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JESUS: MAN OF AUTHORITY AND POWER
A. If you were to ask people on the street today who they think Jesus is (or was), what kind of answers would you expect to get?
1. Of course, many would say, he was a good man who taught some good things. Some might go so far to say he was a prophet. In America, many would say he was the Lord.
2. But keep asking, and you’ll get at least as many different views as there are religions today. Even the most non-Christian of religions today want to include Jesus in their package in some way or another, remaking Jesus to fit their beliefs, desires, and practices. The Muslims claim him as a prophet, but not the son of God. Westerners involved in Hinduism via the New Age movement see him as a great guru or an example of someone who reached the divine potential in all of us. Cults of every kind claim him as one of their leaders--from Mormons, to Jehovah’s Witnesses, to Hare Krishna, you name it. Even Scientology uses Jesus, claiming he is about 2/3rds up the way of their chart of psychic development.
3. And it’s not just religious people who want to fit Jesus into their belief system. Amazingly, even Atheists now claim Jesus
a) Richard Dawkins, the famous Oxford biologist who is one of the most ardent atheist scholars and debaters today, and who recently published “The God Delusion” in which he spews his hatred for religion and especially for the God of the Bible, peddles his own t-shirts stamped “Atheists for Jesus” and wrote an article of same title on his website (RichardDawkins.com). He claims to be a “cultural Christian” because Jesus, in Dawkins’ words, was “a charismatic young preacher who advocated generous forgiveness” and one of the great ethical innovators of all time.” He sees Jesus as one of those unique “super-nice” people, and “super-nice is a trait he thinks should be encouraged, so Dawkins is all for Jesus (though rabidly against Jesus’ theism).
4. All this illustrates how nearly everyone wants to claim Jesus, but only if they can remake him to fit their worldview or their desired lifestyle.
a) From the super-nice, milk-toast Jesus who would never use violence or capital punishment, or be involved in a war, to the Jesus who is always stern and serious (if not harsh), never smiling, never laughing, not very joyful, there are so many different views of Jesus today that it is hard to believe they are all speaking of the same person.
B. But varied opinions are nothing new – Mt 16.13
1. Even in Jesus’ day, opinions varied. When he asked his disciples who people say he is, some said John the Baptist, some said Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets – vs.14
2. And though disciples themselves had a more accurate picture of who Jesus was, seeing him as the Christ, the Son of the living God even their understanding fell short of the truth, for Peter then proceeded to rebuke Jesus when Jesus said he would die. In that he failed not only to understand Jesus’ purpose for coming here, but Jesus’ deity, for who would be so bold as to rebuke God? – vs.15-17
C. Jesus’ question here is the very question I want to get at. In the weeks to come, I want to take a close look at Jesus in the Gospels, with some help from the rest of the NT, to see who Jesus is.
1. What we believe about Jesus matters -- Jn 8.24
2. Who was Jesus the person? What was he like? As we
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