Which Jesus?

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Series: The Quest For Jesus

Sun am 21 September 2014 – Justus Swart

(Matt. 4:4); Col. 1:15-17; Matt. 16:13-23; John 6:14-15; Matt. 12:22-25;
Luke 9:51-56; (John 3:17); 
Luke 22:47-53; Luke 23:4

Jesus once said, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matt. 4:4). By this he meant that all of mankind has a deep hunger for truth and meaning. We desire to be connected with something bigger than ourselves. Just like we have junk food for our stomachs, we also have junk food for our mind and our spirit. Sometimes we have to create a diet for our minds and spirits so we can grow and move forward.

Today we are looking at a question surrounding Jesus, a question which has been around for over 2000 years. The question is, “which Jesus?” Jesus does not appear only in Christianity, but also in other religions. In the Mormon religion Jesus is believed to be the spirit brother of Lucifer. We know that is not in the Bible. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus and the arc angel Michael are one and the same. Again we do not read that in the Scriptures. Islam believes Jesus was a prophet who came to talk about God but was not God Himself. Then the Baha’i faith says Jesus was simply a messenger. It is common knowledge that He appears in other religions and it should not come as a surprise that He is different from the Jesus we have in our Bible. Moreover when we scratch the surface of Christianity, we find a few more different Jesus’s. Even in the four gospels we have four different people who tell the story of Jesus from four different angles, highlighting different parts of His ministry.

Some people hold to a racist Jesus, some people a homophobic Jesus, and still others a militant Jesus; a politically right-wing Jesus and even an extremely liberal Jesus. There seems to be a lot of confusion in the Church as to who Jesus was and who He is today. Everybody is trying to box Jesus into categories they have created according to their own worldviews. Meanwhile Paul says, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col. 1:15-17). You cannot box that or put it into a category. Jesus makes your categories obsolete. Nobody can contain a limitless God. No created thing has the power to decisively define its Creator. Yet we will always find those who will create Jesus in their own image. Lord, help us not to create You in our image.

There was a wave of confusion even when Jesus was on earth. Even back then people were in different minds about who Jesus was (Matt. 16:13-20). People instantly placed Him into their pre-conceived boxes. Even though the Old Testament spoke of the coming Messiah, when He stood in front of them they could not recognize Him. Author Rob Bell wrote that ‘Some Jesus’s need to be rejected’ (Love Wins). You have to think about that. It is very thought-provoking and highlights something that is very true. There are many forms of Jesus in Christianity and in general that are not accurate and not true to the Scriptures.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself (John 6:14-15). Right there Jesus had to reject a version of Himself, He had to reject the Jesus that they wanted. They had an idea of Jesus that Jesus Himself could not accept nor identify with. Today we also see people who want to make Jesus king by force, whether it be in politics, schools, communities, or even countries. We are dealing with the identity of Jesus in these debates; does Jesus want to be made king by force? Clearly not! When Jesus healed a demon possessed man who was blind and mute, the Pharisees accused Him of being the prince of demons (Matt. 12:22-25). They did not understand Him and did not know where to place Him so they called Him the prince of demons.

Jesus swiftly rebukes James and John for wanting to call down fire from heaven (Luke 9:51-56). Their thinking was “If you do not respect me, my God will take you down”. The Son of man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them (John 3:17). This is a common image of Jesus we see in the world; an image of a vindictive God who decimates those who oppose Him or His people.

When Jesus was telling His disciples about His forthcoming death and suffering, Peter said he would not let it happen. Jesus said, “Get behind me satan” (Matt. 16:21-23). Peter had the wrong image of Jesus, a Jesus who would not suffer. He did not understand the servant King who came to pour out His life for everyone. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was mistaken for the gardener (John 20:15).

How do we respond to the confusion that is out there? This confusion is not a new thing, we have always spoken about the counterfeits and how we need to know the real thing so we can reject the counterfeit. We have to look at how Jesus handled the confusion that was around Him. While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:47-53). Jesus put the man’s ear back so he could hear. Although there are many out there who carry the wrong ‘Jesus’ with them, we are not to strike them as the disciples did, we are to act as Jesus did, restore their hearing so that they can hear the good news of who Jesus actually is. Many people had their ears cut off by religion, many have a ‘Jesus’ that strikes them, condemns them, breaks them down, but our Jesus puts the ear back so you can hear the good news. Jesus never came to destroy life.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Luke 23:4). When the real Jesus is standing in front of you, you can find no charge against Him, no basis for a claim against Him. This is what is lacking, a demonstration of the real Jesus. Today you find many people who do not believe in Jesus. Ask them which Jesus they are talking about; which Jesus don’t they believe in. You may find you do not believe in that Jesus either.

The crux of the matter is, who do you say Jesus is? When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:13-20). We know that we can only talk about a Jesus that we know personally. The only way you can make a difference is with this answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Grab hold and worship Him, get to know Him, read the Scriptures. Love God that way by getting to know Him.