"First Impressions" #73-18
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 15, 2006
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: John 1:45-46
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Satan wishes to deny those words of the resurrection angel; the world tries to redefine those words, but God's truth remains: Jesus of Nazareth who was dead has risen, and because He has carried the sins of lost humanity, because He has completed the Father's work of salvation, all who believe on Him are saved.
Political correctness. We live in an age of political correctness. Political correctness is a good thing when it protects an individual from stereotyping, discrimination, bigotry, intolerance, injustice, and prejudice. Everyone I know is 100 percent in favor of that kind of political correctness. Everyone I know struggles and strives to be inoffensive to, and respectful of, the religions and races, attitudes and attributes, backgrounds and choices of others. Still, being politically correct can be a struggle. Sometimes, without any malicious intention, I find myself being politically incorrect and stepping on someone's toes. Without thinking a bit about political correctness I have actually used the term fireman, rather than the politically correct fire-fighter; I have spoken about hanging my Christmas lights, but now I'm told I ought to be using the more acceptable, and politically correct, holiday lights. In years past I could speak at a high-school and call the first year scholars: freshmen. No longer. That's politically incorrect, or so I've been told. These young people are ninth-graders. It amazes me that nobody seems to have taken a similar stand to protect the sophomore classes from being verbally scarred by the term: "wise-fools," which is what the word sophomore means when it's translated from the Greek.
Ours is an age of political correctness. Political correctness bars us from telling jokes about the priest, the rabbi, and the minister going into a bar; political correctness stops one city, state, or country from being amused by the hilarious antics and the humorous actions of a neighboring city, state, or country. Political correctness absolutely forbids us from relating the most amusing foibles of the intellectually challenged blonde.
Am I exaggerating? I am not. It was only a few months ago that I overheard a conversation being conducted by two Lutheran school principals. One, in jest, asked the question, "How many Lutheran pastors does it take to change a light bulb?" The other principal replied, "Five. One to change the light bulb and the others to talk about how good the old light bulb was." The joke teller said, "Nope, that's not the right answer." He repeated the question, "How many Lutheran ministers does it take to change a light bulb?" Then he answered the question, himself: "One. The minister takes the light bulb, holds it up in the air, and stands very still." Confused, the second principal asked, "And how does that change the light bulb?" "Well," said the joke-teller, "the light bulb gets changed because every Lutheran minister thinks the world revolves around him." I thought that joke was pretty funny. Still do. But another Lutheran minister who also overheard the conversation, didn't. Offended, he butted into the conversation and gave the joke-teller a tongue lashing like you wouldn't believe. I felt sorry for the guy. Man-oh-man. Excuse me, person-oh-person, the principal was just trying to tell a joke.
Ours is a politically correct age. It has not always been that way. Scripture records a fine example of political incorrectness. Let me tell you what I mean. Jesus was at the very beginning of His ministry. He had shown up at the Jordan River and had been baptized. The greatest man who had ever lived, John the Baptist, had pointed Jesus out as being God's Son, the sacrificial Lamb who would take away the sins of the world. Having heard John's unique endorsement, two of John's followers, out of curiosity, decided to find out more about Jesus. They followed Him, questioned Him, spent some hours with Him, and were convinced that Jesus was, indeed, someone special.
The feeling that Jesus was someone special was shared by another man that Jesus called to follow Him... an individual by the name of Philip. Now, I don't know how, or where, or when Philip had first been impressed by Jesus. I don't know if Philip was at the Jordan, or if he had heard the Baptizer speak about the Lord. I do know that Philip was absolutely overwhelmed with excitement at being asked to follow the Savior. So great was his exhilaration and enthusiasm at Jesus' invitation that he couldn't stop himself from sharing the good news with one of his friends, a man from the small town of Cana, named Nathanael. You can almost hear a breathless Philip, a barely-able-to-contain-himself Philip make the announcement to his pal: "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." In all probability, the words of Philip's announcement were run together, spilling out, without room for him to take a breath.
Philip's reaction to Jesus is not all that unusual. We get a little weird when we're in the presence of a celebrity. I remember last year, while waiting for a flight at the airport, movie and TV star, Morgan Fairchild, was there. I checked and double checked to make sure that it really was her. It was. Then I moved to a quiet place and called my wife. "Pamie," I whispered, "you won't believe this, but Morgan Fairchild is just a few feet away from me." I was excited, and I wanted her to be excited. I thought she might even say something like, "Great, make sure you get her autograph," or maybe something cute like, "Well, behave yourself." I didn't expect my wife to say what she did. She said, "That's nice dear, and is your flight on time?" What a let-down. When something happens to us, when we're excited, we want others to join us in that excitement.
I think Philip expected his friend to react with excitement when he shared the electrifying news that he had met the long-promised Messiah. I think he thought that Nathanael would jump up in gladness and gleefully join him in his rejoicing. I think he expected Nathanael to say: "Whoa, that's fantastic, bro, I'm really impressed!" I think Philip wanted Nathanael to turn just a little bit green with envy and plead, "Do you think that Jesus would mind if I join you in following Him?" While none of us can be sure exactly what Philip expected as a reaction from his friend, I'm pretty sure he didn't expect Nathanael to come back with a cold: "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
Talk about giving a politically incorrect answer: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nathanel's scathing reply reveals he has some serious issues in regard to prejudice. You may not know this, but in the ancient world, Galilee had the reputation of being a bit behind the times, of being culturally and linguistically challenged. Yet, even though the Galileans were looked down upon, most of them, people like Nathanael, derived some comfort from the fact that they weren't from Nazareth. Nazareth was the pits - even for the Galileans. Nazareth was not the place where you took your family for vacation; Nazareth wasn't the place you bought a time share. Nazareth was hidden away in the hills and was off the beaten track. It would never have been listed as one of the top ten places seniors should retire. Even so, Nathanael's first impression of Nazareth and any person or product which might come out of that little hamlet, is pretty politically incorrect. It may have been honest, but it was politically incorrect.
So, having had cold water thrown on his announcement about the Savior, what does Philip do? He doesn't walk away, mumbling under his breath at the callous and critical comment of his friend. He doesn't stand there and try to overwhelm his buddy with convincing arguments of all the good qualities that he has found in the Christ. Philip does what God's people have done in every age, what I'm doing with you right now. Philip says, "Come and see. Come and see for yourself what I'm talking about." Philip says, "Look, my friend, I don't have all the answers to all of your questions, but I think you owe it to yourself to come and see. You may be surprised, very surprised at what you find. Please, check it out."
And Nathanael did exactly what his friend asked him to do. He went and he saw Jesus for himself. In less than a minute of face-to-face time with the Savior, Nathanael found out a number of things. He found out that Jesus knew him... I mean really knew him. As Nathanael approached Jesus, the Savior commented, "Look, here is a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false." Jesus, with divine insight, had looked beyond the outside of the man and gazed into his heart. Nathanael had to have been impressed. He might even have noticed that Jesus hadn't condemned, but rather had commended him for his previous politically incorrect assessment of the Lord's home town.
Acknowledging the truth of Jesus' insight, Nathanael asks the Savior, "Where have we met before? How do I know You?" That's when Jesus really showed the divine stuff of which He is made. Jesus says, "Nathanael, you ask how I know you. OK, here's your answer. Do you remember, some time ago, when you were under the fig tree, before Philip invited you to come here? I saw you there." For some reason, a reason that Scripture doesn't go into, Jesus' bit of information sent a signal to Nathanael. Nobody can tell you exactly what was coded into Jesus' message to the man, but whatever it was, Nathanael was, in that instant, transformed. Every politically incorrect thought he had been thinking, every prejudice that his heart had been holding went out the window and the Holy Spirit saved that cynic. Nathanael acknowledged that his first impression about Jesus had been wrong. Having seen Jesus for himself, the salvaged skeptic confessed: "Rabbi, You are the Son of God, the King of Israel." In just a minute, Nathanael had seen Jesus as God's Son.
But that wasn't the end of Nathanael's observations. He spent the next three years watching Jesus; and, oh, the wonderful things he saw. Nathanael saw Jesus heal lepers, raise the dead, calm storms, and with His sacrifice, give humanity the heaven-sent hope of heaven. Nathanael saw Jesus' empty resurrection tomb, and he stood face-to-face with his living Lord. Then, having seen, Nathanael spent the rest of his life sharing the Savior; the rest of his days were occupied by inviting others to come and see their Lord. According to early church tradition, Nathanael preached in Armenia and India. One ancient report says that he was, after years of ministry, beheaded; another says the apostle was skinned alive. Either way, Nathanael, even in dying, showed the intensity of the joy that he had found in Jesus. Rather than denying his Lord and becoming politically correct, Nathanael stayed faithful to His Savior, the Son of God.
Since Nathanael was so impressed by what he found in the Savior, I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about Nathanel's words: "Teacher, you are the Son of God." Today, in many places, those words would be soundly condemned and anyone who spoke them would be roundly chastised. Do you know any politician who has the courage to say, "Jesus is the Son of God"? Society considers those words so politically incorrect that it would be political suicide for any public servant to utter them. In our courts, any justice who would confess the politically incorrect, "Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world," would soon find himself overturned. In many of our country's colleges, professors, and students who say: "Jesus is the Son of God, the Redeemer of humanity," will be branded as being politically incorrect and shunned for their parochial mindsets.
Primetime television programs pride themselves on tackling controversial subjects. Nothing is off limits. Still, what major show sponsored by a national network will ever say, "Jesus is the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the price that was paid for our forgiveness"? Every evening people sit and watch television programs where adultery is allowed, profanity is pronounced, and murder is a mainstay. Every day, in wide-screen and with high-definition clarity, the tube exposes our children to rape, incest, drug abuse, family violence, ghosts, ghouls, demons, and dangers. Not a week goes by but God's pastors and priests are depicted as being prejudiced and perverted, depraved and degenerate; God's believers are stereotyped as being biased and bigoted, unfair, unjust, unreasonable, and underhanded. But nowhere will you ever hear, nowhere will you ever see any upstanding, honorable Christian character say the politically incorrect words: "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who has shed His blood so those who believe can be saved." Not even on Christmas, the day which remembers the Savior's coming; not on Resurrection Sunday when believers recall the Lord's definitive defeat of death and devil will the words of Christ's conquest be shared.
Why? It is politically incorrect to say that Jesus is your Savior from sin. It is politically incorrect to say that God's Son was born in Bethlehem to seek and save the lost. It is politically incorrect to say that Jesus lived His entire life for you, avoiding the sins you have committed; resisting the temptations to which you have succumbed. It is politically incorrect to say that Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies which identified the promised Christ. It is politically incorrect to say that Jesus was, as your heaven-sent substitute, unduly arrested, unjustly tried, unfairly condemned to death. It is politically incorrect to say that Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb and on the third day rose again to show to the world that death had been defeated and all who believe on Him can be saved. It is politically incorrect to say these things, but they are nevertheless all true.
Do you doubt me? Many of you do. You, like Nathanael, have a wrong impression of Jesus. Maybe the devil has put doubts into your hearts that He is all I've said. Maybe foolish philosophers and pseudo-scholars have blurred your vision so you see all religions, all faiths as being the same; all ending up at the same destination. Maybe the world has knocked you down again and again, and robbed you of hope. Maybe a Christian in your life has not acted as a Christian should, and you have judged Jesus by these actions. It is even possible that a parent or a spouse has distorted your concepts concerning the Christ. I cannot say what may have caused such wrong impressions about Jesus. All I can say, if He is not your Savior, then you are not seeing Him clearly and your impressions are wrong. All I can say is, don't let your first impression be your last. All I can do is invite you to come and see.
Come, read for yourself in God's holy, inspired Word; see for yourself the great love that God has shown in the person of His sinless Son. See how Jesus loved those whom society had found to be unlovable; look how He cared for those who were incurable; listen to the words of forgiveness and hope which He gave to those who had nothing. Like Nathanael, come and see. Forgiveness and peace, a blessed today and a joyous eternity are dependent upon the Holy Spirit bringing you to see the Savior without the blinders that the world wishes to place upon you. Come and see. Put away your old impressions and get a right impression of the Lord.
Political correctness. We live in a politically correct age. That's why, if you want to be politically correct, please, feel free to think of a criminal as being "ethically challenged," make a shoplifter more respectable by calling him a "cost-of-living adjustment specialist;" refer to an individual who is lazy as someone who is "motivationally deficient." If you want, when your car breaks down, call the dealership and report that your vehicle has become "mechanically challenged." If you do that, it won't be a far step for you to say someone who has died is now "living impaired," or "metabolically challenged." In your quest for political correctness, you can do pretty much what you want. One thing you shouldn't do is be ignorant, excuse me, "factually unencumbered" or be a "non-possessor of knowledge" when it comes to Jesus and your salvation. Don't be spiritually challenged when it comes to your salvation. Scripture is clear: the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life which comes to us only through Jesus Christ our Lord. Those words may not be politically correct in society, but they are God's Words, and that should be enough. Come and see the Savior. Get a new impression of God's Son. Call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MINISTRIES (Questions & Answers) for January 15, 2006
TOPIC: Godparents - Why?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Ken Klaus answers questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. One of our listeners said, "My daughter recently had her young child baptized and she asked her brother, who is a member of another denomination, to be a godfather. But her pastor said it would be better for him just to serve as a witness rather than as a godparent. Why do you suppose he said that?"
KLAUS: Do we know what in denomination this brother hold his membership?
ANNOUNCER: Well, would that make a difference?
KLAUS: It did for me as a pastor.
ANNOUNCER: Ah, and I think that's what our listener is asking... what difference does it make?
KLAUS: You know, to answer the question, Mark, we have to probably give a little background on what a godparent's role is supposed to be.
ANNOUNCER: OK. And I imagine you're saying that to be a godparent is more than having an honorary title.
KLAUS: Exactly, although it certainly is an honor to be asked to fulfill such an important role in the life of another individual.
ANNOUNCER: So what is the role of a godparent?
KLAUS: Well, first there are the legalities. Godparents are there to testify that someone has been baptized, and that the baptism was a Trinitarian one. When I say Trinitarian, I mean the person was baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
ANNOUNCER: And not all churches believe in that.
KLAUS: No, some don't. So the first obligation a godparent has is as a legal witness. That's the position that the pastor was suggesting that the brother should fill... a witness.
ANNOUNCER: But there's more to being a godparent than just testifying that someone has been baptized?
KLAUS: Yeah, there is. Being a godparent means that an individual is also going to pray for the person who has been baptized. Now, I don't think that that was a problem for the brother... he is a member of a church, and most churches believe in prayer.
ANNOUNCER: Although he could be a member of a non-Christian sect. And wouldn't that pose a problem for a prospective godparent?
KLAUS: It would. And that is something worth saying.
ANNOUNCER: Now, what else is there to being a godparent?
KLAUS: Well, that's the part that I imagine is what is causing the pastor a problem in regard to this lady's brother.
KLAUS: As part of his responsibility as godparent, the brother would have been required to say that if circumstances warranted it, he would encourage the baptized to continue in the faith of the church where he or she was baptized.
ANNOUNCER: Now, it's important for us to say that we're not talking here about whether a godparent is a legal guardian for the person who's baptized, are we?
KLAUS: Absolutely not. Guardianship is a legal matter, and should be handled accordingly. Godparents may be designated as legal guardians, but they're not, by virtue of being at a baptism, presumed to be fulfilling that role.
ANNOUNCER: So really, what is the problem then in having someone from another, let's assume Christian, denomination stand up as a godparent at a baptism?
KLAUS: Well, simply this. Most churches, when you become a member, ask you some questions. Some of those questions basically encourage someone who is joining the congregation to say, "I accept the doctrines of this denomination to be true and correct."
ANNOUNCER: Of course.
KLAUS: Well, that would also mean, by default, that you reject the doctrines of other denominations as not being as accurate or as right as yours.
KLAUS: So, if I believe my church is right in its doctrines, how would I, or could I, in good conscience, encourage someone to be faithful to a set of beliefs that I think are wrong?
ANNOUNCER: And you certainly wouldn't take an oath to support something you don't believe.
KLAUS: You've got it.
ANNOUNCER: So it's really not an insult to the brother.
KLAUS: No, it's something some pastors do out of consideration for an individual and the beliefs that he holds.
ANNOUNCER: Finally today, are there other reasons a pastor might say, "no" to a person serving as a godparent?
KLAUS: Yes, when a person, by his or her life, has shown that they have no ability to keep that oath they're making, or any other. People whose lives are less than exemplary, who could not keep the promise if they wanted to.
ANNOUNCER: Have you found that to happen very often?
KLAUS: Far too often, I'm afraid, especially when people choose a godparent on the basis of personal or family relationship without any consideration for that individual's faith.
ANNOUNCER: So, just to sum things up today, that the role of a godparent is to pray for the baptized person, to testify that they have, in fact, been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that also to help insure that person is brought up in that faith. Thank you, Pastor Klaus. And with that we come to the end of our broadcast for another week. We thank you, the listener, for making this program part of your day and we encourage you to join us again next week. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music selections for this program:
“A Mighty Fortress” arranged by John Leavitt. Concordia Publishing House/SESAC
“The Only Son from Heaven” by John Behnke. Concordia Publishing House/SESAC
“Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” by Johann Philipp Kirnberger. From A Year of Grace by Craig Cramer. (© 2003 Dulcian Productions)
“How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” arr. by Timothy Moke and Georg Masanz. From Magnificent Christian Hymns, vol. 2 by Timothy Moke (© 2005 T. Moke Recordings) Used by permission