“Who Do People Say I Am?”#1

Sermon Notes (Sunday January 17th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

 

Who Do People Say I Am?”#1

Job 37:23-24; Matthew 16:13-20

 

You probably heard this account about a hilarious email miscommunication. A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon twenty years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel plans—so, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the next day.

 

The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to email his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, sent the email. Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. The widow decided to check her email expecting comforting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted. The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read: To: My Loving Wife; Subject: I’ve arrived. The message read: I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was. P.S.—Sure is hot down here!

 

In today’s gospel reading from Matthew chapter 16, Jesus wants to makes sure there is no miscommunication when it comes to who He is: the Son of God. While travelling in the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus, referring to Himself, asks His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they replied, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

 

And as was the case in Jesus’ day, today there are also many ideas about who Jesus is. We are often tempted to create our own version of Jesus who will comfortably fit into our worldview. There is the Liberal Jesus, the Conservative Jesus, the Old School Jesus, Jesus as CEO, Jesus the Great Moral Teacher, Jesus the Misunderstood Prophet, Jesus the Philosopher, Jesus the Life Coach, Rock Star Jesus—the list goes on and on. Please allow me to share with you this morning a couple observations based on our Scriptures today:

 

First: A Question that Must be Answered

“Who do you say I am?” In his classic book, Mere Christianity, British Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) addresses the idea of Jesus being who He said He was, the Son of God: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about (Jesus): 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…Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God” (Mere Christianity, p. 54-56). Liar, lunatic, or Lord— according to Lewis, those are the three choices we have as far as identifying Jesus goes.

 

Friends, we are faced with the same challenge that C. S. Lewis writes about in Mere Christianity. Who do you say Jesus is?  He is completely unique.  He doesn’t fit into our categories.  He doesn’t match popular expectations. He’s so much greater than anything we could ever conceive.  In Job 37:23 we read, “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power.”  He is the Christ.  That’s who Jesus Christ is. And there’s no more important question that we could ask this morning than this – Who do you say that Jesus is? It’s the question that we ask all the time when somebody comes to join the church, when we come before the Lord’s Table, when we administer baptism, and when we ordain and install new church officers. We ask the question, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

 

Second: Half is Never Really Enough

We must have a clear and solid answer of who Jesus is. Half is never really enough. Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer of the New York Pen League. In one of his inspiring poems he says, “Do not love half lovers. Do not entertain half friends. Do not indulge in works of the half talented. Do not live half a life and do not die a half death …. Do not accept half a solution. Do not believe half truths. Do not dream half a dream. Do not fantasize about half hopes. Half a drink will not quench your thirst. Half a meal will not satisfy your hunger. Half the way will get you no where. Half an idea will bear you no results.” Half is never really enough. Today I leave you with a challenge, to not settle for half on anything. Remember that a life worth living is worth living all the way.

 

In our Tuesday morning Bible Study we have been studying the Letter to the Hebrews. In Hebrews we see Israel safely delivered out of Egypt, but a whole generation never enjoyed the promised rest in Canaan. It is impossible to stand still in the Christian life. We either go forward and claim God’s blessings, or we go backwards and wonder about aimlessly. Someone once said, “Most Christians are betweeners. They are between Egypt and Canaanout of the place of danger, but not yet into the place of rest and rich inheritance. They are between Good Friday and Easter Sundaysaved by the blood but not yet enjoying newness of resurrection life.” Are you a betweener? There are believers today who can make the same mistake.

 

“Who do you say that I am?” In the Greek text, that word you has an enormous stress. In fact, the you really goes at the first of the sentence. It is as if Jesus is saying, “But you who have followed me and have known me from the beginning, who do you say that I am?” It is the greatest question in the entire universe and it is one which every person must eventually answer. Let me stop here today and next Sunday, Lord willing, we will look at the life that confesses this one revolutionary truth—that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of the living God. We will look at what kind of life is this. We will elaborate more on does it mean to acknowledge Jesus as “The Messiah, the Son of the living God.” “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”   Amen!

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