WHO IS JESUS TO YOU?
Introduction: This past Wednesday, I was attending the Evangelical Clergy meeting in Sharon. It was my time to share a brief devotion. During my sharing I said, Jesus laid out a threefold process for all those who want to follow him, and asked them what was that process. The minister of the First Congregational church said, before we even start on the process, we must wrestle with the question, who is Jesus to me personally. She asked her congregation to ponder on this all-important question who Jesus truly is and what he means to them.
The same day evening during our life groups, we talked about what makes a safe community. “A safe community is where we are free to be who we are, at the same time growing to become all that God intends.” Towards the end we all shared our needs and prayed for each other. I asked for prayer, expressing my need for clarity in regards to what to preach this Sunday. One person prayed for me that I will hear the voice of God and share what he wants me to share. The next day morning I woke up feeling as if God was saying to me, “Francis you were pre-occupied about leading Hope Church to do great things for me, concerned about people’s problems, planning events, solving conflicts, and networking with other churches. Being and doing the church is not all about maintaining a building, programs, and projects, but it is all about Me.” So, preach about Me; let people get to know who I really am, and let them be obedient and do My will.” I began to ponder on the question, Who is Jesus To Me?
During my Greek class in the seminary, our Greek professor used to say, when you don’t know the answer to a question, you answer it saying, “Jesus” and probably you will be right.” We all laughed at it. But one thing is true, when we know who Jesus is, believe in him, and do what he will tell us to do we will seldom go wrong. I want us to look at two important aspects of Jesus, and how they impact our interactions with our friends and neighbors. Matthew 16: 13-20.
Background: These were the days after John the Baptist’s death. The reports about Jesus were being widely spread around in the region. People were wondering who is this Jesus, displaying such power and performing amazing miracles like: feeding thousands of people with a few loafs of bread and fish, walking on the water, delivering people from demonic oppression, healing the lame, blind, crippled and mute. These reports and rumors went up to King Herod.
Herod called his attendants and said, “this is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Should we say, “fake news” about Jesus was spreading among the people, eventually it came to Jesus, he wanted to silence the skeptics including his unbelieving disciples, so he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is? The disciples answered, “Some think he is John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter Said, “You are the Christ; the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
What a powerful revelation! That may have changed the misperception and the misunderstanding surrounding Jesus. It is not what you hear about Jesus, but what you know about him personally changes your life. In this passage we will see two major aspects of Jesus being the Messiah and the son of the Living God, how these two aspects have been misunderstood by most Jews and Muslims, and how respond to their objections.
I JESUS THE MESSIAH (Vs 16)
Vs 16, “Simon Peter replied you are the Christ, the Messiah.” When I first came to the USA I was surprised by the name of “Jesus Christ” being misused as a word of profanity. Unfortunately, many Christians do not realize saying “Jesus Christ” as a swear word, violates one of God’s commandments, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7.
Keep this in mind, next time when you are tempted to use “Jesus Christ” as a swear word.
What do we know about the name of Jesus Christ? Let’s hear the angel’s announcement to Mary, “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:31-33
By this scripture, we can learn a few aspects of who Jesus is. He is from the royal throne of David, He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God, he will reign on the throne of David, the house of Israel and his kingdom will never come to an end. In Matthew 1st chapter we are told, that name Jesus which is the Greek form Joshua means, “the LORD saves.” By this we know, Jesus means “Savior” How about Christ or the messiah, how did he get that name? Christos the Greek word means anointed. In Hebrew, the word, mashiyach means besmeared or anointed. In the OT the Patriarchs, priests or kings were anointed ones. It also applied to others acting as redeemers.
In the NT, Christ, was used only in connection to Jesus: “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” Mark 9:41. In Matthew 1:16 we read, “and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The words Jesus and Christ were used interchangeably. I Peter 1:1-11, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.”
These scriptures suffice, for us to know that Jesus is, the Christ or the Messiah. Why we should know this important truth of Jesus being the messiah? Because it was denied by many Jews of the first century and still today most of them deny it. Among other reasons they say that Jesus did not fulfil the messianic prophecies. Here is one such messianic prophecy, prophesied by the prophet Isaiah in 600 BC, “By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.” Isaiah 53:8.
It was fulfilled in the crucifixion and death of Jesus. After he rose from the dead this is what Jesus said to his disciples, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer those things and then enter his glory? Luke 24: 25-26. Let’s pray that many Jewish people will believe that Jesus indeed is the Messiah.
II. JESUS THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD
Among several titles given to Jesus, “son of the living God” was one of the most endearing and affectionate one. It expresses the kind of intimate relationship that Jesus experienced with his father in heaven. While we Christians readily accept this term Jesus, being the son of the Living God, many Muslims consider this blasphemy, here is the reason why?
Muslims’ daily prayers involve reciting short passages from the Qur’an. Many Muslims daily recite Surat al-Ikhlas (112), one of the shorter chapters in the Qur’an: “Say: He is God the One. God the Absolute Eternal. He does not beget, nor is he begotten, nor is there anything like unto Him.” This reminds devout Muslims daily that God is not born, neither can he have children, like how children are naturally born. For them it is inconceivable, how could God have a son when he does not have a female partner, but this is not what we Christians believe.
To make our Muslim friends to understand this truth, takes a gracious and respectful approach. In doing so it may be helpful for us to consider the following scriptures: In Luke’s genealogy, we read, “Joseph the son of Heli, the son of Matthat… and goes on all the way back to “Adam the son of God.” here for the first time the term the son of God with a small “s” appears, (Luke 3:37). Later in I Corinthians, Jesus was referred to the second or the last Adam. Adam and Jesus both had miraculous beginnings. Adam was created by God in his image. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and He is the image of the invisible God, (Col 1:15).
God himself gave Jesus this title when he spoke from heaven on two occasions, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17. The second time on the mount of transfiguration a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthews 17:5. Jesus addressed God as Father over 120 times in the Gospel of John, not only that He taught his disciples to address God as Father.
These and many other scriptures and incidents indicate that, the title, “Jesus the Son of the Living God was more of a relational term rather than a biological one. When Peter said, you are the Christ, the Messiah the Son of the Living God, he did not think it up himself, but was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, after that revelation Peter was a changed man.
You may be wondering why do I have to know these truths. Today, just like in times of Jesus many do not understand who Jesus really is. They form opinions based on what they read, hear, and by seeing the wrong life styles of Christians. What has been your understanding, who is Jesus to you? Do you see him only as a prophet, miracle worker, and healer? Initially, the disciples of Jesus too had a hard time grasping this truth, how about you today? If Jesus were to ask you the same question, who do you say I am, how would you answer Him?
We are living in a town where we interact with Jews and Muslims who have objections and reservations about these two truths of the gospel in particular. Hope Church is in a unique position to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. How are we to share God’s love to our many Jewish and Muslim friends and neighbors? The apostle Peter who had this special revelation in the first place has something to say to us this morning. If he walked into Hope Church he might still say, “Jesus you are the Christ, the Messiah and the Son of the Living God.” He might go on to say, do not be intimated and be afraid, love all people as Christ loved you.
“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” I Peter 3:14-15
Unfortunately, as we read Church History many followers of Christ did not adhere to Peter’s exhortation, as a result many Jews and Muslims were offended and even lost their lives. This has marred the truth about who Jesus really is for generations, even today makes it harder for Christians to share the gospel with these two people groups. However, we as Hope Church can be different. We want to share the gospel truth through love, gentleness and respect, so that we may win some people to Christ. Let’s begin to pray for our Muslim, Jewish and other friends, that the Holy Spirit might reveal to them these precious truths of Jesus being indeed the Christ, the Messiah and the Son of the Living God. Amen!