Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, June 26, 2011

Matthew 16:13-19, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
So they said, “Some
say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed
this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Welcome to the Old West, to the set of Gold Rush, VBS 2011! This week, in this place, we'll be panning for Someone who is more precious than silver, more costly than gold, more beautiful than diamonds – the most incredible Person of all – the Rock of Ages, the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you join us as we search this Book to discover what's so special about Jesus?

Who do you say that I am?” In the days of the Old West, at least as we know of it by way of Hollywood's version of it, there were the Hoss Cartwrights and the Riflemen and even the Masked Man we've know as the Lone Ranger. And though those men may have had their good points – you know, fast horses, silver bullets and so on – none of them ever did what Jesus did. None of them ever claimed to be who Jesus claimed to be.

Who do you say that I am?” That's the way Jesus posed the question of the ages to His disciples one day in a place called Caesarea Philippi. “Who do you say that I am?” In other words, Jesus was asking His disciples to wrestle with and recognize the obvious answers to the question, “What's so special about Me?”

What IS so special about Jesus?” I mean, you're a Christian, at least, that's what that Bible under your arm seems to communicate to me, that's what your decision to spend an hour or two or three in this building every week seems to show me – you're a Christian, aren't you? So says your bumper sticker or the cross hanging around your neck. So, tell me, what IS so special about Jesus? Rock of Ages, more precious, more costly, more beautiful than gold and silver and diamonds, that's what you are claiming about Jesus, am I right? So, how is it that you think you can make such statements? What is the basis for your claims?

Before we look elsewhere to several other passages, allow me to point out something that I believe is rather powerful from the passage we read a moment ago.

Peter and the other disciples of Jesus, by this time in the chronology of Jesus' ministry, they had been with Jesus for over two years. They had watched Him perform miracles, heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, feed the hungry multitudes, walk on water, calm the storm, even raise the dead. They had seen all these things and, along with all of that, they had heard Him speak. They had listened to His parables and to His famous sermons on subjects like the Bread of Life and the Light of the World. And, they had overheard Him rebuke blind scribes and Pharisees and restore and reassure the hurting and needy. They had watched all of this. They had heard all of this. But, still they were missing some things. Still they were confused and lacking complete understanding.

Then one day, in a place called Caesarea Philippi, God the Father sort of pulls back the veil and helps Peter and the rest of them to see, to know what is so special about Jesus. “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus inquired. And the answer, the bold declaration coming down from heaven itself was: “You are the Christ”, You are the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

What is so special about Jesus? Do YOU know how to answer a question like that? A lot of special people have walked the face of the earth across the centuries of time. In fact, I am looking at some of them right now. But listen, Jesus? Jesus? What makes HIM so special that, compared to all others, only Jesus can rightly claim to be God?

Look with me, will you? What does this Book say about Jesus? What does it show us that informs us so that we can give an answer to the 'What's so special about Jesus?' question?

1 John 3:5 – What's so special, I mean, what is unique, one-of-a-kind, about the carpenter from Nazareth? Is it that He was born in Bethlehem? Well, maybe. Others have been born there, though, haven't they? Is it that His mother's name was Mary? Well, no, not really, because, well, some of us have mothers with that name, don't we? Is it that He was raised in Nazareth? Learned the trade and skill of carpentry? Walked the dusty roads of Palestine? Are those things that make Him one-of-a-kind? What IS so special about Jesus? We really, really need to know this, don't we? Don't we?

The implications of a philosophy, a worldview that is rampant throughout our culture, the implications a mindset about life known as relativism, are simply these: all truth, and all truth claims, are equally valid, on a level playing field, so to speak. You say the grass is green. I say that the grass is red. Since, according to this philosophy called Relativism, all truth claims are equally valid. Your claim about the color of the grass is no more valid, no more right, no more worthy to be believed and accepted than mine!

Now you stop and think about where such a belief system ultimately leads: if all truth claims are equally valid, if no one's claim about the color of the grass, or anything else for that matter, are to be accepted as right over and above anyone else's truth claims, then what? Then truth goes down the drain. Then something as basic as two plus two equals four goes down the drain, because, well because, that's just your truth claim about that math equation.

Who do you say that I am?” That's what Jesus asked the disciples to consider that day in Caesarea Philippi, and it is the question He confronts us with today. What is so special about Jesus? Do you know?

His uniqueness, Jesus' uniqueness, isn't so much connected to His place of birth, His mother's name or the skill He learned growing up. Rather, according to 1 John 3:5, Jesus is one-of-a-kind because He is sinless. Because He is without sin. “And you know that He, Jesus Christ, was manifested (that is, He came to this earth, came in human form) to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” To begin with, Jesus Christ is unique on at least two levels. Number one, 1 John 3:5, He is without sin. 1 John 2:29, He is righteous. Not clothed, as we are, in Him, with someone else's righteousness. But righteouss, Jesus, the sinless One, is righteous, by His very nature! Jesus Christ is unique in that He, alone, is without sin. He alone is righteous. And, 1 John 3:3, He alone is pure, by His very nature!

Now, go with me to the gospel of Mark. Mark 2:1-12 – Speaking of sin and sinners, like you and me, take a look at this amazing account, and at the claim that Jesus makes about Himself.

Mark 2:1-12, “And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

What is so special about Jesus? Is He unique? Before we look at the core issues presented here that pertain to Jesus' uniqueness, notice what the text indicates about this One who restored the body of the paralytic. Verses 5-8, Jesus observes what perhaps no one else in that house observed that day. Number one, He sees faith, He takes notice, not of the tear in the roof – imagine you're the owner of that home – He notices, not the roofing materials falling on His or someone else's head, I would have noticed that, wouldn't you? No. Verse 5 indicates that what Jesus saw, as those four, faithful friends made a way for their friend to get to Jesus, was their faith! Their faith! Their faith in Someone that they believed could do what no one else could do: heal their paralyzed friends' body.

What's so special about Jesus? He can detect what a lot of others can't detect. He can detect faith. Is that what He sees in you? In me?

But, then, notice also, verses 6-8, not only can Jesus discern faith, what else can He discern? He can perceive what people like us try so hard to hide. He can detect unbelief! Don't try to hide from Him! He already knows! What's so special about Jesus? Those two things, His ability to discern faith and, His ability to detect carefully hidden skepticism and unbelief. Those two abilities set Him apart. Yes.

But, listen. There may be others whose minds are very keen and whose spirits are equally perceptive. But listen - “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Have you thought about the way Jesus went about dealing with this paralyzed man? Notice the order of things, and the connections between them.

I don't know about you, but if I had the power to restore a paralyzed body, that would have been the first thing I would have done! But not Jesus! He attends to the deeper, more eternally-significant issue: the issue of man's sins.

We don't know one way or another but it may have been that this man's paralysis had to do with sin in His life and God's judgment and discipline pertaining to that sin. We don't know for sure on that, but what we do know is that this paralytic was a sinner, just like the rest of us. And, that the Sinless One, the One who was manifested to take away our sins, did just that! He forgave him.

But, here's where this account gets even more interesting and exciting. How do we know, how did all the by-standers in that house know, that Jesus had forgiven the man's sins? That Jesus had the power, the authority on earth to forgive?

Well, we know it because He said it, right? Listen, my friends, anybody, ANY-BODY can say, “your sins are forgiven.” But how many people do you know can actually DO it? How many people do you know can actually PROVE they can forgive sins by healing paralysis? That's what Jesus did!

Who do you say that I am?” Some say that you are John the Baptist. Some say that you are Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Some say that you are a superb teacher, an excellent example, a miracle worker, or maybe a liar or a lunatic!

But, who do you say that Jesus is? This week, at Gold Rush VBS, the teachers, the craft directors, the song leaders, the kitchen crew, the greeters, the helpers, all of you, have one great assignment, one huge task: to lead children and their families in the direction of the One who IS more precious than silver, more costly than gold, more beautiful than diamonds. Would you mind joining me in asking Him to help us, as we do so today? Let's pray.

Father we thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning. We're grateful for the responsibility and the calling to bear witness to our dear Savior Jesus Christ. We pray that this day, this week, and every week and day and month and year of our lives, that we will be equipped with answers ready to those who would ask, “who is Jesus and what is it that is so special about Him?” Strengthen and bless us to that end, I pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.”

No comments: