Part of what this sermon series, “DON’T ASK ME THAT!” assumes is that you are having conversations with the people you love and care about who don’t yet know Christ—and yet at the end of the day each of us have to be clear about our answer to the identity of Christ and our identity which stems from Christ.
RESPONSE– Why should your friends or family trust that Jesus is exactly who he says he is and isn’t just some crazy lunatic who has delusions of grandeur? The Bible gives numerous reasons, besides the change that occurred in the life of Jesus’ family, disciples, and even enemies, let’s look at a few of the lesser talked about reasons: First from Mark 15:43-46– 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.If Jesus’ identity was a masterful lie, a plot for future power on behalf of a select few with enough vision and foresight to plan the greatest scam in the history of the world, they seemed to error by being too specific. Joseph of Arimathea as a prominent member of the council, the same council that condemned Jesus, seems like a glaring mistake. If you are lying it would be best to be generic, to leave out verifying details, so that Joseph or the family of Joseph couldn’t say—“Wait a minute. Joseph didn’t give you a tomb!” The Bible gives us another reason as well, in Luke 24:10, again in the aftermath of Jesus death, the women had gone to the tomb and saw an angel who had a startling message: “He has risen!” and we are told Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
We live in a culture where we value equality, we have Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan commercials where she repeats, “Anything you can do, I can do better!” We have a movement for pay equality, women got the right to vote in 1920, but in the 1st century women weren’t considered legitimate witnesses, they were legally just another piece of property that could be sent off if necessary, but look at how far advanced the Bible is, God chooses to reveal this crowning miraculous moment to a group of 3 women with questionable backgrounds. If you were making up a story, you would want the most reliable sources possible, but if you were telling the story faithfully, you would recount it even if it wasn’t in your advantage.
President Reagan reflected on the identity of Jesus in a letter penned on January 9th, 1978, “I realize there are those who by religious belief consider Jesus a very human prophet whose teachings about love for one another, treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves are sound patterns for living; that he is to be respected but not worshipped. But for many of us he is much more. He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God come to earth to offer salvation for all mankind…Meaning no disrespect to the religious convictions of others I still can’t help wondering how we can explain away what to me is the great miracle of all and which is recorded in history. No one denies there was such a man, that he lived and that he was put to death by crucifixion. Where then you may ask is the miracle I spoke of? Well consider this and let your imagination if you will translate the story into our own time—possible to your own home town. A young man whose father is a carpenter grows up working in his father’s shop. He has no formal education. He owns no property of any kind. One day he puts down his tools and walks out of his father’s shop. He starts preaching on street corners and in the nearby countryside. Walking from place to place preaching all the while even though he is in no way an ordained minister he never gets farther than an area perhaps 100 miles wide at the most. He does this for three years. Then he is arrested, tried and convicted. There is no court of appeal so he is executed at age 33 along with two common thieves. Those in harge of his execution roll dice to see who gets his clothing—the only possessions he has. His family cannot afford a burial place so he is interred in a borrowed tomb. End of the story? No this uneducated, property less young man who preached on street corners for only three years who left no written word has for 2000 years had a greater effect on the entire world than all the rulers, kings, and emperors, all the conquerors, the generals and admirals, all the scholars, scientists and philosophers who ever lived—all put together. How do we explain that? Unless he really was what he said he was. (Stories in His Own Hand: The Everyday Wisdom of Ronald Reagan)
In trying to answer with all the facts about the identity of Christ we have come to an answer we greater ramifications than we thought—we not only get fantastic reasons for believing the identity of Christ, but we get insight into our own identity. John 1:12—Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—yet how can we ever live up to that identity—how can we ever live up to that standard—Jesus empowers us with the Holy Spirit—created for us His church—but then he loves us like a Father.
Watchman Nee tells about a new convert who came in deep distress to see him. “No matter how much I pray, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot seem to be faithful to my Lord. I think I’m losing my salvation.” Nee said, “Do you see this dog here? He is my dog. He is house-trained; he never makes a mess; he is obedient; he is a pure delight to me. Out in the kitchen I have a son, a baby son. He makes a mess, he throws his food around, he fouls his clothes, he is a total mess. But who is going to inherit my kingdom? Not my dog; my son is my heir. You are Jesus Christ’s heir because it is for you that He died.” We are Christ’s heirs, not through our perfection but by means of His grace.
Instead of finding in Jesus a religious Santa Claus or genie that gives us a certain number of wishes in exchange for a ride in the red wagon, we find Jesus—an incarnation of God—worshiped as the Messiah from the beginning, declared himself as God from the beginning, and welcomed us into relationship with God from the beginning. All that awaits us know—is a new beginning—so instead of ducking the question—Why make Jesus God when he was just a teacher? You can be ready to help pull them along towards a truth that offers them nothing less than a new beginning!