Who is this Man? The Basics

May 19, 2013

Who is this Man? 
Matthew 16:13-20
If you were to ask the average person “Who is Jesus?”  I am sure that you would get a bunch of
different answers.  Some would say that
he was the Son of God; other’s might say that he was a prophet or a religious
leader.  Some might even say that he was
nobody, that he never existed.  If you
watch the television show “Bones” you will sometimes hear the main character
refer to the “Jesus Myth”  and for some
that is all Jesus is or was, a myth. 
I would suspect that a large segment of the population don’t
have an opinion, Jesus for them is a non-entity.  That doesn’t mean that they think he doesn’t
exist, it simply means that they don’t think about him at all.  They don’t have an opinion because to them
Jesus is not relevant to their lives. 
And I would suspect that there might even be those here today who share
that opinion, or non-opinion would be more accurate. 
You are here in church because it’s easier than not being in
church, your parent or your spouse wants you to be here so you are here.  And you listen to the worship team sing, and
you listen to some God talk from Denn and then you go home, your obligation has
been fulfilled for the time being. 
I was in that category, before I became a Christ follower, I
wasn’t antagonistic about Christ, I simply didn’t think about him, ever. 
And it wasn’t that I was ignorant, I had the opportunities
to know him, I went to Daily Vacation Bible School when I was a kid and my family
was vacationing on Grand Manan.  I went
to a Baptist Sunday School, sometimes. 
The Baptist church was the church we didn’t go to when we didn’t go to
church.  When I got older I learned to
change the channel when the TV Preachers came on and to find another radio
station when Back to the Bible interrupted my music.
It was only when I was personally challenged to have an
opinion that it became clear that it was important for me to have an
opinion.   Not just an opinion of who others thought
Jesus was but who I thought Jesus was. 
If we go back to the scripture
that was read for us this morning we discover that Jesus is challenging the
twelve to have an opinion about him.  Matthew
16:13
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea
Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
And the apostles had several
answers for him, Matthew 16:14 “Well,”
they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say
Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
And those seemed to be fairly reasonable answers, but they
were the wrong answers.  It’s the same
today, when we hear people say “He was a good man”  or “he was a prophet and a great teacher”.  They seem reasonable, but they are
wrong.  He is so much more than
that. 
And sometimes we find those who want to recreate Jesus in
their own image.  Which is why Pulitzer
prize winner Chris Hedges whose books take a stand against war and capital
punishment would write “Jesus was a pacifist.”   And why Mikhail Gorbachev would say “Jesus was the
first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.”  And why Elton John  stated “I think Jesus was a compassionate,
super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.”
But just because everyone has an opinion doesn’t mean they
are right.
So, who is this man?  Not for Elton John, not for Chris Hedges, or
Mikhail Gorbachev.  Not for your
neighbour, or your pastor, or your spouse or your parents.  Who is he for you, today?    Because that is the question.  When the apostles got through telling Jesus
what others were saying about him he challenges them by saying Matthew
16:15
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I
am?”   And today, March 19th
2013 he is still asking that question: 
But who do you say I am?
Over the next several weeks we are looking at the question
“Who is this man?”  Who is Jesus?  And how has he impacted the world? And
ultimately and more important: how has he impacted your world? 
Last summer our theme was “What Jesus said about himself”
And for two months we examined the words of Jesus in the book of John when he
said over and over again “I am. . .”  I
am the way, I am the truth, I am the Life, I am the light of the world, I am
the good shepherd.  But what Jesus said
about himself is as irrelevant as what others said about him if it doesn’t
change and impact our lives.
The world  as we know
it has been shaped by Christianity.  If
there had been no Christmas, if there had been no Easter the world that exists
today would be a radically different place. 
The reality is that it didn’t matter whether I acknowledged
Jesus or not, he has shaped the world we live in. 
The majority of the world in some form or another takes the
time to acknowledge his birth and an equal number of people take the time to
recognize his death and resurrection. 
Now, they may not recognize it by being in church but it is recognized
in the sense that the day is different than other days.  Most people don’t go to work on Christmas
Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  It is
a time to gather with family and to have a celebratory meal, to give gifts and
speak about good will and wish each other a Merry Christmas, and a Happy
Easter.  And they recognize that there is
something different about that name.
If you take your bulletin and look at the front on the very
top it says May 19, 2013.  We take that
for granted.  That is the date.  More correctly it would say AD 2013, but what
does the AD mean?  It is short for the
Latin phrase Anno Domini  which translated
into English is: In the year of our Lord. 
For most of human history time
was measured by those who were in power at the time.  In the book of Luke we are told that Jesus
ministry began when he was baptized by the John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit
descended on him and the Father said “This is my son with whom I am well
pleased.  But when was that?  Luke spells it out for us.    Luke
3:1-2
It was now the fifteenth year of the
reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea;
Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee . . .
Imagine setting time that way
today, It was the fifth year of the reign of Harper, the Canadian Emperor,
Darrell Dexter was governor over Nova Scotia and Mike Savage was ruler over
Halifax.  It is so much easier to say it
was 2013. 
The bible tells us that the birth of Jesus was originally
dated by the fact that most of the known world was ruled by Caesar Augustus and
today we know that Augustus died in 14. 
14 What?  14 the Year of our
Lord.  When Jesus was crucified it was
under the authority of Caesar Tiberius. 
Tiberius died in 37, the year of our Lord.   History has been divided into two sections
those things that happened before Jesus was born and those things that happened
after Jesus was born. 
And so the greatest men and women in history, for good or
for evil are defined by two dates, when they were born and when they died, and
those dates are referenced to the birth of a baby in a stable in a little
village in a small occupied country over 20 centuries ago.  And so Napoleon Bonaparte lived from
1769-1821 in the year of our Lord.  And Mahatma
Gandhi lived from 1869 to 1948 in the year of our Lord.  And if you were to visit the grave of the
great Atheist Friedrich Nietzsche  on his
tombstone you would see his life summed up by the dates 1844-1900,  in the year of our Lord. 
Muhammad, the founder of Islam lived from 570 to 632 in the
year of our Lord.  There have been
attempts through the years to secularize this by referring to it as CE or the
Common Era, but common to what?  To the
birth of Jesus.
If there was no Jesus there would be no 2013 and because our
calendar was developed by a Jesus follower by the name of Gregory not only
would today not be in the year 2013 it wouldn’t be May 19th. 
But it’s not just time that is defined by Jesus.
When you hear somebody say “turn the other cheek” they are
quoting Jesus, when they speak of someone being a prodigal son, they are
quoting Jesus.  Most people know the
“Golden Rule”  but do they know that it
came from Jesus?  Phrases such as “The
blind leading the blind” and “Cast the first stone”, “turn the other cheek”,
“go the extra mile” and giving someone the shirt off your back.  All come from Jesus.    
So, let’s go back to the our scripture.  Jesus has asked the Apostles “Who do people
say that I am?”  and they give him a
variety of answers.  And if I asked you
today “Who do people say Jesus is?”  You
could give me a variety of answers.  Some
good, some bad, some indifferent. 
And it’s easy for us to parrot what others think about
Jesus, whether it is the good or the bad.   
To say “Well the bible says”  or
“Denn, or Cornerstone says” 
But Jesus deemed those answers as irrelevant when he then
looked at the Apostles and said “That’s all well and good but what really
matters is this:  Who do you say I
am?” 
Matthew
16:16
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”   Now if Jesus was just a good man, or a
prophet or a moral teacher this would have been the opportunity for him to have
clarified his position.  To tell Peter
and the rest of the gang, “Nope, not at all, I’m just a prophet pointing to
God.”  “I am simply a Rabbi, directing
you to the truth.” 
Instead Jesus replies by saying
Matthew 16:17-18 Jesus replied, “You are
blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to
you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are
Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all
the powers of hell will not conquer it.”
You
understand the significance here right? 
Jesus is claiming to be God.  Of
all the major religious leaders in the world, Moses, Buddha, Confucius and
Mohammed.  Only Jesus claimed to be
God.  It was C.S. Lewis who first put
forth the proposition that based on Jesus claiming he was God we can accept his
claims in only one of three ways.
1)     
He knew he wasn’t God but said he was, which
would make him a Liar.
2)     
He thought he was God, but wasn’t, which would
make him a lunatic
3)     
He said he was God and he was. Which should make
him Lord.
And Jesus said this was to be the bedrock of
the church, the acknowledgment that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living
God.  And once a church starts to waver
and compromise on that, they might call themselves a church, others might call
them a church but the foundation has begun to crumble. 
If you were to visit our website you would
discover our statement of faith which opens with this statement:  Cornerstone is
part of the Wesleyan Church
, an evangelical, Protestant denomination, and our
beliefs are consistent with historic Christianity. The following are some
doctrinal statements that directly influence the way we live our lives and the
way we operate our ministries at Cornerstone. We believe these to be the basic
truths about God and our relationship with Him. We’re open to change and compromise
on a variety of issues… these aren’t them.
And then the first thing
on the list, the foundation for everything else is:

1) We believe in one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (The
Trinity), and the Saviour of all people who put their faith in Him alone for
eternal life.
We believe the words of Jesus
in John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth,
and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  Not a way, a truth and a life,  not one way, one truth, one life.   But the way, the truth and the life.  And that goes back to our statement of
faith,  “Our beliefs are consistent with
historic Christianity.”  And those
beliefs are summed up in the Apostles Creed.
The
Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Church Universal
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
Amen.
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son our Lord.    
Peter called Jesus the Son of
God, Nathaniel called Jesus the Son of God, 
the Angel Gabriel called Jesus the Son of  God, the rest of the Apostles called Jesus
the Son of God, the Devil called Jesus the Son of God, Jesus called himself the
Son of God and on the day that he was baptised by John we read these words. Matthew
3:16-17
After his baptism, as Jesus came up out
of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending
like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my
dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”   Even God acknowledged Jesus as his
son. 
That is the Jesus who we
believe in and worship at Cornerstone. 
We don’t worship a good man, or a prophet or a great moral teacher.  We worship Jesus, the Son of God. 
But more than that, We believe that Jesus was conceived of the
Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary
The virgin birth is not just a
myth and not just a doctrine you may or may not believe in.  It is the central part of who Jesus is.  If Jesus was simply the son of Mary and
Joseph, regardless of how righteous and morally good they might have been that
would have made Jesus nothing more than a man with really good parents. 
The virgin birth plays an
important part in both accounts of the Christmas story, you remember the story Matthew 1:18 This is how
Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to
Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she
became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke tells us the same story in
Luke 1:26-27 In
the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to
Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be
married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.
And if there was one person who
should know Mary’s sexual history it was Mary and she seems pretty sure that
she won’t qualify when Angel tells her she is going to be a mom.  Listen to what Mary says Luke 1:34 Mary asked the
angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
And people object to the virgin
birth saying that it is impossible.  Of
course it’s impossible that’s the mystery and the wonder of the birth of
Christ. 
We are talking God coming to earth.  How should he come?  The same way that you and me and Genghis Khan
and Adolph Hitler were conceived and born? The prophet Isaiah said that God
would chose a sign, and he did, he stepped outside the boundary of natural laws
that say that in the act of conception a male and a female would each
contribute a cell which would become a new person. 
Instead God did what had never happened before and has not
happened since and that is he produced a child with only one cell.  You read in the papers about same sex
parents, don’t believe it, it can’t happen. 
It takes ingredients from a boy and a girl to make a baby.
If you can believe that Jesus is the Son of  God then you should be able to believe that
Jesus was born of a Virgin. 
But it’s not just how he was
born that was important,  We believe that Jesus suffered under
Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
This is the doctrine of
atonement.  The reality that Jesus died
for our sins.  Now we may never be able
to fully understand all the ins and outs of why Jesus had to die for us, but
the Old Testament was very explicit that there was a price that had to be paid
for the sinful behaviour of each one of us. 
And we are told in Romans 4:25 He
(Jesus) was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life
to make us right with God.
And then we are told in Romans
5:17
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused
death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift
of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and
death through this one man, Jesus Christ.  The gift of Christ’s salvation if for
everyone, but like every gift it has to be received.  You might decide that it didn’t look good for
Denn to be driving around in an 8 year old Smart Car so you decided that you
wanted me to have a new car, still a convertible and still made by Mercedes but
different, you know what I mean?  And so you
bought me a new car and you told me that you had bought it for me, and that I
could have it, no strings attached.  It
would be a gift.  But that gift would
only become a reality when claimed it. 
If I never accepted it, left it parked in your driveway, even though it
was a gift it would not benefit me. 
The gift of grace is available
for everyone, but you have to claim it. 
But Jesus simply dying for us would have been a nice gesture
and that would have been it.  But Jesus didn’t
simply die for us.    And that is why We Believe That On The Third Day Jesus Arose From The Dead.   This is another one of those “But that’s
impossible” things. 
And I will be the first to admit, it is impossible.  But then again if it wasn’t impossible it
wouldn’t mean a whole lot would it. 
Within the scope of things Christians have never denied this point, as a
matter of fact it is the foundation of our faith. 
Our faith acknowledges that a person cannot come back from
the dead, but our faith doesn’t believe that Jesus was just a person; instead
we believe that he was God.  And if God
put the rules of nature into force then God can step outside the rules of
nature.  We see that time and time again
throughout the bible, they are called miracles and you either believe in the
supernatural or you don’t.  We believe
that his birth, the virgin birth was miraculous and we believe that his
resurrection was miraculous.
And we believe it not just because one person said it
happened but because the bible records numerous people who witnessed it.  The first were the ladies who are mentioned
as being the first to the tomb, and then we read that Christ appeared to the 11
remaining apostles and then other disciples. 
Paul spells it out for us in 1 Corinthians 15:4-7 He was buried, and he was raised from
the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the
Twelve. After that, he was seen by more
than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though
some have died. Then he was seen by James and
later by all the apostles.
 And
there are people who want to believe in a Jesus who wasn’t born of a virgin,
and a Jesus who didn’t die on a cross and a Jesus who wasn’t raised from the
dead.  But if we are going to believe in
Jesus and worship Jesus and trust our eternity to Jesus we need to understand
that he comes as a package.  Paul writes
in 1 Corinthians
15:17 And if Christ
has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of
your sins. 
It was the philosopher C.S. Lewis who wrote, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite
importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Over the next three weeks we
will be looking at how Jesus shaped the world that we live in today, but the
more important question is: How has he shaped you?