Friday, July 13, 2012

Who was Jesus? Will the Real Jesus Please Step Forward?

If you ask 10 people to describe Jesus, chances are you will get 10 completely different descriptions.

There’s a conservative Jesus for Republicans and a liberal Jesus for Democrats. There’s a gay Jesus, a married with children Jesus, a social justice Jesus, a black Jesus, and a white Jesus—complete with blonde hair and blue eyes! There’s a communist Jesus, a socialist Jesus, and a rich capitalist Jesus.

I’m not exaggerating. Over the years I have seen each of those labels attached to Jesus. Yet, not one comes close to accurately describing the Jesus of the Bible.

But the identity and nature of Jesus’ mission is an important topic because your eternity is at stake.

Will the real Jesus please step forward?
You should notice that each of those descriptions is tied to some social, political, or personal agenda. We all want Jesus to fit our agendas and to meet our physical wants/needs. But Jesus is not about changing social structures or taking sides in political battles. Nor is he concerned with giving us our material wants.

Jesus’ agenda is spiritual, not physical.

Cue the story of the paralytic from Mark 2:1-12. It’s a popular story that recounts how several men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus, apparently for healing.

When they get to the house where Jesus is teaching they discover a crowd of people so large that they can’t get inside. No problem. The men, full of faith Mark says, go to the roof and begin digging a hole. Once they have an opening large enough, they lower their paralyzed friend to Jesus—again apparently for healing.

Does Jesus heal the man’s paralyzed condition? Not immediately. Instead, he surprises everyone by announcing that the paralyzed man’s sins were forgiven.

Notice that as bad off as this man was physically, he was far worse spiritually. He was a sinner who needed forgiveness. And his spiritual condition required immediate action on the part of Jesus.

Jesus’ pronouncement did not go unnoticed. Some religious leaders heard it and charged Jesus with blasphemy. Then they said, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

I can hear Jesus thinking to himself, “Good question. I’m so glad you asked!”

They were right, only God has the power and authority to forgive sins. But you see, they had the wrong idea of Jesus' identity. They could not bring themselves to believe that he was God and that he was all about spiritual healing. They wanted a Jesus who would bring social and political change. They were wrong.

As the story ends, Jesus proves he is God and has the authority to forgive sins by healing the paralyzed man. And notice how he healed him—Jesus spoke and the man got up and walked away. That was eerily similar to how God spoke the universe into existence.

Only God can heal with the spoken word.

So in this story Jesus unveils his true identity and purpose for coming. He is the divine Son of God who has the authority and power to forgive the sins of those who believe on him by faith.

That’s the real Jesus—nothing more and nothing less.

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