Summary: So many definitions of Jesus of Nazareth. Who is He to you? A message prepared for the Albany Park community in Chicago.
To the Community Called Albany Park (Chicago)
I address my comments to the community called Albany Park in Chicago. Albany Park is a place of many cultures, many Christian expressions, and many religions that are not Christian. And I imagine there are many in AP who want nothing to do with religion, as well as others who once walked with God and do not walk with Him any longer.
In all of this mix, the identity of the One called Jesus of Nazareth has been confused. My desire is to bring to AP's attention once more, what God Himself says about His Son.
I have been facilitating recently a small group at my home church that emphasizes personal evangelism. The course we are following is called "Becoming a Contagious Christian". From the Contagious Christian CD comes an interview of a number of people who are asked simply, "Who is Jesus?" The answers range from the absolutely true to the absolutely outrageous. Here they are. Maybe your own answer is one of them.
"Jesus is God."
"Savior of the Christian faith."
"He died in Israel."
"He is one of the gods."
"Palestinian Jew living around the year 0-30."
"A religious leader."
"I think He was just a person that was really smart and wanted to make the world a better place or something."
"He's a topic that I don't want to discuss."
"Savior of the world."
"The man who's gonna lead us into the promised land in the next life."
"A higher power above all things that no one can understand."
"Jesus is a rabbi that was in the first century."
"I believe Jesus was a prophet trying to create a new branch of Judaism, and I believe that they took what His preachings were and later on made it into something which I don't believe it was at all intended to be. I don't think Jesus ever called Himself the Son of God."
"Probably He's a mythological figure that actually lived and I think we've developed His persona over the years."
"Possible fictional, possibly real person."
"My understanding is that He was a historical figure who played prominently in a whole lot of stuff."
"Jesus is a historical character."
"I'm sure He existed and was a great guy and stuff."
"He was a very enlightened and spiritual being, and I think He came to earth to teach us a few things."
"I kinda believe in my heart that He was probably the world's greatest prophet we ever had, you know, someone to learn from His lessons and kinda change the shape of mankind. There's no denyin' that. Big historical figure."
"Very holy man who lived a long time ago."
"Man who walks around in a robe. And sandals. Long hair. He looks like my uncle, actually."
"Can I say I'm not sure, I don't know? The guy in the Bible, I guess."
"Is that a trick question?"
"Jesus is the Son of God."
"Some people believe He's the Son of God. I don't."
"That's a good question, and I don't think I have an answer, Who Jesus is."
How about you? Do you have an answer? Let me suggest some answers, that come from the pages of the Christian Bible.
1. He is the Son of God.
Did Jesus ever call Himself the Son of God?
The narratives about Jesus certainly did. Matthew 1:23, for example. Matthew believed that the birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy 700 years before, that a virgin would give birth to a Son Who would be "God-with-us", or as we say, Emmanuel. Sounds like Son of God to me.
Luke follows up with an even clearer i.d. An angel appears to Mary and simply declares that the child being conceived in her womb is to be called the "Son of the Highest." Later that conception is said to be by the Holy Spirit.
When God's Spirit creates a seed inside of a woman, that seed is Divine. Jesus is the Son of God.
But what about Jesus Himself? Did He ever say He was that Son? It is true that it was not a constant theme of His teaching. But it is far from the truth that He never made the claim.
Look at Matthew 22:41 ff. It is Jesus vs. the Pharisees, in a rivalry that lasted His entire ministry.
Jesus asks them, "Whose Son is the Messiah?"
" David's," they replied.
"David's? But look at what David said:
'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand...' "
David calls the Messiah "Lord." So how could the Messiah also be the son of David?
The obvious solution to the riddle is to find a person in history who was descended from David (David's "son" or descendant) but also was born of God.