Have you ever heard a golfer miss a three-foot putt and say, “Thomas Jefferson!”? What about a plumber mash his thumb and scream, “Robert E. Lee!”? I haven’t either, but some, rather inappropriately, shout the name of a man who was born two thousand years ago in a backwoods town to a poor unwed teenage mother. Many exclaim the name of a man who was shamefully executed as a criminal at the age of thirty-three and died homeless and poor.
For some mysterious reason, Jesus is the most famous figure in all of history. More songs have been sung about him, more artwork has been created of him, and more books have been written about him than any other person who ever lived.
For years, Time magazine has named a “Person of the Year” on its January cover. In 2013, the editors of Time decided to name the most significant person in history. They did an exhaustive study. Guess who won? Jesus. [Rick Lawrence, The Jesus-Centered Life, Group Publishing, 2016, Kindle version]
Yet, do we really know who Jesus was? I remember the first time I saw a picture of Jesus. I was just a little boy in Sunday School drinking grape Kool Aid and eating graham crackers. On the wall of the classroom was a sweet picture of Jesus with children all around him. He was smiling and looked like the nicest man in the universe - a divine Mister Rogers. He taught us to be kind to one another and love everyone. I was comforted by the picture.
Yet, as I got older, I began to wonder: Why would a man who taught others to be kind get brutally executed? Who could bring themselves to crucify Mister Rogers? What kind of a person would attract so much love yet so much hate?
Maybe a better question is: What difference does it make that a man lived two thousand years ago? Can’t we just admire him as a great figure of history and be on our way? Well, we can, but scripture is clear that Jesus wasn’t looking for admiration. In our assigned reading for today Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).
When you really study Jesus, who he was, what he taught, and what he did, you are faced with a question - a very profound and penetrating question. And how you answer this question will determine your destiny as a human being.
To get to this question, I want us to take a look at some other things Jesus said. If we want to get to the really truth about Jesus, it would be a good idea to move away for a moment from what history and culture say about him and look at what he said about himself.
In the 10th chapter of John, Jesus makes an astonishing claim.
He says, “The Father and I are one.” The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”
Jesus claimed he was God. No other religious figure in history has ever made that claim. Buddha, Krishna, Gandhi, Mohammed never made it. Only Jesus did. Any person who makes such a claim is either insane or telling the truth. Ever wonder what God is really like? Jesus said, “Just look at me.”
Let’s hear another outrageous claim of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke chapter 5.
When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus claimed to forgive sins. He claimed to have the power to wipe away all those things in life that put us in the dark, that make us bitter and steal our joy. He claimed to have the power to set us free from those things in life that enslave us and make us right with God.
Have you ever wanted a second chance? Have you ever wanted a new beginning? Jesus claimed to have the power to give you a fresh start.
Let’s hear another astonishing claim from Jesus. Most of you know this one by heart - John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus claimed that if we put our trust in him, he will give us eternal life - a quality of life with God that begins now and is eternal in its duration! Jesus claimed that he could give us power over death! In fact, Jesus said he will give us “food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).
Have you ever feared death? Have you ever wondered what is on the other side? Jesus claimed that if we follow him, we don’t have to fear death. It is simply the threshold to a glorious life with him forever.
So, Jesus claimed to be God, to forgive sins, and to give eternal life. When we truly see who Jesus claimed he was, we are forced to make a decision about him. The life of Jesus demands a response. You can’t read about Jesus and simply say he was a great teacher or a notable figure in history. That choice is not on the table. Anyone who made the claims that Jesus made, is either a lunatic or is telling the truth.
So, the pivotal question for each one of us is: Who is Jesus to you? Not who is Jesus to your grandmother or mother or father or friends, but who is Jesus to you? Is he insane or is he God? Is he crazy or is he Savior? Those are the only two choices we have.
Maybe you are thinking, “Well, I believe in God.” That is not enough. What kind of God do you believe in? We must define and know the character of the God we believe in. Colossians says that “Christ is the image of the invisible God.”
Several years ago, I recall taking our dog out before going to bed. As I was waiting for her on our screened-in porch, I heard a flutter behind me. When I turned around, there perched on one of our patio chairs was a screech owl. Its big eyes were just staring at me. It was a beautiful creature. I wondered what it was doing on my porch. Soon it dawned on me that the poor thing couldn’t find its way out.
So, the first thing I did was open the front porch door and point the way out as if the owl understood human behavior. The owl just kept looking at me with those big eyes. The next thing I did was walk outside the doors and try to wave the owl out, “Come on, come on!” The owl continued to stare at me. Then I remembered that the porch lights were not on, so I turned them on so he could see his way out, and the owl just stared at me.
I finally gave up. As I was walking up the stairs to bed, I thought, “Now, this will preach! The only way I could free that owl and bring it home is to become an owl myself.” Isn’t that what God has done in Christ? God became one of us to set us free.
We must remember what Peter Kreeft told his class at Boston College. He said, “Christ changed every human being he ever met. If people claim to have met Jesus without being changed, they have not met Jesus. When you touch Jesus, you touch lightning.”
Perhaps you feel your heart being opened today. You have tried everything else life has to offer and it has never satisfied. You’ve been there, done that and have thrown away the t-shirt! Maybe you are ready to put your hope in Christ. In our reading from the Gospel of John today, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Rick Lawrence is a Christian ministry guru. He has written bestselling books and travels the globe leading conferences and seminars and workshops on how to grow churches and do ministry effectively. In his book The Jesus-Centered Life, Lawrence writes about a day when he was leading a workshop for ministry leaders and pastors. He felt depressed and worn out. The material and techniques he usually covered were not exciting to him anymore. So, he decided to throw away all his notes and ask those in the workshop to talk about how Jesus was active in their lives. He said for the next two hours the room was electric with the presence of Jesus. He had never felt more passionate about a workshop before.
After the workshop Lawrence attended other workshops and became depressed again. He felt terrible and could not put his finger on it. He found a big comfy chair in the middle of the conference arena and as he sat there watching people walk by with their notes and books and resources, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, why do I feel this way? Why do I feel so terrible?” Lawrence said that he heard Jesus’ voice almost audibly reply, “Because you are bored with everything but me now.” [Rick Lawrence, The Jesus-Centered Life, Group Publishing, 2016, Kindle version]
There is not enough money, there are not enough golf courses and football games and trips to the lake that can give you what Jesus Christ can give you. Only Jesus can truly satisfy. So, who is Jesus to you? Your answer will make all the difference to your life.
Let us pray.
Lord, fill us with your love and grace so that we are never hungry or thirsty again. Amen.