Confirmation Journey 5. Jesus, The Son Of God
(Read Chapters 5 &6 of “What Christians Believe” and complete Assignment 5 before this Session)
That there existed around the beginning of the present age we call “A.D” a man known as “Jesus” or “The Christ,” who founded a religion known as Christianity, few would deny. Ancient historians such as Josephus, Agapius, Tacitus and Sentorius all make references, if not directly to Jesus, then at least to the religion of Christianity that bears His name. Then there are the books of the Bible themselves. It is hard to dismiss the evidence that Jesus actually existed.
What we are going to be looking at, is the claim made in the Books of the New Testament, that Jesus was not just any other person, but uniquely a revelation of God. Our starting point is John 1:1-5.
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Jesus here is pictured as being the “Logos,” a Greek word that had both philosophical and religious significance. John claims Jesus was uniquely related to God and involved in the work of God from the beginning of all things. Another writer, Paul, quotes in one of his letters, an ancient text about Jesus;
Philippians 2:6-11 Though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This text presents a picture of the life of Jesus being rooted in the heart of God and speaks of His mission as being one of service that eventually leads to Him being declared Lord of all.
We know that Jesus was born and grew up (like most people do). At the age of around 30 He had a ministry lasting 3 ½ years which left the world a different place. Features of that ministry included new authoritative teaching, telling simple stories called parables (that we still don't fully understand), working miracles (which people still find hard to accept,) and claiming things about Himself that nobody else, before or since, has claimed. He died an excruciatingly painful death by crucifixion and three days later His followers began claiming He had risen again from the tomb.
Taking all of this together we have to make some conclusions. It is not right to remain neutral. He could have been insane... He could have been deluding everybody... or... He could be exactly who He claimed to be... the Son of God, God with us, veiled in humanity. If the last option is true, then to neglect to understand Him would be foolish!
So we'll look at three things.
- His claims about Himself.
- His death on the Cross
- His Resurrection
HIS CLAIMS ABOUT HIMSELF
1. To Forgive. Matthew 9:1-6 “And after getting into a boat He crossed the sea and came to His own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Then some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"-- He then said to the paralytic-- "Stand up, take your bed and go to your home."
Jesus forgave people their sins. This was something only God could do. Indeed His whole mission was to bring forgiveness and salvation to the world. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15 “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the foremost.”
2. To Fulfill Old Testament Prophecy. Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” He claimed He was the fulfillment of the laws of the Old Testament and the visions of the prophets. In Him they were coming to pass.
3. He Claimed to be the Messiah. Luke 4:16-21 “When He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." The Messiah was a Jewish figure who fulfilled the promises of God by bringing a new age into being. The reading He claimed to fulfill tat day was a well known Messianic prophecy.
4. He claimed a unique relationship with God. John 12:44-45 “Then Jesus cried aloud: "Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in Him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees Him who sent me.” That's a big claim! “If you have seen me, you have seen God!” In another prayer, he describes himself as being the Son of God. John 17:1-2 “After Jesus had spoken these words, He looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.”
5. He claimed that it was through Him that people came to know God. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Another astonishing claim. Wherever and however people were discovering things about God and a way to connect with God, Jesus claims it is taking place though Him!
6. He claimed that a time will come when He will judge the world. Matthew 25:31-32 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Jesus uses the term here “Son of Man” to describe himself. This was another Old Testament term of great significance.
7. He asked for total obedience and commitment on the part of those who would follow Him. Luke 9:23-24 Then He said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”
As we said earlier, anyone who made such claims has to be deluded, evil or the real deal. Certainly there were those during His ministry who reckoned He was both mad and bad! /it was for such reasons that He was put to death and nailed to the Cross. Why?
HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS
To ask 'Why the Cross?” is to ask why Jesus came in the first place. The first Christian sermon ever preached explained that it was all part of God's plan. Acts 2:22-23 "You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through Him among you, as you yourselves know; this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. “
God had us would be crucified. The act took place at Golgotha, a hill outside Jerusalem where criminald met their end. But the death of jesus, as he tried to explain to is disciples before it happened, was neither a mistake nor the end.
We read on P68 of“What Christians believe”; “The later followers of Jesus who wrote the new Testament did not overplay Jesus physical sufferings, dreadful though they were. They believed Jesus went through something more than physical agony. He died to pay the penalty for the sins of the human race and it it was this suffering which became the central theme when ever the Good news was preached. And it was for this reason that the Cross, symbol of what is arguably one of the most horrific deaths by torture ever devised, became the symbol of the Christian message.”
Behind all this was the Jewish concept of sacrifice being necessary for the forgiveness of sin. In a previous session about God, we saw that God was “HOLY.” We are not holy! God says “Do this”. We don't. We often can't. It is not in us. It is our nature to do what we want in preference to what God wants. God has given us the freedom to choose either our way or God's way. Biblically speaking, we are sinners, because we chose our own way. The problem with sin is that it separates us from God. “Sin” and “Holy” don't mix. Like ink and water. Sin is a messy business.
The Old Testament speaks of a covenant made between God and man. To “atone” for sins, an offering could be made, an animal sacrificed, in order that people could be forgiven. It is not so much that God is cruel and needs the death of a living creature to appease God's anger, rather that we are so blind to the enormous consequences of sin that we nee a heartbreaking reminder of its deathly power.
God would not by “Just” or loving of God said, “O.K. Never mind. Go ahead and destroy yourselves and the whole darn world! It doesn't matter. If you see someone in danger, you tell them. God could not let sin go by, that would be saying it was not a problem.
When Jesus came He took the penalty of sin upon himself. He became the “sacrificial animal.” On the Cross he suffered for our sins, the consequence we deserve to suffer. He took our sins upon himself and cried out “My God, God, why have You abandoned me?'
Jesus is God the Son. In some mysterious way God has absorbed into God's being the wrath of sin. His love was fulfilled and the way is open for people to have fellowship with God, through Jesus Christ. It was all part of the plan. Some 600 years before Jsus was born a prophet called Isaiah wrote these remarkable words...
Isaiah 53:1-10 “Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. “
These verses speak of some of the things Jesus achieved. “Healing” “Wholeness” “Overcoming evil” “Overcoming sin.” The Cross is God's supreme demonstration of God's love for us. God gave all God could give... and then some! Paul writes:
Romans 5:7-11 “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-- though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by His blood, will we be saved through Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
We have to decide how to respond to this revelation. A way has been made for us to know God and receive the sort of life God wants us to have. But it is not an automatic process. It demands our belief and acepatnce. We all have to ask God to help us understand what happened on the Cross. Why/ because the story does not end with a Cross.
Unless jesus rose again, there is little pont in having the Cross as asymbol of faith. It would be a symbol of defeat and failure. But looked at as a symbol of jesus overcominng the world and death itself, well... that's a different story! C.S. Lewis (author of the Narnia books) writes; “The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say that they had seen the resurrection.”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.”
Indeed, if Jesus is not alive, then the church is wasting it's time, I'm wasting my life and attending a confirmation class is nothing more than a vain exercise in delusion! At least that is what the Bible claims;
1 Corinthians 15:14 “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.”
Our faith, which we particularly proclaim at Easter time is clear. Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!”
For more information on the resurrection, read again pages 57-60 of “What Christians Believe.”