Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who is Jesus?

In all of history the most influential person who ever lived, the most captivating, the most studied, the most examined, the most written about, the most sung about, the most discussed person ever is Jesus Christ, and even after two thousand years of interest, there still exists an intense curiosity about Jesus. Countless TV news programs, newspapers, and periodicals have aired and written stories which ask the question “Who was Jesus?” Now I believe there is a problem with that question, and the problem is the verb tense. It is wrong. Instead of asking “Who was Jesus?” the proper question to ask would be “Who is Jesus?”

The topic of Jesus is a captivating and controversial one; however, there exists a lot of confusion, deception, and doubt concerning the man Jesus Christ. Of course, confusing information about historical figures is nothing new. The truthfulness of some stories surrounding historical figures is doubtful. Did George Washington really cut down that cherry tree? Did he really say, “Father I cannot tell a lie. I cut down your cherry tree.”? Who shot Kennedy? Surrounding these important historical figures are doubts that create an inconvenience to our curiosity, but confusion, deception, and doubt concerning Jesus Christ carries far greater consequences that mere inconvenience, because Jesus Christ claimed that the whole human race is dead in sin, headed for an eternal hell, and that He is the only Savior, the only Hope that this world has. He is the only one who can forgive sins, who can bring true peace, joy in this life, and eternal blessing in the life to come. He is the only one who can take you to heaven.

It is for that reason that we cannot keep Jesus in the realm of curiosity, but He must be placed in the critical category; critical in the sense that it is absolutely essential to deal with His claims. These are astonishing claims that He made and they demand an honest look at Him because He says our eternal souls are at stake. Where you spend forever is at issue here and you will live somewhere forever, either in heaven or hell.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me,” (John 14:6). Now, as C.S. Lewis has written in Mere Christianity, that is either the insane ramblings of a lunatic, the powerful deception of a clever liar, or Jesus Christ is indeed Lord and His claims are truth. However, when many individuals search for the true Jesus they inevitably fail to find Him. Why is that? Is Jesus hidden? Do you need to search for cleverly hidden clues to find Jesus? Why do Newsweek and Time, the History Channel, and PBS all fail to find the genuine Jesus? The reason they can look and never find Him is they never look in the place where He is revealed. They fail to look at the Bible; at least they fail to take a serious look at the scriptures. They fail to take the Bible as absolutely, unequivocally true. Therefore they fail to find the real Christ.

It would be impossible for a person or a committee of gifted writers to invent Jesus Christ. When you look at the Jesus of the gospels, and you look at His life, there is no possibility that men could come up with such a person. When he spoke, people said, "Never [has] a man spake like this man." What He did nobody ever expected Him to do, no other person had ever done it. There is no human explanation for Jesus; He is not a character of human invention. The best of men’s attempts to invent super heroes don’t even come close.

The Bible presents Jesus in unambiguous and unmistakable terms; so the only way you can go look for Jesus and not find Him is if you don’t believe what the Bible says or if you totally ignore it. Jesus said in John 5:39, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” Read the scriptures with an open mind and heart. Do that and you will find the truth because it’s the purpose of the Bible to reveal truth.

In order to answer the question “Who is Jesus?” you have to look to the Bible, and I specifically want to take you to a couple of verses in John 8. During His earthly ministry Jesus was in constant dialogue with the Jewish leaders. You should remember that Jesus was a Jew, born into and raised by a devout Jewish family, but He was always in conflict with the religious leaders because they believed that their own works, their own self effort, their own religious achievement, and their own self-righteousness achieved for them a right standing with God. Jesus was contradicted that false teaching and said to them:

Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:3, 14-15)

In effect He told them that while they may be religious they were still sinful, and therefore needed to repent of their sin and embrace Him as their Lord and Savior.

They didn’t want to hear that or do that; so there was conflict.

The conflict reached its high point at the end of John 8. They’re having a conversation about father Abraham, and, of course, Abraham lived long before Jesus, but in verse 58; Jesus says to these Jews, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.”

That is a staggering statement. Nothing could have been more disturbing to the ears of those Jews than: “Before Abraham came into existence, I am.” That designates a mode of existence that has no beginning and it has no end and it has no transitions. There was a historical event, Abraham came into being. Before that, "I am." With that statement Jesus attributed to Himself eternal existence in the absolute divine sense. Judging by the Jews' reaction in verse 59 they completely understood Christ's claim. “Then took they up stones to cast at Him.”

For what reason did they want to stone Jesus? Blasphemy. The Jews clearly understood that when Jesus said “Before Abraham was, I am”, He was claiming to be God. The Jews understood that God is eternal; meaning that God has no beginning and no ending. They knew Psalm 90:2 which says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou are God.” And no man can say, “I am” without causing people to think he is God. Jesus was claiming to be the God who is the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the eternal God, and the Jews could either believe His claims or stone Him as a blasphemer. They tried to stone Him.

No man could lay a hand on Jesus; at least not until His time had come. Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). His life wasn’t taken from Him; He offered it up (John 10:17-18).

(Just a little side note here. The cults are confused about Jesus' claims. There are people who argue that He never claimed to be God. He most certainly did. To assert that “Before Abraham was, I am” was a clear declaration of His deity; the Jews knew it, and they wanted to kill Him for it.)

God first referred to Himself as the I AM in Exodus 3:13-14:

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Moses knew God’s name. What Moses asked was what does your name mean? God’s explanation is that the name Yahweh, or Jehovah, is a dynamic name “I AM WHO I AM” or “I was, I am, I always will be!” God is the self-existent, eternal, deliverer and savior of His people.

Then along comes Jesus, and He calls Himself the I AM. Jesus made eight I AM statements, and John records them all.

  • John 6:35, “I am the bread of life” meaning He is the source of spiritual life, eternal life.
  • John 8:12, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
  • John 8:58, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was [came into being], I am.”
  • John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”
  • John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
  • John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
  • John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
  • John 15:5, “I am the true vine” the only source of productive, fruitful life.

Over and over again Jesus was proclaiming: I am…I am…I am…I am, but so many people rejected His claims. That’s the sad and ultimately damning choice that people made then and are still making now.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus was and is who He claimed to be. He is God. He is Lord. His words and His works prove that. The Bible shows us that Christ has power over the demonic world; power over disasters; power over disease; power over death. He is the one and only Savior who can forgive sins and guarantee eternal life with Him in heaven. The Bible says Jesus forgives sinners, but only if you come to Him in repentance and faith and if you indeed come to Him He will remove your sin as far as the east is from the west, and bury it in the depths of the deepest sea. It’s blotted out. It’s forgotten by the memory of God.

Let the record stand. There never has been anybody like Jesus, no one. He is the mighty King; the master of everything. He’s the master of hungry crowds. He’s the master of the sick. He’s the master of the sinful. He’s the master of demons and Satan. He’s the master of nature. He’s the master of angry Pharisees. He’s the master of clever theologians. He’s the master of all governments. He’s the master of Himself.

No one ever lived like this man, and what He said affects every one of us. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). He said, “Whoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). He said, “Whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Matthew 16:25). He said, “I am the light of the world. I am the bread of life. I am the resurrection and the life.” That is who Jesus is. These are the claims that He made. They are not ambiguous.

Let me sum it up this way. If God became a man, wouldn’t we expect Him to have a miraculous entrance into this world? He did, born of a virgin. If God became a man wouldn’t we expect Him to be sinless and live a holy life? He did. Pilate couldn’t find a fault in Him. Satan couldn’t find a fault in Him because He was holy and without sin. If God became a man wouldn’t we expect that His words would be the clearest, truest, purest, most authoritative ever spoken? They were. If God became a man wouldn’t we expect Him to manifest supernatural power? He did. If God became a man wouldn’t we expect Him to accomplish His purpose? He has and is. Jesus is God, and all of us must declare Him Lord or deride Him as a lunatic and liar.

Every man, woman, and child stands at that crossroad. Who is Jesus Christ?

  • Lunatic?
  • Liar?
  • Lord and Savior?

You will spend eternity somewhere based on your answer to that question. Forgiveness of sin is available through His death on the cross. Eternal life is available through His resurrection. The choice you make about Jesus Christ is the only choice that matters forever.

No comments: