Friday, May 15, 2015

Who do you say that I am? -Jesus

This one question is the most important question to all of mankind. If Jesus is who the Bible presents him to be, then every man’s fate is dependent on whether he recognizes and accepts that which Jesus has done. It is not too much to say that every man’s eternal fate is wrapped up intrinsically with this one man. Who, you may ask, is Jesus, that he should have so much to do with my eternal destiny?

Today is the age of materialism, and it is often believed that what you see is what you get. Nancy Pearcey tells us about the self- contradiction of materialism: “Indeed, the sheer act of asserting materialism contradicts itself. If I say, “Everything that exists is material,” is that statement itself material? Is it merely a series of sound waves? If I write out the statement, is it nothing but marks on a piece of paper? Of course not. The statement has a linguistic meaning. It has logical properties. It has a social function (communicating to others)— all of which transcend the material dimension. Ironically, materialism cannot even be stated without refuting itself.”1 The Bible proclaims that man is an eternal being, created in the image of God, lost in the throes of sin, and held captive to a blindness that cannot acknowledge their Creator.

There is an empty spot in the soul of man that used to be filled by our knowledge of God, and we have no way of filling it again, but we are continually drawn towards filling that emptiness with anything that we can find; we invent our idols, and sometimes give those idols the very power of a god so that we may fill this empty void. But it is to all no avail. Nothing quite fits the void except the very person whose absence made the void, and man is doomed to an endless chasing after the wind, trying to fill an unfillable hole.

Who is this Jesus that he should act as the winnowing fork for mankind? Investigating what the Bible says about Jesus is a worthy study, and will be the focus of this short piece. But I believe it is very important to recognize the very different Jesus who is presented by the world. Every kind of Jesus is presented from the world, that people might look and receive that which is counterfeit. The lie abounds in the world that Jesus was just a great teacher and a wonderful person, but the Bible sets serious claims for Jesus being God come in the flesh. If we believe in anything less than the picture so clearly drawn in scripture, we are making Jesus out to be less than we ought, and imperil our own souls. Calling Jesus, who claims to be the very Son of God, a great teacher or a good person is the highest of insults. Some teach that Jesus is just an angel come for the mercies of mankind, but even this is insulting to the God, who in his great mercy, came in answer to our critical need.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9, 10). Across the New Testament is broad agreement that we are to hear the gospel and believe, and that believing we will be saved. How is it that Jesus is able to make such fantastic claims? Those very claims preclude any chatter about Jesus being a good teacher—for if he were not telling the truth, then it is obvious on the face that he could not be good. He did not leave that choice as an option for us. Either he must be lying (and therefore an evil teacher), or he must be mad (delusional people are be held not to be responsible for their beliefs), or he must be who he said he was. If he was mad, he would have been dismissed at once, but then what are we to do with his miracles? What are we to do with the masses who chose to follow him, knowing that they would lose their families and membership in the synagogue? Such people give their uttermost, their all, testifying that who they saw was neither a teacher, nor a delusional deceiver. And that leaves us with only one choice—he was who he said he was—and we need to take the utmost care with those claims. It does no good to suggest that since you have seen no miracles that you will not believe in them, for are we not then making the materialist’s objection that he knows that only what is visible is real? Such a claim itself is more than what we can see, and therefore it is self-refuting.

It will do no good whatever to dismiss the witnesses of history, for they were just as you or I and very probably just as skeptical as we would be. Thomas, skeptical to the end, was shown the holes in the very body of the Lord, and his reply should carry great weight with us, “My Lord and My God.” Skeptical of miracles? That is exactly how you are supposed to be—and I submit, it is exactly how many of the witnesses were. Miracles are not supposed to happen every day. They are supposed to shock us when we see them, they are quite out of the ordinary. When one person tells us they see a miracle, we have every right to offer skepticism, but when multitudes over the course of years tell us the same thing, in many times and in many ways, of course it will shock our sensibilities, but by all means it should cause us to stop and behold.

It is no good for us to dismiss the scriptures out of hand. They have been rigorously studied, copied many thousands of times over, and withstand all the criticism of the centuries. The gospels present a four sided portrait of Jesus that is in great harmony, and the differences are no more than a reasonable person might expect from different witnesses. Contrast the recent unrest in Ferguson, and the wide variety of witnesses. We have some “witnesses” who testified what they saw, and yet were proven beyond a reasonable doubt not to be there at all. There are witnesses in sharp disagreement who were there—what they saw and interpreted widely varied. Should we not expect our four writers of the gospel to give us a somewhat different emphasis on Jesus? That is exactly what we find. Men and women who were present and saw these things agreed with the presentation of the gospel writers. Any who exaggerated or stated things that were not true were not accepted as valid. There are really very few “disputed” passages in the gospels, and one could safely remove those disputed passages and still be left with a multitude of plain claims for Jesus that present him as God come in the flesh. Philip Schaff, an eminent theologian of the 1800’s, summarizes the first three gospels this way: “We conclude, then, that the Synoptists prepared their Gospels independently, during the same period (say between A.D. 60 and 69), in different places, chiefly from the living teaching of Christ and the first disciples, and partly from earlier fragmentary documents. They bear independent testimony to the truth of the gospel. Their agreement and disagreement are not the result of design, but of the unity, richness, and variety of the original story as received, understood, digested, and applied by different minds to different conditions and classes of hearers and readers.”2

But what of the Christ, as he is presented in the gospels? We learn that the Son existed with the Father before all time, and from the gospel of John we learn that “all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). Indeed, John seems to emphasize Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind. Luke, the careful physician, says, “and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:23). Thus Luke records the testimony of those who heard the voice of God; testimony can be no higher. Mark, who spent a great amount of his time with Peter, was most qualified to share Peter’s words about the Messiah, and he did share, saying, “Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ” (Mark 8:29). Matthew agrees with the other gospels, saying, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:18, 19, italics added). In all the gospels, then, there is a great harmony and agreement. Jesus, the Son of God, has come to redeem a world lost in sin. Schaff concludes this about the claims of the gospels, “He, the humblest and meekest of men, makes these astounding pretensions in the most easy and natural way; he never falters, never apologizes, never explains; he proclaims them as self-evident truths. We read them again and again, and never feel any incongruity nor think of arrogance and presumption.”3

These are the claims of Jesus. The question remains. Who do you say that he is? For if what is recorded is correct, and the historical evidence is very strong that it is, one day each of us will have to answer that question, and we will be held responsible for our reply. God has sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins, but he will not force himself upon us. His Spirit woos us and convicts us, for he does indeed love us, but in the end, we must decide to believe. It is the only way given among men whereby we must be saved. If we dare to offer ourselves on the basis of our own merit, we shall surely fall. Recently a leader in New York made the facetious claim that when he died he would receive a “fast pass” to heaven, and would bypass all others based on his merit. The man who trusts his own merit is trusting a fool; there will be no good end to such trust. God sees us as we are, and chose freely to die in our behalf, that we might not have to die ourselves. But we must receive the gift of God if it is to have efficacy in our lives. What fools we must look like to the God of infinite mercy who has provided salvation to all when we spurn out of hand his free gift, if we will but receive it. “But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become sons of God, even to those who believe on his name.” If you have not seriously looked at the claims of the gospels, perhaps today is the day to start looking.

1. Pearcey, Nancy (2015-03-01). Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (p. 192). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
2. Schaff, Philip (2014-01-12). History Of The Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes In One) (Kindle Locations 8600-8604). . Kindle Edition.
3. Schaff, Philip (2014-01-12). History Of The Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes In One) (Kindle Locations 1815-1817). . Kindle Edition.

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