"Who is Jesus?" #72-49
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 21, 2005
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Matthew 16:13b-16
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! To a world that continues to discuss, debate, and dispute the Savior, the angel's announcement from the open tomb tells us God's glorious and gracious message: Jesus has conquered sin, death, and devil. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
It has been a good many years since I heard a pastor profoundly say, "Talking about people is a great sport. You can make up your own rules; you can play the game; and you can be the umpire, too." People like talking about other people. Sometimes they are flattering, occasionally they're honest, but most often they seem to take delight in pointing out the failures and foibles, the sins and shortcomings of others. You know what I mean.
President Ulysses S. Grant once was on his way to attend a dinner reception being offered in his honor. As he went, it began to rain, and Grant opened his umbrella. When he came across a stranger who seemed to be going the same way he was, he offered to share his umbrella with the man. As they walked, they talked about this and that, and eventually they discovered they were both going to the same banquet. It was then that the stranger confessed that he was only going to the dinner out of "curiosity." Lowering his voice, the man said, "Between us, I've always thought that President Grant was a much overrated man." To which the unrecognized President replied, "That is my view also." We enjoy talking about others. You know what I mean.
When Sir Winston Churchill was reaching the end of his long public career he attended an official state function. A few rows behind him two people started whispering to each other. The first said, "There's Churchill. I've been told he's failing badly." In sad tones, the second person agreed: "I've heard the same thing, too. And they say he's becoming quite senile." At the close of the event, as everyone was leaving, Churchill leaned over to the two whisperers and said, "You know, ladies, I've heard those things about Churchill too, and I've also heard he's going quite deaf." We like talking about people, don't we? And we don't like to get caught.
Name a recent President, and most people have an opinion about him. We have opinions on the garbage collector, the children's teachers, the preacher in the pulpit, the auto mechanic, the next-door neighbor, and the checkout person at the grocery store. We have our opinions and we're not afraid to say what we think; unless, of course, we believe the individual we're talking about might overhear us, or an unfriendly ear is listening and is going to tell on us. After all, we don't want anybody to talk badly about us. Almost 500 years ago Martin Luther said, "It is a common evil plague that every one prefers hearing evil to hearing good of his neighbor; and ... we cannot suffer that any one should say anything bad about us ... every one would much rather that all the world should speak of him in terms of gold, yet we cannot bear that ... spoken about others." Luther knew... we like to talk about others, don't we?
Now, if we're prepared to have an opinion and talk about all the regular, normal people around us, it would be surprising if we didn't have an opinion, and weren't prepared to talk about Jesus Christ. How could we ignore the most important individual in all of history? The life of Christ, His birth, His suffering, His death, His resurrection is the turning point of history. Jesus stands alone. Jesus is absolutely unique. Shakespeare may be brilliant in his writings, but there are others like Homer who would not be embarrassed to stand by his side. Alexander the Great was a genius in battle, but Caesar, Napoleon, Rommel, and Patton could command as well. Inventors, there are a pack of great ones. Statesmen, almost every nation has someone it's proud to call, "father." Humanitarians, teachers, philosophers have done great things, but every generation produces a few such special souls.
But Jesus Christ is special. He's one-of-a-kind. More than any one else, Jesus is the exceptional, extraordinary person who has changed the way the world thinks, the way humanity lives and He alone is the way to forgiveness and eternal life. It is not by accident that our calendars are set according to the approximate year of His birth. Oh, I know that modern scholars, wishing to minimize His impact, trying to be inoffensive to other religions have taken "BC" Before Christ and turned it into "BCE," Before the Current Era. Some have scrapped "AD" the Latin for Anno Domini, the year of our Lord, and tried to turn it into "CE," or Current Era. It's an interesting, albeit amusing idea. To them I say, "Change the words, come up with countless abbreviations, you cannot ignore the fact that the life of Jesus has changed everything; you cannot deny that Jesus is the one who has made the 'current era,' current."
Yes, everyone in our age has an opinion about Jesus. It was no different when Jesus walked among us. The opinions of His contemporaries cover the entire spectrum of love and hate, honor and humiliation. Listen to some of the names Jesus was called during His short, three-year period of ministry. He was labeled the "Lamb of God," the "Carpenter's Son. " He was called a teacher, a devil, a deceiver, a sinner, the Savior. He was considered to be a wine drinker, possessed by the devil, a blasphemer, an insurrectionist, and the Christ the Son of the living God.
That last, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," was what one of Jesus' disciples, Simon Peter, said to Him the day Jesus asked, "Who do people say I am?" Jesus had taken His closest followers to the city of Caesarea Philippi -- the headquarters of the Roman procurators who ruled, and the troops who enforced that rule -- in Judea. Caesarea Philippi was not a comfortable location for God-fearing men who considered themselves to be direct descendants of father Abraham. Everything they had been taught to avoid; everything they were supposed to abhor, had a good representation in Caesarea Philippi. This was a party town, a heathen town, a place that boasted fourteen temples to Baal, one for Caesar, and a cave which the locals proudly pointed out to tourists as being the birthplace of the Greek god of nature: Pan.
It is here, surrounded by the visible forces of Satan that Jesus asks, "What do people say about Me? Who do they say I am?" You can almost hear the disciples, who like school children that for once are sure they know the right answer, eagerly reply: "Some say You're Elijah!" Another disciple declares, "I've heard some say You're Jeremiah!" and a third throws in, "... or one of God's prophets." They were on a roll, and they probably could have come up with most of the list that I shared with you a moment ago. They weren't telling Jesus anything new. He had heard most of those names, and some of the less complementary ones, already. Having heard their responses, Jesus gets personal. He asks, "And, fellas, who do you think I am?"
That question was a little tougher, and although Scripture doesn't say so, I think it got quiet for a second. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the disciples show that they thought Jesus was going to restore the kingdom of Israel to its position of greatness among the nations of the world. Certainly they knew Jesus was a great Teacher, and, on countless occasions He had shown Himself to be a worker of miracles. But this question, "Who do you think I am?" puts them on the spot. You can almost see their foreheads furrow as they search for the right words. Then Peter, the disciple who often rushes in where angels fear to tread, rightly responds with the Spirit-given reply: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." I think Jesus would have had to smile at that answer. Although Peter did not, as of yet, understand the full impact of his words, he had gotten it right.
Soon he and the others would see exactly what it meant for Jesus to be God's Son, the promised Redeemer. They would see Jesus live out His days fulfilling the laws that they and the rest of humanity had broken. They would see Jesus, God's Son, substitute His perfection for our failings, flaws, and faults. They would see their innocent Lord arrested so that those who follow Him might be free for eternity. As the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus would be chained so we might be released from the shackles of sin; He would be found guilty, so on judgment day all who believe on Him as Savior might be declared innocent; He would die so we might live; He would rise to show to all the world that death had been defeated. Years later, Paul would tell what Jesus had done for us when he wrote: "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)
Today Jesus asks you, "Who do you think I am?" We like to talk about people, don't we? You know we do. Well then, what do you think about Jesus. There are, I believe, only three ways you can answer: two are ancient, the third is more modern. The two ancient ways are simple: either, by the power of the Holy Spirit you are led to faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or you reject Him. That's easy to understand. In Jesus' day, many of the priests, who had a vested interest in the status quo, rejected Him. Many of the political activists, looking for a political deliverer, also wanted nothing to do with Him. The Roman government, which, by then, had proclaimed its emperors to be living gods, wanted no competition from the Prince of Peace. Other religions, such as those who worshipped Diana in Ephesus, found their income and authority being reduced by the Savior. All of these opposed Jesus and His work of buying people back from sin, death, and devil. Although they were wrong in opposing Jesus, I can understand why they did.
On the other hand, there were those who, having searched for the solution to life's questions and problems, found their answers in the risen Savior. Jesus said that would happen. He had said that He had come to seek and save the lost; to be the Light for those who were wandering blindly in the darkness; to be a physician for those who were ill in their souls. Back then, even as today, faith in Jesus says to all who believe, that death does not have the last word. Faith in Jesus says there is forgiveness from sin, and with that forgiveness, a new eternal life of joy with Jesus in heaven. If forgiveness and eternity were all Jesus gave to sinful souls, it would be enough. No one could expect any more.
But there is more. Years ago a grandpa was taking a walk with his grandson. They had no special destination; they just walked and talked. With a smile, grandpa asked, "How far are we from home?" The boy answered, "Grandpa, I don't know." Then Gramps asked, "Do you know where you are?" The boy answered, "no." To which grandpa observed, "Sounds to me like you're lost." The boy disagreed. He looked up and said, "Nope, grandpa, I can't be lost. I'm with you." And so it is. We can't be lost when we're with Jesus, our Savior. Jesus is not just a Savior who leads us, by-and-by, to the sweet by-and-by. He is God's Son who has promised to be with His people. In times of sadness, He brings hope. When friends have betrayed us, He has promised to faithfully stand by our side. When no one else will give us the time of day, Jesus has promised, without fail and without excuse, to hear our prayers, our pleadings, our petitions, and receive our praise.
Today, this day, what is the emptiness within you; what is the loss you are experiencing; the worry that never seems to work itself out? Jesus can help. He can solve your problem; or bring you through your problem; or help you carry your problem. In Him, and from Him is a power and a peace that nothing, and I say that all-inclusive word again, nothing, that this world can provide. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Little wonder that those who have seen His suffering and death upon the cross; who have peered into His empty tomb were ready to talk about Him. Not surprising that the story of the Savior swept across this world like wild fire. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is God's good news of great joy.
But I said there is a third way, another way people see and talk about Jesus. It is the modern way and it begins with one simple thought: people aren't sinners. That's it. People aren't sinners. A lot of folks have swallowed that idea, hook, line, and sinker. It didn't make any difference that the TV news said there were still wars, rapes, murders, thefts, road rage, and drive-by shootings. It didn't matter that the papers still talked about divorces and drugs, gluttony and greed. It didn't matter that these people found themselves just as despondent, depressed, discouraged, and doubtful as they had ever been. They weren't sinners. They wandered around, still lonely and lost, anxious and afraid, but that had nothing to do with sin. And, it didn't take an Einstein to figure out: if you don't have sin, you don't need a Savior. As a result, our generation has decided that Jesus is just great, but He's not a Savior. They think Jesus is a good guy, but He's not the Christ, the Son of the living God. They think Jesus is a fine fellow, a profound philosopher, a trustworthy teacher, a social activist, an opiate for the uneducated masses, but He's not their Savior.
I'm here to tell you, if you believe that, it's bunk. Jesus is either who He says He is, or He's not. You can't pick and choose. You can't re-create Him in your image. The year was 1881, and the place was the fishing village of Eyemouth, England. For over a week foul weather had kept the men in port. Then, at last beautiful weather came - blue sky, gentle winds. The men knew the storm was over, and they started out toward the fishing grounds. Forty-one boats, each manned by five or six sailors, sailed out of port that day, ignoring the harbormaster's warning of an approaching storm. He begged them not to go, but they were sailors, and they knew better. They were wrong, the harbormaster was right. The storm swept down on them with a first-rate fury. Few of the men, and fewer of the boats returned. The church at which many of those fishermen belonged had three male members left. Those fishermen died because they didn't pay any attention to the warning. It was a foolish thing to do. Just as foolish as it is not to pay attention to the warning of this message today. My friends, look around, the evidence for sin surrounds you. If you can see sin, then you must also see your need for a Savior. You need the Savior. You need the Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God.
We all like to talk about people. Let me finish by talking about President Herbert Hoover. Once a reporter said, "Mr. President, when I was a boy you were one of the most popular men in the world. Then, (because of the depression), you were one of the most unpopular, with nearly everyone against you. Didn't any of this meanness and criticism ever get under your skin? " "Of course not," came Hoover's reply." "I knew when I went into politics what I might expect, so when it came I wasn't disappointed or upset." Then Hoover looked directly into the reporter's eyes and quietly added, "Besides, I have peace at the center, you know." Hoover had peace. Why? Because he knew the Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ was at his center. If you would like to know the Savior, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Let's talk about Him. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 21, 2005
Topic: The Big Bang
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Ken Klaus answers questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. A listener writes, "I recently found out that my daughter's school is teaching students the "Big Bang Theory" concerning the beginning of the universe. Should I be angry with them for doing that?"
KLAUS: These questions don't get easier, do they?
ANNOUNCER: This is a tough one.
KLAUS: First, don't get mad at the teacher. I know a great many Christian teachers who have to teach what they're told to teach. Don't get mad at the School Board. They're only going along with popular opinion.
ANNOUNCER: Well, who should our listener get mad at?
KLAUS: Maybe I should have said this right away: "Don't get mad at anybody." These issues often get all wrapped up in emotions. Getting mad isn't going to help your daughter, her relationships, her classroom success or her teacher. Don't get mad at anybody. It doesn't do any good.
ANNOUNCER: So, is it OK for schools to teach the Big Bang Theory?
KLAUS: No, didn't say that. Mark, before we go any further, I ought to give a super-simple definition of what the Big Bang Theory is.
KLAUS: The Big Bang is a scientific theory which tries to describe the early development and shape of the universe. It generally refers to a point in time when the universe began to expand.
ANNOUNCER: How long ago would that have been?
KLAUS: According to the theory, about 13-and-a-half billion years ago.
ANNOUNCER: But that's a lot more time than the Bible ever talks about.
KLAUS: A lot longer, and that's part of the problem. The Big Bang Theory is a way that some scientists try to explain everything they see around them. Since science cannot, by virtue of its limitations, bring God into the equation, they have to try and explain the universe without Him.
ANNOUNCER: But I would think a creation has to begin with a Creator.
KLAUS: Most Christians think that way. But because of separation of Church and State, our state schools aren't able to teach the Christian position. They can't bring God into the picture. From their point of view, it's like this. They say, "Since we can't teach any particular religion's creation, we will teach one without religion," and that is the Big Bang.
ANNOUNCER: Now some would say that kind of teaching actually promotes a secular religion.
KLAUS: And that wouldn't be too far off the mark. At any rate, that is what has this man upset. He finds that his daughter is learning a universe construct that doesn't have room for God in it.
ANNOUNCER: And he wants to know what to do.
KLAUS: Actually, he wanted to know if he should be angry.
ANNOUNCER: But we answered that right off the bat, "no."
KLAUS: I did, and that's the right answer.
ANNOUNCER: But, could you give him anything more helpful?
KLAUS: I think we ought to. First, we should let the man know that this isn't the first time Christians have differed from the official state position. When the first Christians went out, they went into a world that had a different set of state gods, a different creation story, a different explanation of things.
ANNOUNCER: And how did they deal with it?
KLAUS: Well, they recognized that, by God's grace, they were different and they taught their children what God said.
ANNOUNCER: So the children knew that the Bible taught one thing, but the average person on the street probably believed something else?
KLAUS: That's right. But these parents also taught their children who was right. And that's a pretty good suggestion for our man. His daughter is being taught a theory which cannot be proven. It is an explanation, just as Scripture's creation is an explanation. Both are received by faith. One faith comes from man, the other comes from God.
ANNOUNCER: But both are received by faith?
KLAUS: Right, one comes from God's inspired Word; the other is this generation's explanation of certain facts. Anyone who says the Bible is full of baloney hasn't really taken a complete look at the Big Bang. All I can say in the short time that we have is that a person's opinion will be based on whom they trust.
ANNOUNCER: And, like you said, this isn't the first time something like this has come up.
KLAUS: Not at all. Let me tell you a story. Maybe our listener can use it. I've been told that Charles I of England ordered preachers to read a proclamation ordering people to return to sports on Sunday. A lot of ministers refused to do so. One pastor, however, did read the proclamation. Then the pastor read from the Bible: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." He concluded: "Brethren, I have laid before you the commandment of your king and the commandment of your God. I leave it to you to judge which of the two ought rather to be observed."
ANNOUNCER: Here, too, we have the word and wisdom of men and the Word and wisdom of God.
KLAUS: Right. During the course of her life, this little girl will hear a great many ideas. She will hear from men and she will hear from God. What she will do, I cannot say. But through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will teach her to discern what is true.
ANNOUNCER: Like the disciples said, "We must obey God rather than men."
KLAUS: And we should add, it's far wiser to believe God rather than men.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music selections from this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by John Leavitt. Concordia Publishing House/SESAC
"O Christ, Our Light, O Radiance True" setting by Richard Resch. From With Angels & Archangels by the Kantorei (© 1998 Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana)
"Beautiful Savior" From On My Heart Imprint Your Image by Kathryn Peperkorn. (© 2003 Christ Lutheran Academy)
“The God of Abraham Praise” by Michael Burkhardt. From Hymn Improvisations, vol. 1 by Michael Burkhardt (© 1993 MorningStar Music Publishers)
"Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" by Timothy Albrecht. From Grace Notes by Timothy Albrecht (© 1997 ACA Digital Recording, Inc.) Augsburg-Fortress/SESAC