Date: December 20, 2015
Read Jn 4:19-26 – While increasingly secularized, Christmas originated to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The gospel records suggest that His humble birth caused great excitement for a brief time but that He was shortly spirited away to Egypt to escape Herod the Great’s vendetta against some unknown “King of the Jews”. Upon Herod’s death, Jesus’ parents returned to Nazareth. We know almost nothing of the next 30 years. By age 30 he was a nobody, buried in obscurity in Nazareth, having done nothing to separate himself from the mass of humanity. Why all the fuss about His birth?
Well, partly because in the remaining 3 years of His life, the obscure carpenter had more impact on human history than person who ever lived – by far. The evidence of His impact and influence is everywhere -- in every nation, every religious faith and every cultural medium from the highest of art forms to the lowest expressions of profanity. Jesus, Beloved, is everywhere!
Someone has noted: “Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ's 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity.” H. G. Wells contends: “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.” No wonder all the fuss about His birth, right?
Even more to the point are the claims He made and substantiated by the most incredible display of authoritative teaching and miraculous power ever recorded. Joseph Parker commented, “Only Christ could have conceived Christ.” His concepts of love, compassion, respect for the individual, and the power for forgiveness were unprecedented in ancient times. They’re still at the heart of Western culture. It has abandoned the foundation for these standards but can’t extricate itself from the concepts. They are entrenched.
But Jesus uniqueness extends even further. Historian Huston Smith claimed in The World’s Great Religions the two most dominant figures in history who lived lives of such beauty that people asked not just “Who are you?” but “What are you?” were Buddha and Jesus. But he further notes that while Buddha distained worship by saying, “Absolutely, do not worship me. I am not God,” Jesus did just the opposite. Jesus staked a credible claim to be God!
It’s been noted: “Buddha never claimed to be God. Moses never claimed to be Jehovah. Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Yet Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God. Buddha simply said, "I am a teacher in search of the truth." Jesus said, "I am the Truth." Confucius said, "I never claimed to be holy." Jesus said, "Who convicts me of sin?" Mohammed said, "Unless God throws his cloak of mercy over me, I have no hope." Jesus said, "Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins." UNIQUE!
That stops us dead in our tracks. No one else credibly claimed, “Your eternal destiny rides on your relationship with me.” But Jesus did. Jn 6:40: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” Astounding. Caesar never said, “Believe in me to get eternal life.” Confucius never said, “Believe in me to get eternal life.” Plato never said, “Believe in me to get eternal life.” But Jesus did.
So how do you get a handle on one who stakes that claim on your eternal destiny? Lots of ways. But let’s look this morning at the primary identity He assumed. Based on the OT, 1st century Jews expected a great Deliverer – a Messiah. Jesus claimed to be that person. For example, the Samaritan woman Jesus met at Jacob’s well in Jn 4 said, “I know that Messiah is coming.” In Jn 4:26 Jesus answers, “I who speak to you am he.” So, who was Messiah?
The Hebrew word is Meshiach -- literally the Anointed One. Three offices in the OT required that one be anointed. Prophets, priests and kings. Their anointing represented the HS’s blessing on them. Messiah combined all three functions in one person – thus THE Anointed One – the Messiah – the Christ, (Greek word for Messiah). Jesus claimed that distinction. Early in His ministry He read from the OT: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because HE has anointed me” (Lu 4:18). That anointing occurred on the day of Jesus’ baptism which initiated His ministry. Luke 3:21-22: “21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form [His anointing], like a dove. Jesus was GOD’s Anointed One -- God’s ultimate prophet, priest and king. The question is, Is He Your Messiah?
I. Christ is God’s Ultimate Prophet
What did prophets do? They spoke God’s Word to the people. “Thus saith the Lord” was the staple of the OT prophet. We could never know a transcendent God unless He chose to reveal Himself which he did thru words, spoken by prophets. His words have life and power. Ten times in Gen 1 we find “God said” – as God spoke the universe into existence. He revealed Himself and much about Himself through that Creation and through the spoken word.
But the ultimate “Word” of God was not a prophecy; it was a Person! Jn 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Prior to this God’s revelation of Himself has been in words, it is now through the Word! The last word in God’s revelation is a Person. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God. He is God in the flesh -- God with us! He is God revealed in a way we can touch, feel, see and experience. God is not hidden; God is not lost. True seekers need look to one place – Jesus.
Heb 1:1: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Other prophets spoke for God; Jesus spoke as God. Other prophets reflected God’s glory (Moses). Jesus was God’s glory. John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “Dwelt” – literally tabernacled. God met Israel at the tabernacle in the wilderness; now He meets His people in Jesus Christ. John 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The ultimate prophetic function – making God known. Anyone claiming to seek God but rejecting Christ is a rebel. If we refuse Him, the blame is all on us.
As God’s prophet, Jesus is the ultimate revealer of truth. He told Pilate in Jn 19:37b: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” No one will ever be able to stand before God and said, “But truth is relative. I had my truth; you had your truth.” That will never play. Christ not only spoke truth; He is truth. He is the truth. Jn 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is God’s final Word. Truth with a capital T. Extreme reality. Only way to God.
Larry King had the pastor of the largest church in America on his show one night. When the pastor agreed you need Christ to go to heaven, King persisted, “What if you’re Jewish or Muslim and you don’t accept Christ at all?” Squirming, visibly uncomfortable, he replied, “You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and who would not go to heaven. I don't know." King: "If you believe that you have to believe in Christ, they are wrong, aren't they?" "Well, I don't know if I believe that they are wrong. I don't know all about their religion, but I know that they love God. I don't know. They seem so sincere. I don't know." Is that all it takes? Being sincere? Vince Lombardi was sincere when he insisted he was just exhausted and refused the exam that would have saved his life – dying of colon cancer at age 57. It’s not sincerity that matters; it’s truth that matters! It’s possible to be sincerely wrong. Here’s what God’s Truth says in Jn 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Listen – here’s reality. Reject Jesus and you’ve rejected God’s Anointed and final revelation. You can’t bypass Him.
II. Christ is God’s Ultimate Priest
This where the wonder and glory of Jesus really shine through. In this role, He makes a substitutionary offering for sin and that offering is – Himself. He is simultaneously priest and offering! From the moment sin entered the world, God began to teach that human offense against an infinite God could only be remedied by a substitutionary sacrifice. Thus, He provided a substitute for the fig leaves Adam and Eve created for themselves. He provided a substitute when Abe was about to sacrifice his own son at God’s request. He provided a substitute lamb for Israel’s firstborn to free them from captivity in Egypt. He provided a substitute lamb for Israel’s sins when they could not keep His law.
But there is a problem with those substitutes. Heb 10:4: “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” None of those substitutes could actually remove guilt. They were insufficient to erase sin. So why the sacrifices? Because they provided forgiveness on credit! They were not the payment, but they promised one day there would be payment. Your credit card is not real money. But it promises that the real thing is coming, right? So the lambs promised that the real thing was coming.
And after hundreds of years and millions of sacrifices, the Lamb arrived. John the Baptist looked up one morning, saw the carpenter from Nazareth standing nearby, pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold – the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Not the promise – the reality! Heb 10: 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” God’s ultimate priest had paid the ultimate price to cover every sin of every believer – not on credit, but in reality. As Jesus died, the Father stamped “Paid in Full” over that cross. Substitutionary atonement – the only means of forgiveness.
In the 1970’s there was a NY psychologist, Helen Schucman, an atheist. In her best-selling, A Course in Miracles, she claimed Jesus appeared to her. He told her, “Do not make the pathetic error of clinging to the old rugged cross…. Your only calling here is to devote yourself with active willingness to the denial of guilt in all its forms.” The world’s solution. Deny guilt! But, it doesn’t work! Guilt will re-emerge every time – like the potholes in CO roads!
The solution isn’t deny it, but confess it to “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The beauty of Jesus’ priestly ministry is II Cor 5:21, “For He (the Father) made Him (Jesus) to be in for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Wow! How does that happen? In Lu 24:47 Jesus specifically says He died and rose, “47 that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed.” Not deny, repent! Listen – if your septic tank broke and you had sewage all over your yard what would you do – deny, or call for help? Well our lives are filled with the sewage of sin. Deny, or repent?
In an art museum in Munich hangs a painting by Rembrandt called Raising the Cross. Christ is front and center, nailed to a cross being lifted into place by Roman soldiers. But there is another man at the feet of Jesus, helping hoist the cross. He wears a 17th century blue painter’s beret. Rembrandt has painted himself into the picture -- acknowledging that he is a sinner and it is his sins that have sent Christ to the cross. This beautifully depicts I Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all.” But for Him to be my mediator, I must paint myself into the picture as well by confessing my helplessness and repenting my sin. Have you painted yourself in? Is He your mediator?
III. Christ is God’s Ultimate King
History isn’t going nowhere. It’s going somewhere. Because Jesus came. That tiny baby will one day rule the world. People don’t believe that, but – they will! Psa 2:1) Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2) The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 3) “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” God knows people mock and shake their fist in His face because He doesn’t comply with their self-centered desires. He knows people think they can actively rebel or passively fob Him off like yesterday’s news. He knows that. So, 4) He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. . . . 6) “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7) I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8) Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Jesus is coming again as King of kings. This is where history is going for Jesus and His followers.
But where is it going for you? If you want Him as your political king, He must be king of your heart. The kingdom of God starts inside and works out. Rom 10: 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Has the King arrived in your heart? He’s done everything possible to make it happen. It is only for you to accept by faith what He has already done.
J. I. Packer says, “The goal of the kingdom is the actual eliminating of all active opposition to God's will, and all disharmony caused by sin, as well as the salvation of God's people. Towards this goal, really, if not always in appearance, all things move continually under Christ's dominion. As God's Savior-King, Jesus has absolute control over all creatures, and an absolute claim upon men. No man has a right NOT to be his disciple.” No man has a right not to be His disciple. Are you? His? Doesn’t the beauty of His Person and Work draw you to be His follower?
Conc – Who is Jesus? He is God’s Anointed, His ultimate prophet, priest and king. After today, you’ll never be able to say, “I didn’t know.” But, it’s not enough to know; it’s not even enough to believe the facts. The question is, is He your Prophet, Priest and King? Is God’s Messiah your Messiah? Is He? Salvation is for those who’ve taken their hands off the wheel of life and turned it all over to Him.
Napoleon said this near the end of his life: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but on what foundation did we rest the creatures of our genius? Upon force. But Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour, millions of persons would die for Him. [that’s commitment]. I die before my time, and my body will be given back to the earth to become food for the worms. Such is the fate of . . . the ‘great Napoleon.’ What an abyss between my deep misery and the eternal kingdom of Christ, which is proclaimed, loved, adored and is still existing over the whole earth.” We all worship something this morning. Will your something last – eternally? Jesus will. Why not commit to Him? Let’s pray.