Who Is This Man?
Sunday we began a new series we’re calling Who Is This Man? Despite the new series title, we’re continuing in the Gospel of Luke, which we began for Advent in December and will continue until Easter in April!
“Who is this man?” It’s a question that has been asked since the first century, even by Jesus himself:
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Luke 9.18-20)
If you’ve heard this story before, it could be easy to miss the obvious - that the crowds who interacted with Jesus in the flesh had questions about his identity. Taken rightly, this should cause in us two things. First, it should give us some sense of peace. If those with whom Jesus interacted during his earthly life had questions about him, we should rest assured that He is big enough to handle our questions, too! Secondly, and closely related to the first, this realization should prompt us to take a hard look at who we believe Jesus to be.
As we see in the historical accounts of Jesus’ life, it wasn’t just the crowds who had questions about Jesus’ identity. No, even his disciples got it wrong sometimes. They’d use the right words, but mean the wrong things!
At the outset of a book by the same name as our series (shhh… don’t tell!), John Ortberg writes,
On the day after Jesus’ death, it looked as if whatever small mark he left on the world would rapidly disappear. Instead, his impact on human history has been unparalleled. After his disappearance from earth, the days of his unusual influence began… Rightly seen, this effect on past and current history will cause any thoughtful person - apart from their religious ideas about Christianity - to ask, “Who was this man?”
Think about it, Jesus didn’t start a political party, fight against military rulers, or even write a book! Rather, he spent the majority of his time with a ragtag group of twelve ordinary men in nowheresville Galilee, one of four territories divided up and given away by Herod the Great as if they were mere prizes on a game show. And yet, despite a seeming insignificance during his earthly life, his birth is now the dividing line in history.
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the world without the life of this “Carpenter’s son,” born in a stable in Bethlehem and crucified on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. (And the rumor is that the story doesn’t end there. More on that on “April Fools Day.”)
So, come one, come all, to this enduring question, “Who is this man?” Because it’s no accident that Jesus renounced political power, shied away from military might, surrendered the opportunity to write his own account of things, choosing instead to pour into a fledgling little group of ordinary people. That’s what He did, and that’s what He continues to do.
May we echo Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “[You are] God’s Messiah.” May this Jesus, the Messiah, draw us deeper into community, so we can go further out in faith, continuing to change the world in His name.
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