Summary: What we say about Jesus will not only affect our lives here but hereafter.
What do you think of this man, Barak Obama? Some see this contender for the U.S. presidency as a breath of fresh air. Others view him with suspicion. Some treat him like a rock star. Others mock him for this celebrity status when he’s done seemingly nothing to earn it. The truth is even if Obama gets elected president, our lives here in Canada and even the lives of those in the U.S. won’t really change that much. In other words, what you and I think of Barak Obama has little consequence.
The same can’t be said of Jesus. What you think of him has both temporal and eternal consequence. So who do YOU say Jesus is? Let’s find out the best way to answer that question.
About a year before his death, Jesus took his disciples near Caesarea Philippi, a city in northern Israel. This was an area where the non-Jews may have outnumbered the Jewish inhabitants. It seems like a strange place to go for someone who once said he had been sent to the lost sheep of Israel. Yet there was a reason Jesus came to this area. Jesus demonstrated what God does when his message and mercy are rejected; he takes it away and gives it to others. For two years Jesus had been traveling through the towns and villages of Israel making the lame leap, turning dower funeral processions into impromptu celebrations and yet when he asked his disciples who the people thought he was they answered that they thought he was John the Baptist or one of the Old Testament prophets come back from the dead. The Israelites thought well of Jesus but not well enough! They thought he was just a man who could make life a little better for them on earth. They didn’t see him as the Son of God who would save them from their sins and hell. Because of this lack of appreciation Jesus took his message and his mercy elsewhere.
There’s a warning here for us, isn’t there? Do we suppose that we’ll always have a Bible to read and a Bible-teaching church to attend? We may not if we take these gifts for granted. Just look at what happened to many areas of the world that were former Christian strongholds. North Africa, for example, used to be one of the greatest centers for Christian learning but look at it today. It’s now a Muslim stronghold. What happened? The Christians there became complacent with God’s message and his mercy so God finally said: “You don’t want what I have to offer? Then have it your way. I’ll take my mercy and leave.” What filled the spiritual void is the work-righteous Islamic religion.
What you say about Jesus and his Word has a consequence – not just for you but also for your children and their children all the way to the fifth generation. In fact sociologists have a name for this: the “five-generation rule.” They’ve found that how parents raise their child influences that child and the four generations that follow. This is illustrated in a striking way by what the New York Prison Commission discovered in 1874. They found that several of their prisoners were not only related, they were all descended from the same family unit, that of “Max Juke” (not his real name). The study was subsequently expanded to include about 1,200 of Juke’s descendants, as well as the sharply contrasting 1,400 descendants of Jonathan Edwards, a preacher who lived about the same time. The Juke family purportedly included 300 convicts, 2 murderers, 190 prostitutes, 509 alcoholics and drug addicts, while the Edwards progeny had 430 ministers, 130 lawyers and judges, 99 college professors, 13 university presidents, 60 physicians, 11 congressmen and governors (Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly V. 105:3 p. 171).
So what’s the moral of this story? Speak well of Jesus at home? Try your best to live like he did and pass those moral values on to your children? The people of Jesus’ day were doing that much but Jesus was still disappointed with them. Why? Because Jesus didn’t come just to set an example for us to follow, he came to save us from our sins and take us to heaven! That’s what we want to say about Jesus. We want to say that he is the Christ, the one appointed to be our Savior, not just our guide and inspiration. He came to give his life on the cross to pay for your sins like disrespecting your mother, filling your mind with unclean thoughts about your co-worker, and worrying about your future. He wants to keep us out of the fires of hell but that’s where we’ll end up if we only see Jesus as a good man or a great teacher.