 14), is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). He is, as Paul summarizes in his letter to the Colossians, the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
In creation, we see Jesus as the one in whom and through whom and for whom all things were made. He is the centerpiece of creation. He is the perfect representation of God, the one who fulfills his duty as an image bearer where we fail to.
As you go about your week, consider the implications of these truths. If Jesus is the one in whom and through whom and for whom all things are created, are you living as though he is the one deserving of all glory, or are you living as a sort of glory hog? If Jesus is the perfect image of God, are you striving to be more like Him in all that you do, reflecting God with your life? Nothing else is worthy of our lives.