14 May 2021

Is Jesus the Messiah?

How do we know that Jesus is the Christ? This is the very question John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus to receive an answer about in Luke 7:18-35. He tells them to "report on what you have seen and heard." There are two parts to the truth of Jesus, the Gospel, and the experience of Christian community. The Gospel is the good news. It is the message of scripture which heals the human soul. It is at once the same message proclaimed to all people and at the same time a deeply personal message as it is sent from God to speak to each person's situation. To receive the Gospel is to come into the very presence of God, to understand that you are loved, you are blessed, and that God accepts and calls you just as you are to serve a holy purpose. The other evidence for Christ is the experience of Christian community. In John 13:35, Jesus says that this is how Christians will be known, "by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." If Christians do not live in fellowship, do not love one another, they are not Christians, just like the salt which has ceased to be salty (Mark 9:50). To believe that we are loved and to live it is the call of Jesus. It is the evidence that he is Christ and the method by which he saves. Jesus saves us from guilt, doubt, and self deprecation, because we are called by God to serve a purpose which God has in mind for each of us. We may not be perfect, but we are the perfect vessels for God's purpose. Jesus then saves us from the world by creating a community which supports its members. If every Christian reached out to support one another, our communities would never know need. Once the messengers depart to report this to John, Jesus goes further, reminding his own disciples that just as important as the message is the way in which it is received. He reminds them that they went out to see John. He did not preach in the square, but in the wilderness. He did not wear fine clothes, nor did he drink, he was the very image of a prophet. The people who went out to be baptized by John were of open hearts and minds and so received the word, but the Pharisees and teachers of the law were too well established and too well educated to receive any teaching which threatened their status. To those who did not receive the word, any excuse would suffice to denounce it. John the Baptist they called a wild man because he did not drink, fasted, and lived an ascetic life. Jesus they called a drunkard because he ate and drank with sinners at their parties. To this, Jesus answers simply that "Wisdom is proved right by all her children," referring to Proverbs 8. The Pharisees cannot denounce the teachings of Jesus and John, so they attack their lifestyles. They tell people not to follow their example because they are wicked men. Do good men live like Jesus and John? Jesus goes to parties while John abhors all decadence. But the proof of their message is in its impact. As Jesus said, "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor." As for his example, Jesus says, "blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me." We expect to hear the word of God from pastors and preachers on Sunday morning. We expect to hear it preached in churches while we sit in comfy pews. Jesus and John show that the word of God can be found in bars and brothels, in the bad parts of town and out in the wilderness. The word isn't what we expect it to be, and neither is its preacher. I think Ray Stevens put is best in his comedic song, "would Jesus wear a Rolex on his television show?"

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