“A BIBLICAL LOOK AT THE REAL JESUS”While there are individuals and groups that claim to have found the “real Jesus”, often what they have found is a Jesus that lines up with all their preconceived ideas and is one of their own making. The purpose of this lesson is in the opposite direction. I want to simply look at the New Testament and let Jesus introduce Himself to us. He is God “In order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). Jesus made this statement in answer to the Jewish leaders who were seeking to kill Him because among other things, “He was… calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). In verse 23, Jesus does not back away from this conclusion, rather He reinforces it. He is saying, “Yes, God is My Father”, “Yes, I am equal with God”, and as a result “You must honor Me exactly as you honor the Father”. He is so much like the Father that seeing one is seeing the other (John 14:9). Not only did His enemies understand this, but His disciples understood it as well (John 1:1-3). We must remember that God selected the Jewish nation and then spent “several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was – that there was only one of Him… Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sin. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simple, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, p. 50, 51). He Can Forgive Sins “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). “One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. His makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin (Psalm 51:4)” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, pp. 51-52). He is the Only Way to God “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). The God who reveals Himself in the Old Testament is very specific about our faith and service. He has no tolerance for us worshipping, serving or believing in any other deity (Exodus 20:2-3). When we run into Jesus in the New Testament, things do not suddenly become more ecumenical, rather Jesus is just as intolerant in this area. God must come first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). We must love Him more than anything or anyone else (Luke 14:26ff), even our own lives. All is to be sacrificed for Him (Mark 10:21). He is the only way to God, and His words set the standard for truth (John 14:6). Furthermore, our eternal destiny will entirely depend upon whether or not we have kept and obeyed His teachings (Matthew 7:21, 24). The Real Jesus Lost Many Disciples “Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’” (John 6:60). “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (6:66). We often remember that Judas betrayed Jesus, but we often miss the word “many” in the above passages. “Many” of those who started to follow Jesus did not stay with Him. The Real Jesus was not able to help or convert everyone “But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property” (Mark 10:22). The New Testament contains many people that Jesus was never able to help, not only the rich young ruler, but many of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the common people. On the day of Pentecost, Peter does not merely indict the Jewish leadership for Jesus’ death, but the common people as well (Acts 2:36 “Whom you crucified”). The Real Jesus did not Win Over The High and Mighty As far as we know, many of the rulers that came into contact with Jesus did not become Christians. Nothing is every said about Pilate obeying the truth, rather, Pilate hands over Jesus to the mob (John 19:12-13). Jesus and Herod met, and Herod walked away unimpressed (Luke 23:8-12). Added to this, nothing is ever said about Caiaphas and Annas becoming Christians, rather, they appear in the Biblical account as unbelievers to the end (Acts 4:6ff). The reason that I bring up the previous examples is that we often have the wrong view of “success”. Sometimes we become discouraged in our own efforts because we have the wrong view of Jesus. If we think that a successful Christian is able to persuade most people that they encounter, victoriously convince even the hardest cases, and has constant victories in reaching the lost, then obviously we are going to feel horrible about ourselves. The real Jesus did not convert everyone – or even just about everyone. Jesus (God) walked the earth, preached the greatest sermons ever given, and had the power to heal and work miracles – yet the way to eternal life would still be chosen only by the few (Matthew 7:13-14). The good news here is that our eternal life does not depend upon being born into a time period in which the most gifted teacher or preacher lives. The power is always in the message (Romans 1:16), no matter if God Himself personally preaches it, or His apostles, or a fallible and ordinary man. In addition, Jesus did not “court” the powerful, and He did not bend His message to please them (Matthew 23:1ff). The Real Jesus was Unpopular The reason I bring up this point is because I believe some people have the erroneous idea that the real Christian is popular and loved by just about everyone. That is, a real Christian has the ability to avoid the plague of becoming unpopular with this or that group. The truth is that Jesus was unpopular with many people, not only the leaders of every Jewish party (Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians), but equally with many of the common people. In John chapter seven, it is clear that there are many people who do not believe in Him (John 7:27; 40-44 “So there arose a division in the multitude because of Him. And some of them wanted to seize Him”). The Real Jesus was not a Home Town Hero “And they took offense at Him” (Mark 6:3). “And they arose up and cast Him out of the city, and lead Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff” (Luke 4:29). Jesus then moved to Capernaum, and even though He worked many miracles in this city, for the most part the inhabitants of this city and other cities around the Sea of Galilee did not believe in Him: “And you, Capernaum…for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” (Matthew 11:23). The Real Jesus said things that Offended People “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” (Matthew 15:12). I reason I bring up this particular point is that some have the idea that a real Christian, or someone who is really successful should be able to word things in such a way to win over all sides. Or to present the truth in such a way that no one can disagree with it – or find it offensive. Such is a fantasy. Jesus noted that if we are pleasing all men, then we are obviously not speaking the truth (Luke 6:26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Jesus did not go out of His way to offend people, rather, speaking the truth will always been offensive to those who want to live for self or for those who have no desire to see the truth, much less obey it. The truth is that we are sinners (Romans 3:23), we need to be forgiven, and in order to be forgiven we must repent and be baptized, or in other words, we must cease the rebellion and stop fighting against God and His truth. Therefore, it is refreshing when Paul says to imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). We are not called upon to be like someone who is handsome (Isaiah 53:1ff), clever, or popular with the superficial. Rather, we are called to imitate someone who is honest, godly, unselfish and good.