The Claims of Jesus Christ

October 21, 2018 ()

Bible Text: John 7:1-52 |


The Claims of Christ | John 7:1-52
Brian Hedges | October 21, 2018

The most important question that any of us can answer is the question, “Who is Jesus?” This is a question that of course has generated many answers over the past several decades, and it’s a question for which there are many possible answers in people’s minds, and everyone has an opinion about it. It seems that everyone wants to claim Jesus.

It’s interesting that the two covers of Time magazine that have generated the most reader responses were in answer to these two questions: number one, “Is God dead?” receiving over 3,000 responses in April 1966; and then the question, “Who was Jesus?” receiving over 2,000 responses in August of 1988.

A scholar at the University of Chicago estimates that “more has been written about Jesus in the last 20 years than in the previous 19 centuries,” and I can believe it. Just doing a search for book titles on this week, there are over 60,000. I didn’t look through all of those titles, but if you punch in “Jesus” in the books category in Amazon, you get 60,000 results.

In many people’s minds, Jesus is nothing more than a projection of their own personal ideals. According to the author Philip Yancey, the Lakota tribe refers to Jesus as the buffalo calf of God, the Cuban government distributes a painting of Jesus with a carbine slung over his shoulder, and during the wars of religion with France the English used to say, “The pope is French, but Jesus Christ is English.” It’s true that many of us, when we think of Jesus, we think of someone who has the same skin color we have, he speaks the same language we have; a Jesus who’s very much comfortable in our skin, someone who’s much like us.

There was a book written just a few years ago by a man named Daniel Darling. The book is called The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is, and Daniel Darling looks at ten mythological Jesuses.

These include “guru Jesus”: he’s a good teacher, he’s a guide for life, but certainly not Savior or God. There’s the “red letter Jesus.” This is the Jesus that is pitted against the Christ of the apostles and the God of the Old Testament, people who take certain aspects of Jesus’s moral teaching, try to live by that, but want to do away with the theology of the rest of the Bible.

There is "Braveheart Jesus.” This is the hyper-masculine man’s man. Darling says, “This version of Christ has him as a sort of cage-fighting, MMA-loving, hairy-chested Ninja warrior.”

Some of the other versions are “American Jesus,” “left-wing Jesus,” “Dr. Phil Jesus” (that’s your therapist who gives tips on how to live the best life now). There’s the “prosperity Jesus,” the “post-church Jesus,” the “BFF Jesus,” and the “legalist Jesus.” That’s the Jesus who’s always looking down his nose at you, ready to judge you.

I wonder which Jesus you worship. I wonder which Jesus you follow. Do we really understand Jesus as he claimed to be in his own life and ministry, in his word, and do we embrace that Jesus, or do we embrace some domesticated version of Jesus from our culture?

Well, this morning I want us to dig back into John chapter 7. This is a long chapter, and today I’m actually going to read the entire chapter, John 7. I want us to look at Jesus’s own claims and look at the various responses the people made to him in John chapter 7. So, you can follow along by reading on the screen or your own copy of God’s word. I’m going to read, beginning in verse 1, and then we’ll unpack this chapter in three points. John 7:1:

“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, ‘Where is he?’ And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’ Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, ‘How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?’ So Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?’ The crowd answered, ‘You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?’ Jesus answered them, ‘I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.’ Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.’ So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, ‘You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.’ So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, ‘When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?’ The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, ‘I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.’ The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, “You will seek me and you will not find me,” and, “Where I am you cannot come”?’ On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. When they heard these words, some of the people said, ‘This really is the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘This is the Christ.’ But some said, ‘Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?’ So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why did you not bring him?’ The officers answered, ‘No one ever spoke like this man!’ The Pharisees answered them, ‘Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.’ Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?’ They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.’”

This is God’s word.

So this is obviously a lengthy passage of Scripture, and we can’t cover all of the details in this passage, but I want to just trace a thread through this passage, and that is the thread of, who is Jesus? As you can see as you read this passage, there’s lots of discussion about Jesus, lots of opinions about Jesus, and I want us to understand what was going on at the time and then the specific claims that Jesus makes, and then how we need to respond to those claims.

So the outline this morning is very simple. I want you to see: I. The Confusion about Jesus [both in this text, and the confusion among people today]; II. The Claims of Jesus [what did Jesus actually claim about himself?]; and, III. The Challenge of Jesus.

I. The Confusion about Jesus

Okay, number one, the confusion about Jesus. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, that Jesus is a confusing, puzzling figure. This was true even during his earthly ministry. As New Testament scholar N.T. Wright says, “Jesus puzzled people then and he puzzles us still.” There are puzzling things about Jesus in this passage.

It’s kind of puzzling that Jesus says, “I’m not going to feast,” and then he actually does go to the feast. Of course, what he means there is that was not responding to his brothers’ pressure to go to the feast in order to do signs and miracles to declare who he was; he went to the feast privately, and then revealed himself on his own terms. But then throughout this passage there are all kinds of confusing opinions about Jesus, and I just want to survey them quickly.

(1) First of all, you can see that there’s unbelief, and you see this in his brothers, in verse five, “Not even his brothers believed in him.” These would have been the half brothers of Jesus. They were the ones who actually grew up with him, they knew him, he was their oldest brother. And during his earthly ministry, it’s very clear, Jesus’s brothers did not believe in him. So there’s unbelief.

(2) The crowds are just confused. Jesus is the talk of the town, but there are divided opinions among the crowds. So verses 11 and 12, we read that “the Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, ‘Where is he?’ And there was much mutter about him among the people. ...some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘He is leading the people astray.’” “He is deceiving the people.”

(3) And yet Jesus provokes a lot of interest. They marvel at his teaching, they’re amazed at what he says, verse 15: “The Jews therefore marveled, saying, ‘How is it that this man has learning when he has never studied?’” He spoke with more authority and with more power and with more insight than all the rabbis, and yet he wasn’t a trained rabbi. So they marvel at his teaching.

(4) And then, of course, the thread running all the way through the chapter is hostility against Jesus. Verse 1 opens by saying that “the Jews were seeking to kill him.” The Jews here refers to the Jewish leaders from Judea, as opposed to the Galileans. They were the ones in control, they were the ones in charge, they were the authorities, and they wanted to put Jesus to death, they were seeking to kill him. This goes all the way back to chapter 5, where Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath, and then, as he spoke of his divine sonship, he made himself equal with God, and they’re still angry at him, and they’re seeking to put him to death.

Verse 30 says they’re seeking to arrest him; verse 32, “The chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to arrest him,” and again in verse 44, “Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no man laid hands on him.” So there’s hostility against Jesus.

(5) And then, when Jesus confronts the hostility and says, you know, “You have Moses, you have the law, but you disobey the law. You’re seeking to kill me! You want to murder me! This is against the law.” When Jesus confronts them with that, they think he’s insane. They say, “You have a demon! Who’s seeking to kill you?”

Now, they don’t know what Jesus knows, which is that the leaders are actually seeking an opportunity to arrest him. But they essentially say, “You’re crazy, you’re demon-possessed; you’re out of your mind.”

(6) And then the chapter ends with division among the people in verses 40 through 52. Some people think he’s a prophet, some people think he’s the Christ, some people are ready to arrest him. Verses 43 and 44 say, “There was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.”

So, a lot of confusion about Jesus, and it may be this morning that you’re confused about Jesus, too. I think there is a lot of confusion about Jesus, and this is confusion that is both inside and outside the church.

Just in the past week, a new survey was released. It’s called the State of Theology survey. It was conducted in 2014, again in ’16, and again just this year, by Ligonier Ministries. One of the key findings on key doctrines in this survey is this: one of the most disappointing outcomes of the survey was evangelicals’ lack of clarity on who Jesus is. Okay, these are evangelical, Bible-believing churches. We’re not talking about theologically liberal churches, we’re not talking about people who don’t profess Christianity at all. Within evangelicals, people say that they believe in the Trinity, but more than three fourths, at 78 per cent, agree that Jesus was in some way created by God the Father. So, embracing the heresy of Arius, Arianism, believing that Jesus is inferior to God and is not eternal.

As the Nicene creed says, I think building on Scripture, “Jesus was begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, light of light, very God of very God.” People don’t understand that today. One reason in our church [why] we give attention to doctrine, to creeds, to catechisms, confessions of faith, church history is because we believe doctrine is important, and we want to be built up in our faith and understand it well. But lots of people in the church don’t know who Jesus is; they don’t really understand the doctrine of Christ.

So there’s confusion within the church, and there’s certainly confusion outside of the church. A number of years ago in Philadelphia James Montgomery Boise sent people out into the streets with a video camera, asking the question, “Who is Jesus?” The answers were amazing. Answers varied from things like, “He is energy,” “He’s pure energy,” “He’s this mystical force,” to, “I don’t really know who Jesus is.” There was interest in Jesus, but a lack of understanding about who Jesus really is. So, the confusion about Jesus continues.

It may be this morning that you’re not quite sure who Jesus is. You’re interested in Christianity, you’re here, you’re asking questions, and I’m glad you’re here. My encouragement to you this morning is to dig into the text of the New Testament itself and get to know Jesus on his own terms. You will be puzzled, you will scratch your head, there will be things that are mysterious to you, but you will find the most compelling figure in human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. I believe that as we respond to the challenge of Jesus, as we see this morning, that as we seek to know Jesus truly, with an honest and an open heart, he will lead us to a true understanding of who he is.

II. The Claims of Jesus

What were, then, his claims? What are the claims of Jesus?

I’m sure many of you are aware of the famous trilemma given by apologists such as C.S. Lewis or Josh McDowell, that there’s basically only three options about Jesus. He was either a liar, the greatest deceiver who ever lived, a charlatan who pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes; or he was a lunatic, a demon-possessed man, someone who was absolutely insane, he’d lost his mind, he claimed to be God when he clearly wasn’t; or, he is the Lord, he is who he claimed to be, God himself in the flesh.

It really does boil down to those options. Jesus was either a terrible person who claimed to be God when he knew he wasn’t in order to get a following he didn’t deserve - that would make him a deceiver. He was either that, or he was deranged. He thought he was divine, and he wasn’t. He was like a man who jumps off of buildings and jumps in front of trains and calls himself Clark Kent because he thinks he’s really the man of steel, but he’s not. Or he was the Lord of glory.

I want us to just look at Jesus’s own claims, beginning right here in John 7, and see, what did Jesus claim about himself? Let me break it down into three categories. I want you to see Jesus’s claims about his origin, his destiny, and his identity.

(1) First of all, Jesus’s claim about his origin. He claimed to come from God. Look at verses 16 and 17, and then verses 28 and 29. Verse 16, “So Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.’”

Drop down to verse 28: “So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, ‘You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.’”

The key word here is the word “sent.” Jesus says, “My teaching is not mine, but it is his who sent me.” He claims to be sent from God.

In making this claim, Jesus asserts, first of all, the divine authority for his teaching. He’s saying that his teaching represents God himself. He’s sent from God; he is God’s messenger, he is God’s word.

But he not only claims that, he also declares that he existed with the Father prior to his coming to earth in his incarnation. He wasn’t just born into the world, he was sent into the world. He existed before he was sent into the world. This becomes crystal clear when you get to John chapter 8, and Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am,” claiming very clearly a pre-existence to his incarnation.

And he is here claiming his unique, personal, intimate relationship with the Father. In the words of New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce, “Jesus’s language is simple and unambiguous; his claim is august. He asserts afresh his unique relation to the Father, and his hearers cannot miss the implication of his words.” So as soon as Jesus utters these words, they’re reading, once again, to arrest him.

So, his claims about his origin show that he claimed to come from God.

(2) Then look at his claims about his destiny. We know a lot about someone based on where they come from and where they’re going. Look at where Jesus said he was going, verses 33 and 34. “Jesus then said, ‘I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.’”

What does that mean? It means that he’s going to God, he’s going back to the Father! He’s looking ahead now to his resurrection and his ascension, where he would go back to God, where he would be exalted at the right hand of God. They, of course, don’t understand this; they think maybe he’s planning to go preach to the Greeks. They don’t understand him, but Jesus here is clearly saying that he was going back to God the Father.

(3) So he’s coming from God, he’s going to God, but then look at his claims about his identity; he claims to be equal with God.

Now, I highlighted this last week, from verses 37 through 39, when Jesus stands up on the last day of the feast and he makes this stunning proclamation, just after the water ceremonies that have been performed throughout the week during the feast of tabernacles. Jesus cries out and says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

It’s a stunning claim, because in the Old Testament God is the source of living water, he is the fountain of living water. So when Jesus says, “If you’ll come to me, I’m the source of living water,” he’s claiming to be God. Now, this is only a thinly-veiled claim, and people seem to understand something of what Jesus was claiming. When you look at this in other statements throughout the gospel of John, it becomes increasingly clear that Jesus is claiming equality with God. That’s especially clear in John chapter 5, where he calls himself “the Son of the Father” and claims equality with the Father there.

And then it’s clear throughout the gospel of John in the many “I am” statements that he makes. Every time he says, “I am... something," he is, of course, alluding to the divine name of Exodus 3:14, where God revealed himself to Moses, “I am who I am.”

This is especially clear in John chapter 8. I’ve already alluded to this once, but let me state it again. In John 8:58 Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am,” and you know that he’s making a stunning claim because of the way people respond. Religious leaders are outraged, and they pick up stones to throw at him. They’re ready to stone him, they’re ready to kill him when he makes this claim.

But Jesus not only claims the titles of deity; when you look in the New Testament you see over and over again that he assumes the prerogatives of deity. Jesus is audacious enough to tell people, “Your sins are forgiven. I forgive you.”

Well, that’s an amazing thing to say. None of us can just forgive someone else’s sins unless they’ve sinned against us personally. But, you know, if someone steals your car and I go to the thief and I say, “It’s okay; you’re forgiven,” you would say, “Who in the world are you, to forgive them for stealing my car?” The only person who can forgive anyone’s sins is the God against whom they have sinned.

So Jesus claims to have forgiven sins, he claims to bestow eternal life, he gives moral and authoritative commands and teaching, he accepts people’s worship when they fall down before him, and he claims that someday he will judge the world (again, in John chapter 5). These are all the actions of God, and Jesus claims them for himself. He assumes the prerogatives of deity.

And then, when we look in the New Testament, we also see that Jesus possessed the attributes of deity. He is self-existent (John 5:26), he is eternal (John 8:58), he has glory, glory before the world began (John 17:1-5); he has power (Matthew 28:18), and sovereignty (John 5:21). All of these are attributes of God.

It’s very clear, when you look at Jesus’s claims running throughout the gospel records, that Jesus claimed to be one with God, he claimed to be the Son of God, he claimed to be divine; he was, indeed, God manifest in the flesh.

I think one of the most succinct and helpful pieces I’ve read articulating this is C.S. Lewis’s very helpful essay, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” Lewis sets the issue up, I think, in a very helpful way. He says, essentially, that we have to solve the historical problem of Jesus’s teaching, which almost everyone agrees is good, moral teaching; sane and wise moral teaching, there’s a real depth to it. But on the other hand, there are the appalling theological claims that Jesus made.

So, that’s the tension. Everybody recognizes the inherent goodness of Jesus’s teaching. For example, even the atheist Richard Dawkins, author of the infamous book The God Delusion, says about the Sermon on the Mount, “Jesus (if he existed) was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history. The Sermon on the Mount is way ahead of its time. His ‘turn the other cheek’ anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by 2,000 years.” Even Richard Dawkins can recognize that! I don’t think anyone would read the Sermon on the Mount and say, “This is bad teaching.” At the least, people would say, “This is an amazing way to live.”

So, people recognize the goodness of his teaching, and a lot of people want to claim the teaching of Jesus, but they don’t like his doctrine. They don’t like his theological claims. Lewis says the problem is, how do you put these two kinds of things together? How can you reconcile this good, healthy teaching on one hand with what look like egocentric, megalomaniac-type claims? When you look at what Jesus says about himself, how can you reconcile those two things if Jesus isn’t really who he said he was?

So, we’re back down to these options, this trilemma. Here’s the key quotation from Lewis, the inescapable conclusion.

He says, “There is no halfway house and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him: ‘Are you the son of Brahma?’ he would have said, ‘My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.’ If you had gone to Socrates and asked, ‘Are you Zeus?’ he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, ‘Are you Allah?’ he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius, ‘Are you Heaven? I think he would have probably replied, ‘Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.’ The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion, which undermines the whole man… We may note in passing that he was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects - Hatred - Terror - Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.”

The claims of Christ. They are clear, and they leave us with this basic choice. What will we do with Jesus Christ?

III. The Challenge of Jesus

That leads us to the final point here, the challenge of Jesus. What is the challenge of Jesus to us today? It’s a twofold challenge; I’ll give this to you very briefly.

(1) It is, first of all, the challenge to believe in him. It’s the challenge to trust him. Again, I call your attention to verses 37 and 38, when Jesus, on the last day of the feast, says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Believe in Christ, trust in Christ. It means to rely upon him, it means to depend upon him, it means to entrust your case to him, it means to follow him, it means to cease trusting in yourself, looking to yourself, and to look instead to Jesus, the Savior. So trust in him! That’s the first challenge.

Of course, this is the response that is called for over and over again in the gospel of John; it is the response to the gospel itself. At the end of the gospel of John, John says that “these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Perhaps the most famous verse in all of Scripture, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” That’s the challenge of Jesus this morning: believe in him!

I want to ask you, have you believed in him? I know that for many of you the answer is yes, you have believed, you have trusted in him. You are trusting, relying upon Jesus as your Savior. But some of you this morning have not done that. Some of you have never made a public confession of faith because you haven’t ever exercised genuine faith for yourself. You haven’t really trusted in Christ. You know about Christ, you’ve read about Christ, you’ve heard about Christ, but you haven’t really trusted Christ.

You’re like a person who’s thirsty, and you’ve seen a fountain, you’ve seen water, you’ve heard about water, you know the thirst-quenching properties of water; but you haven’t drunk the water yet! Jesus says, “Come to me and drink! Actually drink! Actually trust me, actually believe in me. Personally put your trust in me.” Some of you need to do that today. Some of you, maybe, have been raised in the church and you haven’t actually trusted Christ for yourself.

Listen: you will not be saved based on your parents’ faith. You’ll only be saved by your own faith in Jesus Christ. So I urge you, trust in Christ. That’s the first response to his claim.

(2) But then, here’s another response. It goes along with believing him, but I think it’s interesting where this takes place in the chapter and how it’s worded. It’s the call or the challenge to obey him. Verses 16 and 17, Jesus answers them and says, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” Verse 17 (look at this), “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”

So he’s saying this to people who are doubting his claims, right? He’s saying this to people who are doubting his claims, and he says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, then he will know whether the teaching is from God or not.”

It’s a call to embrace the will of God as disclosed in the teaching of Jesus, it’s a call to obey Jesus, to entrust ourselves to Jesus before there is full certainty. Now, we tend to get it backwards, don’t we? We tend to think, “Once I know - once I really know that I know that I know, then I’ll obey Jesus.” Jesus says you have it backwards. If anyone wills to do God’s will, then he will know.

G.K. Chesterton one time said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

I would just suggest to you this morning that if you have doubts about Jesus - if you’re cynical about Jesus, if you’re skeptical about Jesus - that maybe the approach, if you’re really curious about Jesus and if you’re puzzled about Jesus and if maybe you’re even troubled about Jesus - because (let’s make this clear) the stakes are really high. Jesus claims to be God, he claims to be the way to life. If you come to him, you’ll be saved; if you reject him, you will be condemned. The stakes could not be higher. What will you do with Jesus Christ?

Perhaps the approach should not be investigate, investigate, investigate until you’re absolutely sure that you know who Jesus is; perhaps the approach should be [to] entrust yourself to Jesus, obey him; start doing God’s will, and see how the truth claims of Jesus are self-authenticating as you follow him. Jesus asks here for a moral commitment to obey God’s will, prior to having full understanding. It is what one of the great old theologians described as "faith seeking understanding." You trust in Christ and you obey him, you seek understanding in the course of obedience to Christ.

In other words, I think it’s going to be very difficult for many of us, if we have questions about Jesus, to get those questions answered as long as we’re still trying to hold onto some sin, we’re still trying to hold onto independence. You’re saying, “You know, I’m curious about Jesus, but I don’t want to quit sleeping with my girlfriend. I want to do it the way I want to do it. I want to have my own way.” You’re going to have a hard time embracing the claims of Jesus. You’re going to have a hard time knowing Jesus. But if you begin to commit yourself to his teaching and you do so with an honest heart, “Lord, I want to do your will, I want to know you,” Jesus says (this is the words of Jesus); he says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God.”

So the challenge of Jesus is the challenge to believe in him, and it is the challenge to obey him, to put into practice what he says.

Let me conclude this morning by just suggesting to you this prayer, especially for anyone this morning who is somewhat skeptical. Let me invite you to pray this this morning.

The prayer go like this: “God, if you are there and it’s possible to know you personally, then I desire to know you. Help me see what may be keeping me from knowing you and experiencing your love. If you exist, I don’t want to follow what others say, but I want to know and follow your will for my life.”

Will you pray that this morning?

Let’s bow together.

Our gracious God, we pause and bow right now in submission to the authority of your holy word. As we have considered the claims of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Lord, I confess, and I know many believers confess with me in this moment, that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and we believe that we have life in his name. We thank you for Christ, we thank you for the gospel. We thank you for the hope that it gives us.

And Father, I pray right now for any who do not believe. Maybe it’s teenagers and students who have not yet committed themselves, maybe it’s a family member who’s just visiting today; maybe it’s someone who just randomly showed up this morning for some reason, they’re not even sure why, but in your providence you have them here. I pray that you would give the gift of faith, that you would give a heart to believe. I pray that you would give a submissive heart and that each one of us would put in practice what Jesus says, that we would will to do God’s will.

Father, as we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we come remembering Christ, not only in his claims, but we come remembering Christ in his work as our Savior, as the substitute who poured out his blood for us, whose body was broken for us; the one who bore the wrath that we deserved, took the penalty of our sins, who died in our place so that we could have life. As we come and take these elements this morning, we pray that we would do so with believing hearts and that we would do so knowing the presence of the Spirit of Christ and that you would be glorified in our worship. We pray it in Jesus’s name, Amen.