Who Is Jesus To You?
April 2, 2000 Luke 7:18-35
Scripture: 1Cor. 1:18-25
What is the Subject: The Big Question of this passage?
How can we know for certain who Jesus is? Or how do we know that Jesus is the Messiah? (To personalize this: Who is Jesus to you?)
In a letter to Eberhard Bethge from Tegel Prison, April 30, 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
You would be surprised, and perhaps even worried, by my theological thoughts and the conclusions that they lead to; and this is where I miss you most of all, because I don't know anyone else with whom I could so well discuss them to have my thinking clarified. What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today.
We are moving toward a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as "religious" do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by "religious." Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The question of the Age, ever since Jesus was born, is who is he – really? He has sparked more debate than any other human in history. He has remained as controversial today as he has always been. Some variously believe he was a good man, a great teacher, a gifted martyr, a champion of the human cause, a change artist, a moralist, or even a charlatan, a deceiver, and a hoax. And, of course, he did many wonderful things and claimed to be God which ultimately got him crucified.
Everyone in the world, it seems, has their own idea or presumption of who Jesus is. Even in the so-called Christian community there are many varying opinions. His message has either been understood, or misunderstood, by millions, and he is the essence of his message. He readily admitted that his presence and his teaching would divide the world even down to the level of friends and family.
Even those of us here in this sanctuary have many different levels of relationship to him as we understand him through our own life experience and level of maturity and even through our brokenness. Since we are all persons and he is a person, it makes sense that we will all relate to him in different ways personally. How we relate to him doesn't change who he is in reality, but who he is must govern how we relate to him, even if the variations of who we are produces a range of effect.
I trust and pray that this morning's message will cause you to reassess just who Jesus is to you. Perhaps you will take a deeper look and arrive at a clearer understanding of who he is and how you relate to him. Perhaps you are already a fool for Christ. Or perhaps you think yourself too smart for that. Perhaps the intelligence of the world and the deceitfulness of its desires have never left their infectious marks on you. Or perhaps their marks are more than you can manage.
So how can we arrive at who Jesus is? We must turn to the understanding of the Word he left us. We must dwell upon it until we become one with it, because as we dwell upon the Word of Jesus, we dwell upon him. There is no hasty solution to understanding. We must truly want to understand. That must be why we are here. And my job – my privilege – today is to draw us closer to him.
In the beginning of Luke 7 we get a tremendous dose of Jesus' power. He heals the Gentile centurion's servant at a distance, and he raises the son of a widow from Nain from the very coffin he was being carried in for burial. And a great cry went out across the land that a great prophet had appeared among them and that God had come to help his people. We also see this affirmed in verse 21 of Luke 7.
But now notice in our text for this morning in Luke 7:18-35 that the very prophet who announced the coming of Jesus back in Luke 3 raises the question of, "Who are you, Jesus? Are you the One who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" If John the Baptist can be uncertain of the very One whom he was born to announce, can we be any less certain of ourselves at all times in our understanding? Certainly we too are fallible and must listen to the answers Jesus gives to all of us in regard to this question from the one he called "the greatest among those born of women."
I. Scene One
A. Narrative: John sends his disciples to ask Jesus whether he is the Messiah. (18-23)
John doesn't wonder whether Jesus has been sent from God, he simply wants confirmation that his ministry is the promised ministry of deliverance – the ministry of the Messiah.
God has allowed John to go down a hard road that he doesn't fully understand.
We place expectations on those that minister to us and are sometimes disappointed when God doesn't meet those expectations.
We sometimes conclude that God isn't working through them.
Jesus concludes by saying that anyone who doesn't get "tripped off" by him will be blessed.
B. Major Point
Jesus is the power of God that is applied differently than our expectations.
The first aspect of Jesus' true identity is found in his miracles. Jesus is the power of God – but not like you might expect. We know he is the Messiah because of the way God's power is displayed in him, even if we don't see all that we would like to see yet.
When I travel to the interior of China, the Christian communities all claim they've seen and experienced miracles. Kim-Kwong Chan, "Hudson Taylor and Missions to China."
Too many times we miss so much because we live on the low level of the natural, the ordinary, the explainable. We leave no room for God to do the exceeding abundant thing above all that we can ask or think. Vance Havner
When we are in doubt, God will never fail to give light when we have no other plan than to please him and to act in love for him. Brother Lawrence
But when I pray for my own children, it seems that nothing happens.
Jesus didn't meet John's expectations.
We ourselves might ask about the question of evil and suffering.
Our ministries should have a similar substance that points the way to its origin.
Great saints can sometimes struggle and doubt.
Scripture is honest and open about such struggles and doubts, just as we should be today.
The way to deal with them is to express them and find an answer.
But we should be prepared to receive that answer.
Disappointment often calls us to a deeper, less self-focused walk with God.
II. Scene Two
A. Narrative: Jesus affirms John's witness about the Messiah to the crowd. (24-28)
Jesus makes the point that the people came not to see the scenery of the Jordan or the pomp of some misguided human personage dressed in fine clothes.
They went out of their way to go into the desert because John had a message of truth to tell.
An alternative understanding here would be to understand that John was no pushover and he did not come to tickle anyone's ears (like a courtesan).
John's message would draw the close on the old era and usher in the dawn of a new era – a new era of realization in God's plan. John is the bridge between the two eras, but those who cross the bridge will have something that was never possible in the old era.
They will have come into a closer, more intimate relationship with God that transcends even the best that the old age had to offer.
See Luke 20:36 (the children of the resurrection will be like the angels).
John has nothing over us when it comes to access to God's grace.
Hard as it is to believe, we are in a greater position than he was when he was ministering as the forerunner to Jesus.
B. Major Point
Jesus is the grace of God that gives us a message greater than John the Baptist.
The second aspect of Jesus' true identity is found in his grace. Jesus is the grace of God – but not like you might expect. We know he is the Messiah because of the way man's relationship with God is exalted in him, beyond our wildest comprehension.
They blessing of being greater than a prophet comes only from following his call to enter into God's grace and dance to the music of the divine musician.
III. Scene Three
A. Narrative: Jesus teaches this generation about the wisdom of receiving him as the Messiah. (29-35)
Jesus teaches about the nature of this generation.
They are spoiled and complaining children.
They want God to play their game.
They want to come to their terms.
They want to own him and buy him off.
They will not come to God on his terms.
This is a parable about brats and complainers and objectors. John and Jesus don't fit the mold.
God's way has been rejected by the religious leaders.
People are often superficially pious in wanting God to approach them on their own terms.
They want God to dance to their music rather than to follow his tune.
They are uncomfortable with his call that they must come to him.
Here are the two ways God uses to bring sinners unto himself and both are rejected.
John's message of repentance in light of impending judgment and Jesus' message of love and grace are both rejected.
Both had substance even though their style differed.
The style, about which the leaders complained, was not as important as the substance that they didn't want to receive.
In fact, many different styles can be effective in ministry.
God does not always meet our expectations in doing things a certain way.
B. Major Point
Jesus is the promise of God that sets those who believe in him above those who do not.
The third aspect of Jesus' true identity is found in his new covenant promise. Jesus is the new covenant promise of God – but not like you might expect. We know he is the Messiah because of the way our lives will bear the fruit of God's promise in him.
If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it. Thomas Carlyle
We can anticipate being surprised at who might respond to the gospel, and who responds to what method used to deliver it.
They doubted the testimony of John.
They doubted the testimony of Jesus.
They will not be able to deny the testimony of the disciples.
They didn't like the old way.
They didn't like the new way.
They just wanted it their way.
They just wanted to complain.
It is the fallen human way of trying to divert attention from our own sins, but in reality the more we complain the more we expose our sins because we expose ourselves.
Understanding the old way helps us to accept the new way.
V. 29-30 (great sinners vs. little sinners)
Can we each see the fallenness of our own personalities?
What is the Big Idea: Subject plus Complement of the passage?
We know for certain who Jesus is when we truly understand him as the power and the grace and the promise of God.
Timeless Truth: If Jesus to you is the power and the grace and the promise of God, then he is your God – your Messiah. Then you can stop wondering who Jesus is to you.