“Who Is Jesus To You?” 09/17/17
As we saw earlier this morning, there is quite a variety of opinions about who Jesus is. Things haven’t changed much since Jesus’ own day.
Mark 8:27–29 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
Popular opinion held Jesus to be John the Baptist returned from the dead, or one of the great prophets. The religious leaders would say he was a blasphemer. Peter speaks up, representing the disciples as a whole, and says that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. The Messiah was seen as the anointed one of God, a new and even greater king like David, who would come to restore the kingdom of Israel and rule forever. Although Peter’s answer was correct as far as it went, it was incomplete.
What are the basic views of Jesus today?
Myth – Jesus never existed – Those who wish to deny Jesus’ existence simply dismiss the evidence as being late or biased. We know of no one in the ancient world who questioned whether Jesus lived.
N.T. writings reliable – eye-witness testimony. It is difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish savior figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, mentions Jesus, Ananus, the high priest “called a meeting [literally, “sanhedrin”] of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others….”
Tacitus – Roman senator and historian, “The founder of this name, Christ [Christus in Latin], had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate…”
Jewish rabbis – “… [I]f anyone in the ancient world had a reason to dislike the Christian faith, it was the rabbis. To argue successfully that Jesus never existed but was a creation of early Christians would have been the most effective polemic against Christianity … [Yet] all Jewish sources treated Jesus as a fully historical person … [T]he rabbis … used the real events of Jesus’ life against him” (Van Voorst).
Man – Ordinary man, disciples later turned Him into God
Opponents still alive when Paul wrote, would have contradicted
How could an ordinary human have had the impact Jesus did?
Great teacher or prophet – like any other religious leader
Jesus’ claims about Himself
Earliest N.T. writings, Paul’s letters, hold a high view of Christ
First disciples were Jewish, believed there was only one God, would not have accepted Jesus as God unless truly convinced.
Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Philippians 2:9–11 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
To call someone ‘Lord’ is to recognize that person as your ruler, the one you submit to and owe absolute allegiance to. For the Jewish people, God, Yahweh, is Lord. In calling Jesus Lord, the early Christians were declaring their faith that in Jesus God was made flesh. In the first century, the Roman emperors claimed for themselves the title Lord and Savior. Nero (A.D. 54–68) was described in an inscription as “Lord of all the World”. To proclaim Jesus as Lord was to be considered a traitor, it was politically subversive. That is why so many Christians were martyred.
Just as Jesus asked His first disciples who they said He was, so also that question comes to each of us. Who is Jesus to you? Is he just an historical figure, someone who isn’t a part of your daily life, or is He Lord, at the center of all you do?
At some point everyone who has heard his name, including us, must look deep within Jesus and deep within ourselves and risk a decision that will entail either a total commitment to or a severance from the identity and mission of this Jesus. Have you made that commitment?
1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.