Last weekend, we looked at the reality that this man we read about in our Bibles, especially in the first four books of the New Testament, was anything but ordinary. In fact, something about him caused people to drop whatever they were doing to follow Him. He did and said some amazing things – things that seemed to turn the world on its head. Of course, we might be able to say the same thing about other extraordinary people throughout the course of history – heroes that we read about in our history books and look up to because of the things they said and did. Abraham Lincoln and his fight to end slavery. Martin Luther King Jr. and his role in the Civil Rights movement. Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity. Marie Curie and her discovery of radioactivity. There is no shortage of people who stand out in our minds.
So, what makes Jesus different? What causes him to stand out among the standouts? In Luke, Chapter 9, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” In other words, what is the general consensus about me? If you asked a random person on the street who I am, what would he or she say? The disciples responded, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” This answer tells us that the crowd recognized that something was extraordinary about Jesus, but that he had been lumped in with some other extraordinary people. The world will try to put Jesus into the category of good man or good teacher. He did not give us this option.
Some would say that Jesus doesn’t stand out at all – that He’s just one great teacher or good man among all the other great teachers and good people who have come and gone. Obviously, even some who lived at the time of Jesus believed this to be true. But consider some of the things that Jesus said. Better yet, if I came up to you today and said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”, what would you think of me? If I said, “Come to me if you are thirsty”, would you consider me to be a good teacher? Or, if I said, “Your sins are forgiven,” would you consider me to be sane. If I made any of these claims, then nobody would look at me as a great teacher or even a good man. I would either be called a liar or a crazy person. And Jesus made a lot more statements just like these.
The result is this. If Jesus was simply a prophet, then he was a false prophet. If he was only a teacher, then he was a terrible teacher. If he was just a man, then he certainly was not a good man. C.S. Lewis says it this way: “I am trying here to prevent anyone from 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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Then Jesus turns to his disciples and makes the question personal. He asks in verse 20, “But what about you?” And it’s this question that every single one of us must answer at some point in our lives. Jesus looks us right in the eye and asks, “Who do you say I am?” Peter, who had left everything to follow Jesus, who had witnessed what he was capable of, who had listened to what he had to say, knew that Jesus was no liar and he was no lunatic. That left only one option: He answered, “You are God’s Messiah.” With these words, Peter was declaring Jesus to be the Lord, the Son of God, the Savior, and the one that he would follow.
What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? How you answer this question makes all the difference. If you make the same proclamation that Peter did, then there must be a response. To declare Jesus as Lord means that you are no longer living for yourself, but for Him alone. Charles Spurgeon said, “If Christ is not all to you, He is nothing to you.” Jesus said it like this just a few verses after Peter declared Him Messiah: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In other words, you cannot declare Him as Lord without total surrender to His Lordship. Following Jesus means acknowledging who He is and who I have to be in light of who He is.
I hope you will join us this weekend as we answer these important questions about who Jesus is and our response to this understanding.