Father, we come praying tonight that you would reveal to us Jesus. That, God, we would not only hear about him, but that we would also hear from him. So, Jesus, we know that you’re alive and well and that you hear and answer prayer. We’re asking you to answer our prayer that we might know you and love you and trust you. For that to happen, we invite the Holy Spirit to open our minds and our eyes and our hearts to the person and work of Jesus and to give us a love for him. And so, God, I want to do a good job tonight exalting Jesus and clarifying who he is. Please enable me to do so well. Please enable the friends who have gathered to come to an understanding, or perhaps a fuller and more certain understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done. And so I give myself – we give ourselves and our time to you in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Well we’ll talk about Jesus tonight. And his name, Jesus Christ, is actually very indicative of his ministry. Jesus is the derivative of the Old Testament name Joshua, which means “Yahweh God saves,” and Christ means anointed of God – the anointed one of God come to save God’s people. And when we’re speaking of Jesus Christ, we’re speaking of someone who was born roughly 2,000 years ago in a dumpy, rural, hick town – that kind of place where guys still change the oil on their El Camino and think that wrestling is real and like women who chew tobacco. And he came from that kind of town, and he was born to a teenage girl who was conceived rather as a single mother unmarried. He was adopted by a blue-collar guy named Joseph. Like my dad, Jesus’ daddy was a guy named Joe who swung a hammer for a living. And Jesus’ life, up until about age 30, was lived in relative obscurity. He, as far as we can tell, played with his two brothers, James and Jude, who later went on to write books of the Bible, went to school and did the things that normal kids did. When he got older, the assumption is, though we are not all together certain, he probably worked a job with his dad swinging a hammer as a carpenter – if that is in fact the case. He didn’t have long hair. He had short hair. That’s a myth that he had long hair. He likely was in good shape because he was a laborer and had calluses on his hands. And he walked a lot, which probably made him be in fairly good physical condition.
Isaiah, the prophet, says that “there was no beauty or majesty in him that would attract us to him.” And so Jesus looked like a normal working guy with a lunchbox and a tool belt who was off every morning to work his job.
At about the age of 30, he began a public ministry that included preaching and teaching and healing and performing miracles and such. He ultimately was put to death because of that ministry as he continually said “I am God,” which is the subject that we will be examining in greater detail this evening.
And his resume is incredibly simple. Jesus never married, never had children, never ran for political office, never oversaw a large company, never played Texas hold ’em, never traveled more than a few hundred miles from his house, never visited a big city, never went to college. Yet Jesus Christ today is the most extraordinary, the most loved and hated, the most widely considered person in all of human history. More songs have been sung to
him, more paintings painted of him, and more books written about him than anyone who has ever lived in the history of the world.
Furthermore, we break history around his life – into B.C., Before Christ, and A.D., Anno Domini, the year of our Lord – so that our calendar literally rotates around this man, Jesus Christ.
And today there are a few billion people on planet Earth who worship Jesus Christ as God.
And when we’re speaking of Jesus, Paul warned us, in 2 Corinthians 11:3 and 4, that there would be a lot of perspectives about Jesus – a lot of opinions and a lot of false Christ’s and false impressions of Jesus. And Paul prophesied well, and exactly what he predicted would occur has in fact occurred, and today Jesus is as hot as ever. And the number of perspectives about him seems to be innumerable. And so I will tell you some of them from pop culture, the cults, religions, the famous and the infamous.
We’ll start with the Jesus of pop culture. It’s amazing how popular Jesus is today. You may have heard the hit song from Kanye West, “Jesus Walks”. People are still singing about Jesus – people that don’t even know him.
You may have seen the Rolling Stone cover wherein Kanye West is portrayed like Jesus with a crown of thorns on his head, and it simply says, “The Passion of Kanye West.”
You may have also noticed that Jesus is very popular on television. You may see him occasionally showing up on The Simpsons. He also makes the occasionally appearance on South Park often to fight Suddam Hussein or Satan. That t-shirt is forthcoming in the ensuing weeks. You may also see him on television in the comedic sketches of Carlos Mencia on his television show Mind of Mencia. And my personal favorite, you will see him prayed to repeatedly on Dog the Bounty Hunter – the guy with the big mullet. They get together, and it’s one of my favorite shows, and they pray to Jesus. “Jesus, let us capture the fugitive that has jumped bond. Let us beat him up. Let us mace him. Let us cuff him. Let us taunt him. Let us smoke a cigarette with him and then tell him that you love him.”
I love that kind of prayer. That’s my kind of prayer. You beat, mace, cuff, smoke with, and then pray with a guy for Jesus’ sake.
You may have also seen Jesus on t-shirts. He’s on a lot of t-shirts. The t-shirt I’m wearing, “Jesus is My Homeboy”, is actually worn by Madonna and Ben Affleck and Ashton Kutcher and Brad Pitt.
You may have also seen Jesus in various movies. He’s appeared in – more than 100 movies have actually been done on his life. Two of the most popular in recent memory are The Da Vinci Code and The Passion of the Christ. And probably the weirdest one ever done is the Canadian kung-fu horror comedy, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, which is just a weird film. And one of the funniest was Talladega Nights – the legend of Ricky Bobby. If you went to see that film, he really loves baby Jesus, played by – I love the fact that Will Ferrell plays the character. He does a good job. It’s funny. And he repeatedly prays to baby Jesus – actually 8lb. 6oz. baby Jesus in your golden fleece diaper. And he keeps praying, “Thank you, baby Jesus.”
And Jesus shows up in places in pop culture you would not anticipate, like he was on the cover of Popular Mechanics magazine a few years back as they were searching for the face of Jesus.
There is a 110’ tall, 750 pound Jesus hot air balloon. There’s also a Jesus monster truck for rednecks. Apparently that makes them feel like God has been a good missionary to their kind.
And what’s particularly interesting as well is that a few years ago, actually before my birth, the front man for the Beatles, John Lennon, had this amazingly controversial statement where he said, “We’re bigger than Jesus now.” And then he died, and then he saw Jesus, and Jesus said, “See, I’m bigger.” And I can only imagine John Lennon was like, “Dang it. I should have never said that we’re bigger than Jesus.”
That is the Jesus of pop culture. There’s also the Jesus of the cult that spun out of Orthodox Christianity. Some of you may have been told, “Well all religions basically believe the same thing.” Not about Jesus they don’t. For example, if you were to go to a liberal Christian or their emerging offspring, they would say that “Jesus is a good man, but not the God man. Maybe the best man who’s ever lived, but not God.”
If you were to go to a Jehovah’s Witness, they would say that “Jesus is a created being. He’s actually the archangel Michael.”
If you went to a Mormon and said, “Who is Jesus?”, they would say, “He’s not eternal God, but he’s a polygamist man who was the half brother of Lucifer that became one of many God’s.”
If you go, for example, to ask a Unitarian Universalist, they will say that ”Jesus Christ is the incarnation of Mr. Rogers – that he’s a really super-duper nice, sweet guy, and he only has nice things to say, and he wants to take everyone to Neverland.”
And if you ask a New Ager, “What do you think about Jesus?”, you’ll get a lot of opinions, but many of them will be congruent with the teachings of Deepak Chopra who said, “I see Christ as a state of consciousness that we can all aspire to.”
If you ask a Scientologist, “Who is Jesus?”, they will say that “he is an implant forced upon a thetan about a million years ago.” Some of you say, “Pastor Mark, can you explain that?”
No, I can’t for two reasons – I have never done drugs and my imagination has a limit. And secondly, I just can’t get into any religion where it is founded by a science fiction writer and Tom Cruise is the evil doppelgänger of Billy Graham. I just don’t get it. So no, I don’t understand and I don’t apologize.
And my favorite cultic view of Jesus is a Canadian, nudist, arsonist cult. That’s just fun to say – Canadian, nudist, arsonist cult. I know when I’m naked, the first thing I’m thinking is “fire”. And the Canadian, nudist, arsonist cult has decided that the name “Jesus Christ” is code word for getting high on hallucinogenic mushrooms so that then you can get naked and set things on fire, which is crazy. But I guess if you’re gonna join a cult, join a fun one, and that’s a fun one right there.
That is the varying perspectives of the Jesus of the cults. There is also the Jesus of the world religions. And again, some will say, “Don’t all religions basically believe the same thing?”
Not about Jesus. If you go to a Bahá’í, they will say that “Jesus is a manifestation of God, or perhaps a prophet of God, but inferior to Mohamed and Bahá’u’lláh.” That’s what they will say.
If you ask a Buddhist, they will say, “Jesus is not God, but he’s an enlightened man much like the Buddha.”
If you ask a Christian Scientist, they will quote Mary Baker Eddy who said, “Jesus Christ is not God.”
If you go to someone who is Hindu in heritage, you will find that they have a lot of differing views within Hinduism, but the general answer will either be, “Jesus Christ is not God, but he is an enlightened man like Krishna,” or, “If he is God, he is one of more than a million God’s, so he’s not the only God. He’s not exclusive and special.”
And if you go to those who are Muslim and in Islam, they will say that “Jesus is not God – that he is merely a man and that he’s a prophet, but he’s a prophet who is lesser than the prophet Mohamed.”
Those are the perspectives of Jesus from pop culture, the cults, and the world religions. In addition, there are many perspectives of Jesus from the famous and the infamous throughout human history.
I’ll give you some. The great atheistic philosopher, Fredrick Nietzsche, said, “Jesus died too soon. If he had lived to my age, he would have repudiated his doctrine.”
American existential psychologist, Rollo May, says, “Christ is the therapist for all humanity.” So, Jesus Christ is the great psychologist in the sky.”
Communist dictator, Fidel Castro, says, “I never saw a contradiction between the ideas that sustain me and the ideas of that symbol of that extraordinary figure, Jesus Christ.”
Not to be outdone, Mikhail Gorbachev said, “Jesus Christ was the first socialist.”
Self-described feminist, bisexual, egomaniac, Camille Paglia, says, “Jesus was a brilliant stand-up comedian.” He was the Jerry Seinfeld of his day. He was the Chris Rock, Carlos Mencia of his day. He was the Dave Chappelle of his day.
Adolf Hitler says, “In boundless love” – and who doesn’t think of boundless love when they think of Adolf Hitler. “In boundless love as a Christian and as a man, I read how terrific was Jesus’ fight for the world against the Jewish poison.” Hitler says in essence, “I love Jesus. He was a good Nazi.”
Mahatma Gandhi, the great Hindu leader, says, “I can not say that Jesus was uniquely divine. He was as much God as Krishna or Ramah or Mohamed or Zoroaster.
Now there are a seemingly infinite number of opinions about Jesus – the Jesus perspectives in pop culture, and the cults, and the religions, and the famous, and the infamous – and the question is, “Well who is Jesus with all of these differentiating perspectives?”
And what I would say to you is this – that perhaps you, like me, has had people say things about you that are not true and are projorative and negative and taken out of context and inaccurate, and what you would like if you were the subject of vicious rumor and gossip and slander is you would like the ability to speak for yourself and say, “No, this is really who I am, and this is really what I have and have not done, and this is really what I have and have not said, and this is what I really do and do not believe.” And I’m saying that we should afford to Jesus the same kindness that we would all want afforded to us where we as controversial a figure as he.
And so now that we have looked at what everyone says about Jesus, we are now going to listen to what Jesus says about himself. We’ll give Jesus an opportunity to speak for himself and to tell us who he says that he is. And what I will do in answering the question, “Is Jesus the only God?”, is I will show you 12 different ways that Jesus repeatedly, emphatically, clearly, unapologetically and unashamedly said, “I am the only God.” He said it many times in many ways. We will look at 12 ways that he said it.
The first is Jesus said that he came down from heaven. In John, Chapter 6 – it is in your notes beginning in verse 38 – Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
“At this, the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread who came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’”
Or, “Didn’t our kids go to school with this guy? Didn’t he play second base on the Little League team? Isn’t this the kid who had a hard time hitting a
curve ball? How could he say he ‘came down from heaven’? We know his mom and dad. That’s crazy talk. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ And from this time on, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Jesus said, “I came down from heaven.” Now we know that heaven is God’s house. He’s saying, “I’m God come down from heaven for a visit to the earth.”
And this is different than a near-death experience. A near-death experience is when someone says, “For a moment, I got to peek into heaven.” They will record that “I died, and I was outside of my body, and I saw a bright light, and I glimpsed into heaven, and then I came back and I’m here to tell you what it’s like.”
There are whole books written on near-death experiences. So many people have in fact died and gone into the great light to see that Elvis is there ruling over all of creation, and there’s actually a book written on near-death experiences of people who think that Elvis is God.
What we’re not talking about here is some near-death experience where a person got to glimpse into heaven for a moment. We’re talking about Jesus who says, “I am God. Heaven is my home. I’ve come down from heaven.”
Even among the world religions, there are only a handful of people who say – those who are spiritual and religious leaders – “I have seen into heaven.”
One of them who makes that claim is Mohammed, the great founder of Islam. And what he says is that he got to go to heaven on one occasion. And he says that he was taken up from a place that is now known as the Dome of the Rock. It’s the third holiest site for Muslims on the earth. It is also roughly the same area that the original Jewish temple had been built. And he says that there the angel, Gabriel, met him and he rode on a sort of heavenly animal called a Buraq and he was taken up into heaven where he was introduced to Allah God – not our God, Jesus, but Allah – and he says that there were Moses and Abraham and other biblical figures, and he says that there Allah told him that they were to begin praying five times a day.
If you’ve ever wondered, “Why does a Muslim” – an Orthodoxed consistent Muslim – “pray five times a day?”, they would say, “Because Mohamed was taken up to heaven and that’s what Allah said to do.” So five times a day, the Muslim faithful pray toward Mecca in an effort to honor what Mohamed says was the word given to him in heaven on the one day that he got to visit.
Jesus is essentially saying, “I’m superior to Mohamed. I didn’t just go up to heaven for a sneak peek. I’ve lived in heaven forever as God and I’ve come down from heaven to be here with you.”
And this is the differentiation between Christianity and other religions. Other religions are about people ascending up to God through good works and karma and progress – morality, spirituality. Christianity is not about us ascending up to God. It’s about Jesus Christ, our great God, descending down to us, becoming a man and living in human history with us in love.
Jesus’ first claim that he is God is that he came down from heaven. His second claim is that he is more than just a good man. And this is very important. A majority of people today that I have spoken to and interacted with will say that Jesus they do not believe is God or a bad man. He’s a good man somewhere in the middle. And I actually believed that until I was 19 years of age.
If you would have said, “Mark, what do you think about Jesus?”, I would have said, “He’s not God. He’s not a bad guy. He is a good enough guy. He’s a decent fellow, but I don’t think he’s God.”
The question is: Is it okay to just say, “I think Jesus is a good person.”?
Here’s what he says in Mark 10:17 and 18. It says, “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone.’” Here’s what his happening. The guy comes up to Jesus and says, “Jesus, I think you’re a good person. Can you tell me how to get to heaven?”
Jesus says, “There’s only one person who’s good and that is God alone.” See we’re all sinners. We’ve all fallen short of God’s expectations for us. We’ve all sinned in our words and our deeds and our motives and our thoughts and our actions. We’re all sinners. There’s only one person that is sinless and good, and that is God. And Jesus tells the men, “Don’t come up and tell me that you think I’m a good person unless you think I’m also God, because no one is good but God.” Jesus is saying, “If you think I am God, then you can also call me good, but don’t bifurcate between me being God and me being good and just say that I’m good, unless you’re also acknowledging that I am God, because only God is good.” Jesus is saying, “I’m not a good person. I’m God, and I am not just one of the decent citizens of the earth. I’m far more than that.” The third line of reasoning is that Jesus said he was the “Son of Man”. Let me explain this. This is a title about God the Son coming into human history as a man. God the Son literally means “God who became a human being.” That’s what it means. And this phrase appears in Daniel, Chapter 7, which is penned roughly 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. And we’ll read it here. Daniel 7:13 and 14, Daniel writes, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,” – so we will extricate that title from Daniel 7, and we will examine it in light of what Jesus says about himself and this title – “coming with the clouds of heaven.” You say, “Okay, who is this person that is up in heaven and coming down from heaven into human history – this Son of Man – this God becoming a
man – who is this?” It says that “He approached the Ancient of Days” – that is God the Father – “and was led into his presence.” And see what he was given. This is an important list. “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power.” Those are attributes of God. Also, we are told that “all peoples, nations and men of every language” – what? – “worshiped him.” Who are we talking about? God. The Son of Man is a title for the eternal, powerful, glorious God who is to be worshiped above all others and alone coming into human history as a human being. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion” – so he’s eternal – “that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” He is also a king. So the Son of Man is a title saying that God, who is to be worshiped – who alone has authority, glory, sovereign power – is eternal and the king to be worshiped; is coming into human history as a man, and he will have a father – that was his adopted father, Joseph – and he is the son of a man. Now who is this person? For hundreds of years, the Jews were awaiting the coming of the Son of Man. “Where is the Messiah? Where is God coming into human history? Where is this person that Daniel prophesied would come?” And then Jesus Christ is born and lives and he continually repeatedly refers to himself as the Son of Man. He lifts that title out of Daniel 7 and he appropriates it to himself on more than 80 occasions and he does so in all four gospels. It is Jesus’ favorite designation of himself. It’s his favorite name for himself – the Son of Man. And in so doing, Jesus says, “I have all authority, glory, sovereign power. I am eternal. I have dominion. I am the king with a kingdom and I am here to be worshiped as God.” That is how Jesus most commonly referred to himself – as that God. Forth line of reasoning is that Jesus performed miracles. Now I know in this, there are others who would say that they “have performed miracles. Other religions have miracle workers.” Listen to the words of Jesus about the distinct uniqueness and supremacy of his miracles. He says in John 10:36 through 39, “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy?” Let me explain this real briefly, because it will show up a few more times in our discussion tonight. What is blasphemy? That is when a human being says, “I am God.” Blasphemy is when a human being that is not God says, “I am God.” Jesus repeatedly, emphatically, continually said, “I am God.” And the reason he was put to death was for the crime of blasphemy – the sin of blasphemy – because he kept saying he was God. Jesus didn’t get crucified because he was nice to poor people; because he hung out with alcoholics and perverts; because he was nice to little kids; because he fed homeless people; because he had interesting parables. Nobody murdered Jesus for those reasons. Jesus was crucified because he kept saying, “I am God. I alone am God. I am the only God.” And that is blasphemy, unless it is in fact true. So Jesus says – John 10 – “Why do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” That is making himself equal with God the Father. They believe that God the Father was God, but they did not believe that Jesus Christ, God the Son, was God. “‘Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.’ Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.” They were going to try him and kill him for saying that he was God, but he escaped. It was not yet his time to die. He’s saying, “I am God. I keep telling you I’m God, and you’re very angry at me ‘cause I keep saying that I’m God. Rather than putting me to death, why don’t you examine my life and look at the miracles that I do? And ask yourself, ‘Is this a mere man, or is he doing things that only God can do?’” Jesus’ miracles include turning water into wine, walking on water, calming a storm, healing the sick, enabling the lame to walk, enabling the blind to see, taking a little boy’s lunch and feeding thousands of people with it. It also included calling Lazarus out of his grave and bring the dead man back to life. And Jesus says, “If you don’t believe my words, look at my deeds. They are congruent with what I am saying. I am God and I have authority over everything – the wind, the seas, the elements, food, and death. I have authority over all things.” And Jesus’ greatest miracle was his resurrection from death – the one that has never been duplicated by anyone. The greatest miracle that Jesus is God is that he alone came out of his grave, victorious over sin and death. Additionally, the fifth line of reasoning is that Jesus said he was God. Jesus said he was the only God. Some of you may have been told, “I don’t like Christians, but I like Jesus. Jesus was a nice guy. I never said he was God. Christians made that up. It’s myth, legend, fable and folklore. And I think Jesus is cool, but I think Christians are too narrow.” Let me say this – Christians are narrow because Jesus is narrow, and Jesus said, “Narrow is the path to eternal life and broad is the highway to destruction.” As Christians, let me say this – we are a narrow bunch because we believe that Jesus Christ alone is God, and the reason we believe that is not because we want to be intolerant or mean or rude, but because that’s what Jesus said and that’s why they killed him. And so all we’re trying to say is the same things that Jesus said. So if you don’t like Christians because they say “Jesus is God”, the real issue is between you and Jesus, because he’s the one who brought the whole thing up. It started with him. It’s not something that we invented. There are many places that I could show you that Jesus said he was God. I will give you three. One is in Mark 14:61 through 64. “Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.” The context here is this – they bring him in for a trial. Everybody says, “Jesus is God.” “What? That is blasphemy. Bring him in. We need to have a trial and we need to get to the bottom of this.” “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’” “Are you God?” What does Jesus say? “I am.” Some people say, “Jesus never said he was God.” That’s pretty clear. Even if you went to a public school, you’re like, “That seems to say, yeah, he is saying he’s God right there.” And he goes on and he quotes Daniel 7 again. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds
of heaven.” “The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked. ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’” They bring Jesus into court. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you you?” Jesus says, “Yes, I swear.” “Jesus, you’ve been charged with saying you are God. How do you plead?” “Guilty. I keep saying ‘I’m God’.” “Well then we don’t need a jury, do we? They don’t need to convene for days and debate. We don’t need to bring in eye-witnesses. We don’t need CSI to haul out all the DNA evidence. This case is done.” “Jesus, how do you plead?” “Guilty. I am God.” They say, “Well then the case is closed. The trial is over. The verdict is rendered. Jesus said on record he is God. This is blasphemy!” And it would be blasphemy if he were not God. Additionally, John 8:58, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth.” And some of you say, “Oh, I took philosophy in college. I understand epistemology, post-modernism, perspectivism, relativism. I know lots of “isms”. I went to college and I know that there is no such thing as truth. Is that true?” Something to think about. Anyways, everyone believes in truth, ‘cause we also believe in lies. Every time someone lies, you say, “That’s not true.” You’re appealing to the truth, so don’t say there is no truth. That’s lying. You’re a hypocrite. We all believe in truth, and Jesus says more than 50 times in John’s gospel, “I tell you the truth.” There is more than perspective and relativism. There is truth. And Jesus says repeatedly, “I tell ya the truth.” And here’s what he says. “‘I tell you the truth,’” – John 8:58 – “Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’” Let me unpack this. First thing he says is, “You guys love Abraham, right?” “Yeah.” “You claim to worship his God, right?” “Yeah.” “Here’s something cool – I’m that God. I know it looks like I’m 33, and I know Abraham lived about 2,000 years ago, but I was around before Abraham, because I’m the eternal God that called – saved Abraham. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am the God worshiped by Abraham.” And he says, “I am.” Where did that statement come from? It came from the days of Moses – roughly 1,400 years before the birth of Jesus – where Moses was out in the middle of nowhere and a bush started talking to him. Very interesting day. And the bush told him, “You know, I have a few million people that the mighty King Pharaoh, who’s the most powerful man on the earth – they’re being oppressed and enslaved by him. You need to go to the Pharaoh and tell him to knock it off and to let my people go.” Moses asked the obvious question, “Can I tell him who sent me? Because if I show up and say, ‘The plant is very mad,’ I don’t think that he will let a few million slaves go.” “And by what authority?” “The bush is really upset with you. I was talking to the bush.” He’s be like, “Were you smoking the bush?” And so God speaking through the bush says, “Tell him ‘I Am’ has sent you.” This incredibly sacred name for God that Orthodox Jews wouldn’t even utter for fear of committing the sin of blasphemy. And Jesus says, “I Am.” This is a clear statement that he is God. He’s the one who existed 1,400 years prior and spoke to Moses and delivered God’s people from slavery and bondage in Egypt. Here’s what he is saying. “I’m the eternal God. I’m the God of Abraham. I’m the God of Moses.” How did they respond? “At this, they picked up stones to stone him,” – which is the penalty for blasphemy; someone saying they’re in fact God – “but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” It was not yet his time to die. He said, “I am God.” And they said, “That’s it. You’re gonna die.” And he escaped. And in John 10:30 through 33, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” This is a statement of his total equality with God the Father, who they did believe was God, but they did not believe that Jesus Christ, God the Son, was God. “Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him,” – for the sin of blasphemy – “but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’” They say, “We are not stoning you for any of these, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be” – what? – “God.” Jesus says, “Why do you guys keep trying to kill me?” They say, “’Cause you keep saying you’re God.” Throughout the history of the human race, there have actually been a very short list of people who have said they are God. There is no world religion founded by anyone who said they are God other than Christianity and Jesus who said “I am God.” Mohamed said, “I’m not God.” Buddha said, “I’m not God.” Krishna said, “I’m not God.”
Gandhi said, “I’m not God.” Jesus said, “I’m God.” This is an extraordinarily unique claim. I mean can you image today if someone said they were God? I mean this is just not said. In the history of the world, a handful of people, most of them cult leaders who died horrible deaths and took their followers – the handful that they did gather – with them. Very sad and tragic. And today there is not a large number of people walking around saying “I’m God.” To double check, I went to myspace.com. I figured that’s the greatest pool of wingnuts to fish from, and so I was wondering, “Is there anyone on My Space who says ‘I am God’?” And I found one person who said they’re not God, but they’re working on it, which pretty much tells ya everything. Godhood is not something you grow into, like puberty, and I don’t think the guy’s gonna get anywhere with his religion because he’s a 26 year-old, six foot, chubby, British hairdresser who listens to a lot of Dolly Parton and doesn’t even have a lot of friends on his buddy list. So I don’t think he’s going anywhere, right? And usually most people who say they’re God, that’s about as far as it gets. We all look at him and think, “That’s so sad. They’re not altogether right. They need some meds.” And Jesus says, “I am God.” That is an incredible claim. Sixth line of reasoning is not only did Jesus say he was God, they came to him to double check and he kept confirming that he was God. Because they were going to put him to death, they were like, “Jesus keeps saying he’s God. We should go double check – make sure he keeps saying that, and that’s what he meant to say – before we kill him. Maybe he’s got dyslexia. Maybe he meant to say ‘I have a dog.’ Who knows? Maybe we misunderstood. Maybe he doesn’t communicate so well. Well let’s go double check before we kill the guy.” So they go to him in Matthew 26:63 through 65. “Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God:’” – I seriously wonder if Jesus didn’t smirk at that. Like, “Oh, that’s cute. Speaking of the living God, howdy!” – “‘Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’” “Are you God? You’re on trial today. We’re all here to hear. CNN’s here with a camera. All the reporters have no book in hand. How do you plead Jesus? Are you God? You keep saying you’re God. Do you want to recant? Do you want to change your statement? Do you want to go on record saying ‘Sorry, misunderstood.’?” “‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied.” Jesus was saying, “I am God. That’s what I keep saying and that’s what I mean. And I’m not confused and I’m not misunderstood. I’m God.” And then he goes on to quote Daniel 7 again. “‘But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” “Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.’” “This guy says he’s God. We’ve double-checked. He says he’s God.” Again, some of you will say, “Jesus is a nice guy. Christians are too narrow. They say that Jesus is God. Jesus didn’t say that.” Yes, he did. He said it repeatedly. And even when questioned to clarify or recant, he said it again. Seventh line of reasoning – Jesus said he was sinless. Can you imagine saying this? Can you imagine saying, “I have never sinned. I have done everything I was supposed to do. I have not done anything I was not supposed to do. I have never uttered a bad word. I have never worked for an impure motive. I have also never had an unclean thought. Some of you couldn’t even say “in the last 15 minutes”. I mean we’re not without sin. If I got up today and said, “I am without sin,” you wouldn’t say, “That Mark is a nice guy. He’s got some interesting things to say.” You’d say, “That guy needed to wear a bike helmet as a kid. There’s something wrong with that guy.” Here’s what Jesus says. John 8:46 – “‘Can any of you’” – he opens it up to the world, including his family, friends and enemies – “‘Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?’” And no one came forward. I would never say this, because the number of people who would come forward would be enough to start a small country. My brothers would come up and say, “Oh yes, he gave us wedgies,” and my sisters would come up and say, “Yeah, he didn’t always act nice and he said some things he shouldn’t.” And many of you have been here when I’ve said them. And I would never say I’m – how many of you would say, “I am without sin.”? None of us would say that. In fact, the old adage is, “No one is perfect.” Well Jesus says, “Except of me.” And see, we believe that the most spiritual and holy people are the most humble and repentant. The person who says, “I’m not perfect. I’ve got lots of mistakes and flaws. I’ve blown it plenty of times,” we trust that person because they’re not proud and arrogant and self-righteous. They’re humble and they’re repentant and their truthful. If Jesus said this, he’s not a good humble man. If it’s not true, he is not a good humble man. He is an arrogant, self-righteous jerk. That’s who he is if he’s not telling the truth. And it’s interesting because people don’t say they’re not sinners. Mohamed said, “I’m a sinner.” In the Koran he says, “I’m a mere man just like you – a mere mortal.” Gandhi says, “I’m a sinner.” Buddha says, “I’m a sinner.” Krishna says, “I’m a sinner.” Billy Graham says, “I’m a sinner.” The great Mother Theresa says, “I’m a sinner.” Jesus says, “I’m not. I’m not a sinner.” I was thinking about it. What an extraordinary claim it is to say that you’re without sin. I mean you think about the best people you know – the most pious, upright, moral. Could you even fathom one of them saying “I have never sinned.”? That’s an extraordinary claim. Again, I was wondering, does anyone in the world today say they’re without sin? So I went to Google and I piped in the word “sinless”. One of the
first things that came up in the search was a strip club in Great Britain called “Sinless”, which pretty much proves my point that no one is sinless. And when we live in a world that has a strip club called “Sinless”, we’re all pretty much wicked to the core. That’s the point. Not only did Jesus say he was without sin, my eighth line of reasoning that Jesus is God is that he said that he could forgive sin. Now this is an astonishing claim.
Some will say, “Well I could teach you about reincarnation and good works and karma and going to purgatory and confessing your sins to the priest, or going to Mecca, and here are some ways you can get rid of your sins.” Jesus says, “You don’t need any of that. You just need me. I’ll forgive you.” He says this, for example, in Mark 2:5. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”
This is an astonishing claim. In Psalm 51:4, the Psalmist says, “Against you only, Lord, have I sinned.” We do sin against people, but ultimately all of our sin is committed against God, therefore God is the only one who can truly forgive us. And in Jesus Christ declaring “I forgive you of sin,” he is saying, “All the sins you’ve ever committed were ultimately against me. I’m the one true eternal God and I’m here to forgive you.” That’s an extraordinary claim that’s unparalleled by any religious leader. That is an unbelievable statement. “Not only do I have no sin, I alone am God who forgives sin.” If you’re here today and you have sin, as I do, as we all do, we all need Jesus. He alone is the way to have sin forgiven, and he made the forgiveness of sin possible. He lived a sinless life in our place. He died a substitutionary death on a cross in our place paying the penalty for sin, which is death. And then he died and he rose, and three days later he came back to life. And through the person and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, sin can and will be forgiven. And there is no forgiveness of sin apart from Jesus. He is the only one that we have ultimately sinned against. He is the only one who can forgive us. He is the only one who has paid for our sin. He is the only one who will forgive us. Again, this is an extraordinary claim. Some of you would say, “I think Jesus is a good guy.” Look, if Jesus is telling people that their sins can be forgiven and they can’t be forgiven, and people are dying in hope and faith trusting in him and he’s a liar, he’s really not a good man. He’s an evil man. He’s a con man. Ninth line of reasoning – Jesus told people to pray to him as God, and this is a big deal. We’re only supposed to pray to God. Only God is eternal so that past, present and future people can pray to him. Only God is all-knowing, so only God could hear all of our prayer requests, and only God is all- powerful able to answer them. And Jesus says, “I’m the God you need to pray to.” He says this in John 14:13 through 14. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” And John 15:7 – “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Again, Jesus said, “Pray to me and I’ll answer it. I’m God. I can hear all the prayers. I am without beginning or end. I’m eternal. I’m good for everyone. And also, I have the power to answer prayer.” Now let me submit this to you. You can not say that Jesus was a good person, because if he is not God, this is a cruel thing – people who are sick asking Jesus to heal them in prayer; every night, parents tucking in their little kids and praying for Jesus to guard and protect and give them good dreams; people who are sick asking Jesus to heal them. People who are on their death bed are praying to Jesus, “Jesus, I love you. Take me into your kingdom.” Look, if Jesus is just a dead con man, he’s not a good man. He’s a bad man. And all the people today – a few billion on earth – that pray to him are not praying to a good man who told us nice things. If he’s not God, we are wasting our time and wasting our breath and wasting our hope, and Jesus Christ is a despicable and deplorable and disgusting person who has pulled the biggest con in the history of the world. Tenth line of reasoning – Jesus promised to judge all people as God. We live our life. We die. Then we stand before God and we give an account. God knows our life. God knows our heart and our mind, and God renders a verdict as to our eternal destiny of heaven or hell. Statistically, most people believe in heaven and hell. Most people also believe that they are going to heaven and everyone else is going to hell. Ultimately, this will be decided by Jesus. He says this in John 5:22 through 24. He says, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” “‘I tell you the truth,’” – he keeps saying that – “‘whoever hears my words and believes me and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’” Jesus says, “I am God. I know your life, your heart, your mind. In the end, you will stand before me and give an account, and I will judge you, and I will decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.” Now some of you may be here saying, “I hate Christians ‘cause they’re so judgmental. No one can judge me. You’re not better than me. You can’t judge me.” Jesus says, “Actually, I’m better than you,” – that’s what Jesus says here – “and I can and will judge you because I’m God.” I was watching a VH1 confessions with Jenna Jameson – the worlds most notorious and popular porn star. It was on regular TV. There were no pictures, if that’s what you were thinking. And they just asked her about her life. And the world’s most popular adult film star said, “I’m a Christian,” which I found curious. And they asked her the obvious question, “How can you be a Christian adult film star?” She got a little bit indignant and said, “No one can judge me but God.” Some of you are living with that attitude. “No one can tell me what to do. No one’s better than me. I’m a good person. No one has the right to judge me. ” Jesus says, “I do. I’m better than you. I’m without sin. I came down from heaven. I’m God who knows everything. You will die and stand before me, and heaven and hell will be decided by me, and I will judge you.”
Friends, that is an extraordinary claim. Other religious leaders that founded other religions, they don’t tell you that they will judge you in the end. They say that God will, and Jesus says, “I am that God.” Eleventh line of reasoning – Jesus said not only did he come down from heaven, but he is the only way to heaven. You want to go to heaven? You want to die and live in a place better than this forever? Do you believe in heaven like most people do? Do you want to be in heaven forever – a world without sickness, sin, death, war, injustice, racism, sexism, classism, exploitation and abuse? Say, “I’d like to go to heaven. How do I get there?”
Jesus said he is the only way that we can possibly get to heaven. He says this in John 14:6. Jesus says – and again, this is the narrow way of Jesus. This is the exclusivity of Jesus. He says, “I am the way” – singular and exclusive. You say, “What about the Buddhist and the Jews and the Muslims and the Atheists and the Agnostics and the moral people and the post-moderns and the existentialists and those who have varying opinions and those in the New Age?”
Jesus says, “I am the way” – singular and exclusive. “I am the way. I am the truth.” “Well there’s a lot of opinions.” “Yeah, but there’s one truth. There’s a lot of opinions, but there’s one truth. I am the way,” – singular and exclusive – “the truth,’ – singular and exclusive – “the life. No one” – You say, “What about everybody else with a different opinion?” “No one comes to the Father,” Jesus says, “but by through me.” This is an astonishing claim. If Jesus were alive today and made this claim, he would get killed again. If he walked into the Jewish synagogue and said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one gets to heaven but by me,” and then he walked down to the mosque and said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one gets to heaven but by me.” If he walked into the philosophy department at the local college and said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one gets to heaven but through me,” the Prof would say, “We have a lot of opinions.” And Jesus says, “I tell you the truth.” That is an astonishing claim. Again, some of you will say, “Christians are so narrow.” No, Christ is narrow, and narrow is the way to eternal life and broad is the path to destruction. He says it as well in John 11:25. Jesus says to a woman, “I’m the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies.” Other people will tell you “I know this path, and if you walk on it, you can have eternal life.” Jesus says, “I am the path. There is no heaven. There is no forgiveness of sin. There is no eternal life. There is no reconciled relationship with God the Father but by me. I am the way. There’s no other way. I am the truth. Everything else is a lie. I am the life. Everything else leads to death.” This is an extraordinary claim. Now you know why they killed him – not just because he fed homeless guys and told cute stories, but because he said things like this. And he died and he rose and he ascended back into heaven where he said that he came from, and in so doing, he gives us the prototype of our future. If we give our sin to him, ‘cause he alone can forgive it, and we do so in prayer, ‘cause he told us to pray to him, then we will die, and we will rise as he rose, and we will ascend into heaven as he ascended. My twelfth line of reasoning – the last way in which Jesus said he was God is that Jesus claimed authority and supremacy over all people – all political parties, all races, all genders, all nations, all religions, all cultures, all beliefs and all sexual orientations. We’re in Seattle so I tried to get everybody. That’s all I could think of. Jesus is supreme over everyone and everything. Jesus is a category all by himself as the only God. He says it this way in Matthew 28:18. After his resurrection it says that “Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth’” – that’s an extraordinary claim. “Not only am I in authority over everyone on the earth, I’m authority over all the angels in heaven. All authority in heaven and on the earth has been given exclusively to me.” What that means is Jesus rules over angels and demons. Jesus rules over gay, straight, bisexual, transgender. Jesus rules over Buddhists, Bahá’í’s, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Unitarians, Atheists, Agnostics, Scientologists. Jesus rules over men and women. Jesus is God over children and adults. Jesus is God over all nations, kings, kingdoms, princes, queens, princesses – everybody. Jesus rules over all philosophies, post- modernism, modernism, logical positivism. He rules over naturalism. He rules over existentialism. “All authority has been given to me in heaven and earth,” Jesus says. This is astonishing. Those of you who walked in here and said, “I think Jesus is a pretty nice guy,” Jesus says, “I’m a whole lot more than that.” The question then is simply this: What is your response to these extraordinary and unparalleled claims of this man Jesus – the man who claimed to be God? In Matthew 16:15, some people came to Jesus and they said, “Jesus, everybody’s talking about you and there’s a million opinions. It’s going crazy. The bloggers have lost their mind. Everybody’s got an opinion about who you are.” Jesus looks at them and he asked this penetrating question. He says, “Who do you say that I am? Don’t quote the philosophers. Don’t quote the t-shirt. Don’t quote the bumper sticker. Don’t quote the religious leader. Who do you say that I am?” My dear friends, that is the question that Jesus is asking you tonight. Who do you say that he is, and you and you and you and you and you and you and you and you and you, and you standing in the back, and you guys, and you guys, and you and her and him? Who do you say that he is? Who do you say that he is? This is the question that we have to answer. Isn’t it curious that we have all these questions about Jesus? He answers them and then he has a question for us. “Who do you say that I am?” Everything hinges on this question. This is the most important question. This is the question above all other questions. That’s why I start our first of 12 weeks with this question, ‘cause in some ways, this is the question. For the first 18 years of my life until I was 19 years of age, I would have said, “Jesus is a really good guy, but he’s not God.” I think that is the most common answer today. That is also the answer that a great scholar named C. S. Lewis held until he became a Christian much later in life, and he writes something that I want to read to you. He says this. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic
on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg,” – that’s a great line – “or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool. You can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Lewis in essence says, “We must each answer the question after Jesus has made these extraordinary claims which must be answered. We can not say, ‘He was a good person.’” Likewise, I am not God, but if I got up here today and said, “Hello, my name is Mark. I am the eternal God prophesied in the Old Testament. I have come down from heaven. I have never sinned. I alone can forgive sin. I’m the only one who really tells the complete truth. I am the only way to eternal life. Apart from me, there is no God. Trust in me. Pray to me and I will hear your prayers and I will answer your prayers. And if you devote yourself to me, I will take you into heaven, because that is where I rule and reign as God. And I have authority over all peoples, times, places, religions, sexualities, cultures, philosophies and perspectives. If that were not true, you should not say, ‘Mark’s a pretty good guy.’”
No, Mark is the worst man who has ever lived if Mark were to say anything like that. And I never would. For the record, I am not God, so don’t blog it out. I’m using an analogy. And what Lewis says is – you only have three options, dear friend. One, Jesus Christ is a lunatic. He’s a wingnut. He’s a nut job. Anyone who says those sorts of things has something wrong with them. He’s not thinking straight. He needs professional help. He needs medication. He is not coherent. He is crazy. He’s a lunatic.
Second option is, he knew what he was saying and he was malicious and sadistic and he’s a liar. He’s the worst liar who’s ever lived. He’s told the greatest lie that’s ever been told and billions of people have bought into a false hope. And people are praying to Jesus and singing to Jesus and sharing Jesus with their friends and marking human history by Jesus and giving ten percent of their income to Jesus, and what a ridiculous waste of time, energy, talent, money and hope for a cruel dead liar. He’s either a lunatic. He’s a liar. Or as Lewis says, “He’s the Lord and he wasn’t crazy and he wasn’t lying. He was and is who he said he was.”
Friends, we would just tell you today, you’ve got to answer this question about Jesus. You must. Not answering the question is an answer – an answer that Jesus is not God. The right response, the one we encourage you to, is to worship Jesus Christ as God. If you’re here today and you’re a sinner, you need Jesus. You can become a Christian by simply asking him to forgive you and be your God. He will. He knows your heart and mind. He hears your prayers and he will answer them. He told you to pray to him. Pray to him. Become a Christian and worship him as God.
In his life, Jesus was worshiped by people and he didn’t rebuke them saying, “Oh, I’m sorry. You misunderstood. I’m not God.” He received their worship. This includes a man he healed who worshiped him as God and he received it. This includes a woman and other women who worshiped him as God and he received her. This included the doubting disciple, Thomas, who fell at his feet after seeing him risen from death and said, “My Lord and my God,” and he worshiped him. And our response is to be the same as Thomas – to fall at his feet and say, “My Lord and my God, I worship you.” Jesus’ own two brothers worshiped him as God. James and Jude became Christian pastors who wrote books of the Bible bearing their name. If he would have sinned, they would have known it. Jesus’ closest friends worshiped him as sinless God. Had he ever sinned, they would have known it. They lived with him for three years. Jesus’ own mother, Mary, was part of the early church, worshiped her son as God. And I assure you of this – if anyone were to know whether or not her boy were a good man or a bad man, a truth teller or a liar, a sinner or a sinless man, it would have been his mom. And they all worshiped Jesus, including him enemies – men like Saul who hated Christians – murdered them until he became a Christian who worshiped Jesus as the only God. That is the right response as the worship of Jesus. And when we encourage you to worship Jesus, we do not take that lightly. The first two commandments say there is one God, and that God alone is to be worshiped – no one and nothing else. And in worshiping Jesus, we are declaring there is one God – that’s Jesus – and we worship him alone as God. And the Bible says we are to believe this in our heart and we are to confess this with our mouth. We ask you today to believe this in your heart and to confess it with your mouth. We confess it by partaking of communion, which is showing that Jesus’ body was broken and his blood shed for us. By singing songs of worship and praise, that is how we corporately together confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is not a lunatic; that he is not a liar; that he in fact is our Lord. We give of our tithes and offerings to help extend the news of Jesus, and if you’re a non-Christian or a visitor, don’t give. For the rest, give as God leads. And then we will leave here to live our lives as acts of worship to Jesus. It’s now between you and Jesus. My whole goal, dear friends, is to say that it’s all about Jesus; to reveal to you Jesus; to introduce to you Jesus; to show you the exalted Lord, God, Savior, Jesus Christ. And now I give you the opportunity to respond to him. I will pray. Lord Jesus, you told us to pray to you and so I’m praying to you now and I am asking that you would open the hearts of minds of those who are hearing these words so that they might see you as you are – not just a good man, but the God man; not just a spiritual man, but as God; not just as yet another religious leader, but the only religious leader who said he was God – because he alone is God, the only God. Jesus, I thank you that you are the eternal God of glory and power and might and sovereignty and rule. I thank you that you came down from heaven. I thank you that you never did sin. I thank you that you told the truth. I thank you that you revealed to us repeatedly, clearly, emphatically, unapologetically, that you are the only God. I thank you for going to the cross to suffer and die, falsely accused of blasphemy when you were just a truth teller. I thank you for your miracles and your greatest miracle of resurrection. I thank you for your ascension that it points for us the path to eternal life – that if we are linked with you, that we will find ourselves together with you forever in that great kingdom. I thank you that you are alive and well today. And that all authority on heaven and earth as been given to you. And I thank you that you hear and answer our prayers, that you see and forgive our sins, and that you have gone to prepare a place for us, Amen.
Jesus claimed to be God, but is his claim exclusive? Or, is Jesus one of many gods through him we find salvation?