When John Piper Answered My Stupid Question

In March, 2013, I and a small group of Prairie students drove down to Minneapolis to attend John Piper’s TULIP Seminar. I have always been a little skeptical about the TULIP doctrine, so I thought it might be helpful to hear John Piper explain it, as I admire him and consider him to be a pastor worthy of imitating.

Throughout the seminar, the Desiring God twitter feed was accepting questions and Dr. Piper tried to answer some of them. I sent in this question:

Dr. Piper was gracious enough to answer my question, even though the answer was incredibly obvious. In fact, he went even further and addressed the core issue of my question: pride. Listen to this podcast audio to hear his response.

NOTE: this audio is an unedited excerpt from Desiring God. The original, full-length content can be found at the Desiring God website. The excerpt can be found at the 39:50 mark of session 5.

John 3:16

Note: below is the manuscript of the sermon. It is not a transcript of the audio. 

Introduction and Review

I will be focusing on John 3:16 this morning, but let’s read through the entire context of this passage.

How many of you have at one point memorized John 3:16?

It is likely the single most famous verse in all of Scripture. It is often the first verse that a child memorizes. If you ask an adult to recite one verse from the Bible, there is a good chance it will be John 3:16. There is something poetic about the way it is written, which makes it easy to memorize. Most importantly, contained in this single verse is the summary of the entire gospel. It tells of the love of God, and the coming of Jesus. It tells us to believe in Jesus and that the reward for believing is eternal life. It also tells us that those who do not believe will perish, thus indicating that the only way to eternal life is through Jesus.

It is these four points within John 3:16 I would like us to focus on.

First, God so loved the world.

Second, that he gave his only Son.

Third, that whoever believes in him.

Fourth, should not perish but have eternal life.

Just one word about this sermon before I proceed. I thought long and hard about this. In fact, I wrote this sermon twice because I couldn’t decide if I should preach this morning the way I was originally being drawn to preach it.

My problem was that I don’t like to turn my sermons into lectures. There is a slight difference between teaching and preaching. When I teach a Bible study, I want people to see the intricate details of Scripture. The aim is mostly the passing on of information. When I preach, I want people to see the big picture. I want you to see the vision of Scripture and be challenge to love and cherish Jesus more. The aim is mostly life-change through proclamation.

This morning, we are looking at a passage that is incredibly familiar. With that in mind, I have decided to look at more details than I normally would. However, I pray that God will show you how these details display his glory and his grace. My desire is to recite John 3:16 with a greater vision for the gospel. This verse is so packed full of the gospel, and it’s a shame that many of us, after having memorized it, don’t take the time to study it.

With that said, let’s look at these four statements of John 3:16.

1. God so loved the world

God is the creator of the world. He is perfect in righteousness, infinite in power, completely committed to justice, and overflows with grace and love.

  • God is so righteous, that he cannot allow sin anywhere near him.
  • He is so powerful, he could wipe out the entire universe and start over again.
  • He is so committed to justice, that he will not allow even a single act of rebellion against him to go unpunished.
  • And he is so full of grace and love that he gave the entire world an option to have the punishment for their sins erased.

This statement that God so loved the world is a concise statement about what God had been demonstrating to his people for thousands of years already. He has been pursuing the Israelites, showing them patience as they rebelled against him over and over. He not only loves the Israelites, Jesus says he loves the entire world. He loves every single person.

The word world in this verse refers to every person on earth. It is the Greek word κόσμος. This word can mean all sorts of things in Scripture, such as the created universe, the earth and all its creatures, or the fallen and sinful human civilization.

John uses the word κόσμος 78 times in his gospel, more than any other book in the New Testament. Mainly, when he uses this word, he is referring to fallen humanity. He is talking about individual people who are sinners.

Here are a couple examples:

1:10  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.”

Can you see the difference between the ways John uses this word? κόσμος is used to not only describe the place in which we live, but also the condition in which we find ourselves. We live in the world, the universe, but we are also of this world, which is in need of saving because of sin.

So, God, the perfectly righteous and just and powerful one, loved every single sinful person who ever lived. How do we know that he loved us?

2. That He gave His only Son

This section causes a lot of problems for translators and scholars. I won’t bore you with all the details, but you are probably familiar with the difference between the KJV and the contemporary versions of this passage. KJV says, only begotten Son. The contemporary versions say one and only Son.

Here is Greek lesson number two for the morning. The Greek word that gets translated as “only begotten,” or “one and only,” is the word μονογενή. If you translate this portion of the verse directly from Greek, it reads, “that his Son, the one of a kind, he gave.” Jesus, when describing himself, says that he is one of a kind.

Yes, he is human, but he is not like any other human. You see, he is the Son of God, the one of a kind Son. We all can become sons and daughters of God through Jesus, but we are not the same sort of son as Jesus is. Jesus is one of a kind because he is actually God.

This is a challenging mystery of Scripture. While Jesus was on earth, he was human. He was 100% human. But he was also God. He was 100% human and 100% God. There has never been, and never will be, another human like Jesus. This is why he refers to himself as one of a kind.

3. That whoever believes in him

I will spend a little more time here because it contains the application. This is our part. It is where Jesus is saying that we actually need to respond to him. He is asking us to believe in him.

Greek lesson number 3. The word believe is the Greek word pisteuō. It is used in John about 100 times, the most out of any book in Scripture. One third of the uses of pisteuō in the New Testament occur in the Gospel of John, and John records Jesus telling people to believe in him more than the other three gospels.

Here are just a few examples throughout John…

3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’

11:25-26   Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

12:42-43   Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

14:12  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

20:30-31 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Clearly, the concept of believing in Jesus is important to John; it should be to us as well. After all, it is the only requirement Jesus gave us. Yes, he taught many things, and told us how to live. But, the only condition for salvation is to believe in him. As we continue to study John, we will see the word pisteuō nearly every week. We have already seen it about eight times in our study of John so far.

The definition of believe as it is used in 3:16 is, “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance.”

Let me repeat… “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance.”

Another way to define believe is, “to embrace something as true,” and when it’s a person, it means, “you trust them to be and do what they have claimed.”

In the case of Jesus, he is claiming to be the Son of God and the source of eternal life. He claims to be the means to salvation from sin.

If we were to include this definition in the verse, here is how it would read:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever puts their complete trust and reliance on him for salvation will not perish but have eternal life.

For some of you, this definition is really helpful. It says that we not only need to agree that Jesus is who he says he is, we also need to completely trust him and rely on him. But for others, you need a little more convincing.

The problem is that most of us need more than just a truth claim. We need more than someone telling us that something is true. The problem is we are bombarded with truth claims through advertising. Everyone who advertises something is trying to convince us that what they are saying is true. Thus, we have developed somewhat of a resistance to peoples’ claims to truth.

This has resulted in us not being as concerned about whether something is true or not. We want to hear how it is good for us. We want to see how it will affect us. We will not be convinced to change the way we live just because someone has claimed to be telling the truth. In order to make a decision about something, we need to see how it is good for us.

So, how is John 3:16 good for us? Do you know how effective advertisers convince us to buy their products? They tell us that we have a problem. Apple is amazing at doing this. Apple convinces us that life is boring and uncreative without their products. They solve our boredom problem. Because of Apple most of us have an entire library of music wherever we go. We also have access to the collective knowledge of the entire world at our fingertips through the browser on our phone. Apple said, “we all have a problem,” and then they showed us how to solve that problem.

21st Century marketing agencies must have taken a lesson from Jesus. However, Jesus is the only one offering a real solution to the biggest problem in all the world. In John 3:16 Jesus says that we have a problem, but he also says that he has the solution to our problem. So what is our problem?

When Jesus says that those who believe in him will not perish, the alternative to believing in him is to perish. Perish means to suffer death and in this context, it means eternal death. It means death that never ends. This is our problem. Our problem is that we are headed toward suffering that never ends. Jesus is saying that all people are headed to an eternity of perishing, of death and suffering.

But he is also saying that he is the solution to that problem. The solution is to trust him. He is asking us to believe that he is who he says he is and he will do for us what he says he will do for us.

We believe in him, we trust him completely, rely on him to provide us a way out of eternal death, and you know what? He does it! That’s all! We ask Jesus to be rescued from death, believing that he is the only one that can do it, and he does it! Amazing.

But, can you see why so many people have a hard time with the Gospel?

The response for most people to John 3:16 is resistance and skepticism.

“It’s too simple! What’s the catch? How does this work?”

Jesus’ solution to our problem implies that we are helpless. We don’t like to be told that we are helpless, that we need someone to save us. We would rather believe that we can save ourselves.

For example, when you are in a supermarket looking for an item, do you go and find someone to help you? I usually don’t. I hate asking for help. I would rather spend 10 minutes looking for something than ask for help. There can be a shelve stocker 6 inches away from me in the aisle and I’ll keep on looking.

Asking for help is like waving a white flag, saying we couldn’t do it on our own. It isn’t fun to wave that flag. But we need to.

Jesus says there is only one way out of eternal death. He is the only way. He is the only one who can save us. We cannot save ourselves. We must wave the white flag and surrender ourselves to Jesus. This is the hardest part for us and our human pride.

We cannot do anything to earn our way out of the situation we are in. There is no system. There is no program.

Now, it is true that Jesus told us to obey him. In fact, the word pistueō is a verb. It implies action. pistueō is an action word.

In Matthew 28 Jesus says that we should teach others to observe all the things that Jesus commanded. Obedience is important. Without obedience, we clearly don’t understand the gospel. Like I said last month about being worthy of Jesus. We can’t do anything to be worthy, but our actions show the worth of the gospel. Our obedience displays the beauty and the glory of Jesus. It shows how valuable the gospel is, and how important the work of Christ is to us.

However, obedience is not salvation. Jesus is salvation. Obedience is a response. Obedience is a demonstration of what has happened internally to us.

It’s nearly impossible for us to get our heads around this. I sometimes have moments when it is tremendously clear to me what Jesus is saying in John 3:16, but those moments are few and only last for a matter of seconds. It isn’t long before I start making my salvation about my own efforts.

Jesus says believe in me. Trust me. Our responsibility is to get to know Jesus and believe him.

4. Should not perish but have eternal life

I said earlier that to perish is to suffer death. In addition to trusting Jesus for salvation, the idea of a loving God who would punish people by sending them to hell is incredibly challenging to just about everyone.

The way Jesus worded this statement assumes that everyone is perishing except for those who believe in him. His explanation for this is in the following verses. I’ll close by looking at that.

[read verses 17-21]

Note verse 19. Jesus says, “this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

This should be familiar language to us. John has been referring to Jesus as the light since chapter one verse four. The light that Jesus is referring to is himself. And the darkness is the lusts of the flesh.

The reason all of us are perishing is because there is something else we love more than Jesus. For each person it might be something different. But the problem is that Jesus is not our greatest treasure.

In the book of Revelation, which was also recorded by John, we have the blessing of a series of evaluations that Jesus provided for seven early churches. The first church listed in 2:1-7 is Ephesus. Jesus says that he commends them for their works. They have done well in enduring hardships and working diligently.

However, he holds this against them: they have lost their first love. In all their hard work, they lost sight of their greatest treasure.

Jesus teaches us in this passage in John 3 that our main problem, the reason we are perishing, is because of our love for things other than him. When the light of Jesus shines, we flee. We hide. We are ashamed and we run after the things that give us temporary pleasure and comfort.

Let us listen closely to Jesus’ call. Let us embrace him as our saviour. We are all perishing, unless we believe in Jesus.

Let’s pray.

(un)Worthy of Jesus – John 1:19-34

Note: This is a manuscript, not a transcript. Therefore the text will be different than the audio recording.

We are continuing our series on the Gospel of John. We have learned that we need to be continually pointing to Jesus as the only true source of life, because Jesus is God, he is the Creator. The early Christians struggled with heresies coming into the church that caused confusion about what to believer about Jesus. So, John wanted to make sure that Christians were seeing Jesus as the true light. John is making sure we are all on the same page. Jesus is the one we should worship, not John the Baptist or anyone else.

Today, we will read about a conversation that happened between some messengers sent by the Pharisees, and John the Baptist. As we read, notice how peculiar this conversation is, and the way in which John, the author, recorded it.

There are a few different directions I could go with this sermon and a lot more I could say. But as I was studying and praying through this passage, I landed on this concept of being (un)Worthy of Jesus. We will go through the conversation John had with the Jewish leaders and focus on John’s statement about being unworthy to untie the sandals of Jesus.

After reading the conversation between John the Baptist and the Jewish leaders, one initial question that arises for me is, why are the Jewish leaders to concerned about who John is? They keep pushing and pushing John for an answer. And what is really interesting is John’s initial response. They asked him who he was, and he responded, “I’m not the Christ, I am not Elijah and I am not the Prophet.” All negative responses. This is a very peculiar exchange to me.

Here is what I discovered. The nation of Israel has been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years. God has been silent and the Israelites are under the rule of a foreign nation. Along comes a man who looks, acts and preaches like one of God’s prophets, such as Elijah. If you know the story of Elijah, you will know that he was carried away by chariots of fire into heaven, so people thought that he was still alive and had now returned as John the Baptist. And Malachi 4:5-6 says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers…”

Not only that, but he started a new religious ordinance—the baptism of repentance. The practice of different sorts of baptism existed before, and the call to repentance existed before, but the two had not previously been associated with one another. Therefore, the Jewish leaders took notice of John the Baptist because of how radical he was. You can see now why it was so important for the author John to make sure people knew that John the Baptist was not the Christ. It wasn’t hard for Jewish people in those days to try and make someone into the Messiah, for it was something they were hoping for. They wanted someone to speak on behalf of God and rescue them from Roman rule.

So, when the Jewish leaders went through their questioning, and John said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” this was surprising to them. He was practising a new ordination, yet he claimed he was not the promised Messiah, nor was he Elijah, nor was he the Prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18:15, which says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” John is merely the one who is to prepare the way for the Messiah. And ultimately, all three of these promised figures are fulfilled in Jesus.

This is where we get to John the Baptist’s most important statement. There is no doubt in verse 27 about John’s purpose and position as a forerunner to Jesus. He says this, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” He, of course, is talking about Jesus. And it is in this statement that we find one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. John says that he is unworthy to untie the sandals of Jesus.

What he means by this is that he is not even worthy to be the slave of Jesus. Back then, it was only the slaves who would do the nasty work of taking off people’s sandals. But John said that he doesn’t even deserve to do that! He is nothing compared to Jesus.

This is a healthy view of Jesus, and I think John records this exchange in this way because, remember, John is showing who the real Christ is. John the Baptist is recorded as saying that he is not the Christ, and in fact, he is not even worthy to be the slave of the Christ.

There is a use for the word worthy that was used in the common language in first century Rome. People would talk about ‘bringing up the other beam of the scale.’ They meant that in order for something to be found worthy of another thing, they would need to be of equal value. If you had a piece of gold and you claimed that it weighed an ounce, you would put it on a scale with another piece of gold that weight an ounce. If your piece brought up the other end of the scale to an equal position, your gold was worth the same as the other piece.

Do you see why it is healthy to have the view of Jesus that John the Baptist had? He was saying that he could not bring up the other end of the scale on which Jesus stands. They are on a completely different level. John is worth nothing, Jesus is worth everything.

We see the same principle in Matthew 8. We read there about a Roman military commander who asked Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus said he would go to his house and heal the servant. But the commander responded and said that he is not worthy to have him in his own house. Do you know how Jesus responded? He said, “with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” According to this story, Jesus wants us to consider ourselves to be not worthy of him.

Here is where we find a paradox. Let me read a few passages to show you what I mean:

Matt. 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Eph 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

Phil 1:27 let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ

Col 1:9-10 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

1 Thess 2:12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

3 John 1:5-6 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.

This is just a selection of similar passages. In most of Paul’s letters, we read something like these words, “walk in a manner worthy of God.” Yet, John the Baptist says he is unworthy of Jesus. And it is good to see ourselves as unworthy of Jesus. In fact, it’s not just a way we should view ourselves, it is the truth! The reality is, no one is worthy of Jesus. However, Scripture also teaches us to live in a way that is worthy of Jesus. We have Jesus approving of those who say they are unworthy, and we have instruction telling us to be worthy.

Now, for many of you, this may not be a problem. You already know that the word worthy is being used in different ways in Scripture. For the rest of us who need some help, let me quickly explain the two ways this word is being used.
John the Baptist is using it in the way I described already. He is saying that he is not of equal worth as Jesus. What he says is true, and we should all have the same view. But, the way the word worthy is being used in these other passages is a little different.

I will use one of Jesus’ statements as an example. Jesus says in Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Jesus is saying here that he requires us to consider him to be our greatest treasure and desire. We need to value him and our relationship with him more than any other person. If our relationship with others is more important to us than our relationship with Jesus, we are not worthy of Jesus.

Think about this for a minute. We’ve already established that we are not worthy of Jesus. But Jesus is saying here that if we love others more than him, we are not worthy of him. Jesus is saying that in order to be worthy of him, we need to love him more than anyone else. This to me is very interesting, but it took a while for me to completely appreciate the significance of it. So I’m going to assume the same for some of you. In order to walk in a manner worthy of God, we are expected to love Jesus and admire Jesus and desire Jesus and have our greatest affections directed toward Jesus.

Now, if we stop here, it might sound like we can earn the approval of God by our own merit. However, I do not believe this is the case. All throughout Scripture we read that no one is righteous or can become righteous enough to be found worthy of God. Due to our very nature as sinful humans, we cannot become worthy based on our own merit.

But wait, I just finished saying that in order to become worthy of Jesus we need to love him more than anyone or anything else. But, this does not mean that we will actually earn anything by loving him more than anyone else, because in order to be righteous, we need payment for our sins.

Here is how I think the word worthy should be understood. 1 Cor. 11:27 helps us out here: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.”

Underlying this statement is a high view of the Lord’s Supper. Communion is a precious sacrament, which is to be honoured and cherished, and should not be taken lightly. Therefore, we are expected to take part in Communion in a way that shows how valuable it is to us. Do you see the way Paul uses the word worthy in this passage?

Paul is saying that we should participate in the Lord’s Supper in a way that demonstrates the value of it. Now, let’s take another passage. Phil 1:27 says, “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This verse could also be interpreted by saying, live in a way that proves the value of the gospel of Christ. Do you see yet what worthy means?

To live a life worthy of the gospel, we need to live in a way that proves how valuable the gospel is! This has nothing to do with our own merit, or about earning anything. This has to do with how much we value Jesus. It is about cherishing what we were given freely, without merit.

Now, let’s go back to John 1. John the Baptist says that he is not worthy to untie the sandals of Jesus. And by talking that way and living that way, he is actually walking in a manner worthy of Jesus. This is the strange paradox. To walk in a manner worthy of Jesus, we need to view ourselves as unworthy of Jesus. If we want to walk in a manner worthy of God, we cannot consider ourselves worthy of God. This is because by showing just how valuable Jesus is compared to anything else, including ourselves, we prove the worth of Jesus. If we live as though we have done something to earn the approval of God, we are minimizing the value of Jesus and his sacrifice.

To close, let’s look briefly at 29-34. John sees Jesus walking toward him, and shouts to all around him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” He then explains why he can be so confident that Jesus is the promised Lamb of God and the Messiah. Verse 33-34 says, “I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John the Baptist was completely convinced that Jesus was the Christ because he saw the Sprit of God come upon him after his baptism. But notice that he said in verse 31 and 33, “I myself did not know him.”

It is likely that there are some here this morning who do not know Jesus. What I have said so far is brand new information. You may not know anything about treasuring Jesus more highly than anything else. In fact, you might even think it’s nonsense to say that in order to be accepted by God you have to consider yourself unworthy.

In order for any of this to make sense, we need to see Jesus. We need to experience the power and the display of the Holy Spirit. I will say that the Spirit of God can come mightily and powerfully. He can do some amazing things. However, He also comes in ways you don’t expect. You may not even know how much the Holy Spirit is working in your life right now. John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend and rest on Jesus and it completely changed his life. Would you pray with me and ask for this same experience?

Let’s pray for a life-changing view of Jesus, and see just how unworthy we are of him and just how valuable and precious he is to us.

Who is Jesus? He is our King

Note: This is a manuscript, not a transcript. Therefore the text will be different than the audio recording.

Review and Introduction

This is the fourth and final sermon in the series we have been going through, looking at who Jesus is. My goal has been to increase our vision for Jesus by looking at who Jesus was while on earth and who he is now while living in heaven.

Jesus is the most fascinating historical figure in history. He was an amazing teacher, a great healer and prophet. People gladly worshipped him, and he gladly accepted the worship. He was ordered to be killed by crucifixion because of his claims to be equal with God. After he was killed, he rose from being dead and appeared to hundreds of people before disappearing into the clouds before their very eyes.

Now, Jesus lives in heaven, and acts as our prophet and priest, teaching us and making intercession for us as we seek to follow him on earth. Those who identify themselves as Christians are called prophets and priests in the name of Jesus. We have learned that at prophet’s role is to proclaim the word of God and to to bear witness to the nature and purposes of God, and a priests role is to love and serve others as we worship God together.

This morning the answer to the question, “who is Jesus?” is this: 

Jesus is our King.

This identity of Jesus as king fulfills a great need we all have for a good king to rule our lives. We have taken God off the throne by making ourselves more important than he is. But, we will forever be unsatisfied, constantly looking for someone or something better to rule our lives, until we put Jesus on the throne, and submit ourselves to his kingship.

We will start by looking at the ancient kings of Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament historical books, and discover the role and responsibilities of a king.

Next, we will explore the significance of Jesus being referred to as the Son of David, and the King of the Jews.

Finally, we will discover what our response should be to Jesus as King. As you will see, our response to Jesus as our King is slightly different than the other two identities. With Jesus as our prophet, we have inherited the ministry of prophecy. With Jesus as our priest, we have inherited the ministry of priesthood. But, with Jesus as King, we have inherited something slightly different than kingship. We have inherited a royal identity.

Before we get there, let me tell you a little bit about Israel, and how they got themselves into a bit of trouble by wanting a human king to rule their nation instead of having God as their king.

The Kings of Israel

Ever since the beginning of time, there has been a conflict between God and humans for kingship. When Adam and Eve sinned, they took God off the throne of their lives and put themselves there. And, when God first established the nation of Israel, he was their king, doing his work through righteous judges and conquering nations on their behalf.

But it wasn’t long until the Israelites wanted a human king to rule them and fight their battles, just like all the other nations around them. They wanted to be like everyone else, even though God told them they were to be set apart as his people.

But, God gave the Israelites what they wanted: a human king to rule them. But he also gave them this warning through the judge, Samuel:

1 Samuel 8:11-18

This is how a king will reign over you… The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment.

The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves.

When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.

The Israelites thought they knew better than God and demanded a king anyway. God chose Saul to be the first king. But, it wasn’t long before the Israelites complained about him and wanted to kill the people who decided Saul should be king.

This pattern continued. God gave the Israelites a king, but the people were oppressed by the human kings as they made poor decisions, and became greedy and proud. They were ruled by men just like themselves, and they desired someone who would rule with perfect justice.

God promised he would provide them a king like that, someone who would rescue them from the evils of themselves and the nations around them.

But first they would have to go through many hard times, including being conquered by neighbouring nations, and being exiled from their land. Even when they eventually got their land back, they were under the rule of the Roman Empire, and had very little rights or freedoms.

This brings us to the time when Jesus lived, and the nation of Israel desired their promised king and rescuer more than ever. They were constantly seeking the one who would restore the glory of Israel and give them back the glory they first had when they ruled the promised land.

Jesus, the Son of David, the King of Israel

Throughout Jesus’ life, people referred to him as the Son of David:

Matthew 12:22-23

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”

Matthew 15:21-22

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

Matthew 20:29

As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” “Be quiet!” the crowd yelled at them. But they only shouted louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” they said, “we want to see!” Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.

What does this mean when people refer to Jesus as the Son of David? When we read that, it comes to mind maybe that Jesus is a descended of David, and we know that David was a great king of Israel.

But if you lived in ancient Israel, and heard someone referred to as the Son of David, you would look up and take notice. Calling someone the Son of David was like calling him the Messiah or the Christ, the promised rescuer of Israel. There were thousands of people who were descendants of David, but only the future king of Israel was referred to as the Son of David.

1 Chronicles 17:11-14 – There are some prophecies that speak of two fulfillments. One is more immediate, and one is fulfilled later. This is one of those prophecies. It speaks of Solomon, who would build the temple and it also speaks of Jesus, who would establish an eternal temple: the church.

This is God speaking to David through the prophet Nathan:

For when you die and join your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.

 

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Jeremiah 23:5

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

We believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies, and that he is the promised king because he was called the Son of David, and the King of Israel by many people. He accepted this title right until the time of his death.

The book of Matthew begins by telling us in 1:1 that Jesus is the Son of David:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

John 1:45-49 tells about Jesus calling people to follow him. He called Philip, and then Philip went to find a companion of his named Nathanael, who was skeptical about the identity of Jesus:

Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.

As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”

“How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”

Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”

Matthew 2:1-2

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 21:1-9

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

There are many other passages I could read that tell us that Jesus is the Son of David, King of Israel.

Perhaps the most striking passage is when Jesus was sentenced to die by crucifixion because of his claim to be the fulfillment of prophecy regarding the future king of Israel:

Turn to John chapter 18

John 18:33-37

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

John 19:2-3

2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

John 19:10-15

10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

John 19:19-22

19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Following Jesus’ ascension, the Apostles taught that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy regarding the future king of Israel.

Acts 13:21-23

Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.

Romans 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord

So, you see that Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the prophecy that God would provide Israel with an eternal King, the Son of David, the Messiah.

Living Under the Rule of King Jesus

With Jesus as the eternal King of Israel, what does that mean for us?

Remember from last week: because Jesus is our priest, he has done the work of bringing us into the nation of Israel. We, who are gentiles, have been adopted into the kingdom of God by the authority of Jesus’ priesthood. And now, we are under the rule of the great King of Israel, Jesus Christ, the Son of David.

This means that we are to be people who look like we are ruled by King Jesus. The way we conduct our lives should demonstrate our allegiance to Jesus and our gratitude for his invitation into his great kingdom.

If we profess as prophets that Jesus is King, and we demonstrate the ministry of compassion as priests under the order of Jesus, our entire lives also need to be proof that we are royal members of the kingdom ruled by King Jesus.

Remember 1 Peter 2:9:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

We are royalty because we belong to the King. So, if you identify yourself as a Christian, you identify yourself as royalty, set apart for God, ruled by King Jesus, ready to do or say whatever our King desires.

The most beautiful thing about this is that King Jesus is not like any other king. The kings of Israel were sinners. Even the best king, king David, was a murderer, an adulterer and a liar. David was the best king that humanity could offer. But Jesus is a truly good king, and everything he asks us to do is good.

As I said at the beginning, all of us have a deep need to be ruled by a king that is good. We have all made the mistake of putting someone else on the throne of our lives, namely ourselves.

But we don’t belong on the throne, and deep down, we know that is the case. Deep down, we know that we need to be ruled by a good king, and there is only one king who is good: Jesus Christ.

So, I ask this morning, who is your king? Is it yourself? Is it your job, or your family or your things? Or, is Jesus your king? If he isn’t, you will never be satisfied. You will always be looking for a better king, just like the Israelites did for so many years.

For those of us who’s king is Jesus, let us live as those ruled by him. May our words and our actions prove who our true king is. One of my favourite challenges is that we live lives that demand an explanation. People should be asking you why you live the way you do. And your response should be, “because Jesus Christ is my King!”

This series has been about increasing our vision for who Jesus is. He is our prophet, he is our priest, and he is our king.

This series has also been about who we are. We are prophets, we are priests, and we are royal members of Christ’s kingdom. My desire has been that we live according to the identity of Jesus and the identity we have as followers of Jesus.

Let us take a moment now to dedicate ourselves to this challenge. If you have yet to make Jesus your king, please take this opportunity to receive his invitation to follow him and to join his eternal kingdom.

Who is Jesus? He is our Priest

Note: below is the manuscript for my sermon, it is not a transcription. Therefore, there will be some differences between this text and the sermon audio.

Review and Introduction

Last Sunday, we looked at Jesus as our Prophet. Jesus is a prophet because he bore witness to the word of God and he spoke with authority concerning the nature and the purposes of God. But Jesus was a unique prophet because he referred to himself as the subject, the source, and the fulfilment of all prophecies.

Jesus came immediately after John the Baptist, who was the last in the old era of prophets. We are now in a new era of prophets, following after John and Jesus. Jesus said that even the least of those in the kingdom of God are greater than John the Baptist. This makes every one of us who identify ourselves as Christians, prophets.

The main way we are to be prophets in this world is by bearing witness to the life of Jesus. We tell people the Jesus stories and show them that they are true by the way we live. We demonstrate to the world the power and truth of Jesus by living in the same way he lived—with grace, humility, love and compassion.

However, without the priestly nature of Christ, we would not have available to us the benefits of the most radical act of grace, humility, love and compassion that has ever been demonstrated. I am referring to Jesus’ death on the cross.

Jesus lived as a great prophet. He spoke with commanding authority. He taught with greater wisdom than anyone has ever seen. He corrected people who were doing wrong and pointed people to right living.

But, he died as a great priest. This is the subject of the message this morning.

Who is Jesus? He is our priest.

Before I continue, we will be observing communion together. I think it is incredibly fitting to have communion on the Sunday we look at Jesus as our priest. For it is in the act of taking communion that we proclaim Jesus Christ as the final and complete payment for our sins.

As we continue this morning, keep in mind the significance of what we just did. This is not a trivial thing. We observe communion because Jesus is our priest and our salvation. I hope as we learn more about who Jesus is this morning, the meaning of communion will take on a greater significance for us all.

I will be answering this morning the same questions as I did last week.
1. What are priests?
2. What makes Jesus a priest?
3. How does this impact us?

What Are Priests?

The problem with identifying Jesus as our priest is that we do not understand the role of a priest in our society. The office of priest does not exist in the same way it did in Jesus’ time. So, let’s briefly take a look at what priests were and what they did as it is described in Scripture.

The simplest definition of a priest is this: “A group of men charged with the responsibility of mediating between God and his people, ensuring proper worship, and maintaining the spiritual health of the people of God.” (DBT)

The first mention of people doing things that resembled priesthood were Cain and Abel, who made offerings to God from the fruit of the harvest and of their flock.

Then, Noah built an altar after the flood and made sacrifices to God.

Abram built an altar to God after seeing the land that God would give to his ancestors.

After receiving the Ten Commandments and other instructions from God at Mount Sinai, Moses built an altar to God and had the young men of Israel make sacrifices on it. Shortly after this event, God established the perpetual priestly office, starting with Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons.

Exodus 40:12-15

Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.

Following this establishment of priesthood, no other person in Israel could be a priest, except for someone from the line of Aaron. Some of the priestly responsibilities included:

  • Keeping the charge of the tabernacle. Numbers 18:1, 5, 7.
  • Offering sacrifices. Leviticus 1:1–6:30; 2 Chronicles 29:34; 35:11.
  • Lighting and trimming the lamps of the sanctuary. Exodus 27:20, 21; Leviticus 24:3,
  • Keeping the sacred fire always burning on the altar. Leviticus 6:12, 13.
  • Blessing the people. Numbers 6:23–27.
  • Purifying the unclean. Leviticus 15:30, 31.
  • Deciding in cases of jealousy. Numbers 5:14, 15.
  • Deciding in cases of leprosy. Leviticus 13:2–59; 14:34–45.
  • Judging in cases of controversy. Deuteronomy 17:8–13; 21:5.
  • Teaching the law. Deuteronomy 33:8, 10; Malachi 2:7.
  • Blowing the trumpets on various occasions. Numbers 10:1–10; Joshua 6:3, 4.
  • Carrying the ark. Joshua 3:6, 17; 6:12.
  • Encouraging the people when they went to war. Deuteronomy 20:1–4.

The duties of the priests would have been considered the most important responsibilities in all of Israel. For it was through the priest the nation had access to the presence of God.

What Makes Jesus A Priest?

Because you know we are thinking about Jesus as our priest, you may already be thinking about the ways in which Jesus is a priest as I have been describing the role.

The entire office of priesthood throughout the history of Israel was meant to set the stage for Jesus’ arrival as the ultimate high priest. The sacrificial system was meant to point to Jesus. The holy garments and the cleansing rituals were meant to point to Jesus. Every instruction God gave to Moses was intended to prepare the nation of Israel for the coming Messiah.

Hebrews 8:3-6

And since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law. They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.” But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.

As we think about Jesus being our priest, we need to remember that Jesus didn’t just abolish a man-made system that was flawed and ineffective. He made the old system complete, and established an order that is more permanent. He finished the task of salvation that God began through the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The laws that God gave to Moses were never meant to bring salvation, they were meant to show us that we can never do it on our own. They were meant to show us that we need a saviour.

Jesus died as the ultimate sacrifice, offering not an animal, but himself, his pure and spotless blood, as the payment for our sins. And because he rose from the dead, his sacrifice is permanent. There is no need for more sacrifices. It is finished because Jesus finished it.

Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us more about Jesus as our priest, and how it should impact our lives as believers.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

We see here that Jesus is called by the author of Hebrews a great High Priest. He is a great High Priest because although he faced all the temptations we have faced and ever will face, he never gave in. He never sinned.

Think about this for a moment. I’ll use the image of hunger to help us understand what this means. For most of us in this room, when we fell hungry, we eat until we no longer feel hungry. The feeling of hunger is uncomfortable, so we try to get rid of it by eating. However, for many millions of people in the world, that is not the case. When they feel hungry, they may have to wait many hours or even days before they can even have a little bit to eat.

Now, who of all the people in the world do you think has truly experienced hunger? Is it those who satisfy their hunger immediately, or those who must wait days before they can eat? I have sat with and heard the stories of people who hadn’t eaten anything more than a bowl of rice in days. I wouldn’t dare to think that I know hunger like they do.

Now, think about the temptation of Christ. For most of us, at least if we are honest, we tend to give in to our greatest temptations. Think about a sin that just keeps coming back time and time again. When the temptation to sin in that area comes, how long does it take before you give in? Jesus never did.

Now, who do you think knows temptation better? You and I, who give in all to easily to temptation? Or Jesus, who never once gave in?

The ministry of priesthood is one of compassion. We cannot be mere teacher of each other. We need to have compassion for one another. Because Jesus has experienced the full portion of temptation, he knows what we are going through. He is a priest who truly understands how hard it is.

But that’s not all. Read verse 16 again: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” His ministry is not just the ability to come alongside us and comfort us. He is able to help us. He has access to God’s mercy and grace, and has the power to deliver us from temptation.

Jesus is a priest because he himself was the sacrifice required to pay for our sins. Jesus is a perfect, eternal priest because he never sinned, he conquered death, and is now continuing to minister to us through the Holy Spirit in times of need.

How Does This Impact Us?

There are two main ways Jesus’ priesthood impacts us.

First, it impacts us because his priesthood allows us to enter the presence of God.

When God established the priestly office in the nation of Israel, he only allowed the priests to enter the most holy place, which is where the presence of God was dwelling. This was a great privilege and also a great burden. One wrong move and the priest would be struck down by the holy wrath of God. No one would dare enter unless they were a priest according to the laws of God, and unless they underwent the required cleansing rituals.

However, because Christ has performed the final act of sacrifice and cleansing as our high priest, we are free to enter God’s presence. A key difference between the priests that came before and the Jesus as our priest is that Jesus is an eternal priest.

Hebrews 10:11-13:

Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
We are impacted by Jesus’ priesthood because we now have unlimited access to God and his grace. Jesus continues even today to minister to us, giving us help as we continue to struggle with sin and temptation.

Second, it impacts us because, just as is the case of Jesus’ prophetic identity, we take on the identity Jesus’ priesthood. We become priests in the order of Christ.

Last Sunday we saw that 1 Peter 2:9 instructs us to be prophets. The same passage tells us that we are priests:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Our being a priest and being a prophet needs to work hand-in-hand. Our instruction of one another and our care for one another cannot be separated.

I would like to share a couple quotes from two heroes of mine, Pastor Eugene Peterson and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They speak about our identity and our responsibilities as members of the Christian community. We belong to each other because of our common identity in Christ. Therefore, we are not islands unto ourselves.

[quoting Bonhoeffer]: ‘Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.’ And what Christ has done is anoint us with his Spirit. We are set apart for service to one another. We mediate to one another the mysteries of God. We are priests who speak God’s Word and share Christ’s sacrifice. (Eugene Peterson, Long Obedience in the Same Direction [2000], 181)

The priesthood of all believers is not an arrogant individualism that, at least in matters dealing with God, doesn’t need anyone. It is a confession of mutuality, a willingness to guide one another in following in the way of Jesus, to assist and encourage, to speak and act in Jesus’ name, and to be guided by another to speak and act in Jesus’ name. In the community of the baptized, there is no one, absolutely no one, who is not involved in this priestly leading and being led. (Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way [2007], 14)

In short, the basis and identity of our community, the church, is not the holiness of each individual member. We are not the church because you and I are able to act a certain way. We are the church because of our common identity in Christ. We are priests under Jesus. This is a benefit that came with our adoption into God’s kingdom, not because of what we have done. It is a gift, not something we have earned. And, all of those who call Jesus their Lord have this gift, so none of us can claim more right to it than another.

Here is the challenge I was faced with as a result of this study. Before I offer correction or instruction to others, I need to ask myself, how am I loving them? I mean, in what ways have I demonstrated that I love those who I am correcting or teaching?

This is particularly important to those of us who are parents. Early on as a parent I came across a word that has affected my way of parenting significantly: exasperate. This means to annoy or irritate another person. We can exasperate our children by only speaking to them about the things they are doing wrong. There is no person in the world who takes this sort of instruction well.

If you have experienced this sort of relationship, you know that it wears on you and you dread the times when you have to talk to someone who only offers correction.

If we are to live in the same way that Jesus lived, we will not be the sort of teachers who exasperate others. When we offer correction, it will be offered out of love and compassion and grace. So then, our responsibility as the people who identify ourselves with Jesus, is to bear witness to the Jesus stories with compassion, with grace, with love and patience, serving one another as Christ has served us.

 

Who is Jesus? He is Our Prophet

Note: below is the manuscript for my sermon, it is not a transcription. Therefore, there will be some differences between this text and the sermon audio.

Who is Jesus? He is Our Prophet

After Jesus died, the Roman and Hebrew authorities thought all the excitement surrounding Jesus would disappear. With their leader dead, the Jesus people would just go back to what they were doing before. But, that didn’t happen. What started as a humble group of people who claimed Jesus as their teacher, has become the largest and most influential movement in the history of the world. Here is a story that took place at it’s early beginnings. It’s from an ancient document written by a physician named Luke.

[Read Acts 3]

I read this passage because, in the midst of all the pain, the suffering, the injustice of the world, we tend to ask, “where is God?” Why doesn’t he fix all that is wrong in our world today? Have you ever asked this question? Maybe you’re asking yourself this morning, just where is God, and what is he up to?

Today and the following two Sundays, we will continue to look at the question, “who is Jesus?”, with an emphasis on the “is.” When we read the Scriptures, or when we talk about Jesus, we usually think about events that happened in the past. Jesus is someone who lived two thousand years ago.

But I want us to consider, who is Jesus now? These three sermons should also help to answer the question, “what is God doing about all that is wrong with the world?” The story about Peter healing and preaching demonstrates to us just what Jesus asks us to do in response to believing his story.

You see, the master plan God has to deal with the problems we are facing, and the way in which he is bringing healing and hope to a hurting world, is this: you and me. That’s it! That’s his master plan.

Peter and the other Apostles followed the example of Jesus, and we are to do the same. So, you see, while this sermon series is all about who Jesus is, it is also all about who we are. We can’t talk about who Jesus is without talking about who we are. The person of Jesus does not exist in some abstract idea, or in ancient documents. The person of Jesus exists in the day-to-day activities of the church.

Before I continue, let’s do a bit of review from the first message in this series.

Review of who Jesus was on earth

Jesus is the most interesting and most influential man who ever lived. Although he would have been considered to be a fairly average Galilean, he did not act like an average Galilean.

Here are some of the interesting things about him:

  • he talked as though he was equal to God
  • he allowed people to worship him.
  • He forgave people for their sins.
  • He healed people and raised them from the dead.
  • He spoke with authority about the ancient laws of Moses
  • He claimed to know those laws and what they really meant, better than the most educated teachers around.
  • He was killed for his bold claims about himself, and then he raised himself up from being dead.

After his death and resurrection, just before he disappeared into the clouds, he instructed his followers to tell all the world about what he taught and what he did. He said that if people believe their testimony about him, and if they turn away from their lives of sin and toward Jesus as their saviour, and become baptized, they will be welcomed into the kingdom of God.

That is who Jesus was and what he did on earth. This is the sort of stuff we usually think about when we think about Jesus. However, today and in the next two sermons, we will look at who Jesus is and what he is up to.

Introduction to who he is now. 

This morning we are looking at Jesus as a prophet. This means that Jesus is teaching us what is right through the Scriptures and through the Holy Spirit in the church.

Next Sunday we are looking at Jesus as a priest. This means that he is actively pleading our case of innocence to God on our behalf because of his death on the cross.

And two Sundays from now, we will look at Jesus as our king. This means that Jesus is ruling with authority unlike any other king on earth, granting citizenship in his kingdom to all who ask for it.

Who are prophets and what do prophets do?

When we think of the word prophet, or prophecy, we tend to think about predicting the future. This is because the most dramatic accounts of the prophets in the Old Testament include a prediction of things to come.

We also think about how Jesus fulfilled prophecies made about himself in the Old Testament. We think of the prophecies in the book of Revelation, and how they tell of future events.

However, being a prophet of God is not just about telling the future. God appointed prophets to be leaders, teachers, miracle workers, advisors and writers.

Prophets were individuals called and empowered by God to tell his people what he wanted to be done. It is true, the role of a prophet included telling about God’s future intentions to save and judge his people.

But, in short, a prophet is someone who bears witness to the word of God, and who speaks with authority concerning the nature and the purposes of God.

An example in the New Testament of a prophet is John the Baptist.

Matthew 3:1-6 tells us a bit about John:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ’Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

John was a prophet because God chose him to proclaim God’s purposes.

He was the final prophet in the old era, and he ushered in a new era of prophets.

The message John proclaimed contained:

  • a warning of imminent judgment at the hands of the Messiah.
  • He called for repentance in light of the coming kingdom of heaven.
  • And he demanded that people express this repentance in a real change of behaviour.
    With this message, he set an example for all the prophets who would come after him. His message would become the message of those who would prophecy in the name of Jesus. 

There are many other prophets in Scripture. In fact, most of the Bible is written by those who the Jewish people would consider prophets. This is because they viewed a prophet as someone who gave witness to the things God was saying and doing among them.

What makes Jesus a prophet?

With this understanding of a prophet, it is not hard to see Jesus as a prophet. But let’s consider what sort of prophet he is, because he is no ordinary prophet. He stands out above all the prophets who came before him.

Here are a few select passages that tell us about Jesus being a prophet:

Jn 6:14: When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Jn 7:40: When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.”

Jn 4:17-20: The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”

Mt 21:10-11: And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Luke 24:18-19: (this is on the day when Jesus rose from being dead, and he appeared to some of his disciples, but they didn’t recognize him):

Jesus asked them what was going on in Jerusalem, and One of his disciples responded, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus asked, “What things?”

The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.”

There are more passages than this that tell about Jesus as a prophet, but I think we get the idea. Jesus was recognized as a prophet by the people who knew him, even though he wasn’t born into the role of a prophet.

They knew he was a prophet because of the authority by which he spoke and because of the miracles he performed. They knew he was a prophet because he bore witness to the things that God was saying and doing among them.

But he was not just any prophet. He was somehow different than John the Baptist. He was different than Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the other prophets of the ancient Hebrew writings.

The main difference is that when Jesus spoke about the things that God was doing among them, he referred to himself as the one doing them. He included himself in the prophecies. When he bore witness to the work of God, he was bearing witness to himself.

Remember the passage in Acts chapter 3, from Peter’s speech in Jerusalem? He quotes a prophecy from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. It says this: ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’

The Apostles believed that this prophecy was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. As we will see in just a few minutes, there are still prophets today, but not like the one described in this passage from Acts.

You see, Jesus is the prophet about which all other prophets speak, and he is the prophet from whom all prophets gain knowledge. Jesus is the prophet above all prophets. He was a prophet as a human on earth because he proclaimed the truth of God. And he is still a prophet now because he proclaims the truth of God through the Holy Spirit in the church.

I said at the beginning that this series is about who Jesus is now, and what he is up to today. The truth is, we don’t have very much information in Scripture about what Jesus is doing now. The only writings we have are from the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, but there is very little from that book that will provide us with a satisfactory answer to the things Jesus is doing at this moment.

No, if we want to know what Jesus is up to now as a prophet, we must look at ourselves. And this is the most challenging and exciting discoveries I’ve made recently. It is a truth plain as day, but most of us forget it so easily.

How does this impact us?

You see, if you identify yourself as a Christian, you also identify yourself as a prophet.

1 Peter 2:9 is the main passage that explains our identity in Christ:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

The key word in this passage is the word “proclaim.” For, this is what a prophet does. We proclaim the excellencies of Jesus.

Matthew 11:11 says, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

As I said earlier, John the Baptist was the last of the old era of prophets, and he ushered in a new era of prophets. The new era of prophets is made up of those who belong to the kingdom of God, the kingdom established by Jesus Christ.

Jesus said that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist. This is because those who come after John have a more complete picture of the message God is speaking through the life and death of Christ.

In Acts 2, we read that a prophecy about the new era of prophets was fulfilled when the disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Joel 2:28 says this: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

When the Apostle Paul wrote letters to the churches, he often instructed people to teach one another, implying that the knowledge will come from God.

Col. 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Rom. 15:14: “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”

Before Jesus came, the average person was not expected to teach others. The teachers and prophets in Israel were typically born into their roles because their fathers and grandfathers were teachers and prophets. However, in the church, all people are expected to be able to teach and prophecy.

I realize this might be making some of you uncomfortable. The idea of standing up in front of people and teaching them is enough to give you nightmares.

In one sense, it is good to be somewhat unsettled about this. My hope is that our response will be to spend more time in the Scriptures and around people who can teach us about Jesus so that we will be ready at all times to teach others.

In another sense, you have no need to worry because being a prophet for most people has little to do with public speaking. This brings me to close with one final picture of what a prophet is. It came up earlier in the children’s feature and I’ve been hinting at it throughout the message.

The main way in which a prophet proclaims the word of God is by bearing witness to it.

In Acts chapter 1, we read the final instructions from Jesus to his disciples, just before he disappeared into the clouds. [read Acts 1:1-9]

Our responsibility as prophets under Jesus is to bear witness to the story of Jesus. Not only that, but our responsibility is to bear witness to what Jesus is doing now. He is teaching his church through the Holy Spirit, and he is teaching the world through his church.

I began today by asking the question, “where is God in this broken world?” Jesus is alive and acting as our prophet, teaching us what to say to our neighbours, to our co-workers, to our children and to our friends. God has enabled each one of us to be prophets, to bear witness to the power of Christ. If you identify yourself as a Christian, you identify yourself as a prophet of God.

You see, while I have said that this series is meant to answer the question, “who is Jesus?”, it is also answering the question, “who are we?” Once you and I have decided to identify ourselves as Christians, the character and ministry of Christ is passed on to us.

So, Who is Jesus? He is a living, breathing, human person. He is a prophet. But, his ministry to the world is not done except through his church. Yes, it is ultimately God working. It is only by his grace and his power that we can do anything for his kingdom. It is God’s plan, and it is only by his initiative that his work is done.

But, he has chosen us, you and me, those who have heard and believed the story of Jesus. We are to be the presence of Jesus on earth until he returns, to proclaim his life, his death and his resurrection, to bear witness to the Jesus stories and invite people into his kingdom.