Who Am I?

Matthew 26:57-68 Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, "This man stated, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.' " The high priest stood up and said to Him, "Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?" But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?" They answered, "He deserves death!" Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, "Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?"

I personally think one of the most difficult things in our American lives is correctly to honor persons who deserve recognition. I am aware of Paul's admonition to Christians in the city of Rome in Romans 13:7
Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

In context, Paul was encouraging Christians in Rome to recognize appropriate authority and show proper respect. That is much more easily said than done. In context, Paul was telling Christians that they should recognize the right of authorities to charge taxes when the authorities were idolaters and did not know the living God. He even said respect people who have little or no respect for you.

That is hard to do! In this society with all our emphasis on individual rights, our tendency is to say, "If you will not do things the way I want them done, I will not listen to you or do what you want done. If you do not know who I am and do not respect me, I will not acknowledge you or respect you!"

One of my many embarrassing moments in the past occurred at the death of someone I knew. I had gone for the visitation prior to the funeral, as had the most prominent man in the community. He was quite wealthy, a very successful businessman, and quite influential in local politics.

I had and have a tendency to get completely caught up in my own responsibilities and can be quite oblivious to everything else. My problem was this: I had never met the man, and I had no recognition of his name. Me being me, I introduced myself to him. Trying to associate his name with something I would remember, I said, "Do you live here?"

A short time later as we were leaving, Joyce said to me, "Do you know who that man was?" Obviously, I did not. So she explained it to me! 'Open mouth, insert foot to your knee cap!'

  1. Jesus truly "messed with Israel's minds" because he just was not what they expected God's Messiah to be.


    1. They expected God's promised Messiah to be a prominent man in Israelite society.
      1. Jesus was not that man--he did not even move in the right social circles.
      2. He had the wrong background.
      3. He did not have the training of a prominent person.
      4. He spent much of his time with the wrong people.
      5. He spent much of his time going to the wrong places and being unashamed to be seen in those places.
    2. That is why so many people who were a part of first century Jewish upper society gave Jesus so much grief.
      1. That is why Jesus asked the 12, "Who are people saying I am?" in Matthew 16.
      2. That is why the Pharisees often followed Jesus to launch intentional criticisms.
      3. That is why Jesus was slammed for eating with the wrong people--tax collectors and sinners
    3. What was the objective of such things?
      1. Jesus' critics said in essence, "You know God's promised Messiah would not act like that!"
      2. "You know God's Messiah would not come from his background!"
      3. "You know God's Messiah would not associate with those people!"
      4. "You know God's Messiah would not go 'to those places'!"
      5. "You know God's Messiah would not move in those social circles!"
    4. Yet, here was Jesus displaying incredible power almost every day.
      1. He cast out demons demonstrating power over evil.
      2. He healed the sick and calmed storms demonstrating control of the physical.
      3. He raised the dead demonstrating power over death.
      4. He fed thousands of people with almost nothing demonstrating power over physical need.
      5. All that power had to be explained!
        1. How did people explain who Jesus was?
        2. The official explanation was, "Whoever he is, he certainly is not God's Messiah! That cannot be the explanation!"
        3. "We cannot tell you who he is, but we can certainly tell you who he is not!"

  2. This debate continued right up to the last night of Jesus' earthly life!
    1. In fact, his identity was used to convict Jesus of a death offense by Jewish law.
      1. Because of the circumstances, it was necessary for Jesus to be guilty of an offense that would carry the death penalty in Israel by Jewish law and the death penalty in the Roman Empire by Roman law.
        1. The offense worthy of death by the standards of Jewish law was blasphemy.
        2. The offense worthy of death by the standards or Roman law was rejection of the authority of Caesar.
      2. Look for a moment at the situation.
        1. Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane and escorted as a prisoner back to Jerusalem.
        2. When the arrest was completed, his 12 disciples fled into the night.
        3. Jesus was taken to the house of Caiaphas [the high priest] where the Jerusalem Sanhedrin was assembled to conduct the Jewish trial.
        4. Peter had slipped back to the proceedings to observe the outcome of the arrest and trial.
        5. The Jerusalem Sanhedrin [the highest court in Israel] welcomed perjury in their attempt to find false testimony against Jesus that carried a death penalty.
          1. This effort was unsuccessful.
          2. Finally someone said he declared he would destroy God's temple and rebuilt it in three days.
        6. An exasperated high priest asked Jesus if he was not going to defend himself.
          1. Then the high priest administered the oath of the Jewish court ["I adjure you by the living God...] and asked him if he was the Christ, the son of God.
          2. Jesus responded, as the law required, that he was.
          3. The high priest tore his robes [as required by Jewish law when blasphemy was heard by the court] and declared Jesus was guilty of blasphemy.
        7. After conviction of blasphemy, Jesus was slapped and asked to identify the one who slapped him--the Christ should know that!
      3. Let me comment on the charges against Jesus.
        1. The accusation that he would destroy the temple was a very serious charge in Judaism.
          1. The temple was at the core of Jewish religion.
          2. A threat again the temple was a threat against Judaism [the Jewish religion].
          3. It was also a threat against God.
          4. This charge was a highly emotional accusation.
        2. The acknowledgment Jesus was the Christ was not as emotional
          1. Many claimed to be the Christ before Jesus.
          2. However, it would be understood much better by the Romans than would a threat against the temple.
    2. I want you to focus carefully.
      1. The key issue was Jesus' identity.
      2. Only one who was the Christ could tare the temple down and rebuild it in 3 days! After all, the temple complex had been under construction for years!
      3. The highest court in the land was certain that Jesus was not the Christ!
      4. They were equally certain that the man was a serious threat to Jerusalem's power structure and to the well being of Israel as a nation (John 11:47-50).
      5. Thus the issue was relatively simple: Who is Jesus?

  3. I want to suggest to us that nothing has really changed.
    1. The key issue for each of us is still Jesus' identity.
      1. Who is he?
      2. Is he just a good man who lived a long time ago?
      3. Is he an admirable man who deserves our attention when everything is going okay?
      4. Is he God's son who declares who we are and what God's purpose in this world is?
      5. How each of us answers that question is extremely critical!
        1. It will determine how we live.
        2. It will determine how we act.
        3. It will determine the purpose of our lives.
    2. Let me get very specific.
      1. Every family goes through times of stress and crisis it never envisioned.
        1. Is the issue, "How do I feel in this situation?"
        2. Or, is the issue, "To me, right now, in my life, who is Jesus?"
      2. Every person goes through financial crisis.
        1. Is the issue, "Is money the answer to all my problems?"
        2. Or, is the issue, "Who is Jesus in my life right now?"
      3. Every person goes through moments when he or she tries to decide what is the right thing to do.
        1. Is the issue, "What seems to be the easy way out right now?"
        2. Or, is the issue, "Who is Jesus as I seek to decide right from wrong?"
      4. Every person has moments when he or she is powerfully tempted to do things that he or she knows to be evil.
        1. Is the issue self-gratification?
        2. Or, in my life is the issue the Lordship of Jesus as the Christ?

The basic understanding in Christian existence is this: Jesus is God's son, the Christ. A second basic understanding in Christian existence is this: The resurrection of Jesus is God's guarantee to me that my death is not my end, but my beginning.

We have much more than a religion. We have a Savior. His name is Jesus. He is the Christ who lives this very moment at the right hand of God's throne.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 13 November 2005

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