Jan. 19. 2003 - WHO IS JESUS - Behold God
WHO IS JESUS
Part Two – Behold God
Central United Church
Text: “For in Him (Jesus Christ) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…”
At almost every funeral service I have ever conducted, I’ve used the familiar words of Jesus “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)
Who is this Jesus, who made such a bold statement?
If He wasn’t God, what right; what authority did He have to utter such words of prophecy?
If Jesus was merely a man, these words are pure hypocrisy. But, if He was God, then His words are the most comforting, reassuring words that have ever been spoken!
So which is it? Is He God, or is He Man?
Last week, we examined Jesus, the Man. We saw that the Gospels are clear in stating that Jesus was truly a human being. One who shared the same emotions, the same weaknesses and strengths, the same joys and sorrows that we all know. He was a human being surrounded by mystery, yes, most certainly; but a human being nevertheless.
But if He was a human being, how could He also be God? It seems a contradiction!
Surely this is the ultimate mystery surrounding Jesus. A mystery with which scholars have wrested since the Christian Church was first established. It’s a mystery - that seems to defy explanation, for it contradicts everything we know about God and human beings.
Ø the Creator;
Ø the power that propels life;
Ø the One who has set in motion the boundless universe with all its diversity & expanse.
Ø all powerful;
Human beings, (on the other hand) are weak, finite creatures. We may have been formed in the image of God, (a fact demonstrated by our ability to manipulate the elements of creation); but we have limits. We’re definable. We have a beginning and an end; a birth & a death.
So how could Jesus be both man and God?
In wrestling with this, I thought back to my days as an undergraduate in philosophy at McMaster University. I remember the long arguments we used to have in class. One group arguing that we have freedom of choice; the other arguing just as convincingly that all actions are predetermined.
And no matter how elegant our defense, we could never win over our opponents. If one side said ‘we have freedom of choice. The other side would argue just as convincingly that everything, including the argument we had just made, was pre-determined.
So we were deadlocked. There was no way to resolve the dilemma. So it always ended in a truce. We had our opinion. They had theirs. There was no winner!
In a way, we’re confronted with that same dilemma here. If we’re talking to someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus, there’s absolutely no way to prove Jesus is God in human form.
But if we’ve experienced the power of the risen Christ’ in our life, then there is no question about it. We know we’ve encounter God in Jesus. So the only thing we can hope to do in a dialogue with a non-believer, is to invite him/her to come to know Jesus personally, through reading Scripture, through prayer and meditation, and through worship.
So, accepting this limitation, let’s examine what it is within our Christian experience that leads us to believe God is in Christ.
I THE CLAIMS HE MADE
If we compare Jesus with other great teachers of the past, we find one distinct difference. Consider Plato, Buddha, Confucius, even Mohammed, without exception they all focus upon the message, not upon themselves. They saw themselves as messengers, or prophets, but not God. “I am nothing”, they would say. “It’s the message that’s important.”
But with Jesus its utterly different! Jesus said: “I and the Father are one”. (John 10:30)
Jesus deliberately placed Himself at the Center of His own message. He didn’t claim to have found the answer to life, He claimed to BE the answer!
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” What other prophet dared to make such a bold claim?
When talking about caring for others, Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me!” (Matt. 25:40 & 45)
How dare He make such bold assertions, unless He and God are One!
Either Jesus is an insane meg-alo-mania, or else what He said is true. God is in Christ. We can’t have it both ways. His words are either preposterous, or they are the most profound and significant words ever uttered by a living person.
So our first indication that God & Christ are One, comes from Jesus’ own claims about Himself.
II HE WAS SINLESS
The second indication that Jesus was more than just a man, comes from his moral life. The first letter of Peter tells us: “He committed no sin; no guile (or deceit) was found on His lips.” (I Peter 2:22) And the Apostle Paul tells us: “For our sake, He (God) made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Cor. 5:21)
The modern world doesn’t like the word ‘sin’ in reference to human weakness or error. ‘Sin’, by its very nature implies a Divine Order, a Creator, a God behind the universe. And that goes against the grain of conventional wisdom.
But call it what you like, the fact remains the Gospels tell us Jesus lived without committing the kind of errors and wrongs that plague the rest of us. He lived a pure and perfect life. And the evidence of this comes, not from Jesus’ words, but from the testimony of others.
Never once, is Jesus heard confessing sin! This man who spent so much of His time working and redeeming sinners, never had to ask forgiveness for His own misdeeds.
This fact is startling! It’s all the more startling when you compare Jesus with any other saintly people who have ever lived; for saintly people have been, without exception, very conscious of their own sins. There are countless examples of this awareness; from the Apostle Paul, to Thomas a Kempis, (in the Middle Ages), to Mother Teresa in our own day.
People who live in close communion with God, are more aware of their own sins, - than anyone else. Yet here is Jesus, a man constantly in prayer, yet never once do we hear Him confess His sins.
So Jesus’ sinlessness is our second indication that Jesus and God are one and the same.
III JESUS DID FOR OTHERS WHAT ONLY GOD COULD DO
The third indication comes from what He did for others.
Listen to His words to a paralytic man, brought to Him for healing: “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus actually forgave the man’s sins! By what authority could He do something like that, if God & He were not One? (Matt. 9:2)
Yet this wasn’t an isolated occurrence it happened over and over again. Remember the story of lame man lowered down through the roof into the room where Jesus was teaching? What did Jesus say to Him. “My son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5-9)
And when Jesus sensed that the scribes in His audience were critical of what He was saying, He went on to say: “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘ rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”, He turned to the paralytic and said “Rise, take up your bed and go home.”
Think about it. Jesus did wasn’t merely pronounce absolution of sins, any priest could do that. What Jesus did was actually forgive their sins. He didn’t say God forgives you. He said I forgive you. And when he spoke these words, it was as if the whole weight of sin was removed from the guilt one. The individual experienced incredible relief. God’s peace was with that person. Guilt was removed.
Because of these actions, Jesus became a target of the Pharisees. They knew no one but God could forgive sins! And they simply couldn’t handle the audacity of any mortal - claiming to have ‘the power of God’.
Yet the proof of Jesus’ claim is in the results.
Ø The paralytics who were forgiven were also healed of their physical ailments.
Ø The woman of the streets who washed Jesus’ feet with ointment was released from her sin and went away, as Luke states, ‘in peace’.
There is no doubt about it, this man Jesus actually forgave sins. So we know God was in Christ, as He has been in no other human being, before or since!
IV IN THE RESPONSE HE COMMANDS
The final verification comes from the response Jesus generates in the hearts and minds of believers.
Here’s an example: J.B. Phillips, the New Testament translator, began his task of translating simply as a scholar seeking only to do justice to the words on the page. But the impact of his work changed him into a devout Christian and ardent follower of Jesus Christ.
In translating the New Testament, J.B. Phillips encountered Christ as he had never done before, and became thoroughly convinced that this man Jesus was none other than the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God.
That’s been the experience of hosts of other students of the Bible. They may begin with an intellectual curiosity, to explore Jesus’ life & work, but they end up, with the realization that Christ is exploring their heart and soul.
It can happen to any of us who reads the Gospels. We begin out of curiosity to look at this man Jesus, trying to discover who He was; but as we read on, we find that Jesus is exploring us, seeking to know what’s in our heart and soul.
It’s like what happened to Saul of Tarsus. Struck down on the road to Damascus by a light from heaven, and confronted with the presence of Christ:- his first words were: “who are you, Lord.” But no sooner had he received the answer: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting…”, than Instinctively, a second question was born: “What will you have me do?”
That’s what happens to us too. We may seek Jesus out of curiosity, or simply because we think reading about Him will be good for us. But no sooner do we meet Him in the pages of the New Testament than He demands a response from us.
You can walk away from His demands. You can turn your back on them. But you can’t deny them. Jesus calls us, each and everyone of us, to pick up our cross, and follow Him!
Only God can have such power over us.
Jesus was no ordinary man, though He was very much a human being. This Jesus, whom we worship and call Lord today, was far more than just another human being. He was God incarnate. God made flesh.
As the Gospel writer, John, so elegantly expressed it: “And the Word (of God) became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (John 1:14)
God has become a human being. Human in every aspect, but at the same time that human being was also God. That’s the wonder over Christ. That’s the mystery surrounding this man Jesus. And that’s the One who meets you & me, as we read the Bible, as we worship Sunday by Sunday, as we pray in the privacy of our own thoughts.
And that God who is in Christ demands a response from us. Either we accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, dedicating our life to His work, or we don’t?
No one can answer the question for us. Only we can do it. But how we answer, will determine the future of our lives.
How do you respond?