- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 27, 2007

The following are excerpts of a guest sermon given recently at Immanuel Bible Church by the Rev. Ron L. Jones, who next week will take charge as senior pastor:

Every generation for more than 2,000 years has wrestled with the same question: Who is Jesus of Nazareth? It seems that no generation has wrestled with it more than ours. For example, Jesus has appeared on the cover of Time magazine 21 times since 1938. That’s more often than the American flag. Only Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have appeared on the cover of Time magazine more than Jesus has.

When Jesus does appear on Time magazine, the story line often has something to do with amazing new discoveries about Him. Consider these cover stories:

The Aug. 15, 1988, cover of Time magazine reads: “Who Was Jesus? A startling new movie raises an age-old question.”

The April 8, 1996, cover of Time magazine reads: “The Search for Jesus: Some scholars are debunking the Gospels. Now traditionalists are fighting back. What are Christians to believe?”

The April 12, 2004, cover of Time magazine reads, “Why Did Jesus Have to Die? As Easter arrives and millions still flock to see ‘The Passion,’ the reasons behind his sacrifice are debated anew.”

No matter what you think about Jesus, you cannot deny that He is the most extraordinary person who has ever walked this planet. His influence is unmatched by anyone else in history. No one else in human history is even considered in the same league as Jesus — not Alexander the Great, not Julius Caesar, not Abraham Lincoln, not Gandhi. Jesus stands alone as the most powerful personality to ever appear on planet Earth.

That makes Jesus the most important discovery of our life. How we answer the question, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?” determines nothing less than our eternal destiny. If that is true, and I believe it is, then where do we go for answers? How can we discover the real Jesus?

The Holy Scriptures, rather than Time magazine, provide us with credible answers about Jesus. The primary source of evidence for the life and ministry of Jesus is the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Three of these books were written by eyewitnesses who traveled with Him during his earthly ministry. For centuries, skeptics have tried to discredit the Gospels, but they remain the most reliable documents of any that came out of the ancient world.

Christianity is about a person whose name is Jesus. It is not a philosophy or a body of teachings. If we’re wrong about who Jesus is, then Christianity crumbles. Jesus made claims about Himself that suggest He is a liar, a lunatic or the Lord of the universe. Of course, the Gospel writers present Jesus as God and the Savior of the world.

No one text of Scripture or title given to Jesus can capture the totality of who He is. However, the central question John raises in the prologue to his Gospel is who is Jesus? Part of the answer to that question from John’s Gospel is that Jesus is the full expression of God. John 1:1-2 says:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

Nobody can really know our thoughts until we express them in words. Likewise, we cannot know the mind of God apart from the Word of God. According to John, God expressed Himself through the Word, or Logos, who is Jesus. By referencing the Word, John connects with a philosophical concept his first-century readers immediately understood, and then he builds a bridge from philosophy to theology.

John’s sophisticated audience, made up of Jews and Greeks, understood the Logos as the power that made the universe, giving man the ability to reason and know the truth. To them, the workings of the universe through God was akin to an abstract philosophical concept not unlike “the force” in “Star Wars.”

Groups like the Stoics and popular philosophers such as Philo waxed eloquently about the Logos, referring to it as the power that kept the cosmos from spinning into chaos, as the instrument God used to create the world and as that which gave man the power to think and reason. But it was all abstract. Never in their wildest dreams did they believe the Word was a person until John wrote about Jesus (John 1:14). Frankly, the idea that Jesus was the Logos blew the hinges off their religious and philosophical doors.

Perhaps the most astonishing statement John makes comes when he says God became a man, “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.”

A marvelous thing happened when Jesus appeared on the earth: The glory of God came to His people again. When God’s glory appeared in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, grace and truth also appeared. Oh, how the world needs grace and truth today. The combination of those qualities in Jesus makes Him a magnificent discovery.

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