Sunday, March 11, 2012

JESUS, Part 3

While there was a lot of confusion as to who Jesus really was back in the day, I have to admit over 2,000 years the Jesus puddle has gotten quite a bit murkier. On one occasion, the Bible gives us a glance at the confusion surrounding this Jesus. This particular encounter (Luke 9:20) is as follows:

One day as Jesus was alone, praying, he came over to his disciples and asked  them, “Who do people say I am?”
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.”
Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?”

If you ask me, this sounds like a loaded question. Jesus, the God-Man, asking who he is. The way I see it, Jesus says this, "you have been with me and know me, do you believe who the people say I am or is there something more to me?” Then He comes out and point blank asks to them, “Who do you say I am?” No beating around the bush here (I really like that about Jesus…most of the time). 

And to this, Peter, gives a great Sunday school answer. His response reminds me of a lame joke involving a young boy in his Sunday School class. His teacher asked the class what is gray, bushy-tailed, hangs out in trees and loves nuts. To this the boy informs the class that it sounds an awful lot like a squirrel, but since they are in Sunday School, the answer must be Jesus. (I warned you it was lame.) Here, Peter gives Jesus a similar answer, quite possibly regardless of what he actually believed himself. And Peter tells him “You are the Messiah sent from God!” Now, I’m curious if Peter was fully aware what that phrase, “Messiah sent from God” even meant.

If confronted with the same question today, I fear that many of us would give a similar Sunday School response. Although it is true, that He is the Messiah sent from God, do we know the implications of that title? Do we really know more about Jesus? Have we moved beyond proper and respectful titles to find out who He really is? Do we realize this Messiah, Jesus, is much more than the savior of our sins?

Take a minute and ask yourself these questions. Who do the crowds say He is? Who do your co-workers say He is? Who do the people on the street say He is? Who does American society say He is? Who does the church say He is? And perhaps the most pertinent question of all, who do you say He is? 

If you’ve answered those to your satisfaction, by all means, continue reading.

There are many different views of Jesus. You may find this hard to believe, but some of us view Jesus the way He has been portrayed in the Jesus films. A calm, cool, collected, politically correct individual with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a pale complexion. In case you hadn't heard this, let me be the first to tell you that this physical description of Jesus is not accurate. Jesus was, afterall, a Jew living in Israel. That means he looked more, well, middle eastern. Some people think he was somewhat of a philosopher, debating and philosophizing (I think I just made up a word) the issues of the day. Others view Jesus as a social activist--someone voicing the concerns for the underdog, the less-fortunate, and the non-religious. Yet some view Jesus as some sort of psychic. Others think of Him as a pacifist, or a political activist for poverty.  There are even some that believe Jesus was a homosexual because of statements made about John, the disciple, “whom he loved.” Some think of Him as a great moral teacher, while others view Him as a nut case.

Let me tell you who America thinks Jesus is. If the research is accurate, what Americans believe about Jesus is quite muddled. For the most part, they believe in the reality of this Jew who, 2,000 years ago, proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God, but beyond that there is much confusion.

A survey of 1,054 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University found that 75 percent “absolutely believe” Jesus was a real person. Sixteen percent said they “mostly believe” in His historical reality, 5 percent “do not believe” and 4 percent remain uncertain.

But what we, Americans, accept about Jesus is even more complex than that. 
Nearly one out of five people don’t believe that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary--60 percent said they “absolutely believe” Jesus was born to a virgin, 16 percent mostly believe and 5 percent are uncertain.

Americans have slightly more confidence that Jesus “died and physically rose from the dead,” with 63 percent saying they “absolutely believe” this central theme of the Easter story. But, surprisingly, adults in the poll were more likely to conclude that “Jesus was the Son of God” and that “Jesus was divine” for which absolute belief was at 69 percent and 67 percent, respectively than to believe the biblical accounts of his birth and death.

Are you like most Americans? Is the person of Jesus surrounded by a shroud of mystery?

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