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Who is Jesus Really - Man Myth or Messiah?
It's THE question. In fact, it's the biggest question facing the world today. Was Jesus a man, myth or Messiah? Historical footnote or historical turning point? Religious guru or God revealed? Opinions swirl about this mysterious manger-born man. Walk into any bookstore and you'll see shelves lined with conspiracy theories threatening to unravel the very fabric of Christian faith. Do you have a clear picture of who He is? More importantly, can you articulate why you believe the way you do? In this series, Chip Ingram unveils the true identity of this mystery man from the pages of Scripture. So before you marginalize Him as a mere man, write Him off as a myth, or embrace Him as Messiah, you should discover who He is - really.More from this series
My observation in life is that we all hear things differently. It’s because of something I call, “selective listening.”
Let me give you two or three quick examples and I think you’ll be tracking with me. You’re out looking for a used car. And it’s not the wheeling-dealing time and you meet a friend, and he goes, “Hey, I’ve got a car I’m going to sell!” And you say, “Well, what will you sell it for?” “Ah, between five or six thousand dollars.”
Now, what I can tell you is, you look at the car and you want to go home and, if you’re married, talk with your wife or with your husband; if you’re single, you’re going to go talk to a friend.
And then when you begin to talk to that person, they say, “Well, what is the car like?” And you tell them about the car, “It even has a CD player! And the inside looks pretty good and here’s the mileage.” “How much do they want for it?” You say, “It’s around five thousand dollars.”
The other person who is selling the car, they say, “Hey,” they go home, talk to either their roommate or their wife or their husband and someone says, “Hey, how is that car coming?” “Hey, I think I might have it sold!” “Oh, really? What are you going to get for it?” “About six thousand dollars.”
Now, both are correct, right? One person heard what they wanted to hear. He said, “Oh, between five or six thousand dollars.” If I’m the buyer, it’s about five thousand dollars, right? If I’m the seller, I’m going to get six thousand dollars.
Or, you have applied for a job and you are now going through the benefit package. “Well, what do you do?” “Well, you’re on the front end and the ballpark, the salary is going to be between this number and this number.”
Well, you think the numbers are going to be okay but you’re worried about time off and time with your family. “Well, how much vacation?” “Oh, between three and five weeks.”
And so you make the decision and you go process it. When you think about how much vacation you’re going to get, man, you’re looking at five weeks. And the person who is offering the job is thinking what? Three weeks and maybe in the next twenty-five years, we’ll bump it up to five, right? That’s one of the big benefits that we have.
My point is, all of us listen selectively. It gets down even to the mundane. Some of us work hard at trying to eat together as a family and so you say to someone, “I’ll meet you at this restaurant,” or, “I’ll be home,” in my case. “Honey, I’ll be home.” And she says, “Well, what time will you be home?” I said, “Between five thirty and six.”
Now, what I mean is, Six. What she hears is, five thirty. I come home five minutes after six. To her, What in the world is going on? You’re thirty-five minutes late! To me, it’s, What’s the big deal? I’m going to exaggerate, It’s only four minutes late, it turned five when I pulled in the driveway, right? Selective hearing.
Most of the time, it’s innocent. Sometimes, it’s deadly. Peter had a case of selective hearing. We pick it up in Mark chapter 8, verse 27. We have talked about this idea of Jesus asking people fundamental questions: “Who do the people say that I am?” Then He asked, “Who do you say that I am?”
And then this one, we are going to look at: Who do they think that He was? “Jesus went out along with His disciples to the village of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way He questioned His disciples, saying, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They told Him, ‘John the Baptist; others would say, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’” And then He narrows that penetrating question. And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?”
And this is a moment. Peter has watched His life, Peter has been on the inside when Jarius’ daughter was raised from the dead; he has been with the disciples, five thousand people were fed, four thousand people were fed. He has seen the miracles. And God has revealed to him, and Peter gets it right on, Jesus’ identity. The big issue: Who is Jesus? “You are the Christ,” and the other gospel writers will add, “the Son of the living God.” Bingo! In Jeopardy! he wins! He’s right! He gets an A! A+!
Now remember, here’s a little Jewish boy, who has heard the Torah from the time he was little. He has seen the Pharisees teach in the synagogues. He has all these promises of this coming Messiah who would come one day. He will deliver His people, He will be the King of kings. The word Messiah, literally, means, “anointed one.”
He will be anointed as the King and the Deliverer. And he is saying, out loud, in front of all of his friends, “You’re the Christos, You’re the Messiah, You’re the Anointed One, You’re going to deliver Israel! I believe all that we have waited for, for all these hundreds of years, is standing before me. You are, in fact, the God-man.” That’s what he is saying.
Notice Jesus’ response. He says, “He warned them not to tell anyone about Him. And He began to teach them,” as soon as they get it right, Okay, you know? My family thinks I’m insane, we learned in Mark, a little earlier. The Pharisees think I’m demon possessed. The crowds think, “Well, maybe He’s a wonderful teacher, a miracle worker, a prophet.” Herod actually thinks He’s John the Baptist come back from the dead. Peter, you get it right. Now, don’t tell anyone, because I have a plan.
And notice that the moment they finally realize, these are His followers that will change the world, the moment they clearly articulate who He is, He moves from His person to, now, telling them about His purpose. He moves from, “Who I really am,” to, “Why I really came.”
Notice what it says, verse 31, “Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” That’s why He came.
“And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan!’ For you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man.”
Now, if there is ever a time where a guy gets an A on one test, and within seconds gets an F on the next one, this is it. He is absolutely correct on – what? Who Jesus is. He is absolutely wrong on why He came.
God revealed to Peter, Before you is the Messiah - the Anointed One. All those passages in Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 55; Psalm chapter 2, Psalm chapter 22 – all those things, Peter, you have read for all those years as a little boy; all those passages you have to memory, the Spirit of God has taken the Word of God and the presence of Christ and the testimony of His miracles, and you have observed His sinless life, and He has made it known to you, “This is Him!” and you get that right.
And then immediately He says, ‘Don’t tell anyone; I came, I am going to suffer, I am going to die, I am going to be betrayed,” and then Peter says, “Never! That will never happen! What’s wrong with You? Why are You talking like that?”
And then he gets the harshest rebuke. And Jesus turns to him and I bet, I would hate to be on the receiving end of Jesus’ eyes looking into Peter’s eyes. I don’t think He casually said, out of the side of His mouth, “Get behind Me, Satan.” I think this was, whoo.
What I want to ask is: What happened? How could Peter be so right about declaring who Jesus was, and be so wrong about His direction for His life? I’m going to suggest that Peter only got it half right. And what Peter was missing was something that I think is missing today.
In fact, it’s going to sound a bit historical, it’s going to sound like I’m giving a study on who the Messiah is and how did people believe about the Messiah. But if you will just hang on to your hat, what I want you to see is the Messiah and the promise of the Messiah, if you can imagine it, think of it as a coin. And the promise, all the promises in the Old Testament about the Messiah, think of it as a coin.
And a coin has two sides. And both sides are absolutely accurate in making up the coin. But if you only look at one side – you can look at the front of a quarter and you’ve got a picture on it. You look at the back of a quarter and you might have one of those fifty states on it.
Well, if you only see one side and you say, “A quarter always has this picture on it,” well, you’re fifty percent right. You’re one hundred percent accurate in what you know, but you’re inaccurate in what you leave out.
And what I want to do is show you that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah are a coin that had two sides. And then what I want to do is I want to show you both sides and what I’m going to help you see, I pray, is that Peter saw only one side and here’s why: selective hearing.
Peter heard, out of the Old Testament text, only what he wanted to hear. Peter is living in a tough world in a tough day. They are being ruled by Rome. You talk about being a minority, you talk about prejudice, you talk about a raw deal, you talk about being treated like the scum of the earth – I’ll tell you what, it was not a good thing to be a Jew in the Roman Empire.
And so Peter read all those verses, but he read all those verses through a selective hearing screen, and the ones that he liked and made sense and felt good, a little green light went on: Yay! I can’t wait for the Messiah. And all the other verses that were also about the Messiah, somehow, because they didn’t relate to his personal need, he just selectively didn’t read those very closely.
And I’ve got to tell you, this is not a first century problem; this has happened so many times in my life. And in my time here at Walk Thru the Bible, probably the most startling example I have ever had of selective reading of the Scripture is when I go overseas.
And I go overseas and I sit down with people and in countries where you die for your faith, and I meet with our world teachers, and they open the Bible, and they quote passages and I actually have many of the passages memorized, and they will say it, but, “Oh, and for those who suffer, this is what God promises,” and, “Jesus said this, ‘I have prepared a place for you. And don’t be surprised at persecution.’” And they have all these passages about suffering and comfort and reward that I just kind of gloss over.
And to them, they hang on to as the very core of their being. They are all there! But my selective passages are sort of about God’s blessing and how, if I obey Him, how He is going to work some things out for my family and how He is going to direct my steps. You know?
So let’s dig in together. The promised Messiah. The first side of the coin is the promised Messiah was a political ruler, a King, and a Deliverer. He would be born of a virgin. So that means He’s got a supernatural birth. There’s going to be no sin in the bloodline of the Messiah. He is born of a virgin, Isaiah 7:14.
He is going to come from the throne of David, from Psalm 2 and Isaiah 11:10. He is the branch; He is the branch of David. So all the promises to David and the throne and the fulfillment and all that this Jewish mind had of the great King. There will be one King who will rule one day and rule well, and bring about justice.
Third observation, He is going to be the Prince of peace. Isaiah 9:6 says, “This One who is coming, He is going to lead people from darkness into light. He will be the Prince of peace, the everlasting Father, the wonderful Counselor.” And Peter is going, “Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m waiting for the Messiah!”
And he watched all these miracles of Jesus and says, “He fits the bill.” The blind are seeing, the poor hear the gospel, the Messianic miracles are occurring. And then, finally, He is going to be political ruler.
In Isaiah 9:7, it talks about that the government will rest upon His shoulders forever. And if you will, there are multiple passages, will you turn to Isaiah chapter 9? And what I want to do is I just want to read Isaiah 9, verses 2 to 7, and I want you to put yourself in Peter’s place.
And you have just said, “You’re the Christ. I’ve really got it.” And think about, if this was the only passage, how it would frame your expectations. What would you expect of the Christ?
Isaiah chapter 9, beginning at verse 2, speaking of the Messiah. It says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. He shall multiply the nations; and He shall increase their gladness; and they will be glad in His presence, as with the gladness of the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For He shall break the yoke of their burden, and the staff on their shoulders,” – boy, he’d get fired up when he heard that one, wouldn’t he? “the rod of their oppressor, as the battle of the Midian. And every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult and the cloak rolled in blood will be burning fuel for the fire.”
This sounds like the Messiah is going to come and take care of your enemies, doesn’t it? And he says, “Well, why? How is this going to happen?” Because one day, look at verse 6, “for a child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders, and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over His kingdom” – why? What is this Messiah going to do?
“…to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish it.”
And what I want to suggest is that Peter, when he said, “You are the Christ,” in his selective hearing, all he could really get his arms and mind around, because of his personal need, he selectively heard, “You are a political ruler, a king, a deliverer.”
And I think he, in his mind, even one of the disciples, one of the disciples was a zealot. You know what a zealot is? That was someone who was trying to overthrow the government. That was someone who was basically a terrorist who would get a group of people and they would have bands and raids and they would try and overthrow the Roman government. And yet he came to Christ and became a follower of Christ.
But I bet some of his early motives had to be around, “You know what? This is the One who is going to overthrow it.”
But notice, if you flip that coin over, the Scripture is also clear that this Messiah, this Anointed One, this King, is going to be a suffering servant and a sacrifice for sin.
Now, notice, the prophecies are He is going to be born of a virgin. Why? Because a sacrifice that would have any sin couldn’t pay the perfect price. He is going to come from the throne of David, same passages, Psalm 2; Isaiah 11:10. Why? Because all of the promises of the Messiah and the Deliverer – in fact, Psalm 22, David would talk about – what? He would talk about the suffering servant. And it’s a fascinating passage.
If you do some historical research on Psalm 22, you basically have the most vivid description of the crucifixion, the only thing is, the description, down to the organs being displaced and how He is pierced, the only thing was, this occurred [was written] hundreds of years before crucifixion ever took place. It’s very, very powerful. And that’s from David himself.
He is pierced for our transgressions. Now this is a little bit different. This Messiah, rather than ruling and reigning, it says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, but the Lord has” – what? “placed,” or, “laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” That’s going to be this Messiah’s role.
And then notice He is going to be exalted to the highest place. In Isaiah 53, at the end of all this suffering and paying for sin, what He is going to do is God is going to exalt Him and He is going to rule.
Now, I don’t usually do this, but I really want, will you turn to Isaiah 53? Very rarely in a message do I read an entire chapter. It’s a brief chapter. But what I want you to think about now is, What if this was the only information you had about the Messiah? Who would you expect?
Isaiah 53, the first two verses talk about, Who would listen to our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? And basically what he’s talking about here is that he is going to prophesy about the Messiah, but the description that he is going now to give of the Messiah is one where people were going to go, Well, who would believe this message?
And here’s the reason why people are reluctant to believe this message from God. Look at verse 2. “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,” speaking of the Messiah, Jesus, growing up before God, “and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.”
In other words, this Messiah is not going to be someone, when He walks down the streets, that turns a head. We are not going to say, “Wow! There’s charisma, there’s strength, there’s beauty.”
Verse 3, “He was despised and forsaken of men; He is going to be a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
Boy, this is a different picture, isn’t it? If you would hold up this coin and this was the only one you had, this thing about the reigning ruler, you would wonder, How do these things fit together?
And then verse 4 begins to talk about, What will this Messiah do? “Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
In other words, our view of this Messiah would be, Yeah, God has forsaken this guy. I don’t know who He is. And yet He does it all for us.
“But He was,” verse 5, “pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening,” or, “the punishment for our wellbeing fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray; each one has turned to our own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity,” or, “the sin of all of us to fall on Him.”
And now it describes part of this Messiah’s life. “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted,” now this is talking about right up to His crucifixion. “He did not open His mouth; like a lamb led to slaughter and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, they considered that He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgressions of My people to whom stroke was due. His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, yet with a rich man in His death.”
Isn’t this amazing? You know, Joseph of Arimathea, think of all of the things written hundreds and hundreds of years before the fact. His death was a rich man in His death. “Although He had done no violence, and there was not any deceit in His mouth,” He was pure, perfect, no sin.”
Now listen to what God the Father does with the Messiah. “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief, if He would render Himself a guilt offering. He will see His offspring,” by the way, that’s us, “He will prolong His days; and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul,” of what He went through at the cross, “He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the righteous One, My servant, will justify many.” That’s His role. That’s what the Messiah is going to do.
He is the righteous One, He is God’s servant, He will justify the many by paying for the price of sin for all men of all time, on the cross. And He will bear their iniquities.
Look at the result, verse 12, “Therefore I will allot Him,” God will allot the Messiah, Jesus, “a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong,” in other words, there is going to be reward, “because He has poured out Himself to death and was numbered with transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for transgressions.”
Now, isn’t this pretty amazing? Peter did not have that picture when he said, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus represents Himself as not only the Ruling King, political ruler forever, but also the suffering servant.
If you only get a part or if you only view a part of who the Messiah is, you can miss Him altogether.