Who Is Jesus?


I recently heard a speaker recount a situation in which a young adult was asked, Who is Jesus? The responder started some nebulous answer, then stalled out altogether. Simply, he didn’t have a clear answer. Was Jesus a religious figure, the founder of some new religion? Was He a good teacher who pointed people to a more loving way to live? Maybe He was nothing more than a cute baby that came into the world a long time ago so we could all have Christmas.

Just exactly who is Jesus? It’s an important question and one each person needs to be able to answer. Of course there are the answers skeptics give—a fairly unimportant first century Jewish rabbi whose followers turned into a cult figure people started to worship. Something along that line. It’s hard to deny that he did in fact live, though some atheists go so far as to ignore Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence to the contrary.

The people of His day actually struggle with the question, too. Who is this man? Some said He was a prophet, maybe Elijah. Herod wondered if He was John the Baptist come back to life. More than one person, though, thought He just might be the Messiah, the Christ of God.

After all, the Jews had been waiting and looking for this Promised King. They believed the Messiah would free them from pagan rule. The current pagan rule was Rome, though the Jews had been conquered and enslaved by various other nations. But at the time that Jesus came on the scene, it was the Romans they hoped He would defeat.

But to be honest, “they” didn’t all hope Jesus was the Messiah. In fact the contemporary Jewish leaders contended with Him at every turn. At one point they accused Him of doing miracles by the power of Satan. Ultimately they became so jealous of His following and so fearful they would lose their own positions of authority, they conspired to have Him killed. At that point, they actually didn’t care if He was the Messiah. Maybe they had even stopped believing that God would send a Messiah.

Certainly when Jesus was executed, when He hung on the cross, dying, I’d venture to guess that close to 100% of the people stopped believing that this Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, was God’s Messiah. I mean, how could you have a dead Messiah? How could He save anybody if He was dead?

What they all missed, even Jesus’s followers, was that the very act of dying was the means God chose for their salvation.

In many ways, it’s more surprising that the Jews missed it because their whole history was littered with sacrifice: Passover lambs for the life of the first born in every family; sacrifices for the sins of the people; scapegoats for the sins of the nation; a ram caught in a thicket as a substitute for Isaac. All through Jewish history, sacrifices to save. But along comes Jesus who dies, and they miss who He is, what He’s doing.

Actually, one of those hated Roman soldiers understood better. As Jesus asked God to forgive the men who were killing Him, or perhaps when the earth shook or the sky went dark in the middle of the afternoon, this centurion figured out that Jesus was not just a run-of-the-mill guy. “Surely, this was the Son of God,” he concluded.

What did he know about God? About His Son? Had he been in Jerusalem when Jesus caused the lame man to walk? Did he hear the rumors about Lazarus coming back to life? Or about Jesus multiplying a few loaves of bread and a couple fish so that He could feed 5000 people? We don’t know. But this Roman “pagan” was convinced, as Jesus breathed His last, that this Man was indeed the Son of God.

But that brings us back to the point that had the Jews stumped: how could Jesus save anybody if He was dead? Besides what we can see more clearly in hindsight—that Jesus in fact saved by dying—it was a realistic question. I mean, the Messiah was to be a king, to reign forever. So a dead man wouldn’t qualify, would he?

That part they got right.

Which is why Jesus didn’t stay dead.

As believers all over the world will joyously announce this coming Easter Sunday, He is risen. He is risen indeed! Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ of God, His very Son is risen and alive and will one day return to take His rightful throne.

Published in: on April 2, 2021 at 2:42 pm  Comments Off on Who Is Jesus?  
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Take Courage. Fear Not.


I’ve discovered in the last ten years or so just how relevant the various books of prophecy are. Some of them seem as if they could have been written about contemporary America. So I was not surprised when I came upon a verse that speaks to many in today’s climate of . . . worry.

I don’t know how else to say it, but there are small businesses that have had to close their doors; people who have lost their jobs; others who are worried about finding the paper products they need, when they need them; people who are concerned about getting sick or wearing masks or getting a vaccine or not getting a vaccine.

Isaiah comes along in chapter 35 and says

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not. (vv 3-4a)

Interestingly, the passage starts out by announcing a reason for nature to be glad and to rejoice: “They will see the glory of the LORD/The majesty of our God.”

Essentially Isaiah is describing how things will be when Messiah comes again. He will set things right—bring His vengeance on those who deserve vengeance, save those who trust in Him, provide a “Highway of Holiness” to the redeemed, to enable gladness and joy to the ransomed of the LORD, to chase away sorrow and sighing.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it a relief, refreshing, to hear good news. Not only that, this passage reinforces the fact that God is in control, even when circumstances seem so far from what we imagined or hoped for.

For instance, I grew up in the era which taught that the US is a melting pot. We all have one thing in common: we have come from somewhere else, whether recently or in the distant past, and we have come together, blending our identities into Americans. It’s a wonderful ideal.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would see the day when students are taught “Critical Race Theory,” such that they had to identify which racial, religious, economic, gender, sexual preference oppressed group they belonged to. Those who could not, were part of the oppressors. In other words, these ideas are Marxist and they are the antithesis of the American ideal based on the creed that all people are created equal.

That idea is clearly one embedded in the Bible. God loves the whole world, for instance, and promised a blessing through Abraham for all the world. Paul specifically said all the divisions of ethnicity, gender, economics melted away at the foot of the cross. In the Church, made up of those who are reconciled to God through the sacrifice, the payment for sin, which Jesus provided, there are no distinctions.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21-24–emphasis mine)

So in the face of the many difficulties in 2020, our hope does not lie in a change in the calendar. I know a lot of people are talking about how they can’t wait to be done with 2020, as if the covid virus will disappear at midnight New Year’s Eve. Or jobs will suddenly come back and restaurants will miraculously open or racial tension will vanish or any number of other problems this year has uncovered, will suddenly be solved.

The change of calendar is not the answer, but the knowledge that Jesus, our Savior, will indeed come to reign as our King eternal, heaping gladness and joy on our heads and driving sorrow and sighing away, gives us a reason to take courage, to fear not.

God will handle the problems. He will set things right. It’s in the bank, a done deal. And we have His word on it.

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17-18)

So now we can ask—are we in the company of those who have taken refuge in the promise of God? If so, Scripture gives us strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. Which means we can take courage. We can fear not.

Published in: on December 29, 2020 at 5:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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