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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
Notice what it says in Mark 3:22. It says, “And the teachers of the Law who came back down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub; by the prince of demons.’” - He is driving out demons. They couldn’t argue with the purity of His lifestyle or His power. So you’ve got a lot of different versions here.
The political leaders, Herod, conjectured that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead, in Mark 6. All he heard was He is doing this, He’s doing this, He’s doing this, and Herod’s going, Boy, I killed John the Baptist. Who could have such power, other than if John the Baptist came back from the dead.
The general population was divided in their opinion. Some thought Jesus to be Elijah, as we saw; some thought maybe an Old Testament prophet in Mark chapter 6, verse 15.
And then it was very interesting, the crowds that followed Him perceived Him to be a great teacher and a worker of miracles in Mark 2:12.
Remember the man who was lowered through the roof and the four buddies? And he gets up from his mat. It says that he got up and he walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God saying, “We have never seen anyone like this.” He is holding the biggest, greatest seminars of all time.
But what you need to hear is even in Jesus’ own day, they thought Him anything from demon possessed, to insane, to being maybe a teacher, to the reincarnation of John the Baptist.
And Jesus’ life and words and ministry were all about one singular thing; helping every man, every woman, every child and student understand: This is who I am. And it’s the biggest issue today and it was the biggest issue then, because when things get tough, every one of us has to bet on something. Every one of us has to decide: What is the purpose of life? What will be my hope? What is true? What is false? Why am I here?
And Jesus made outlandish claims, and He said, “I have the life to back it up,” and I am impressed, personally, that the authors of Scripture didn’t hide the fact that there were lots of views of Him and basically said, “Weigh the evidence and explore for yourselves.”
Before we jump into His true identity, I just also observed that it wasn’t just people back then with a variety of views of Jesus. I have lots of file folders and there are about four drawers of what I have studied over the years.
And I could give you thirty-five, forty-five, maybe one hundred different views of Jesus from different groups. There are a zillion groups. But I thought it would be interesting, just in our day, to give a top-level view of maybe the more significant groups of people. How do they answer: Who is Jesus?
Mohammed, in his writing, described Jesus as a virgin-born, miracle working Messiah, who would return in the last days to establish peace throughout the world. That’s from the Quran. But he also taught not to call Jesus the Messiah more than a man and that He could not die for sin. It was absolutely inconceivable in their worldview that He could ever die for sins or that He was God.
So they have a great prophet, a miracle worker – that’s the view of Islam, but that’s not the claims of Jesus.
Christian Science teaches Jesus was human, there was an actual man. But “the Christ” is a divine idea. The idea is that every single person is born with a Christ idea within you. There is this ooey-gooey, light portion deep down within you, and there is no such thing as sin. There is nothing bad in the material world, Christian Science teaches, and you just need to explore the Christ within you. And we all have a Christ within us. There is this good side of all of us. The only problem is the daily paper and the news every night that it sure seems like there is a lot of not good in the world.
So they don’t believe Jesus is an historical figure, necessarily. But they believe there is this concept of goodness that is a light within every person that you just need to discover. That’s their view of Jesus.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is, in fact, Michael the Archangel and Jesus was God’s first great creation and is, in fact, the brother of Satan or, as he was called earlier, Lucifer.
Now, that’s not exactly what you get when they come door to door, but that’s their doctrine. The truth shall make you free, page forty-nine. They teach Jesus is not God, they teach Jesus is the Son of God. But when they say that, they mean He is also, you know, Satan, Jesus, half-brothers, totally different Jesus. That’s why the apostle Paul would say, “Don’t follow any other Jesus or any other gospel.”
Or the Mormons teach that Jesus is one God in a pantheon of Gods. Mormons are polytheistic. Out of their literature, the articles of faith, this is the mantra of the Mormon faith: As man is God once was, as God is man may become.” In other words, the God that we worship now that is divine, He was once a man. And out of His evolution, spiritual growth, He became a god.
And as God is, as we know Him now, every single man, someday, can become. And that’s why, if you read the literature and you realize that there are many, many, many gods and if you’re a man – ladies, you get left out on this one – but if you’re a man, you can become a god and someday you’ll have your own planet with all of your celestial wives.
Now, that’s a little different picture than you get from the absolutely wonderful commercials on having a solid family, isn’t it?
See, you’ve got to go back to: Who is Jesus, really?
Spiritualists – those people who dabble into the occult, people who channel, people who contact the dead – spiritualists teach that Jesus is an advanced medium. They use - you can talk to these people and they channel and they can use the word “Jesus.”
And Jesus, actually, is just someone who is advanced in contacting the dead and you can channel and talk to different people through the spirit guide, Jesus.
Dan Brown in his book, The Da Vinci Code, teaches that Jesus was married to the goddess Mary Magdalene, and had offspring from her, and Dan Brown teaches that the New Testament documents are a cover-up, a conspiracy to hide that information.
Seventh, the Jesus Seminar was very popular, not so much now, but the Jesus Seminar is a group of liberal scholars and they say that the Jesus of the New Testament is a complete myth – that it was developed by the disciples after the fact to perpetuate their movement.
So, how do you uncover Jesus’ true identity? How are we going to know who He really is?
And what we are going to do is we are going to look at Revelation chapter 1. And the book of Revelation, notice it’s singular, it’s not “Revelations.” The title of the book is in the first verse, “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” follow along, “which God gave Him,” – why? “to show His bondservants the things which must soon take place, and He sent and communicated it” - how? “by His angel to His bondservant John,” – and what did John do? “who testified to,” on parallel or par, “the Word of God and to the testimony of Christ, even to all that he saw,” firsthand, eyewitness.
Here’s the promise for the book, “Blessed is he who reads it and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near.”
“The revelation,” the word “revelation” is “apocalypse.” Do you know what the word “apocalypse” means? It means: an unveiling. Literally. It means to unveil something. It means to show, or expose, bring something into view.
And so, what “the revelation” – it’s the apocalypse, it’s the unveiling, it’s the exposure, it’s the clarity – what? Of Jesus Christ. If you want to know His true identity, if you want to see Him for who He is, if you want to understand the Jesus of the Bible, not only who was in eternity past, not only who was born of a virgin, not only who lived a perfect life, not only who died on a cross and rose from the grave, but if you want to know – unveiled – the Jesus who will return, King of kings and Lord of lords, who will judge all the earth and lay out all of history and be in charge of it, this book says, “We are going to lift the sheet so you can see some of the secret parts of Jesus’ identity that you don’t know yet.”
That’s what the revelation is. God gave to Him, notice it’s also to show the things which must soon take place. That’s the context. The unveiling of Jesus Christ is a book that will reveal, previously unknown secrets of Jesus’ true identity, and will also reveal God’s plan for the ages, things which must soon take place.
And if you want to put a little circle around the word “soon” in your Bible, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen in an hour or a day or a year. The word is translated seven times in the book of Revelation as “quickly.”
The idea is: Once it starts, it will happen suddenly and will progress rapidly. And so he says, “This book is an unveiling of who Jesus is in His fullness and an unveiling of God’s plan, historically, for the ages.” That’s the context.
What about the timing? When was this book written? This book was written in A.D. 95. Now you have to get this. John is the last of the apostles. As best we understand, different scholars, depending on Roman or Jewish calendars, somewhere between thirty to thirty-three, Jesus died and rose from the grave.
A.D. 95, now we’ve got sixty-five years, all of John’s buddies are dead, okay? Every single one of them has been martyred. And he is now on the island of Patmos. He has been put in prison there for his faith. That’s the location.
The timing, now, there are sixty-five years and a number of things have happened. At 70 A.D., there was an emperor and he came in and decided, “We’re going to take care of these Jews. They have been a thorn in our flesh,” and he comes in and levels Jerusalem and there’s an abomination and he goes into the temple, and I mean, just shatters the Jews once and for all.
And so the Jews find themselves as very poor and very scattered all over the Roman Empire. Then there was another emperor who had just about as bad an attitude and he thought a little persecution is good, maybe more persecution would be even better. And then after him, by A.D. 81 through A.D. 96 came Domitian.
And if you have ever seen any movie ever that depicts the slaughter and the persecution of Christians, this was the reign of terror for Christians. Domitian demanded emperor worship. In fact, the early Christians were called “atheist.” They weren’t called atheist because they didn’t believe in God, they were called atheist because they refused to worship the emperor as god.
And then Domitian, what they would do is they would often bring them to the Coliseum and they would skin an animal and take the bloody skin of an animal and tie it around the Christians and then they would put them right there in the middle of the Coliseum and then let out wild animals and it was sport to watch the wild animals as they smelled that blood tear apart the Christians.
Often, the Christians would come in tied and bound in the skins of animals, in unison, singing, holding hands, thanking and praising God for the privilege of dying in His place. Do you think they believed in who Jesus is, really?
Do you know what the word “witness,” you know what we get our Greek word for “witness” is? Martyr. Martyr.
And so this Domitian also had the idea that cocktail parties are nice but you need a little light for atmosphere and so he would take Christians and bind them, put them up on a pole like this, and then he would put tar all over them, and then he would light them. And so he would have his gardens lit with Christians on poles to provide light for his cocktail parties.
Now, it’s A.D. 95 and John is the last remaining of the disciples and God determines that these followers of His need hope, they need encouragement, they need perspective.
A lot of “isms” and a lot of different things have come up. In fact, in about 89 or 90, five or six years ago, John wrote a gospel. People were now claiming Jesus wasn’t really God. People were making all these claims.
So John is the last living eyewitness. He writes the gospel of John, and if you read the gospel of John, get a Coke, get a cup of coffee and read all twenty-one chapters really quickly. And it is about seven testimonies and seven miracles and vignettes that say Jesus is, in fact, God and this is why He came, that you might believe.
And so now five or six years later, he’s on this island and God speaks to him. And he has a revelation, he has an apocalypse, he has an unveiling. God the Father entrusts God the Son, who entrusts a messenger – an angel – who gives it to John the bondservant about these things that will come.
So the testimony is this revelation, apocalypse, this unveiling of Jesus and of future events, is to be put on par as God’s Word. And notice the second thing, “And to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that I saw,” eyewitness, firsthand.
So we have the testimony of the Word – what’s true? The testimony of Jesus Christ – who is He, really? And finally, what hope do we have? This book is going to open up: What hope do we have?
And do you have your Bibles handy here? Could you open to chapter 1? I’m just going to give you a taste of where we’re going to go.
Verse 17, this is Jesus after He has revealed Himself and notice it says, “When I saw Him,” John is speaking, “I fell at His feet as though dead.”
When you see the apocalypse, the unveiling of Jesus, He’s not your good little buddy who is the cosmic vending machine, trying to make your life work out the way you want it, in your time, in your way.
When you see the Judge of all the earth, you fall down before Him in awe and worship as though dead.
“Then He placed His right hand on me,” compassion and love, and said what we all need to hear lots, “do not be afraid. I am the first and the last.” Literally, “I am the alpha,” first letter of the Greek alphabet, “Omega,” last of the Greek alphabet. I have been here before time and the beginning of time, through time, and when time is over. I am the Beginning and the End, I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am the Living One. Not the dead Christ hung on a cross. “I was dead and behold, I am alive,” – how long? “forever and forever,” and in case you’re concerned, “I hold the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place.”
And he gives us the entire book in a nutshell. Write, John, what you have seen! The resurrected Christ. What is now: the application. And what is coming. And this book became the anchor for the early Church to make it through the deepest persecution.
This is not a book about hard symbols, wild stuff, and a book to be afraid of. This answers the question: Who is Jesus, really, and the Jesus that will sustain you? The real big question today is: Who is Jesus? Who do men say that He is? But I have a bigger question.
The real bigger question is what God would say to you and what He would say to me. It’s not: Who do they say that I am? Who do you say that I am? Who do you say that I am?
Not, who do you say that I am intellectually, from what you heard in Sunday school or growing up. Who do you say that I am, as evidenced by: what you trust, why you do what you do, where you’re going with your life, how you endure, how you handle temptation, where your priorities are, what your purposes are, and who is the lover of your soul? Who do you think I am?