Who is Jesus Christ, really?
Everyone has an opinion about him. He lived, he didn’t live, he died, he was resurrected, he did not get resurrected. He was a good guy. He was a liar. He was the promised Messiah.
Our pastor just preached an excellent (although long) sermon on this topic.
It matters what we think on this issue. As our pastor said, Jesus is the most polarizing figure who ever lived. And our answer is literally a decision of life and death.
Jesus’ message was (and still is) love. He wants the best for us. He wants us to care for each other.
What’s so controversial about that?
Love has limitations. We can do whatever we want, but that doesn’t mean everything is good for us.
That’s where we often disagree with Jesus. Who does Jesus think he is that he can tell us what to do, or not to do?
Two sides of Jesus
Let me explain the two photos I chose to illustrate this blog. The one on the left is typical of Jesus photos you’ll see. He is calm, compassionate, loving, gentle, beautiful, patient, kind … yes, Jesus was all those things.
But that Jesus wasn’t crucified.
The other photo, from the 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ, shows Jesus being crucified. We don’t like this Jesus because it represents confrontation, loss, torture, suffering and death.
Both of these photos represent the real Jesus. To grasp who he really was (and is), we need to understand both photos.
The Ten Commandments are written as a list of “don’t do this” – don’t put other gods before the one true God, don’t commit murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t covet, etc. Why the limitations? Because God knows these things will hurt us.
Our experiences prove this correct. When we commit adultery, relationships die. When we covet what someone else has, people get hurt. Sometimes literally. Where’s the good in that?
When talking about murder, look at Chicago. Yet, why can’t we stop doing it?
My life revolves around me. No one else. That’s the way each of us is wired.
Love is a choice. It’s not automatic.
Good vs. evil
There’s a huge battle going on inside each of us. Good vs. evil. Love vs. hate. Me vs. you. God vs. Satan, if you will.
If my way clashes with your way, my way is right.
We may not say that in so many words, but we live that way.
Which side do I choose?
Tomorrow, I will have to make the same choice again. It’s a never-ending battle.
Looking at the struggle this way, how can we ever get it right? How can we ever choose love, and choose it – with its freeing limitations – over and over?
Who is Jesus?
That’s where Jesus Christ comes in.
People who say he’s a good guy, a prophet perhaps, miss the point. They believe that’s all he is. Just a man who healed people and did a lot of good deeds.
He did do those things. But he did more than that.
Jesus said things like, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
He healed people because he truly cares about our needs. Why? Because his Father does, and Jesus was introducing us to a personal God who loves us. Who wants the best for us.
Become like children
As parents, we have to put limits on our children sometimes. Don’t cross the busy street. Share your toys. Listen to your teacher. Eat your veggies.
But we get upset when God tries to put limitations on us, such as the Ten Commandments. We’re adults, after all. We can make our own decisions.
Jesus also said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mat. 19:14)
Jesus was not saying that only children can become Christians. He was implying that, like children, our hearts need to be willing to learn new things, try new ideas, to realize that other people might have a better idea, that God might actually be right.
We focus on politics. Taxes. Road construction. Vacations. Cute family photos. Whether it will rain this weekend. Global warming (ie, how hot it’s been this summer).
To what end?
Is there an end?
Of course there is. All of us will die one day. That’s a guarantee. We don’t prepare for it very well. It hurts deeply when a loved one dies. Perhaps that’s why we avoid the subject until we are forced to face it.
But why wait until death, or near death, to discover what life is really all about?
It’s because of those limitations, isn’t it? We don’t like being told what to do.
We won’t admit that right and wrong even exist, because that means we might be wrong sometimes.
Jesus is very clear that right and wrong do exist. For our own benefit.
But Jesus picks far fewer battles than we think he does. Jesus honestly does not care who becomes our next president, for example.
In Biblical times, Rome ruled Israel with an iron fist. The Jews were oppressed. They weren’t looking for a spiritual Messiah to get them to heaven; they were looking for a political Messiah to rescue them from Rome.
Jesus refused to play that game. He talked a lot about the kingdom of God, and very little about the Roman empire.
The spiritual battle
Jesus saw a bigger picture.
The United States is one of hundreds of countries in the world. Our next president will lead for only four years, maybe eight. He or she will make decisions that last longer than that, certainly, but there are checks and balances in our system of government.
There’s a spiritual battle going on here. We can’t physically see it, so many of us pretend it doesn’t matter, or doesn’t exist.
Even demons know who Jesus is (James 2:19).
Most of us believe in angels. We love the idea of a heavenly being looking out for us. Why, then, are demons so hard to accept? Demons are nothing more than angels who have rejected God’s authority.
The war between angels and demons takes place in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls. Every single one of us. Across the world. Across time – past, present and future.
Whose side are you on?
That’s not a political question. It’s a spiritual one.
Your answer will affect how you live today. In eternity forever, yes, but also today. Here on Earth.
No one else can answer this question for you. Or me. Others can give you advice, but the choice is yours.