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Who Is Jesus? (Part 1 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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November 25, 2023 3:00 am

Who Is Jesus? (Part 1 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 25, 2023 3:00 am

Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Answers were as diverse then as they are now. Join Alistair Begg on Truth For Life for a series titled 'Who is Jesus?' We’ll examine Scripture to discover what Jesus claimed about Himself.


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In the Gospels, Jesus asked his disciples a question. He said, Who do people say that I am? And their answers were as diverse as answers are today. On Truth for Life weekend, Alistair Begg begins a series he's titled, Who is Jesus?

And today we take a closer look at scripture to find out what Jesus claimed about himself. The songwriter says that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. And of course, undoubtedly, it is for many of us our favorite season. But Christmas is also, for many people, a most disturbing and perplexing time of the year.

Because it highlights a number of questions which continue to bother and puzzle them when we think in terms of biblical faith. If you think in terms of the jigsaw puzzle of life, Christmas comes around, and some of the pieces that we recall from last year were missing. We hope somehow or another they will have been found. We dip into the box, begin to put it together again, only to discover that the same gaps are present as the last time.

Or, if you like to think in terms of the crossword puzzle, here we are again at twenty-nine across and fifteen down. We have no solutions for either of them, and consequently we cannot conclude the puzzle. Now, I'm thinking particularly in terms of the issue that is before us this morning—i.e., the question of the identity of Jesus Christ. The identity of Jesus Christ. Who was Jesus Christ, and why did he come?

Now, for some people, their answer to that is straightforward and speedy. Jesus was just a man. The problem comes because they realize that although they affirm that quickly, there is so much about him that seems to be so much more than a man.

It puzzles, intrigues, disturbs. At the same time, they come to the Bible and they discover that the Bible says that Jesus was actually God. But that just seems far too hard to swallow for many. And on the back of that, the idea, which is propounded, that Jesus could possibly be both God and man at the same time is really just beyond them. And it is not uncommon for people to say the idea that Jesus is both God and man is totally illogical. But to suggest the absurdity exists between godhood and manhood is not apropos, because godhood and manhood are two different things. God is creator, and man is creature. So why is it not logical that both divinity and humanity should coexist? That doesn't address the issue of whether they do or not.

It just addresses the issue of to say that it is illogical, i.e., a square circle is challengeable. For example, says Alistair McGrath, what about my friend Francis? My friend Francis, he says, has dual nationality. He is both British and Swiss. Spinoza suggests that to say Jesus is divine and Jesus is human is logically incompatible. But, says Alistair, what about Francis? For we may say of Francis, Francis is British and Francis is Swiss. A logical contradiction exists if and only if being British excludes being Swiss. But since it doesn't, what may appear to be contradictory, in fact, is possessed of no contradiction at all. So therefore, why at the logical level should being human exclude being divine?

Cannot Jesus be both a citizen of heaven and a citizen of earth? Now, you see, we need to be thinking these things out in these days. And I'm addressing this with you this morning and for however long it takes to get through it, because I feel a great sense of burden for the congregation that we do not simply wander into the thoroughfares of late twentieth-century America, a bit like the Englishman trying to buy stamps in a post office in Paris, who, when he is encountering the man behind the counter who speaks to him in French, the Englishman determines that he will just speak English a little louder and a little slower, believing somehow in the pomposity of it all that he may choose still to speak his own language louder and slower, and the individual will thereby respond to it accordingly. In terms of Christian faith, some of us are living with the illusion that the way to speak into our world is just to speak a little louder and a little slower. So we continue to affirm certain things, and we think that simply to affirm them means that people buy them, believe them, understand them, accept them. And they don't!

And frankly, they shouldn't. Because we are pompous to believe that we may simply bang on the same drum, do none of the difficult thinking, be unable to engage people in meaningful dialogue, and somehow or another discover that they enter into believing faith on the strength of that kind of thing. Now, did Jesus ever claim to be God? That's the question.

That's the bottom line. People say to us from time to time, Well, I know that you say that he was God, but did he ever claim to be God? We have a sneaking suspicion, say our challengers, that the reason that you declare him to be God is because you need him to be God.

Because if you don't have him as God, then he's just one of many on the plane of world religions, and therefore Christianity has lost its dominant role in the world. Therefore, you want him to be God, so you read your conclusion into your presupposition, and you start from there. Well, then, what do we say in response to that? What we have to do is go and examine the evidence. And the evidence to which we turn, at least within this context, this morning, is the Bible. Let us start from the Scriptures and say, Okay, let us go to the Bible and answer the question, Does Jesus claim to be God?

If he does, then we need to respond to it in that way. And there are places where Jesus makes direct claims to which we will come, and there are also ways in which Jesus makes indirect claims. I want to address with you four of these indirect claims to divinity made by Jesus. First of all—and you'll need to allow your fingers to do the walking here—Jesus made staggering claims about his ability to meet the spiritual needs of others.

Jesus made staggering claims about his ability to meet the spiritual needs of others. If you take the Gospel of John, for example, and just read through it, you discover a great succession of I am statements made by Jesus. I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness. I am the bread of life. I am the door. I am the good shepherd. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth, and the life, and so on.

Now, why are all these things significant? Well, it's important to realize that when Jesus makes each of these statements, he is claiming that he and he alone could meet every individual's need for forgiveness, peace, security, direction, and he alone could bring them into a living, eternal relationship with God. That's what he's saying when he says these things. He is not simply making interesting statements. He is actually affirming certain convictions about who he is. Follow me, he says, and you'll never walk in darkness.

Eat the bread of life and you'll never hunger again. Follow me, walk with me, and I'll take you directly into heaven. It is impossible—it is difficult—to imagine how anyone in his right mind could make even one of these claims without believing himself to be God. How in the world would anybody ever walk onto the stage of human history and say, I am the way, the truth, the life, nobody comes to God the Father but through me? He is either a bad man telling lies, or he is a madman, totally deluded, or he is the God-man. He is actually who he claims to be. And so we need to be able to engage our friends at this level of dialogue and tell them, say, Well, I'm glad you mentioned that, because when you listen to the claims of Jesus, they're quite incredible.

We say to our friends, I know that you've got a problem with this idea of Jesus being divine, but look at what he said. Now, why did he say that? He either said it because he's a liar. Do you believe him to be a liar?

No, well, I don't think he's a liar. Well, he either said that then because he was crazy. Do you think that Christ was crazy?

No, I don't think so, because I see him heal people, and I see him welcome people, and I see him talk with people that say, Well, I don't think he's crazy. Well then, who do you think he is? And the standard answer is, I think he was just a good man. Well, how can you have a good man who tells lies like this?

He did not leave us the option of being a good man. He was either who he said he was, or, as C. S. Lewis says, he was on the level with a man who claimed to be a poached egg, or he was a liar, or he was something worse. So when we examine the evidence, we see that he made these staggering statements and claims concerning how he alone could address the spiritual needs of others.

Secondly, he made astonishing claims about his teaching. Turn to Matthew chapter 5, if you would. Matthew chapter 5. And addressing in the Sermon on Mount the question of the Old Testament, he says in verse 18, I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished. Jesus is affirming the authenticity of the Old Testament. He is simply saying what others would say of the Old Testament Scriptures—that they are from God, that they are factual, that they cannot be tampered with. Now, when you actually turn forward a number of chapters, some nineteen chapters, into Matthew chapter 24, you discover that he says the same thing about his words. Matthew 24 and verse 35, heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Excuse me? We understand that about the Old Testament, Jesus, that the words of the Old Testament will never pass away, but now you're actually claiming that your words will never pass away? You mean like your words being like the Old Testament words?

That's exactly what he meant. The words that I speak are the very words of God. They will never, ever pass away. And interestingly, two thousand years later, here we are in the second morning service, studying the very words of Jesus which he said will never pass away, despite the fact that centuries have tried to grind into the dust of oblivion the very truth of the Scriptures. Go back to the Sermon on the Mount and listen to him as he takes false interpretations of the Old Testament and he corrects them. Chapter 5 of Matthew, verse 21, he says, You've heard it said to the people long ago, Do not murder, and anyone murders will be subject to the judgment. Verse 22, But I'm gonna tell you that anyone who's angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Verse 31, You've heard that it was said anyone who divorces his wife.

32, But I'm gonna tell you. Verse 33, You've heard it said long ago not to break your oath. Verse 34, But I tell you.

And so on. 38, You've heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Verse 39, But I tell you. 43, You've heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you. Now, what's the point here?

You find yourself saying, Who in the world do you think you are? What was Jesus doing? He was clearly making astonishing claims about his teaching. He was putting his teaching on a par with the rest of biblical instruction. Thirdly, Jesus not only made staggering claims concerning his identity and his ability to meet the spiritual needs of others, he made astonishing claims about his teaching, and also, he claimed that he would be directly involved in all the major aspects of the end of the world. John chapter 14, verse 3, he says to his disciples, I'm gonna go away and prepare a place for you, but I'm gonna come back. I will come back. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am. Who is this man who stands in a moment in time-space history and he says, I'm gonna be involved in wrapping the world up?

I said, Aren't you the son of Joseph the carpenter? Yeah. And you're gonna be involved in wrapping the world up?

Yeah. I'm gonna go away and I'm gonna come back. Now, is that not an immediately applicable, relevant statement in our twentieth century culture? The whole world is consumed with people who've gone away and come back. Go to the average bookstore, and what do you see? Book after book after book about people who had near-death experiences and came back. You wanna make a million bucks, nearly die, come back, and write a book?

It's easy. Do you wanna have one book totally avoided? This book! See, do people say, Hey, I believe you're interested in out-of-body experiences. Uh-huh! I believe you're interested in people who nearly died and came back. Uh-huh! Well, what if I can introduce you to somebody who had an out-of-body experience and who didn't just nearly die but actually died and definitely came back?

Oh, yeah, please! Who is it? Jesus of Nazareth. Oh, you gotta be kidding me! Square circle!

Don't give me that stuff! I thought you were gonna tell me about a real person who went away and came back. See the way men and women's minds are totally predisposed to error?

They totally live in the realm of error so that they are prepared to believe the most unbelievable things and are at the same time unprepared to accept that which is explicit in the statements of Jesus. I'm gonna go away. I'm gonna come back. In John chapter 5, he says in verse 28, I am going to be involved in the judgment of the world. John 5, verse 28. Speaking of the Father, he says, And he the Father is given to the Son authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man.

Realizing that people's faces are gonna be totally—their jaws are gonna be hanging down in response to this, he says, Don't be amazed at this! For a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out. Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

By myself I can do nothing. I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. Matthew chapter 25, Jesus says, I'm going to sit on my throne, and I will put the sheep on the right, and I will put the goats on the left.

When the Son of Man, Matthew 25, 31, comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory, and all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. And people say to us, Well, isn't Jesus just like Buddha? Isn't Jesus just like Krishna?

Isn't he just like another Hindu avatar? And the answer is, No, he's not. So when we've said, No, he's not, and then they say, Well, how is he not? And then we start, I don't know how he's not. I just know he's not. Well, the person who has got genuine questions is not going to be prepared to put up with that nonsense.

You go in there to sell software, and they say, Now, is the software for this package the same as the software for that package? You say, No, it's not. They say to you, In what way is it not?

And if you then can only dribble down your chin for the next five minutes, they've every right to throw you out of the door and get somebody who knows what they're talking about. And in the same way, we say, Well, no, Jesus is not like that. Well, in what way is he not like that? Well, I don't know in what way he's not like that, but I just know that he's not, so he's not, not, not. Therefore.

And if he says, Well, thank you very much. You don't know anything. You are an ignoramus. You are a Christian ignoramus, and you are annoying me.

Don't stand there and shout in my face. Listen to my questions, and go home and do your homework till you know the answer. One of the answers is, Buddha never, ever said that he was gonna sit on a throne and be involved in the judgment of the world.

One of the other answers is that Buddha never, ever claimed to be the very one who spoke the very oracles and words of God, and so we might go on. But it takes some Sunday afternoons with a concordance. It takes some evenings with my Bible and a pencil. It takes some thinking. It takes some discovering. It takes some diligence. And all that I or a teacher might do for you is what any other reasonable teacher may do, and that is to stir within you the desire to become a student of this book.

It takes a lot of hard work. So Jesus then made staggering claims concerning his ability to deal with the spiritual needs of men and women. He made astonishing claims about his teaching. Thirdly, he claimed that he would be directly involved in all the major aspects of the end of the world. And fourthly, he made it clear that the reaction of men to him was an indication of their reaction to God.

Now, these are all indirect claims still. John chapter 14—we've been there already. After Jesus has said that he's going away and he'll come back and receive them unto himself, Philip, who's a great guy to have in a class, because he always asks the dumb question that you were afraid to ask, and so you get the answer but you don't have to be the dummy that asked it, Philip steps up, and in verse 8 he says of John 14, Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us. Jesus answered, Don't you know me, Philip? Just let that settle in your mind for a minute. Here's a guy, and he says, Show us God, and that will be enough.

Just give us a foundation for our belief. Just show us God, Jesus. And Jesus looks at him, and he says, Don't you know me, Philip? Now, what's he saying? He's saying, You've seen him. You've seen him. People say, Jesus never, ever claimed to be God.

What is this? Go back two chapters to chapter 12 and verse 44. Jesus, addressing the Jews in their unbelief, preaching out of the Old Testament, showing how the Old Testament ties in with the new, speaking of Isaiah and so on. And these Pharisees, it says in verse 42, would not confess their faith, for fear they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. They wanted it both ways, and they couldn't have it. And in verse 44, Jesus cried out.

The word there is a graphic word. He actually just came right out from inside of him, just an impassioned release from within him. He says, When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. When a man believes in me, Jesus, he says, he doesn't believe in me alone. When a man sees me, he doesn't just see me. He sees the one who sent me. You have the exact same thing when he welcomes the children. In Mark's Gospel and in chapter 9, Mark 9 and verse 36, he took a little child, had him stand among them.

Taking him in his arms, he said to them, Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. So far, so good. Big deal, says somebody.

That's nice. Here comes the kicker. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the one who sent me. And that, you see, is what the religious establishment couldn't stomach. And that is still what religious establishment cannot stomach. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend with Alistair Begg.

We'll hear more next weekend. As Alistair mentioned in today's message, it is important for us to diligently study our Bibles so we're prepared to respond correctly when people question or challenge us about Jesus or about the truth of God's Word. That's why teaching the Bible is at the heart of all we do at Truth for Life. Our mission is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance every single day. We trust God will use the teaching of his Word to convert unbelievers, to strengthen the faith of those who already believe. We want you to know we pray for our listeners and we love hearing from you about how God is at work in your life through this ministry.

Recently, Stephanie wrote to us from New Zealand. She said, Thank you for the ministry of Truth for Life. It's a great blessing. It has encouraged me to study the Bible more deeply here in New Zealand where I live. It's refreshing to hear the Gospel preached and the Bible upheld as the living Word of God.

Isn't it wonderful to see how God connects believers from all around the world? And of course, while Alistair's messages are at the center of this ministry, we also choose books with great care that we can recommend to you, books that have our mission in mind. You may have heard me talk about the book we're currently recommending called The Big Book of Questions and Answers About Jesus. This is a fun book that tackles some of the questions that children often ask about Jesus. As you take them through the book, you'll explore what the Bible has to say about each of these questions, about what Jesus is like, the things he taught, why he can be trusted, so much more. Find out more about The Big Book of Questions and Answers About Jesus today when you visit our website at Thanks for listening this weekend. There are some people who claim they believe in God but not in Jesus.

Next weekend, we'll find out why that is not an option. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-25 04:25:22 / 2023-11-25 04:34:45 / 9

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