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"Who do you say that I am?" Every person in the world has an answer. Just as important, however, is the next question: "Have you answered correctly?" This passage encourages us to consider our answer carefully and what that means for life as we know it.
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One man said this. "There he is. In the temple again. Causing trouble. Speaking very differently from other preachers. Speaking with authority about sorrow, anxiety, sickness, and death. Penetrating the dark corners of human existence. Shattering illusion. Make no mistake about it; this is a dangerous man."
A lot of folks have said a lot of things about Jesus. Typically, in our world today, you don't hear very many people say he's a dangerous man. Folks who have reduced him to be something less than what the Scriptures themselves have presented him to be, miss the fact that this Jesus is not somebody you can just have some indifferent response to. It is impossible to be indifferent toward Jesus.
He is an individual who has claimed to have the right to demand that you respond to him. In fact, he makes it very clear that it's better that you hate him than you take on a state of indifference with him. In fact, hate is a lot closer to love than indifference is to love. Anybody who has ever been in a relationship knows this. When you can drive somebody nuts, as I can my wife like nobody else in the world can, it is evidence that she has given me a place of meaning and significance in her life.
There are lots of crazy people, lots of whacked-out folks, lots of insensitive, impatient people who come along and go, and they don't really bother you. There's nobody like family, who shows just a little bit of impatience or just a little bit of awkwardness that drives you nuts. That is true of my original family, and it is now true of my immediate family, the wife who I have taken to myself forever to love and the children who we are raising. We drive each other crazy sometimes.
You know what would even drive me more crazy and would hurt my heart even more deeply? If those who I am in the midst of didn't care what I did and were just indifferent to my inconsistencies and indifferent to my rudeness and indifferent to my shortness because they had written me off as somebody who ultimately doesn't matter to them.
Jesus says it this way, speaking through the apostle John as his Spirit had led him to write and revealing to him his impression of a certain church that bothered him. "I wish that you were hot or cold, that you loved me or that you hated me. But because you're just lukewarm, because you're kind of tepid, because you kind of think I'm not a dangerous man, because you think I'm just somebody to be trifled with, spoken of, and considered and then you can just let it go like somebody you passed by in the street…" He said, "I am absolutely fed up with you, and I'm going to spit you out of my mouth. I want nothing to do with you."
Part of what we believe here is that full devotion to Christ is what is normal for those who have understood who this Jesus is. In the next two weeks, you're going to see that was Jesus' expectation as well. Once you make a decision for him, to be completely devoted and to have your life radically altered by this Jesus is what's normal and appropriate. It is also normal and appropriate to be offended by this man's claims on your life and to resent it and in fact even hate him because of what he demands of you, which is a response.
For many years, many centuries, folks have said he's a poet, he's a magician, he's an outlaw…he's a dangerous man because you can't just let him go; you have to deal with him. He demands that you deal with him. That's the deal he's been cutting with folks for 2,000 years. He's been saying, "You have to deal with me. I want to know not who the world thinks I am. We can consider that for a moment, but ultimately, who do you think that I am?"
Lots of folks have argued about this Jesus. I have a stack of literature here from our society in recent years. We can't shake this Jesus. Quotes from Gandhi, from Thomas Jefferson, about this one man in history, from Napoleon, from Benjamin Franklin. All have written some thoughts about this guy, many who have decided he's not who we who are here worshipping today believe he is.
Here's one from a little magazine called The Watchman Expositor, "Who Do You Say I Am? Examining the Jesus of the Alternative Religions." Every single world religion I know of has some statement about this Jesus. They may not acknowledge him the way you and I do, but they have some opinion on him and usually work him in, in some form or fashion, to their system of belief even if it's only to hold him up as the pinnacle of what their faith would produce.
We don't hold Jesus up only as the pinnacle of what our faith would produce. We hold Jesus up as the means through which we can have a relationship with God, who without him we are without hope and set apart in this world.
Here's one from Newsweek, just a year ago, "Visions of Jesus." This magazine is filled with different people's opinions, not set to song as we just had, but from interview after interview of who they said Christ was. Life came at this same thing. They asked the question, "Jesus: Who was He?" U.S. News and World Report, so as not to be outdone at the newsstand, "Who was Jesus? A New Look at His Words and Deeds."
The United Nations has a little gathering up there where they focus on the person of Christ asking the question, "Who is he?" I have a stack of articles here that have been put together from newspapers I've been able to collect and assimilate over time. Again and again, the Comment and Editorial page or a thought from somebody in the Features section or a reflection on some individual in our contemporary history who reflects on this one man who alone is unique in the history of the world that he demands people respond to him.
I have one thing here I thought I'd share with you where different groups of folks tried to speculate where Christ was really from, what his origins were. Some folks determined that in fact, he was Jewish. They said they knew because he went into his father's business, because he lived at home until he was 33, and because he was sure his mother was a virgin and his mom was sure he was God.
Well, somebody came back with that and said, "No, he wasn't Jewish. He was Irish. We know because he never got married, he never had a steady job, and his last request was a drink." Somebody else came back and said, "No, he was Puerto Rican because his name was Jesús, he was always in trouble with the law, and his real father and he didn't connect."
Somebody came back and said, "No, he was from California. He had long hair, he walked around barefoot everywhere, and he started a new religion." On and on and on, playing on false stereotypes about certain segments of our society. Folks have had some fun wrestling with "Who is this Jesus?" Jesus didn't just have fun with it. He called the question. That's where we are as we study and make our way through this little book written by a gentleman by the name of Mark.
If you have your Bible, flip there to the gospel of Mark with me. We're in chapter 8, verse 27. I'll remind you of what has recently happened. Christ has just been through a series of time where he has done some rather amazing things that have demanded a response, one of which most recently was he had fed thousands of folks with just a few loaves of bread and some fish.
The folks who saw weren't really even astonished at it. They were more confused than astonished by the fact he was even going to attempt it than by what he accomplished. There was a group of folks who came along after that and demanded he do something else to give evidence of his claims that he was, in fact, this one who would be referred to in the Scriptures as a man who would be the Prince of Peace.
A man who would be all the essence of what a Wonderful Counselor would be, an eternal being, though he walks into our finite and temporal world. One whose very name, according to Isaiah, would be Mighty God. Some folks came to him and said, "How can you make that claim that you are that Mighty God who we have long anticipated to come and deliver us?" Christ responded to them in a unique way, as we looked at last week.
Then he pulled aside his closest followers. He took them through a little miracle where a man was healed of his blindness in a staged way as an illustration of how even those of us who are nearest him are continuing to grow in our ability to see Christ for who he really is. I want to let you know, so much of the heart of any great teacher, as Jesus was, was to be patient and persistent in the face of getting a clarity of who he is or of what truth is they're teaching.
We are desperate to reflect that heart of Christ, that heart of God who is patient with you and labors with you that you might draw still nearer to him. He's persistent with you towards that end. Wherever you are this morning, we could not be more thrilled that you're here to consider again who this Jesus is.
We want to today what Christ himself did, which is demand you make a decision, and no decision is a decision. To remain indifferent and to remain casual or even to say through some careful wording that you acknowledge his claims are true but to not have that have consequence in your life, by his own words, is a problem to the greatest degree.
Because when he asks you this question, he doesn't just want the right intellectual answer. He wants that truth to transform you and to affect everything about you. As we will look at, especially in our time together next week, if you answer this question rightly, it's not just evidenced by your words but by the fact that you begin to walk in the way he walked and carry the cross he himself carried.
Today, he grabs his disciples aside. In verse 27 it says, "Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi…" To give you a little insight on where we're headed for the rest of this book… You're at the very northern extremity of the land we would call the Holy Land or the land of Israel. Right there, before you would get up into Syria and some other places at about the furthest extent you could be from the place where Christ will do his greatest work, in Jerusalem. He is way up north.
From the furthest point, he begins to make his way now to Jerusalem. On the way from where he is to where he's going, he's going to take these last days to try and convince his disciples that what he's going to do is completely appropriate considering who he is: Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Eternal Father, Mighty God.
Because once they're starting to get their eyes around the fact that this Jesus is the long-anticipated Anointed One from God, the one who is himself God in human form, he is going to do something we as humans are frankly dumbfounded by even to this day. Way up there in the far north time as he starts to make his way down south in a moment, he questions his disciples in verse 27: "…saying to them, 'Who do people say that I am?' They told Him, saying, 'John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.'"
Now these guys were wise. They didn't give him some of the other play that was going on during the day. They kind of gave him the positive view that the public had, but there were others who were his enemies who said, "He is an instrument of the Devil, a pawn of Beelzebul." "He's out of his mind," his family said. "He's lost his senses. He is beside himself. Not fully contained or thinking correctly."
Others said that he's just some local boy with delusions of grandeur. Those were all attitudes and opinions folks who were around Christ in that day and age took. He said, "Okay, now that we've had some fun talking about what the papers might say. If you took a poll with "Gallupstine" here in Palestine we might get these different ideas with different percentages broken out, but here's my question."
He turns to these Twelve, and he says, "But who do you say that I am?" Who do you say that I am? "Peter answered and said to Him, 'You are the Christ.'""You're the Anointed One," which is what that word means. "You are the Messiah. The long-anticipated one who would deliver individuals." Now a very interesting thing happens.
Peter buzzed in, and he got it right. He got it right in the face of overwhelming confusion about why Christ would have done what he had done to this point, and come from where he'd come from to Peter's understanding, and still be able to go, "Listen, all I know is you do things no one else has done. You feed multitudes of people, provide for thousands.
You heal lame people. You let blind people see. You let deaf people hear. You speak powerfully and authoritatively. Nobody rules you. You bow to no decree. You love like no man I've ever seen love. You talk to my heart like no one I've ever seen talk to my heart, and nature bows before you."
See, this very question that Jesus just asked them, these guys had asked themselves at an earlier time. It was when they were on the midst of an ocean that they were experts in navigating their way through. Jesus took them to the height of their place of competency as fishermen on the sea, and he brought them to the place where they were completely despondent.
Then he showed up and showed them, "Until you acknowledge you need me in your greatest place of competency, and even there only I can allow you to survive in the way that is intended for you to survive, you don't know who I am." So Jesus just showed up, and he said to the waves, "Be still." Then the men turned to each other and said simply this, about four chapters before where we are, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"
See, they asked the right question, but they weren't sure of the answer yet. After months of shared time with Christ and watching him continue to interact and listening to his claims about himself and the evidences through his actions that he gave to affirm his claims, Peter was now ready to say something that when in the light of all his prior understanding about what the Messiah would look like. He said, "You're the one." He finally buzzed in with the right answer.
What would you expect Jesus to say? You would expect him to go, "All right, Peter, good job. Here's your megaphone. Go let the world know." But an amazing thing is recorded right here. It says that after Peter said, "You are the Christ," in verse 30 it says in the translation before you, "And He warned…" There's a better word for warned. In fact, this same word appears just a little bit later, in verse 32, and it's the word for rebuke.
Peter just said, "You are the Christ." Listen to this, Jesus rebuked him and said, "You don't tell anybody that." Now that's a little confusing to me if it's not to you on first blush. I thought to myself, "Why in the world would Jesus rebuke him when he just buzzed it in aright?" Some people have said this is evidence that Jesus did not think of himself as Mighty God. The only problem with that is it's completely inconsistent with everything else he has said.
What in fact, he does is take on terms that are consistent with being the Christ and the Messiah. He accepts worship. He says, "If you've seen me, you've seen God." He makes it extremely clear throughout the Scriptures that Jesus knew who he was and knew he was not only from God but was of God himself: Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Mighty God. Why did Jesus tell Peter, "I rebuke you. Don't you tell anybody else that. Be careful"?
I think here's the reason. It's because as much trouble as the disciples had in sorting out who he was, the public was even further behind. The disciples were not yet ready to clearly represent the Messiah for who he was. Jesus was simply saying to Peter, "You know what? You have certain things right. You can start to see the Messiah…" In referencing back to last week. "…kind of clearly right now.
You've identified who I am but Peter, you don't yet know what it is that I am here to do. There's a reason for that. I understand it, but don't go out telling everybody you can see yet when you're still going to stub your toe and walk into things. We have some more ground to cover before you're ready to stand on some platform before thousands of folks and declare that God has been in your midst."
What Peter is saying, and what Jesus is saying to Peter here is simply this: "Take great care in thrusting yourself into a place of public ministry when you have not yet fully thrust yourself into understanding who I am. I rebuke you from taking this information and running with it before you understand all that is here."
In fact, let me give you an application right here. As I thought about this, I thought about an error we make in the Christian world a lot. I wrote it down this way. We must be careful before thrusting individuals into public ministry, and, in correlation to that, because Christ wants us to be ministers of the gospel, we must be careful to thrust ourselves into God's Word, so we are increasingly ready for that ministry.
Paul said it this way writing to young Timothy when he went to have him go start a church. He said, "Timothy, listen, don't lay your hands on anybody too quickly." What he meant by that was…listen…when you lay your hands as an agent of authority on somebody else you bestow upon them authority.
You have to be careful to not thrust somebody into a place of influence when they're not yet able or ready to rightly lead folks, either because their life has not caught up with their understanding or their understanding is not full and complete. They'll know just enough to be dangerous. Or they'll blow it in just a little bit, and people will confuse their life with the accuracy of their message.
In our day and age, we can't help ourselves. When an All-Pro defensive back makes a profession for Christ, as quickly as we can we get him on stage in churches. We have him write books, and we have him do speaking seminars. Many of us are of the mindset that if we could just get certain celebrities to come to know Christ as quick as we can we have to get them on Larry King so that they can make a profession of Christ because surely then a number of people will follow and believe as these individuals of great public acclaim and import have done.
That wasn't ever Jesus' plan, to thrust people immediately into a place of influence. In fact, he says again and again, "You take care before you yourself become a teacher." "Because teachers," James wrote, "incur a stricter judgment." Why? Because if you're stupid, that's one thing. But if you teach other people how to be stupid, you have loads of trouble because now you're accountable for your own stupidity and the stupidity that falls behind you.
So he says, "Careful. Before you grab a Bible and take a microphone, make sure your life, and just as importantly, your understanding is equal to your platform." That means we have to have a plan to help individuals in this body be trained in truth, to grow and increase in the grace and knowledge of who Jesus Christ is.
That's why it's here in the midst of both Equipping classes and in the midst of community. Because we think life change happens best in the context of relationships. We call you to both of those things so you can have that great privilege of representing Christ to other people. That's why we're also very careful before we thrust somebody who has recently converted into a place of prominence and certainly ultimately into a place of leadership.
Jesus was just saying to Peter, "Peter, you have half of it. You've made it through elementary school. You have the ABCs down. You know now who I am, but we have to figure out now who it is I've come to save and the way I've come to save them. If you go now, shouting who I am, you're not yet clear on how that's going to happen."
Because what Peter would have done, as I can prove to you by the next little few verses, is exactly what you and I would have done if we were there. I'll explain why. Watch this. In verse 31, Jesus then begins to teach. Why? Because Jesus wants to thrust Peter into public ministry. "And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly."
Meaning he's not speaking in parables. He's not giving some allusion to some things that are about to happen. He's saying, "Look guys, you have it right. Look me in the eye. I am God. I am the one who you have long anticipated as Jewish people looking for your promised Messiah and Great Deliverer. I am he." Make no mistake about it.
In fact, I love what he said a little bit earlier in one of the other gospels when he first brought his disciples to himself. He said, "I'm going to send you out to have the ability to represent my kindness and love and to give evidence I am here. I'm going to give you a healing ministry. When people watch the things you do, you tell them you do it in the name of Jesus of Nazareth who is the Messiah who is come to heal the blind, to give the deaf ears, to give the dumb the ability to speak and the lame the ability to walk.
You tell them I am here. When you go, realize you will be hated as I am hated. Some of you will be delivered up and persecuted. Some of you will be killed eventually." He saw the fear in his eyes. I love what Jesus did. He clapped, saying, "Eyes, guys, eyes. Look, I know some of you are scared you're going to be delivered up but let me tell you something. Let me tell you who to fear. Fear not him who can destroy your body, but you fear the one…"
I believe Jesus grabbed his little robe and pointed to himself and said, "I'll tell you who to fear, boys. You fear the one who is able to destroy the body but then is able to cast the soul into hell for eternity. That's who to fear. That's who's here. That's who sends you." Jesus is really clear on who he was.
Individuals thought when this Jesus came, nobody would control him. Now they've just heard he's the Messiah. Now they've just heard the Messiah's going to die. This is a whole level of understanding that these boys can't get their arms around. In fact, Peter was so violently and so angry at what Jesus just said… "I just told you, you were Mighty God, and now you're telling me the elders, the chief priests and the Pharisees are going to kill you? I have a problem with that."
He said, "Jesus, now let me call you aside," in what is one of the most humorous scenes in all of Scripture to me. I don't think Peter laughed as much as I did when I read it. Jesus was stating the matter plainly. In other words, there's no confusion here. This is going to happen. It's a fact. Peter took him aside, said, "Jesus, take a little break from your teaching. Let me give you a cup of water. Step over here with me." He took him aside, and Peter now rebuked Jesus. Same word. He rebuked Jesus.
"But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, 'Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.'" Peter, in a matter of a few verses, went from setting the curve to being the class dunce. Jesus said, "This is exactly why I didn't give you a megaphone two verses ago. Because you don't quite get it, but that's okay. I'm not saying you're done with me. I'm just telling you that what you speak of right now is not a Holy Spirit-informed opinion.
It is an earthly opinion and one I still completely understand why you have it. You're just dead wrong. Now get in line and get behind me and learn. I did not ask you to be the drum major. I asked you to be in one of the trumpet sections, so you take my direction. Don't lead me. Listen to me." As I thought about this specifically, I thought about something again that relates to us.
There were folks who did not acknowledge that Jesus, and do not today acknowledge that Jesus is alone the means through which men can have a relationship with the living God. In fact, there are those who are very antagonistic not towards religion and not toward world faiths but specifically to one world faith. It's those who take the name of Christ as their own and call themselves followers of Jesus and say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
We are a group who is increasingly being hated and attacked from all sides. In the name of the highest virtue being tolerance, the one group who will never come together and never should come together in an ecumenical sense and say, "Can't we just all get along?" in the sense that we all can agree that whatever you want to worship is okay. A believer in Jesus Christ can never say yes to that question. Because it's not okay if Jesus knew what he was talking about.
It's not okay if there's only one name under heaven by which men can be saved. Can we love people? Can we tolerate their opinions? Can we tolerate even their choices? Yes. But can we tolerate the idea that truth is subjective and that truth is only a product of your culture and your upbringing and that there are many different paths that lead up the mountain and that eventually get us all to God and we're all seeking the same way to God through different paths? According to Jesus, no.
That will make the followers of Christ and the followers of the biblical Jesus a very unpopular lot. Jesus says, "Fear not those who can destroy your ministry, destroy your church, take away your tax deduction. Fear not those who can throw you in jail. Fear not those who can persecute you and kill you in the name of unity and us all getting along. You fear the one who ultimately is responsible for casting a vote and making an opinion that doesn't last for a season but lasts for an eternity. That's who to fear."
Here's an application. People who hate our Messiah are no greater threat than those who want to redirect our mission. There were those on that day who were out at this point to kill Jesus. They had made a decision to eliminate Jesus from the face of this earth. They hated him. They were of their father the Devil, Jesus had said.
But now here is one who knows Jesus is the Messiah, who was one of his best and dearest friends. This one is trying to redirect Jesus in his mission. What did Jesus say that opinion was? It was of the exact same origin of those who hated him to begin with. How does this roll out for us? A lot of people have a lot of different ideas of what a church should be about. A lot of folks have a lot of different expectations when they join a community of faith.
We're going to have folks who are going to want to come here and want us to create a lot of different things. Anybody who threatens to leave us or to create a schism or a faction in the midst of this body by saying we should be about something other than making and being disciples is as great an enemy to us as anybody who would challenge the deity of Christ itself.
The mission Jesus gave his church was to go and make disciples, to go and be disciples. If the church has gotten watered down and abused and suppressed in its effectiveness, it has not been because for the last 2,000 years men have hammered down the deity of Jesus as much as it is because people who have gathered in the midst of what is called a community of faith have compromised the mission of God's people.
They've made it a safe place to hang out. A comfortable place to take your children on Sundays. A place to advance your business. A place to enjoy friends for life without ever making a difference in the life God's called you to live. It is a great threat to God's work in us and through us to trifle with one of two things: the uniqueness, sufficiency, and place of Jesus Christ as alone the means to salvation.
To trifle with the necessity of Jesus and faith in Jesus as a means through which men can be rightly related to God is a tremendous threat to the church. Right next to it are those who get that right and compromise on the passion and the mission and the task at hand, of declaring the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost world, of then calling to people to share in community together, of growing them in the grace and knowledge of who this Jesus is and then equipping them and unleashing them to a life of ministry and worship. That's the mission.
The mission isn't to elect certain parties into office. The mission isn't alone to see society adopt certain moral views. The mission is to lift up Jesus Christ and call men to follow him. People who hate our Christ are no greater threat than those who say they love him in our midst who get us off mission of calling all people to be fully devoted followers of Christ and then joining us in that effort. You see where that comes from?
Let me have a short bit of time with you to show you why Peter did exactly what I would have done had I been standing there. Peter, in voicing that was just the spokesperson. They all thought, "You know what, Jesus? We're about ready to say, 'You're the guy, aren't you?'" I think they were all ready to say, "Wait a minute, if you're the guy, what are you talking about a cross for? Because you're supposed to wear a crown not take a cross."
There's a study that was done a number of years ago with individuals where they gave them what's called an autostereogram, which give you the ability to see two different images at one time. In this device, the subjects were shown an image of a baseball player and the image of a bullfighter. They asked the subjects what they saw. Folks from Central America, Mexico, they said, "I saw a bullfighter." Folks from North America, when asked what they saw, they said, "I saw a baseball player."
They then showed them a red six of spades. The subjects looked at that, and they kind of showed some physical discomfort when they said, "What is that?" They said, "Well, it's the six of spades." What the scientists discovered and what they repeatedly showed through this experiment was that we tend to see what we are trained to see not what is really there. That's the natural bent of humankind.
In that study, subjects only saw the picture that was familiar to their cultural conditioning. They don't easily see what is before them. You're conditioned by culture to see a six of spades being black and not wrestling with it very much. When you see a red six of spades you go, "That's a six of spades." When I see two different images, the one I'm going to remember and go with is the one I through experience am inclined to see.
What did Peter and the disciples expect to see in their Messiah? I want to walk you through some Scripture. We're going to move kind of quickly so I might recommend you hang out up here. There's a guy named Jeremiah who was a prophet. In Jeremiah, chapter 23, in verse 5, he said this, speaking of the Anointed One, the Messiah who was to come, "'Behold, the days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.'"
There's another guy named Isaiah. In chapter 61 of Isaiah, he said this. "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me…" This is the Messiah talking. "…to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes…"
In other words, when this guy comes, it won't be depressing anymore. You won't be oppressed. You'll be delivered. The greatest favor an oppressed people could find is deliverance from their most visible oppressor. When Jesus came, he knew of an even greater oppressor who these people were facing than the caesar of Rome. It was the caesar of their soul who had taken them far from God. Jesus set the freedom from their great oppressor and had declared the favorable year the Lord.
These men, as you and I would if we were living in an impoverished vassal state, a state where you could only do what the subject who ruled over you said you could do, and he didn't have your best interests in mind. All we would think of would be to be delivered from this wicked mayor, this wicked governor, this wicked king, this wicked caesar. When the Messiah came, they expected him when he proclaimed the favorable year of the Lord to deal very specifically with Rome and make Israel a great nation again, free from all obligation to any nation but itself.
What Jesus just told his disciples is, "Listen, this long-expected Messiah is going to do a very unexpected thing. I'm going to deal with a different oppressor. It's the oppressor of your soul." Now watch this. Back in Luke, chapter 4, Jesus took this section of Scripture I just read, and the very first time he gave a public message, he gave it from Isaiah 61. I want you to watch where Jesus stopped.
In verse 14 of Luke 4 it says, "And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…" In verse 15: "And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised… He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and…" He turned to Isaiah 61; we would say.
He said, "'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.' **And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'"
Go back to Isaiah 61. He said, " [I have come] to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." Then it continues. "…and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes…" **Something to celebrate instead of mourn."The oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise…" Which is to say a robe of celebration."…instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."**
Look at Isaiah 63. "Who is this who comes from Edom…" Which is south of Israel, an enemy of God. "…with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah…" Again, a place of Edom. "…this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? 'It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.'"
They say to him, "Why is Your apparel red and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?" What does this mean? A lot of folks in their simplicity think this is a reference to the fact that Jesus, when he comes, is going to be wearing a red garment in reference to the fact that he bled on the cross. That's not the image here. This is the vengeance of God in action.
It shows him coming specifically through one region that was notorious for oppressing Jews. It's a picture of the Messiah who is going to come and his garment is going to be red. Why? Because William Wallace just defeated wicked England. Because Maximus is standing to wicked caesar. There is blood on his brow because he has just kicked some tail. His chest is out. His biceps are swollen.
It's as if somebody just stepped on a bunch of grapes. When he did, the splatter of the grapes covered his robe because he trod on them as one in a winepress. It is a picture of a victorious, bowed-up King. That's what they looked for in a Messiah. If you asked a Jew, "What do you see, a suffering Servant or a reigning King?" You show them both images, what are they going to see? A reigning King. That's what I'd look for.
Jesus says, "I am a reigning King, but the way I'm going to accomplish this reigning kingdom is not the way you expect. There will be a day when I'll show the vengeance of God, but the first thing I'm going to do is be this suffering Servant. I'm going to pour out my wrath on sin, not just caesar's sin but your sin."
Jesus says, "Behold the love of God not that he would just defeat your human oppressors who in the name of sin do awful things to you, but I will deal with the great oppressor of your soul. I will trod on the wickedness of rebellion. I will pour out my wrath on sin. In the greatness of who I am, I will not pour out that wrath on those who deserve it, because it's you, Peter. It's you, John. It's you, Israel, not just Rome. I myself will take that wrath. I will go and deliver myself up."
This week, I was watching The Chronicles of Narnia on video with my kids. It's a story by C.S. Lewis that captures the miracle of the gospel in an allegory. It talks about four young English children who go through a wardrobe into the land of Narnia, which has been oppressed by a wicked witch who makes it always winter but never Christmas.
This wicked witch has ruled people's hearts. People live in fear of her. When these children get over there, three of them are coming and trying to get a greater understanding. One of them is aligning himself with the wicked witch in order to become the wicked witch's prince and have all the Turkish Delight, which is a great candy to an English kid, that he could have.
My children were watching young Edmund go for the Turkish Delight and aligning himself with the wicked witch. They came to understand as the other three English children did about somebody called Aslan, who was a great king. In fact, pictured as a lion who was on the move. There was hope in the land of Narnia because Aslan was coming. Aslan was going to set the wicked witch in her place. And we're getting into it.
As the story unfolds, Aslan, the lion who… There's a great line in there when Lucy, one of the children, says, "Aslan is a lion. Is he safe?" One of the attendants of Narnia said, "Oh no, my child. He's a lion. He's not safe. But he's good." We know a God who is not safe. But he is good. This Aslan comes to a place where as he comes to deliver the people of Narnia from the wicked witch, and specifically for Edmund who is an agent through which in the prophecies of Narnia the people were to be delivered.
This great lion walks into the wicked witch's presence, and though he has powers that are greater than the witch's, he willingly lays himself out on a slab of stone. He willingly lets the wicked witch and her attendants muzzle him. He willingly lets the wicked witch pierce his heart. Instead of roaring a mighty roar of deliverance, he gives himself up on that table.
My children watched this in absolute horror for two reasons. First, they thought Aslan was going to come and roar and deliver Narnia from the wicked witch. Secondly, they understood the reason Aslan was on the table was because of Edmund. Snotty, punk Edmund who betrayed his brothers and sisters consistently for Turkish Delight, who gave the wicked witch information about Aslan and the fact that he was coming to do certain things and where the beavers where who were taking the children to the place of deliverance.
Aslan died for Edmund. We had to stop the movie. They go, "Dad, that can't be." I looked at my kids. I said, "Let me ask you again. I've told you, who does Aslan represent?" They went, "Jesus. But why did Jesus love Edmund?" I had a chance to turn to them, and I said, "You're Edmund. I'm Edmund. Jesus didn't just die for Peter and for Lucy, the good kids. Aslan died for all citizens of Narnia."
In fact, it says in the Scriptures, "But God loved us and demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still Edmunds, Christ died for us." This Lion, who will come in a mighty way, whose garments will be red as he mows through his enemies in the day of vengeance and justice and wrath… It will come historically. His garments are red for another reason. Because he willingly led himself to Jerusalem, and he willingly allowed himself to be delivered there for you and for me.
The question you have to answer today is simply this: Who is this Jesus, and what does he have to do with you? If you're expecting your Jesus to come and tap dance and make your life easy and free of pain, that's not what he's promised. But if you realize there's some wicked witch who controls your heart and makes you, again and again, choose self and indulge in things that give you fleeting pleasure but ultimately make your stomach upset as the Turkish Delight did Edmund, and you realize that in betraying what you knew was right in your heart, that judgment is due you.
I invite you today to trust in the one whom Aslan represents. His name Jesus the Christ. He's done a very amazing thing. He has declared his glory throughout all the ages, and then he said in his most glorious act, "I will show my love for Edmund, my love for you by giving myself up on a cross for your sins." Isaiah developed this completely in Isaiah 52 and 53, where he just went through.
He said, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." You see, Isaiah didn't just talk about the coming King who reigns in justice. He came and talked about the coming Lamb who would take away the sins of the world. Which one of the two do you think they would see? They saw the bullfighter, just like I would have, because I think that's my greatest problem.
The God who sees things for as they really are says, "Your greatest problem is not the pressures of money, not the pressures of a spouse. The greatest problem you have is the pressure of sin on your little pagan heart. Jesus alone can take that from you." Next week when you come back, I want to show you a video that captures the love Jesus has for Edmund. We're going to begin to unfold this story a little bit more. We're going to begin to see this Jesus teach us some more about how going to this cross will lead ultimately to a crown.
For today, we simply say if you've never dealt with the sin that's in your heart, I hold up for you today a God who cares. I hold up for you today a God who wants you to trust in him, not have good information about him but to respond. If you want to grow in your understanding of Christ, come. If you want to make a decision for this Christ, come. Let us be patient and persistent as he was as we take his name. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you for today and for the chance we had to see you're teaching us not just who you are but, in a way that is difficult to understand sometimes, why you as God didn't come and execute physical justice and take care of the unjust sickness and unjust governments that were around the people of that day. Even as some of us in this body, filled with blindness and lameness and cancer and unemployment and betrayal wonder why you don't stop, God, those things.
You told us the reason you delay coming as the great avenger of wickedness, the one who will have his garment dripped with the blood of his enemies… The reason you have not come yet today is because in your patience you long for still another Edmund here today to come to realize you are who you claim to be before you reveal yourself by scrolling back the heavens and sealing everybody's eternity based on who they said you are.
So God, even though in my heart I've cried for people whose children are sick whose parents are dying and whose bodies are fading, I've begged that you would come and make it right, I celebrate right now that you have tarried yet another day that some soul in this room who has never dealt with this Jesus can do it now. I pray, God, that they would come and they would in their heart deal with your goodness and greatness. Because, God, you're not safe. But you are good.
So we come before this lion of Judah who is Jesus Christ. In fear and trembling we trust we will not get devoured, but we will get licked and loved as we come in faith and prostrate ourselves in humility before you. I pray that sinners come. I pray that those of us who have received the lick of that Lion would go away and would roar the good news that Aslan is on the move in a way that gives you alone glory.
May we never compromise on the deity of Jesus, and may we never compromise on the mission you have given us. Father, we thank you and celebrate the fact that all who come are forgiven. Thank you for bearing our sins on the cross and for making your way to Jerusalem for me. Father, do your work in our hearts and glorify yourself in our midst. In Christ's name, amen.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 6:6 through Mark 8:38.