Who is Jesus?
12th Sunday After Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace from God our Father, His Son our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [Matthew 16:13-14]
Jesus asked this of his disciples about 2000 years ago. This is a good question even for us today, therefore I now ask you; ‘Who do people say Jesus is?’
I have researched a few more common answers popular in today’s cultures, a top 10 list if you will.
- Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.
- Secularist believe he was a misguided man
- Hindus have respect for him as a wise man.
- Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi from Galilee who preached his message orally, was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.
- Mainstream Judaism rejects the idea of Jesus being God, or a mediator to God, or part of a Trinity.
- Some Buddhists, including Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, regard Jesus as a bodhisattva (enlightened being) who dedicated his life to the welfare of people.
- Muslims, on the other hand, believe him to be merely a prophet; important, yes, but nowhere near as significant as Muhammad.
- Others recognize him as the leader of an apocalyptic movement, Messiah, a charismatic healer, a sage and philosopher, or an egalitarian social reformer.
- Some contend that Jesus is a myth invented by early Christians.
- Others view him as just a fairy-tale
This is quite a list. It seems every religion, faith or atheist has an opinion of who Jesus is; but who did the people of his time think he was?
Some of the scribes called him a blasphemer [Matthew 9:3] The Pharisees said he was in league with the devil (for casting out demons). [Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15] A majority of the Jews considered him a rebel, political agitator, and no friend of Caesar. [Luke 23:1-2]
Now this seems about par for Jesus’ enemies. None of them deigned to call him the Son of God. Interestingly enough, this was not the belief of all of his enemies. In fact, some of his enemies confessed him as the true Son of God.
Matthew bears witness in chapter 8 of his Gospel:
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” [Mt 8:28–29]
The Apostle Mark relates another such instance:
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” [Mark 1:21-24]
In Mark chapter three it is written:
For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” [Mark 3:10-12]
And Luke also confirms the demon’s knowledge of his divinity:
And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.
These minions of the devil were not alone in their confession. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was told this about her offspring by an angel of God:
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. [Luke 1:35]
In the Church Calendar, tomorrow is the day we recognize the Apostle Bartholomew. Bartholomew literally means ‘Son of Tolmai’ and is considered to be the other name for Nathanael. You remember Nathanael. He was under the fig tree when called by Jesus. He was the one that said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yet when Jesus spoke to him…
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” [John 1:49]
At the baptism of Jesus, not only did God in heaven acknowledge Jesus but also John the Baptist:
And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” [John 1:32-34]
At the trial of Jesus:
[Jesus] said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?”
So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” [Luke 22:67-70]
As Jesus was being crucified, the thief next to him declares him God:
Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” [Luke 23:42]
And at the time of Jesus’ death, Matthew writes:
So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Now that we know who people, both of the time of Jesus and our current age, think Jesus is; we come to the next question asked by Jesus of Simon Peter, “But who do you say that I am?”
Who is Jesus to you? Is he an historical figure who did good deeds and healed people? Was he a good man who was blessed by God to do good works? Is he a fairy tale character by which we are taught a good moral lesson? Who is Jesus to you?
Like Peter, flesh and blood cannot reveal Jesus Christ to you. Yes, it is important that we proclaim the good news of our Lord’s sacrifice on the tree of death for payment of our sins. It is true that we must be baptized into the death of Jesus Christ in order that we may also rise again to life eternal, just as he raised himself from death and the grave.
All this is necessary for our salvation, but no man, woman or child, born into this world can reveal the authority of our risen Lord and Savior. Who is Jesus, truly? Only the grace of God through the Holy Spirit can reveal to you the true nature of Christ.
How is Christ revealed to anyone? The answer is through the hearing of his word, baptism through the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ and in communion with him through the body and blood given to you in, with and under the bread and wine at his table.
How is Christ revealed to us? Through the love of God – a love so great that he redeemed us through the sacrifice of His only Son. A love shown to us through Jesus and commanded by him for us to give to everyone we meet.
How is Christ revealed to you? Through forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness of sins is the key to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus did it for you through death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. We use the keys to the kingdom of heaven when we repent and are forgiven. We turn the key in the lock of the door to our salvation when we forgive our neighbors and love them as Christ has forgiven and loved us.
Our Father who is in heaven has revealed His Son, our Savior, to us. We are all one in the body of Christ. We are his church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against what he has ordained.
Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven and returned to his Father’s house. He will come again in all his glory. Until the day of his return, we are to look to the rock from which we were hewn and the quarry from which we were dug. [Isaiah 5:1b] This is the rock of our salvation on which the church now stands. Whomever we forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven.
God has revealed the Christ to you.
“…no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” [Matthew 11:27]
Who is Jesus? He is our salvation revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. [1 Corinthians 2 11b, 12]
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. So say all of us. Amen.