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Friday, December 5, 2008

Speaking of Jesus: Who Was Jesus?

Who was Jesus? This is a question that ranks among the most important in the history of the world (not to oversell it!). When we are telling people the good news about Jesus, we need to be very clear on who Jesus really is! Paul says, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord..." So, if we are talking about Jesus Christ as Lord, it is critical for us to know who He is. So, who was that baby in the manger all those years ago?

It is no small task to tell people who Jesus is because we are telling them something that is counter to the way we think. See, we are going to tell people that Jesus is God. The incarnation, that is, the fact that God took on human flesh in Jesus Christ is one of the most offensive parts of the message we deliver. We are not saying that Jesus was god-like, we are not saying he had a divine knowledge greater than anyone else, we are not even saying he is half God and half man. No, what we are saying (and celebrating at Christmas!) is that Jesus IS God in human flesh!

Most people think Jesus was a great teacher or had a lot of "God-insight." But these are half-truths. He was a great teacher who taught that He was God. He had God-insight because He was the fullest revelation of God. Some will say that He never claimed to be God. But this is simply false. Consider the time in John 8 when the Pharisees were challenging Jesus' authority. Jesus said that Abraham saw His coming and rejoiced. The Pharisees replied, "You aren't even fifty years old. How did you see Abraham?" To which Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!"

Now this is critical. Jesus not only claimed to be around before Abraham, but also gave himself the holiest name of God in all the Old Testament, I AM. This is what God called himself in the burning bush when Moses wondered what to tell Pharaoh when Pharaoh asked who had sent him. God said, "Tell him, I AM sent you." And now, Jesus claims to be the one who said that! He claimed to be God in no uncertain terms. The Pharisees knew it, too. They tried to kill Jesus for committing blasphemy!

Further, when you read the Gospels, you will notice Jesus doing things only God can do. Consider what the Gospel of Mark records Jesus doing: forgiving sins (Mark 2:1-12), controlling the weather (Mark 4:35-41, 6:45-52), providing bread from heaven (Mark 6:30-44, 8:1-13), controlling demons (Mark 1:21-28, 5:1-20), and taking authority over the law (Mark 2:18-3:6, 7:1-23). All of this points to the fact that Jesus is God. The authors of the Scriptures go to great lengths to convince us of this fact. Paul points out that Jesus is both God and man when says that Israel should receive the good news first since Christ is an Israelite. He says, "Theirs (the Israelites) are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen."

When we think about speaking of Jesus to our unbelieving friends this Christmas, let's remember who it is we celebrate, God in human flesh, Jesus Christ. This is the good news, that God comes in Jesus Christ to save sinners. The good news we speak points to the man, Jesus Christ, who is our God and savior! Merry Christmas!

Pastor Bob

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