Who Do You Say I Am? ~ April 07, 2019 ~ Luke 9:43b-49
This was surely an exciting time to be a disciple! In chapter 9 of Luke, Jesus had just fed the 5,000 (which we know was really ten or twelve thousand people), He had revealed who He truly was to Peter, James, and John on the mountain in what we call the Transfiguration, and He just healed a demon-possessed boy right up to our reading this morning. So, would you join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the word of God? Let us pray.
Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
So, Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed boy, and in verse 43 we pick up our reading this morning:
While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.” But they didn’t know what he meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
Then his disciples began arguing about which
of them was the greatest. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little
child to his side. Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child
like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my
Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”
The disciples didn’t know what He meant. The significance was hidden from them. Sounds like – are you familiar with selective hearing? Teens have it, did you know that? It goes something like this:
“Jimmy, do your laundry and afterwards, you can go to the movies!” to which Jimmy hears, “Sweet! I can go to the movies!” And then you walk by his hamper a little while later, it’s still full of dirty clothes, Jimmy’s nowhere to be found. When he finally gets home, you say to him., “Where have you been?” He says, “At the movies!” “I told you you could go to the movies AFTER you did your laundry!” “What? You never said anything about laundry!”
That sound familiar? Anybody got teens yet?
Men have selective hearing too; did you know that ladies? Is that familiar to you at all? That goes something like this:
When a woman says, “Honey, this house is a mess! You and I need to clean this! Your stuff is all on the floor, and you will be without clothes if you don’t wash them now!” What we hear is, “Honey, blah blah blah blah, you and I, blah blah blah, on the floor, blah blah blah, without clothes, blah blah blah, now!” Selective hearing!
Yes, we have selective hearing, and it appears that the disciples were listening to Jesus’ words, but they didn’t hear what He was saying. He was saying He was going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, and they didn’t know what He meant, couldn’t understand the significance, and they were afraid to ask questions. Now, we can understand that, right? You probably have been in a situation – either at home, or at your place of employment – and you’ve heard something that you didn’t quite know if you heard it correctly, you didn’t quite understand, but you did not want to ask any questions because you were afraid of what the answer might be. Ignorance is bliss, they say.
Is it really? Is ignorance bliss?
In 1964, Surgeon General Luther Terry issued his report about the dangers of smoking. The next year, warning labels were placed on packs of cigarettes, which said: “Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy. Smoking by pregnant women may cause fetal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight.” Would you rather not know that? Ignorance is bliss, right?
Today, did you know you can go on some websites where you can check out who in your neighborhood has been convicted of a sex offense? Would you like to know that, or is ignorance bliss?
The disciples spent three years with Jesus, and they still did not know, or did not want to know, about Jesus’ death or why it was necessary. I can’t be the only one here. Have you ever wondered – they missed it? The disciples? Really? They ate with Him, they fished with Him, they walked with Him, they slept on the ground next to Him, they watched and saw all these amazing things happen – and they missed it? They weren’t completely sure, based on our reading, “What? Betrayed by your enemies? I don’t get it. I don’t understand.”
Before we get too arrogant… they missed it back then for the exact same reasons people still miss it today. We are so focused on ourselves. This is a world full of narcissists. One word: Facebook. I can’t understand for the life of me why people think I really care what happens in their daily life! Where they went shopping, the new shirt that they bought, what they had for dinner. I don’t care! So many people are obsessed with how many likes their last web post got. I just saw a documentary recently. It’s true, psychologists are recognizing that teens, young people, are getting their self-worth based upon how many likes they get on social media. If they don’t get enough, they begin to feel bad about themselves. We are the generation that invented the selfie! Why do you think I want to see 72 different pictures of your face? It used to be, “Look at this great, beautiful, budding tree.” “Look at this incredible landscape.” “Look at this famous person.” Now it’s, “Look at me, in front of this beautiful tree!” “Look at me in front of this great landscape!” “Look at me in front of this person!” It’s all about us, and we miss it. It was all about them, they thought (I’ll explain that in a minute). Jesus is talking about substitutionary atonement, meaning that He, as the Lamb of God, will be the sacrifice, which will atone for our sins. That’s what this table is all about. And these guys, they might as well be taking selfies. “Look at me, watching Jesus heal this guy!”
They are thinking about themselves. They are jockeying for a position in Jesus’ coming kingdom. They don’t even understand what the Messiah was supposed to do. They still thought that the Messiah was going to be someone who rolled into Jerusalem and took over, kicked out the bad guys and set up a government with the new guys. A warrior, not somebody who gets nailed to a cross. And they wanted to be a part of that! That’s why it says in verse 46:
Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.
Now, that argument was not – this is not a Muhammad Ali thing. Remember Muhammad Ali? He had some great lines.
“If you even dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize!”
“I’m the greatest thing that ever lived, I’m the king of the world! I’m a bad man. I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived! My only fault is that I don’t realize how great I really am!”
“I’m so fast, that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before it was dark!”
“I am the greatest… I said that even before I knew I was!”
That was a schtick. That was good marketing. That’s not what we’re talking about here. They really weren’t arguing about who was best among them. The disciples believed that Jesus, as the Messiah, would destroy the Roman occupation, overthrow them, and restore the kingdom of Israel as it was in the days of David and Solomon; and in many ways, it’s not that different today. The disciples were projecting onto Jesus what they thought Jesus was supposed to do, and we do the same thing. We project onto God, onto Jesus, what we think God should be like. What we think God should do. And it goes like this, you’ve heard it:
“Well, my God would
“Well, my God would never do…”
“My God would never believe…”
And you’re right. Your God would do or not do everything you just said, because you just made him up. You just invented him. Like Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, or Ceres, the god of the harvest; or like Shiva, and Laxmi, and Ganesh, Hindu gods; or the flying spaghetti monster! None of those gods exist either. They’re not real. God was very clear in Isaiah 43:
“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says
the Lord. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me,
and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God – there never has
been, and there never will be”
In fact, the first commandment is what? You shall have no other god before me! Now, that doesn’t mean out of all these other choices, you’ve got to choose me. He’s saying there are no other choices! All those other gods (so-called gods) aren’t real, including the one you just invented.
You see, when we project onto the Lord our personal values, our personal morals, our personal ethics and standards, what we’ve basically done is create for ourselves our own personal designer god. And he, or she, or it has absolutely no connection to the God of this Book. They are just figments of our imagination. We’re not supposed to project onto the Lord; the Lord is supposed to project onto us.
Well, the disciples still thought that Jesus would be some sort of warrior king, like Alexander the Great, who would raise a great army and storm into Jerusalem and restore the kingdom of Israel; and once the kingdom of Israel was again the premier power in all the known world, they wanted high-ranking positions in the new administration. Matthew takes this story and flushes it out a little deeper. And he says, specifically, that’s what they’re interested in. They want, specifically, important positions in the new government, the one that Jesus is going to set up. The one that they think Jesus is going to set up. The one that they project onto Him that He is supposed to set up. Imagine how surprised they are when Jesus says, “Uh, guys, whoever is least among you is the greatest. Servants, not rulers, will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Wow, that’s good to know, because ignorance is not bliss.
The disciples at this point could not grasp the need for Jesus to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, for Jesus to die. The question is, have we? Do we truly understand why Jesus came, why He had to come? You see, I believe a lot of people, whether they know it or not, still think of Jesus as a warrior king, that He came to fight spiritual battles for me, because we read Ephesians 6:12:
For we are not fighting against
flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen
world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in
the heavenly places.
And we’re thinking, “Yeah, I just need a bigger, more powerful guy in my corner than Satan has in his corner, and that’s Jesus’ job, to fight the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world!” That’s what some people think.
The disciples think that Jesus would overthrow Rome and restore the kingdom of Israel, and they would get a great position – a position of power and authority in the new government – and well, some people today think that Jesus came to fight their battles and keep them safe from harm. What do you think? How do you answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” Did Jesus come simply to be our personal bodyguard? So that we can have a life of peace, joy, love, fulfillment and lasting happiness? Do we think that? Because ultimately, Jesus came for neither. He had no plans to be an earthly ruler – not this time, when He comes back, totally different story – but this time He had no plans to be an earthly ruler, nor did He come to ensure that we would have lives of peace, joy, love, fulfillment and lasting happiness. And that’s important to know, because there are people out there who are expecting a life of rainbows and unicorns once they have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. And when their life does not turn out to be filled with peace, joy, love, fulfillment and lasting happiness – I mean, has yours? – well, when it does not they can get bitter, and angry, and they can reject the message of Jesus and the gospel because they feel it’s all a lie. They don’t understand, they haven’t asked the right questions. The truth is, those people have the same problem that the disciples had. They are projecting onto Jesus what they believe, what they want. The disciples apparently were not sure who Jesus really was or why He came. Are we? Because nowhere in Scripture does it say that Jesus came to give us a life of peace, joy, love, fulfillment and lasting happiness, or to put us in charge of anything. Sorry. It’s not in there.
Why did Jesus come? Jesus came because we are sinners, and if someone dies in their sin, they suffer God’s wrath, and they go to hell. I didn’t make that up, that’s what the Book says. The Book also tells us God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, so He needs to do something about the sin. First, God gets rid of the sin by killing the sinners. That’s the Noah story. They got all the sinners, wiped them out, started over again with a faithful family – Noah. We still didn’t get it. We still didn’t learn. No sooner had we repopulated the earth, when all of a sudden, we’re building the Tower of Babel and we’re right back to the same old stuff. So, this time, God doesn’t kill the sin by killing the sinners. In Christ Jesus, God kills the sin by killing the sin, not the sinner. He takes sin and He nails it to a cross. This is why He came.
The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be
the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
That’s who I say Jesus is. He is the Lamb of God who took away my sin, whose sacrifice on the cross took away the sins of the world. That’s why Jesus came – to die for sinners, so they could enter into the kingdom of heaven. All we have to do is acknowledge that we are sinners, believe why Jesus really came, accept what Christ did on the cross, and our salvation is assured. Is that not reason to be overflowing with peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness? Absolutely! Not that we may have a life free of pain and struggle here, but that we are promised an eternal life with the Lord in heaven.
Now, why state the obvious? You seem to preach this message a lot pastor! Because so many people are confused as to why Jesus came! The disciples were confused! And if the disciples are confused, surely we can get confused. Jesus did not come to heal our loved ones. Sorry. That wasn’t His purpose. He didn’t come to fight our battles. He didn’t come to give us a life of leisure. Now, He will heal miraculously. He will fight our battles. But only to bring attention to the fact of who He is, to get us to understand and acknowledge – that is the Son of God, no one can do what He does.
The disciples finally got it. Many people today still have not. They think, “Well, I’m a good guy. I’ve done more good things than I’ve done bad things, and when the end comes, I should be ok.” They don’t understand why Jesus came. They don’t want to admit that they have a disease – a disease called sin. And if you don’t admit you have a disease, you never go looking for the cure. Those who don’t understand that still don’t know who Jesus really is, and why He came. And at the end, they will be lost forever.
I think of it this way. There’s a television program out there that I confess to enjoying. It’s called “The Walking Dead.” Anyone familiar with “The Walking Dead?” It’s really a good show! But the premise is zombies have taken over the world! And the fascinating thing is they discovered after a while that this zombieism is not an infection. Everybody has it already. Anybody who dies becomes a zombie. You have to stab them in the head, but that’s a different story. The fact is, they all have zombieism. We all have sin. It’s the same thing. That’s why it’s so important to share this info, this Good News, with family, and friends, and coworkers, and strangers. That’s what we’re doing with our EMTs, with our Evangelism Ministry Team. There’s a bunch of people out there who don’t know they have the disease, so they are not looking for a cure. They are blissful in their ignorance. But it will matter a lot how one answers Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” In fact, it will have eternal consequences.
Now, look, I don’t want people going out of here this morning with their heads hanging low. “I’m a sinner!” The fact is, you should have known that coming in! And if that’s all you got out of this message, then you definitely have selective hearing. I want people going out of here this morning going, “I am cured! Praise God! And when I die, I’m not going to be turned into a zombie. Because I know who Jesus really is, and why He came.” Then, please, go tell someone who does not know! I mean, only if you want them in heaven too, though. If you’d rather they go to hell, just keep your mouth shut and don’t say anything.
“Who do you say I am?”
Lord, I say you are the Christ. The Son of the Living God. The Savior. The Messiah. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are the only Way, Truth, and Life. You are the CURE! Would you pray with me?