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Who Is Jesus? Lenten Sermon One Video And Text

earthA famed historian once noted that, regardless of what you think of him personally, Jesus Christ stands as the central figure in the history of Western civilization. A man violently rejected by some and passionately worshipped by others, Jesus remains as polarizing as ever. But most people still know very little about who he really was, why he was really here, or what he really claimed.

This post contains the sermon preaching on February 14, 2016, at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.  The sermon is titled:  “Who Is Jeuss” and is based on Matthew 16:13-16.

You can see the video read the manuscript below.

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Who Is Jesus? – Matthew 16:13-16

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?”

 

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

 

 

If you do an internet search for the name Jesus, you’ll not be able to escape the reality that he is one of the most influential people in world history. Google reveals more than 586,000,000 websites devoted to discussions about Jesus.

Several years ago, a group of consultants released a report containing the top 100 words, symbols, and phrases they believed every educated person should know something about. More than half were in some way connected to Jesus. These included the following:

 

Apostle Baptism Beatitudes Calvary Christ Crown of Thorns

Crucifixion Disciples Good Samaritan Gospel The Last Supper The Lord’s Prayer Parables Salt of the earth Turn the Other Cheek

 

This is a small sample, but you get the point. The man named Jesus has had a tremendous impact on human society.

 

I did my own inquiry this past week. I posted this question on my Facebook: “Who is Jesus?”

Some offered just a word in response. Jesus was said to be Light, Word, Love.

 

Others offered a personal testimony. Jesus was declared to be Savior, Lord, Leader, and Best Friend. Still others waxed theological. One guy wrote:

“Jesus is the best example of the transcendence of an imminent and emergent God who acts as a prompt to an experience of God for every person who sees his example, particularly in the lives of others who follow his example.”

 

Yeah, okay!

Then there was the guy who wrote:

 

“I think he is a gardener who works on an estate over in Windsor Farms. His name is pronounced like ‘Hey-soose.’”

 

If you consider that irreligious, consider the source. It came from our friend Ken Fleet.

 

In our scripture reading for this morning, Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Maybe he was wondering what kind of impact he was having on his society.

 

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

 

“What the buzz about town?”

“What’s being said about me and my ministry?”

 

“Who do people say that I am?”

 

The disciples report what they’d been hearing.

 

“Some say (you are) John the Baptist (returned from the dead); others say Elijah; and still others (say you are) Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

 

There were beliefs in Jewish mythology that prophets would return from the just dead before the Messiah’s arrival.

 

John the Baptizer had a prophetic ministry. Many thought Jesus was a resurrected John. In Matthew 14:2, King Herod spoke to his advisors about Jesus, saying:

 

This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.

 

If not John, others thought Jesus might be the re-embodiment of one of the prophets, say Elijah or Jeremiah.

 

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

The disciple’s replied: “The people think you are one of the prophets come to prepare the way for the Messiah!”

 

The people thought that Jesus was a precursor to what God was about to do. That’s what they liken him, to John the Baptizer. Like John, they thought Jesus was a fore-runner for the Messiah.

 

There are some differences, though, aren’t they. John had said, “The Kingdom of God is near. It’s almost here. It’s just over the horizon. Keep your eye focused because you are not going to want to miss the Messiah when he appears.”

 

Then John spoke about Jesus. “Here is the one I’ve been talking about,” John said. “This is the one whose sandals I am unfit to untie. This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I baptize you with water. This is the one who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The people missed what John was saying. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we might look back and wonder what the people were thinking. How could they have missed out on the identity of Jesus?

 

Jesus did everything the Messiah was expected to do. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, forgave sinners, confronted people in places of power and authority, restored health to those ravaged by leprosy. He even raise the dead. And the whole time Jesus, Jesus did not speak of the Kingdom as a coming reality. He said: “The Kingdom of God is HERE.” It was no longer on the horizon, it was a present, immediate reality. But let’s be honest, we aren’t much different than the people of Jesus day. Our confessional statements might affirm Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom, but our lives seem to indicate that we are still looking for something more. Don’t tell me that’s not true. If we thought that Jesus was the fulfillment of all God’s promise – if we really thought that Jesus was the King of God’s Kingdom – we’d not be so pessimistic, so gloomy, so discouraged, dejected, depressed and filled with despair.

 

And if we really believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of all God’s promises, we wouldn’t be able to shut up talking about him. We’d be sharing the gospel to everyone we knew.

 

And if we really understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of all God’s promises, the hurting and helpless people of our world would be drawn toward, because we would inclusive toward everyone who crossed out path and we’d be passionately loving toward everyone we met.

 

If we really believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of all God’s promises, then our discipleship would be radically out there, in public, the center of our focus, life, and attentions.

 

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” That’s the first question that Jesus asked his disciples. It is interesting to know what people think about Jesus. But for our purposes, the more important question is directed toward Jesus disciples. After hearing the report about what the people thought, Jesus put them on the spot: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

 

It was Peter who responded with his typical bravado. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

 

Let’s unpack that statement.

The phrase Son of the Living God is linked with the second person of the Trinity. To say that Jesus is the “Son of the Living God” is to say that Jesus shows us what God is like. If you want to understand the nature, character, and identity of the God whom we call Father, we look toward Jesus. If we have a picture of God who is not reflected in Jesus, then that picture of God is false. Let me say that another way. If our understanding of God looks different than Jesus, it is NOT the one true God. That’s why the hub of our beliefs, doctrines, ethics, and practices MUST be centered on Jesus – not our feelings, not our emotions, not our traditions.

This is why I speak so often about Trinitarian theology. It is because in Trinitarian theology, Jesus is central. The SON is the one who reveals the nature of the FATHER. Jesus shows us what God is like. If we want to know God, we look at Jesus.

This is the point of the preamble to Jesus ministry recorded in John, chapter 1. We are told that Jesus is the Logos; the Word; the Eternal Word made flesh.

Here’s how John put it, in his own words:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Later, in John’s gospel, Jesus is recorded to have said:

“He that has seen me as seen the Father.”

Jesus says to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter says, “…you are the Son of the Living God.” He is saying that Jesus is the revelation of God. Jesus is the one who reveals the thoughts, character, acts, and attitudes of the Father.

In Christian theology the primary WORD of God is a doctrine, dogma, or propositional statement. The WORD of God is the LIFE of Jesus. It is the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is the WORD in which we are called to trust. Jesus is central to it all.

If you ask me what God is like: I look at Jesus.

How do I know that God loves and cares for the poor and excluded? Because in Jesus, I see a life that connected to the poor and excluded.

How do I know that God is gracious, kind, accepting, and inclusive? Because I see that kind of life on display on every page of the gospel’s accounts of Jesus life. How do I know that God is merciful and forgiving, even toward those who commit the most heinous of crimes? Because I see Jesus praying from the cross, “Father forgive them” for those who were putting him to death.

How do I know that God wants to turn moments of despair into moments of hope? Because I see in the actions of Jesus revealed in the meal we commemorate this day both the despair of the cross and the hope of Resurrection Sunday.

How do I know that God is calling us all to live lives that are being transformed daily by his grace? Because I see in Jesus that God transforms the lives of multitude of people by the touch of his amazing grace.

Jesus asks: “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter says, “…you are the Son of the Living God.”

Jesus is the revelation of the Father. His life is the WORD become flesh to dwell among us. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see a revelation of the true nature of God. Jesus is the Son revealing the Father.

But there is something more in what Peter says. Jesus asks: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter not only refers to Jesus as the “Son of the Living God,” he also calls Jesus the Messiah or the Christ, which means Savior or Liberator.

If the response to this message was simply the challenge to be more like God, or the challenge imitate the life of Jesus, that would not be good news. You and I do not have the power apart from God to live or to love like Jesus. The gospel message is about a revolution of our lives that is the work of the Spirit. We are being changed, transformed, and resourced by God in Christ.

Jesus as Messiah means more than the notion that he achieved for us some transaction on the ledger book of life by which our accounts are balanced. That is a severely minimalistic view of grace.

Here’s what Jesus being the Messiah means:

 

It means God takes our lives and works to enable them to vehicles of grace.

 

It means that God transforms us in such a way that His life becomes expressed through us.

 

It means that we discover that we are sons and daughters of God. We can be different. We can be what God always intended. All we need to do is reach out and receive this gift.

 

Understand, we do not need to do anything to make God love us, include us, like us, or accept us? That’s all on God. That’s all about grace. We couldn’t do anything to make it happen if we wanted to.

 

What we can do, because Messiah Jesus makes it possible, is make a choice to live out of the life of intimacy that God freely offers. How do we make this decision? There are two biblical words that are important here.

 

The first word is repent. That word means to turn around or change one’s mind. It means that we reject our independent streak and we declare our intentions to live out of the grace God provides. Repentance is like making a U-turn away from a life of independence from God toward dependence on God.

 

How do we live our live our lives towards dependence on God? The Bible talks about another concept called faith (which is that second important word).

 

By faith, we trust that Jesus dealt with our old life of sin when he was crucified those many years ago. We express that faith when we gather around the Lord’s table. We trust that God’s grace, fully reveal in Messiah Jesus fully expresses God’s love toward us and the salvation that God provides.

 

Faith also means that we trust Messiah Jesus to be our source and resource for living daily out of our connection with God. This connection makes a way for us to live a life that is hopeful, positive, energetic, life-enhancing, and world-changing.

 

To trust Jesus is to believe and behave like we know that God has taken care of all that we need.

 

It is interesting to know what others might think about Jesus. Even Jesus wondered what the crowds thought of his identity. “Who do people say that I am?” he asked his disciples. But more important, Jesus wants to know what WE are thinking about him. “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

 

With Peter, might be answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

 

Who is Jesus?: An Introduction to Christology (Michael Glazier Books)
by: Thomas P. Rausch SJ
publisher: Michael Glazier, published: 2003-07-01
ASIN: 0814650783
EAN: 9780814650783
sales rank: 343500
price: $20.00 (new), $12.99 (used)

Who is Jesus? This is the fundamental question for christology. The earliest Christians used various titles, most of them drawn from the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures, to express their faith in Jesus. They called him prophet, teacher, Messiah, Son of David, Son of Man, Lord, Son of God, Word of God, and occasionally even God. In Who Is Jesus? Thomas Rausch, S.J., focuses on the New Testament’s rich variety of christologies.

Who Is Jesus? covers the three quests for the historical Jesus, the methods for retrieving the historical Jesus, the Jewish background, the Jesus movement, his preaching and ministry, death and resurrection, the various New Testament christologies, and the development of christological doctrine from the New Testament period to the Council of Chalcedon.

Chapters are The Three Quests for the Historical Jesus,” *Methodological Considerations, – *The Jewish Background, – *Jesus and His Movement, – *The Preaching and Ministry of Jesus, – *The Death of Jesus, – *God Raised Him from the Dead, – *New Testament Christologies, – *From the New Testament to Chalcedon, – *Sin and Salvation, – and *A Contemporary Approach to Soteriology. –

Thomas P. Rausch, SJ, PhD, is the T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. A specialist in ecclesiology, ecumenism, and the theology of the priesthood, he has published eight books including the award-winning Catholicism at the Dawn of the Third Millennium, The College Student’s Introduction to Theology, andReconciling Faith and Reason: Apologists, Evangelists, and Theologians in a Divided Church, published by Liturgical Press.

 

 

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