I love superheroes. Superhero stories are the latest version of the myths and legends that humans have always told. It’s like we’re hardwired to want there to be someone who’s enough like us to be relatable but powerful enough to save us from everything we most fear. What if that want is a clue to something real? What if all those tales we tell are echoes of a true story — one that really happened once in history? That’s what Christians claim about Jesus Christ. Let’s unpack that claim.

Secret identity

“We believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.” [1]

Names and titles help us understand a person’s identity. When we talk about Jesus, we’re referring to someone who mainstream historians agree was a real historical figure: a Jewish man who lived in Israel 2,000 years ago. Christians also call him “Christ.” That’s not his last name. It’s a title that means he’s the king appointed by God to rule the world, the saving hero the Jewish Scriptures had prophesied would come.

That’s not all. Christians also call him the “only begotten Son” of God (John 3:16, NKJV). The word “begotten” is an old word for having a baby. When you have a baby, it has the same nature as you. It’s different than when you make or create something that has a different nature from you. You can bake a cake, build a car or draw a cartoon, yet none of these things will share your DNA like a child does. God created the universe, including rocks and trees, humans and angels, but what’s made by God isn’t God. It doesn’t share God’s nature. Jesus is unique: because he’s the only begotten Son of God, he fully shares God’s nature like no one else does. Because God has always existed, so has God’s Son (John 1:1-3, Hebrews 1:2-3).

Origin story

“He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, truly God and truly man.” [2]

How can a single human in history — a Jewish man — be God? That reality is greater than we can wrap our minds around, but here’s one illustration: Stan Lee was the storytelling genius behind the Marvel Universe of superheroes. Until his death, he also had a cameo appearance in every Marvel movie. The creator of the Marvel Universe became a character within that universe. He wrote himself into the story.

That’s like how God wrote himself into history by becoming a particular human being in a particular time and place (Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 2:1-7). Jesus’ conception was a miracle but he had a real human mother, Mary, and he got a complete human nature from her — body, soul, mind and will. The Bible records he was born and grew up. He felt happiness and sadness, love and loneliness, hunger and thirst, tiredness and temptation. But he didn’t just come in a cameo role. He came to save the world he’d created. He lived as a human who sinlessly pleased God so he could save the rest of us who haven’t lived that way.

Death scene

 “He died on the cross and was buried, to be a sacrifice both for original sin and for all human transgressions, and to reconcile us to God.” [3]

Jesus went through what we do even to the point of dying; and not just any death: he went through the painful, shameful experience of being hung on a cross to die (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19). Because of who he is, even his death is for our good. That’s why his death date is called Good Friday. He sacrificed his sinless life to cover for our sinful lives. Because he’s both God and human, his death provides a way to bring God and humans back together.

Happy ending

“Christ rose bodily from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and there intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand until He returns to judge all humanity at the last day.” [4]

Just like us, Jesus was born and died. But because he’s the only begotten Son of God, what came before his birth was a miraculous conception and what came after his death was a miraculous resurrection. Jesus didn’t stay dead. On Easter Sunday, he came back to life! He’s not just alive in spirit (like a ghost) or halfway alive in the body (like a zombie). He’s so alive that he’ll never die anymore! And he’s promised that someday he’ll bring us all back to life, too. Meanwhile we can have comfort when we face death. There’s nowhere we go — even to the grave — where Jesus hasn’t been there, beaten that.

When Jesus came back to life in his body, many eyewitnesses saw him. Forty days later he left for heaven in his body with many eyewitnesses watching (Acts 1:9). Someday he will return in the same body to finish saving the world from evil and then everyone will see him! Until then he is praying constantly for us. He’s our representative to God the Father.

Jesus will never stop being truly human as well as truly God. Because he’s both human and God forever, he’s the guarantee we humans can be rescued from evil and reconciled to God forever. He’s the hero we need, the one we’ve always wished for even when we didn’t know it. It’s a story so good to be true.

Jerome Van Kuiken is an ordained Wesleyan elder and professor in the School of Ministry and Christian Thought at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Bartlesville, Oklahoma.


Questions for reflection and conversation

  • Jesus was referred to as the Christ. What does the term Christ actually mean?
  • Jesus was also referred to as the “only begotten son” (John 3:16, NJKV). This means that Jesus shares the same nature as God. What are some characteristics that Jesus shares with his Father?
  • Through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross we have been reconciled in our relationship with God. Consider how Jesus’ sacrifice has personally and specifically changed the trajectory of your life through reconciliation.
  • When Jesus was resurrected many witnesses saw him alive. He was not just alive in spirit or partial human form. He was and will always be fully human and fully God. What has Jesus’ resurrection made possible for us?


Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

“The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” used by the permission of Wesleyan Publishing House: Fishers, Indiana.

[1] “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” 15.

[2] “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” 15.

[3] “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” 15.

[4] “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” 15.