IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT





Date: Aug. 19, 2009

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Luke 9:18-36

Key Verse: Luke 9:35

“A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’”

Our identities are who we are. Our identities describe us in various ways and they are not as straightforward as some would think. Sometimes, who we are is described by what we do: we are engineers or architects or students. Sometimes, those identities are given by our relationships: we are sons and daughters, husbands and wives. But aren’t our identities more than just that? We are more than what we do and who we are related to. There are countless pieces of our lives that contribute to our identities. You probably all agree with me. If we are this multifaceted, then what about Jesus? Who is Jesus? We have our own answers and so does everyone on the planet. But how does that align with the reality of Christ?

You can get an idea when you look at this passage. There was one time, as you can see in this passage, when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?” (18) Up to this point, Jesus performed many healings, raised the dead, drove out many demons, and preached the good news of the kingdom of God. It was a lot for the people to take in and they wondered about who Jesus is. Word about Jesus spread to Herod and he was terrified because he thought John the Baptist came back to life. Now, we have Jesus prodding the disciples about what the crowd thinks. They reply back, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” (19) Look at the crowd’s idea of who Jesus is. We’ve got John the Baptist, Elijah, and one of the other prophets. All these were men of God. They were great men. Jesus even called John the greatest man to ever be born (Mt 11:11, Lk 7:28). These men were great teachers and had authority with God’s word. Elijah and the prophets performed miracles. These men of God called on the people to repent of their sins and return to the Lord. The people had high respect for Jesus.

Even today, if you ask a similar question, most people will give a very positive answer about who they think Jesus is. Muslims call Jesus a prophet, much like the crowd in Jesus’ time. Others call Jesus a great moral teacher; his words of peace and love are truly inspiring. Some see him as a healer; countless people came to him and Jesus was able to take care of their every need. Still others call him a champion for minority rights; Jesus went to places where no Jew would ever set foot. Then, there are people who hear the name Jesus and cringe. They dismiss him as not existing, a legend or myth as it were. There are even some who call Jesus a hatemonger. It seems like everyone in the general populace has his own idea of who Jesus is. But, who is right?

After hearing about what the crowd had to say, he turned his question to the disciples, “What about you? Who do you say I am?” (20) Being followers of Jesus, the disciples were in the best position to know who Jesus is. They spent every day with him for I don’t know how long. They were there first hand to witness everything he had done. They saw him in public and in private. They saw how much he prayed and the fullness of his authority. He put them into a boat, it stormed and they nearly drowned, but Jesus calmed the storm before their eyes. Jesus gave them power and authority to heal, drive out demons and preach the word. And Jesus fed five thousand men (and then some) with a little boy’s dinner. All these things must have been filtering through their minds while trying to piece the clues together. When Jesus asked this question, there was one representative with an answer, Peter. Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (20) Bravo! Bravo! Let’s give a round of applause to Peter who nailed it on the head: Jesus is the Christ of God! So…what does that mean, anyway?

Well, to the Jews, it had a certain expectation to it. You might have heard this before, but the words “Christ” and “Messiah” are the same word in two different languages. They mean Anointed One, or a more directly understandable translation is King, the King God chose. The Christ was to be from the line of the greatest king of Israel, King David. The Christ would come to redeem his people and establish an everlasting kingdom. In Jesus’ time, many people thought that this King would come and put those nasty Romans in their place and establish the kingdom of Israel, once again. It would be glorious! So, when Peter said, “Christ of God”, the words came from God. He couldn’t have said that without divine inspiration, but after he said it, I’m pretty sure that trying to make the connection to the high and mighty King that would get rid of the Romans. Peter was probably thinking about himself, too. “Now, when Jesus is the King of all the world, maybe he will let me rule Egypt, I’ve always liked that place. Maybe I’ll get a good palace, too: bigger than the temple in Jerusalem. I’d like that.”

Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you are Peter), Jesus corrects that whole idea of the great conqueror. “And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’” (22) That really must have taken the wind out of Peter’s sails. Jesus did acknowledge that what Peter said was true: “Yes!” Then he said that he must suffer, be rejected and be killed: “Huh? What?” You see, God’s idea of the Christ and man’s idea are just a little bit different. There is redemption and an eternal kingdom, but to get to that, the paths are not the same. Man’s idea is to build an army and conquer. God’s idea is to have the world reject him, kill him, but rise again. The Christ is not a conquering hero; the Christ is the sacrifice made so that we can have eternal life.

We still see that sort of confusion with some Christians today. They talk about Jesus being the Christ, the Son of God and yet, they have their own ideas of what that means. This is where the “Health and Wealth” message comes from. You know, believe in Jesus and you will become very rich and never get sick. They are slightly mixed up. Jesus doesn’t promise that. Again, God’s way is different. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (23) Taking up our crosses is not an easy thing. Taking your cross is not prosperity. The cross was an execution device. It’s like carrying your electric chair everyday to the place of your execution. So, everyday, you carry your electric chair, and when you get to your place, they strap you in and light it up. You die and you do it again tomorrow. Would you want to go through that everyday? That can’t be healthy for you. But Jesus explains why this is the way it has to be. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (24, 25) Jesus promises us his kingdom, but many times, we try to get that kingdom right now. We want the prosperity and a life without pain, starting now. But when we do that, we are just going after the world and we are sacrificing our souls. Our priority has to be God and his kingdom, not the things of the world. Like last week, we have to trust and obey God first, no matter the command.

So, we see that people have some idea about Jesus. Most of the time it is partially right and other times, I don’t know where their ideas come from. But Jesus’ identity is not based on who we think he is. Jesus is Jesus regardless of what we think. You are still you, whether I think that that is true to not. Peter is Peter, Sam is Sam and Mary is Mary, no matter what I say. If one day, I say, “You know, Peter is not Peter I think he is Jim. I’m going to call him Jim.” But the thing is that he is not Jim, he is Peter. So let’s expand that. I can say that Jesus is just a good man and that’s the end of it, but the fact of the matter is Jesus’ identity does not change. The greatest example of this is shown in the transfiguration. It didn’t matter what the crowd thought of Jesus, or the disciples, Jesus showed himself, in his glory, to Peter, James and John. Peter said, “The Christ of God. You are the Christ.” And then, Jesus showed them, “This is who I am.”

Let’s look at this. “About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” (28, 29) When Jesus went to pray, his form changed. His whole appearance became so bright that it is unbelievable. Most of the time Jesus was on earth, he looked like an ordinary carpenter, as the prophet Isaiah referred to him: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isa 53:2) But at this moment we see him for his true self. Matthew’s gospel describes the transfiguration as, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Mt 17:2) It’s amazing, Jesus changed from this ordinary looking guy and he began to glow and shine and he just dazzled. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen that happen. The Bible does have some other instances when there is someone of such brightness, but they are in visions and refer to God in his holy dwelling. Actually, the one in the visions are Jesus in his original form, like he is here. Right here, we see Jesus in his holiest of forms, in his full glory.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, this is the form that he regained and will share again with us when he returns. The Book of Revelation describes this Jesus as he returns. “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev 19:11-16) This is the Jesus that Peter, James and John saw on that mountain, and with them and with Jesus were Elijah and Moses discussing Jesus’ death and resurrection. And to top it all off, a cloud came and enveloped them all. Out of that cloud came a voice, the voice of God, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (35) The end of this passage is all about God saying who Jesus is. It started out with the disciples telling Jesus what the crowds thought of him and at the end, there is God saying who Jesus is and telling us to listen to him.

And there is significance in knowing the true identity of Jesus: that is the Son of God, this brilliant vision. When we only have a partial view, we think of him as our friend first, and you know how friends act. They are there for you and willing to do anything for you. They help you in your time of need and sometimes get tough because they love you. Jesus does do that for us, but he doesn’t stop there. Jesus says and promises many things, but if he is just a friend, some of the things he says are lunacy and his promises are empty. Jesus promises eternal life for those who believe in him. A friend can’t say that no matter how good of a friend he is. In his life on earth, Jesus made it abundantly clear that he is God. To diminish it slightly makes no sense. C.S. Lewis wrote about this in his book Mere Christianity. I want to read you just a little of it:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - 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 madman 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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.)

There is a clear dividing line of Jesus’ identity and his transfiguration shows Jesus in his glory. But even if you don’t trust the Bible, there is so much more evidence out there that Jesus is God. There are countless lives that have been changed because of Jesus. I’ve read and heard of gang members and drug addicts leaving their old ways of life because of Jesus’ life-giving word. There was no way out of the gang, until someone took the time to share with them what Jesus did for them and they were changed. I’m another example of Jesus’ power. I was lost and lonely, and I can tell you that I hated God. I was skeptical about Jesus and didn’t believe that he was anything worth noting, but he changed me and is allowing me to stand here before you. And in this room, there are people who were living the party lifestyle, with drugs and the whole shtick, but you would never have known it because of how much they have changed. There is no power in the world that can do this, especially the ravings of a lunatic. With so much power, Jesus must be God.

When you think about Jesus’ identity first, you can have assurance of his love, his power, his authority, and his truth. God said, “Listen to him.” When Jesus says something, it means it comes from God. When Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven,” that means they really are, because God is the only one that can forgive sins. Jesus died on the cross and rose again to ensure that our sins are forgiven. When he says that he will not abandon us, Jesus will not leave. When we see him in his great glory, we can trust his love and have fear removed from our hearts. When we see him for who his is, then we can come to him in prayer and know that he will grant us peace when we are full of anxiety. When Jesus tells us to trust in him, he can see that we are trusting in the great and mighty God, who is in complete control of everything.

Well, that all sounds well and good, and strangely nebulous. You can kind of go away really wondering about what this all means to you. Here’s an example from my life this week. On Thursday, I received a phone call from the company my student loans are with. Back when I got laid off, I put this loan on hold, for what I thought was 6 months. But this call was telling me that I was past due for quite a while, but I was never notified about the hold being removed and didn’t receive any bills. I was now called to pay $1000 in student loans when I didn’t have a full time job. Besides the guy on the phone being beyond belief rude, I was taken aback. Viola and I don’t have the type of money, yet alone enough money for the large monthly payment. I was angry with the rude dude and fearful about what was going to happen. I mean, Jesus is central in my life, but I doubted and started thinking about what to do. It is natural, but that doesn’t make it right.

Going through this passage, I am reminded that God keeps his promise. Just like he didn’t go out on the boat to kill the disciples, but to train them, I am reminded that God doesn’t have plans to harm me, but to prosper me. God said to Jeremiah to tell the Israelites before the exile into Babylon, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11) And also, Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Mt 6:26) Jesus said that God will take care of me because I am more valuable to him than birds. I know that word is true because I can see in this passage that Jesus is God. When he shone in his full glory, he gave me assurance that even though we might have to pay this extra amount, he will provide for us and prosper us with his Spirit. If Jesus were just my friend, then his words might comfort for a little while, but he is God and his words hold a lot more weight and I can take it as the sincere truth.

But Jesus gives us more than promises. He gives us orders and guidance. Even in this passage, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (23) It is not an easy thing to do, but God the Father says to listen to Jesus and trust in his words. By denying our sinful nature, we can grow in the image of Christ and learn to trust in God completely. It is easy for us to be fearful, but when we deny that fear, we can experience the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus. There are so many other things Jesus has said, and when we listen to him, we can be molded back to the way we really should be: beings of power, of love, of grace, and of self-control. (2 Ti 1:7)

So who do you think Jesus is? And what does that actually mean to you? If you think he is just a great guy, take another look. If you think he is just your great friend, then think again. Jesus is God on earth in his glorious and bright splendor. Jesus is the Almighty Creator of the whole universe. He knows everything about you, even the smallest quirk. Jesus is not your friend, who happens to be God. Jesus is God, who wants to be your friend. We cannot forget who Jesus is first and foremost, because when we do, then his promises are like the ravings of a madman. But Jesus is no lunatic. He is God and can change us from the inside out. Jesus is always faithful and he will return, so we must listen to him and what he says to us. There is one word that kind of sums it up for me, behold. Look, behold the splendor of Jesus. See him for who he is and know that this Jesus, this marvelous and indescribable being, is the Almighty God, and he is on your side.

Daily Bread

The Woman Who Fears the Lord

Proverbs 31:10-31

Key Verse: 31:30

  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

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Intro Daily