My goal in this sermon is to increase our vision of the greatness of Jesus Christ. As sinful humans, we need to be reminded over and over again about the greatness of God. This is because there is a deeply rooted pride that exists in every heart. It is a pride that causes us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We make decisions and develop attitudes that turns our hearts away from Christ and toward ourselves.
The way we deal with pride is not to think less of ourselves, but to think more highly of Christ. The most challenging and most important thing we can learn in life is this: we experience the deepest satisfaction in life when we are not thinking about ourselves at all.
Humility is not accomplished by thinking about being humble. It is accomplished by not thinking about ourselves at all.
Ultimately, true humility is accomplished when Christ is the main object of our thoughts and our affections. This is what we were created for.
This morning, and in the first three Sundays of July, I would like us all to become re-acquainted with Jesus in order to gain a fresh vision of his greatness.
Some of you have known him for a long time already. I’ve only known him for about 17 years, and half that time I would say he was not a close friend. I have found it incredibly refreshing the last couple months as Jesus has shown me old truths about himself in new ways as I’ve been reading the gospels.
That might be just what these four sermons will be for you. Things you have known for a long time, but you may see them in a new way. We will be reminded of who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he is doing.
I pray we will be humbled by his majesty and that our affections, our greatest love, will be for him above all else. So, first let me tell you briefly the story of Jesus.
Jesus’ Life on Earth
John 1: 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 were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
He came into the world, and although the world was made through him, the world did not know him. But to all those who did receive him as Christ, those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
So… the Word became flesh and he dwelt among us.
This Word is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
He was born over two thousand years ago. Although he was fully God, he humbled himself and became fully man. And he did this to finally complete the salvation plan of God.
You see, when God created the universe through the very words of his own mouth, he created all things perfect. But we ruined everything by thinking more highly of ourselves that we should have. We tend to behave, like Adam and Eve, as though we know better than God.
But, God knows best, and he knew right from the start that he is the only one who can fix the problems we humans make for ourselves. This is why Jesus became a man. To fix our mistakes. To make everything right that we have made wrong.
In the first century AD, the nation of Israel, God’s people, was under the rule of the Roman Empire. This is the world that Jesus was born into. He was a Jew, born in Judea, and was a descendant of King David. He grew up attending a Jewish school and learned the teachings of Moses, of David, of Solomon and the prophets. He could read the language of Hebrew, and like most of the people who lived in Judea, he spoke Aramaic.
Jesus’ earthly father was a carpenter, which was not a very respected trade in his time. He was probably quite physically strong and skilled with his hands. The first thirty or so years of his life he lived with his parents. He subjected himself to their teaching and guidance.
Even though he himself created them, he made himself lower than them.
Once Jesus was about thirty years old, he decided to become a rabbi, a Jewish teacher. He walked around the countryside, inviting fishermen, tax collectors and political activists to follow him and to join him in his work.
Soon he began performing miracles, and more people wanted to follow him. Thousands would come from all over Galilee to hear him teach and to be healed by him. Most only wanted to see the miracles Jesus could perform, as though he was some sort of entertainer. But there were some who recognized him for who he truly was. He was the promised Messiah, the one who would deliver God’s people and establish God’s kingdom.
However, no one knew just how Jesus would do this. They thought he might become the new king of God’s people and drive out the Romans from Israel. They expected a glorious victory. But Jesus kept talking about how he came to die, to be crucified by the Romans and the Jewish leaders. He talked about how his kingdom was not a visible kingdom, but a kingdom founded on love.
One day he arrived in Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and thousands of people were gathered to welcome him. They celebrated his presence among them and bowed down to worship him. Then, only a few days later, he was a prisoner, facing the sentence of death for committing blasphemy, for claiming to be equal to God. Although the local Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate, found him to be not guilty, the Jewish leaders demanded that they kill him.
Jesus was beaten, whipped and mocked. His hands and feet were nailed to a wooden cross, which was then propped up on a hill for all to see. It wasn’t an uncommon spectacle. Crucifixions happened regularly under Roman rule.
But the crucifixion was reserved only for the worst law-breakers, and it was the most brutal and shameful way to die. It was painful beyond our comprehension.
However, the physical pain Jesus experienced was only a small part of the burden he bore on the cross. The real burden was the sin of all humanity. It was the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. It was the sin of Aaron and those who worshipped the golden calf at mount Sinai. It was the sin of King David, the adulterer and murderer. It was the sin of the proud Pharisees and the doubting Sadducees. It was the sin of the traitor, Judas, and the sin of those who pounded the nails through Jesus’ body.
The burden he bore was the sin of every one of us. Every thought, every word, every deed done against the will of God. Jesus hung on that cross so that we would not have to face the consequences of our own evil.
Jesus died there, hanging on that cross as though he was a murderer, a thief, an adulterer, a liar. Pretty much everyone who, just a few days earlier, were worshipping him, left him there. Even his disciples and his family left him.
In order to follow the Jewish laws, he had to be taken down from the cross and be placed in a tomb before sundown, as the next day was the sabbath. But it was some stranger, a righteous man named Joseph, who took care of Jesus’ body. He a few others found an empty tomb and placed his body in there.
That was it. The ones Jesus called his disciples went back to their old jobs and their old lives. Roman guards stood watch at the tomb to make sure no one would steal the body and claim he rose from the dead. The glorious few years of Jesus’ teaching and miracles ended abruptly and unexpectedly. Hope seemed to suddenly disappear. No one new it was coming, except for Jesus himself.
But, as you and I know, it didn’t end on the cross and in the tomb. Just as Jesus promised, he did rise from the dead. Early Sunday morning, he began appearing to his disciples, and to as many as 500 people at once. He ate and drank and enjoyed the fellowship with his followers. He showed them where the nails pierced his hands and feet. This was truly Jesus Christ, their rabbi, risen from the dead!
Jesus Passed On His Ministry to the Church
He accomplished what he set out to do, and now it was time for his followers to continue the work of teaching and performing miracles. He told them to start by telling everyone in Jerusalem all the things that he taught them, and to tell them that when he died on the cross, it was the sacrifice that God demanded for their sins. He told them to call people to repent and be baptized.
He also promised that they would have help. God would send his Spirit to live in them and among them. He would give them the ability to speak in different languages, and to remember everything Jesus taught them. He would enable them to perform miracles, and He would give them wisdom so that they would be able to establish God’s church.
It would be through this church that God would continue to do the same work that Jesus did while he was on earth: to make disciples of people everywhere, teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.
When Jesus was done meeting with all his followers and telling them what to do next, he left their presence, disappearing into the clouds. Now, he continues to live in heaven, even today.
There are many influential people in the history of the world. There have been great and powerful leaders, conquering the world through the strength of men and machines. Among them are the Egyptian Pharaohs, the Roman emperors, and the Kings and Queens of the British Empire.
There have also been humble and gracious leaders, offering compassion and love to the outcast. Among them are Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, and Jesus Christ.
Among these powerful and influential people, Jesus stands out for two main reasons. First, he stands out as the founder of the largest and most influential religion in the world. Second, he stands out as the only compassionate leader who did not turn away the people who willingly worshipped him.
There were some leaders who demanded worship, who forced people to bow down to them, such as the Pharaohs. There were some leaders who, when people began to worship them, turned them away and pointed to someone greater to be worshipped, such as Buddha.
But not Jesus. He stands alone as the single most influential person in history, and he stands alone as the only person who accepted the willing worship of others.
Summary and Response
So, again: Who is Jesus?
He is a man who lived 2000 years ago
While he lived, hundreds of people claimed to see him do many miracles. He spoke and acted like no other Jewish teacher of his time. Even today most scholars agree that Jesus’ life, if it is entirely true, is the most fascinating and profound of all recorded biographies in ancient history.
He claimed to be God and convinced the people closest to him that he was God, including Jews, who believed that they should never worship anything or anyone but the transcendent God of Abraham, Moses and David.
After he died, hundreds of people confessed that Jesus rose from the dead, up to 500 people at one time
People who knew Jesus most closely gave their lives for the sake of telling other people about him.
Having been re-acquainted with Jesus, here are a few options for response:
1. He’s a legend – not a real story. People made him up and the stories are lies. However, the Bible is not written as legend, it is written as history. The stories were written when the people in the stories were still alive. If they were made up, they would have not been allowed to circulate as they did.
2. Jesus was a deceiver and delusional. The reason you would have to choose this option is because he claimed to be God and he accepted people’s worship. He claimed to be the only way to know ultimate truth and salvation from death. The things he said can’t be true and good unless he is actually who he says he is.
3. Jesus must be who he said he is. And this is great news, because every other religion demands us to live a certain way in order to get to God. But Jesus said, I am God who has come to you. He lived and died on earth in order to meet every demand of God’s holy laws, and to cover the payment demanded for your sins.
If Jesus truly is who he says he is, that is incredibly good news. Not only because of what he did while on earth, but because of what he continues to do while living in heaven.
He lives to be our prophet, teaching us what is right through the Scriptures and through the Holy Spirit in the church.
He lives to be our priest, pleading our case of innocence to God on our behalf because of his death on the cross.
He lives to be our king, ruling with authority unlike any other king on earth, granting citizenship in his kingdom to all who ask for it.
It is these three characteristics of Jesus that we will be looking at in the next three sermons in this series, in order to answer the question, “who is Jesus?” We will see how Jesus is acting as our prophet, our priest and our king. And we will be challenged by how Jesus expects us to live in light of the work he is doing for us.
If you have heard something new this morning, something you have never heard before, and you want to know more about it, please let myself or Rob know, and we would love to talk. If you have heard this story before, but it has never made as much sense as it does right now, my guess is that God is prompting you to trust him and to follow Jesus.
For those of us who know this Jesus story and love it, I ask that God would strengthen us to live the way he has asked us to live. Not in order to gain entrance into God’s kingdom, but because he has already given us citizenship, and because we are grateful.