It seems pretty clear—that the first followers of Jesus worshiped him, seeing him as much more than a regular rabbi/teacher, he had an authority which set him apart, but what if these followers were just wrong or mistaken. We need to take the next step and allow Jesus to speak for himself. Some critics say, “If Jesus knew what people were saying about him, he would be rolling in his grave!” Yet, from the lips of Christ came the words which set him apart and which brought about an identity:
I AM: IDENTITY (John 8:56-59/ Mark 14:62-64) Let’s look at two separate episodes in the life of Christ which give us red-letter moments which stand out. As Jesus was talking about his teaching he promised to set the Jews free, and they bristled at the idea, calling themselves descendants of Abraham and Jesus’ response is worth noting: 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
You see the instant response—to you this may seem like a little bit of overkill, overreaction, a need for anger management, but the Jews who are versed in Scripture instantly recall the power of the I AM—from Exodus 3. Jesus had just used the eternal name of God as His own! Just as God gave the name to Moses as a means to setting free the Israelites in captivity, Jesus gave the name as a sign that he was sent to set free mankind from an even greater enemy than Egypt: sin. In Mark 14—he solidified this by using his most popular title for himself, Son of Man— 62 …Jesus said. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. If you had any doubt about how Jesus saw himself, think again, he connects himself directly to the prophecy of Daniel, who saw coming from the clouds a god-like Son of Man, sent from heaven to receive all authority on earth forever, to be worshiped by all people, receiving God-like worship. Again, if you doubt that interpretation, look to the first hearers response for clarity. They were ready to get the rocks out and stone him, again!
If Jesus was just a philosopher or teacher—he would have writtena book and stopped. If Jesus was just a prophet he would have proclaimed his message and been finished, if Jesus was just a king he would have made his decree, but Jesus as the I AM and Son of Man—his divine mission pushed him to breathtaking lengths. It reminds me of a story that ran over the Chicago Tribune News Service, from 1997. It was a story out of sunny Orlando, Florida. It was seemingly an impossible story of a novice skydiver surviving a 12,000 foot drop after his parachute failed to deploy. It sounds like something from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, an online hoax, but there is more to the story. Gareth Griffith, 21, a management consultant from London, fractured his spine but didn’t suffered any paralysis in the jump on Sunday when his parachute failed, all because his flight instructor Michael Costello, 42, did the most selfless thing of all, he grabbed a hold of his novice student, and at the last second, he turned his body towards the ground, breaking the fall, and saving the life of his student, even though it killed him instantly.
Jesus instead of building a kingdom for his own glory, brought the kingdom of God—healing as God, forgiving sins as only God could do, allowed himself to be worshiped as God, explained his role in parables—as the central figure in all of history—not to make himself rich or powerful, but realizing his role was to roll over at the right second to take the brunt of our sin—so we could be spared. There is still pain in sin, still hurt in loss, but Christ ensures that sin doesn’t become our ultimate loss. We are reminded every time we see people loss their life.