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Weekly Word

Entries in Ashamed (1)

Wednesday
Jul162014

The Identity of Jesus

As we have studied through the Gospel According to Luke, we have seen that Jesus had been with his disciples for a while and they have seen many amazing things: healings, exorcisms, miraculous supply of bread and meat, and a storm commanded to stop.  All of these beg the question, “Who is this guy?”

In Luke 9:18-27 we have a section where Jesus tests his disciples to see what conclusions they have made about him.  They obviously think he is worth following, but Jesus wants them to answer the question of his identity.

Jesus Wants Us To Know Him

It is easy to think of God as a being that keeps hidden and doesn’t want us to know Him.  He is invisible, which questions if He is really there, and He is seemingly silent.  Of course, the Bible contends that God has often “shown” Himself to man and often “spoken” to man.  However, He doesn’t do so all the time and especially not at the command of a person.  Yet, here we see the actions of Jesus letting us know that God really does want us to know Him.  As Francis Schaeffer has stated, He is here and He is not silent.  Like any good teacher, Jesus has let their experiences and his teachings stew within his students.  Now it is time to stir up the pot with the question we find in verse 18, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

The word on the street was that Jesus might be John the Baptist come back to life.  Of course for those who were familiar with John’s ministry, this is ludicrous.  John actually baptized Jesus and told his followers that Jesus was the One that he was preparing them for.  He clearly proclaimed Jesus as Messiah to his followers.  Another idea was that Jesus was Elijah.  This guess comes from the book of Malachi where there is a prophecy that states Elijah will come before the Day of the Lord.  The last guess is more of a catch-all.  Jesus may be one of the other prophets come back to life.  All of these are merely speculations of those who are clearly not intimately connected to these circumstances as the disciples were.  Thus they take on the look of a conspiracy theory.  The problem with conspiracy theories is that there is no end to the speculations that can occur.  Even when there is no conspiracy, you can still make up several like a person imaginatively writing a novel.  Who can know the difference?  If a person stands up and says, that is not true because I was there.  The person with the conspiracy theory only needs to accuse them of being part of the conspiracy.  Thus we are left either paralyzed, not knowing what to believe, or grasping at ideas that have nothing to do with the truth.

Jesus next presses the point home.  “But who do you say that I am?”  This is the more important question that Jesus is leading up to.  Peter is the bold one of the group and so he speaks what is most likely the belief of all of them, except perhaps Judas. “You are the Christ of God.”  We will touch on this more in a moment.  But for now let us recognize that those who were closest to Jesus believed that he was the Messiah that they had been waiting for.  They knew the speculations of the crowd fell far short of who Jesus was.

It is interesting that Jesus forbids them to proclaim this publically.  Why wouldn’t Jesus want to be publically proclaimed as Messiah?  Doesn’t he want people to know who he is?  Yes he does.  But he is not running for the office of Messiah.  He is not trying to get elected to a position.  The Messiah or Christ was not chosen by people, but chosen by God.  So the people needed to come to this conclusion on their own, rather than pressured by Jesus or by his disciples.  Also, Jesus knew that if he proclaimed himself Messiah, the religious leaders would quickly arrest him and have him killed.  So this delay gives him more time to minister throughout Israel and let people see for themselves who he was.  Jesus relied more upon the Spirit of God speaking to people’s heart about who he was then him telling them.  This would be more authentic and not manipulated.  We must notice that after his death and resurrection, Jesus commands his disciples to now proclaim publically who he was.  Of course He would be absent having ascended into heaven.  Yet, the Holy Spirit would be working in the hearts of people to help them receive it.  Why some receive the witness of the Holy Spirit and others reject it is a mystery that we may never completely understand.

Who Is He?

So who is Jesus?  Peter declared him to be the Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew) of God.  These terms literally mean “Anointed One.”  They point to the prophecies in the Bible of a man who would be chosen by God and anointed with power by Him in order to restore righteousness within the government, society, and individuals.  This Anointed One would also put down those in rebellion against the God of heaven.  This wasn’t just within Israel.  God’s Anointed One would bring salvation and Judgment to the Gentiles as well and thus would become King over all the earth.  Now the other gospels record this as well.  However, they also reveal that Peter’s answer was longer than Luke records.

In Matthew 16:16 Peter also says that Jesus is the “Son of the Living God.”  Now there is no conspiracy here.  Maybe Luke’s source only remembered the first part.  These testimonies of what Peter said do not conflict.  One is just longer than the other, or more detailed.  So Peter also saw that Jesus was not just a man.  He saw him as divine.  He is called son because his body was the miraculous creation of the Spirit of God within Mary.  She conceived without ever being with a man.  This is just as impossible as it is for dirt to come together and form Adam.  Both are direct creations of God.  So Jesus as a man is the direct creation of God or the Son of God.  Of course, in His divinity he is not created.  John makes this clear in his Gospel- John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  He goes on to declare that the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus.  So he is more than a man chosen by God and anointed by him.  But even more, he is a man inhabited by the Word, and second person of the Triune God.

Jesus clearly commends Peter for this answer.  He was correct.  However, he was missing a critical component to the identity of Jesus.  Yes, he is all those amazing things.  The type of person that we would all want on our team and yet look at the response of Jesus in Luke 9:22.  Jesus was also the one destined to be rejected.  In the way of the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah, Jesus was also supposed to be rejected (You may want to read Isaiah 52-53 for further background on this.)  He would suffer many things at the hands of the elders and then he would be put to death.  Like a cornerstone that had been perfectly shaped and sent to the builders, Jesus presented himself to Israel and the leaders rejected him.  “We will not build with this stone,” they say back to God.  Yet, God would vindicate Jesus by raising him up on the 3rd day.

Will You Follow This Man?

This third part of his identity is important.  Everyone wants to embrace Jesus on the first two points.  But who wants a hero who not only is killed, but asks you to pick up a cross and follow him?  It seems foolish to many.  Jesus knew that if he didn’t bring this up now they would have trouble receiving it later.  So he spends some time walking them through the issues of what it means to believe in him and to follow him as a disciple in verses 23-27.

In verse 23 he points out that to follow him will require denying your own desires.  The cross is an implement of death.  Thus dying would be a critical part of following Jesus.  I don’t have time to flesh this out completely.  Let’s just say, we may not always be put to death physically for following Jesus.  However, at every point that my flesh and this world tempt me to leave Jesus, I must die to that desire to leave him in order to stay with Jesus.  Whom will you choose?  When you madly lust after someone to whom you are not married and it pulls you to commit sexual sin, whom do you choose, Jesus or sin?  When Jesus says, “Forgive,” but your heart says, “No way,” whom will you follow?  When you are told that you need to follow a 21st century Jesus, i.e. the new and improved Jesus who is not so offensive, whom will you follow, Jesus or Jesus+? 

Jesus then adds in verse 24 the issue of self-preservation.  Sometimes we refuse to die to sin because we lust so strongly for it.  However, other times we refuse to die because we are afraid to die.  Though Jesus doesn’t use the word courage here, I am going to apply it.  It will take courage to follow Jesus.  Self preservation may save your body, but it can get you spiritually killed.  Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But, rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  If I save my body, I have only done so for a few years.  Even if my actions of walking away from Jesus gains me 40, 50, or 60 more years, then I will stand before God and give account for having walked away from Jesus.  Such small amount of years in this body will seem so trivial in light of eternity.  It takes courage to face both physical death and emotionally dying to those sins that seek to pull us away from Jesus.  Jesus knew his disciples would need such courage.  We must give up the goal and direction of our life for Christ.  Notice in verse 24 the words, “for me.”  We are not called to just whimsically give up things or even totally deny ourselves any pleasures.  But, precisely where following Jesus clashes with my desires or society’s desires that is where I need to die.  You cannot hold on to two conflicting desires.  You will either follow Jesus or, like Judas, pretend you are following him, or you will merely walk away from him.

In verse 25 Jesus moves it up another notch.  Before, he dealt with self preservation, which only gains one’s physical life.  But here he posits being able to gain the whole world.  Being on top of the heap financially, musically, religiously, politically, in business, or among your friends, can all be temptations that pull us away from Christ.  All of these things can take your soul to hell if you let them pull you away from the directives of Jesus.  Jesus is not against accomplishments.  In fact there are great people who have chosen to follow Jesus.  But how many sell out Christ because they think it will help them get what they want?  Countless millions.  Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord because without him our accomplishments are hollow and will not be worth it in the end.  We have to hold accomplishments in this world very lightly.   We have to be ready to let them go in order to follow Christ.  We have to guard our hearts so that they are not riddled with lusts that will keep up from Jesus.

Lastly, it requires refusing to be ashamed of Jesus before this world.  If we refuse to stand with Jesus before men, then He will refuse to stand for us before His Father.  When Jesus is crucified the disciples figuratively throw down their crosses and run.  They are scared.  Peter even denies Jesus to a young servant girl, he is so afraid.  Yet, this verse is not about a onetime thing.  After the resurrection the Spirit of God filled these men and enabled them to give the good witness and stand with Jesus even to the point of physical death.  They stood with Christ in the end and that is what matters. 

Today there are many, in the Church, who are ashamed of Christ and the Words in the Bible.  They may not say so, but they demonstrate it when they try to redefine Jesus and reinterpret the Bible.  They thus build a different Jesus, an idol.  What say you?  Are you going to follow the modern golden calves being created across this world?  Or, will you follow this man who is Chosen by God, Anointed with power to save and Judge, and is rejected by the majority of this world?