Huge crowds followed Jesus â€“ there were healings, dead being raised, people set free. Jesus made remarkable claims about himself â€“ saying he was the only way of life. The religious leaders began to hate him for it, because in their eyes it was blasphemy. They looked for any excuse to start a rebellion against him.
Jesus was crucified and died to bring salvation for all the nations â€“ this was Godâ€™s plan of rescuing and saving the human race.
Luke 23:32-43 records the account of Jesus on the cross with the 2 thieves on either side of him â€“ we can gain a lot from examining this.
1. The easiest mistake we can make
- Like the first thieve and the crowds, we can have Jesus right next to us and totally miss him â€“ who he really is and what he came to do.
- The Jews thought God would/could never die in weakness but would come in power and overtake the Roman government. They thought no good could come of Jesusâ€™ death.
- Sometimes we come to Jesus because of an urgent/immediate â€śneedâ€ť â€“ career, relationships, money, health â€“ like heâ€™s a genie in a bottle. It only leads to emptiness if he gives us what we want, because we find weâ€™re still not satisfied. We need to come as sinners, not sufferers.
- We miss the fact that Jesus came to give himself to us, not to fix our life how we think it should be fixed. We need Jesus at the centre â€“ he is what will fulfil us.
2. The hardest admission
- We have to admit we are sinners â€“ we come to God as a sinner, not a sufferer. This is the hardest admission to make because it means we have to let go of our pride and be vulnerable.
- The second thief was mocking Jesus with the rest â€“ and then dramatically became Jesusâ€™ advocate.
- The tipping point comes when we are under pressure.
- When we become vulnerable and open ourselves to the gospel of grace, we receive the real thing.
- Itâ€™s not about attaining moral standards â€“ this just leads to pride or despair/anxiety, treating God as if he owes you for how â€śgoodâ€ť you are.
3. The greatest gift
- Jesus wants to forgive us immediately if we will turn to him â€“ see how quickly he did for the second thief. Jesus is so fast to respond to our admission.
- The second thief gets it, then the Roman centurion does.
- Jesus paid the greatest price to give us this â€“ it was his choice.
- He takes our imperfection â€“ our guilt and shame â€“ and we get his perfection in exchange!
- When youâ€™re convinced youâ€™re loved, you will live a completely different life! Youâ€™re the spiritual equivalent of a billionaire; why would you care about losing a ÂŁ10 note? Youâ€™re loved and accepted by the only one who matters â€“ why care about those few people who reject you or don’t like you?
- We don’t need to fear death â€“ Jesus has made the way of eternal life. Because he resurrected, we know we will also because we belong to him!
The Bible is very clear, in countless places, that Jesus was God. E.g. John 1:1-5; 9-14 â€“ John, who was a close friend and disciple of Jesus, clearly states that Jesus was God. Other Scriptures include Romans 9:5, Titus 2, Hebrews 1, Colossians 2:9. Jesus was understood to be God right at the start of Christianity â€“ it wasn’t added later.
ButÂ was that what Jesus meant? Did Jesus believe that of himself?
1. Did he think he was God?
- Mark 2 â€“ Jesus heals a paralysed man but more shockingly, pronounces his sins forgiven, despite never having met this man before. Jesus is claiming that he is the one who has ultimately been wronged, that he is God (and only God can forgiven sins. This outraged the religious leaders of the day.
- Matthew 5, 6 & 7 â€“ when Jesus was teaching the crowds and quoting from the Torah â€“ the holy book â€“ he suggests he has authority to â€śgo one betterâ€ť, which was shocking in the Jewish culture.
- Matthew 12 â€“ Jesus says he was greater than the temple, the holy place of worship where men met with God.
- John 17 â€“ Jesus says that he and the Father (God) are one â€“ claims equal standing with God.
- When he was being interrogated by the religious leaders before being crucified, Jesus gave them a mind-blowing answer, saying â€śBefore Abraham was, I AMâ€ť – claiming that he was God eternal, using the same name that God used to reveal himself to Moses in Exodus (â€śI AM that I AMâ€ť). This is an incredible name â€“ speaks of power, immortality, self-sufficiency â€“ something that commands awe.
- Jesus was very clear â€“ he was not just a â€śgood manâ€ť but God himself. Good men don’t claim to be God!
2. Was he lying?
- Was Jesus a conman? Is this the biggest hoax in history?
- Apart from not looking like a conman (being known for his kindness and love and mercy), he didn’t gain anything from claiming to be God. People only con in order to get something â€“ but all Jesus got was trouble, suffering and a gruesome death. There is no logic.
3. Was he insane?
- Perhaps he had lost it mentally? Maybe he had a divinity complex? Some people have had this.
- But people like that don’t tend to be gracious, loving, humble, kind, etc. Jesus was obviously a very balanced person. In fact, he was also famous for his wisdom and brilliant mind; huge crowds followed him because they wanted to hear what he had to say â€“ his teaching and insight.
4. Was he a mystic?
- Some people agree that Jesus was neither lying or insane, but they say that what the real meaning of what he meant and what he said was missed. Was Jesus the first century sage/guru, like Buddha and Oprah Winfrey? Was he just god the same way everything is god and we are all part of god (pantheism) â€“ and that Jesus came to enlighten us that we are all mystically connected to god?
- But there is no evidence for this â€“ Jesus did not ever teach this.
- Some say he was just trying to accommodate to Jewish understanding â€“ and yet this doesn’t hold, because Jesus frequently went against peopleâ€™s expectations and the cultural norms of the day.
- He was a terrible guru if that was all he was!
- The only conclusion left is that Jesus really was who he said he was.
5. God became a man
- God had to reveal himself to us. We don’t like this idea because we have our own notions and preferences of what God should be like â€“ but what makes our ideas right?
- Jesus is the revelation of God â€“ of what he is like. God is found in Christ.
- Jesus said he who has seen him has seen the Father.
- One thing Jesus reveals â€“ that God enters into our suffering and pain, and cares deeply for us and weeps with us.
- Jesus identifies with us, and carried our sin and guilt and shame on the cross. Because heâ€™s God he can deal with it, and because heâ€™s man he can identify with us and be our substitute.
Joel Virgo Categories: General cross, disciples, father, forgive, God, insane, John, liar, lying, man, mental, mystic, shame, son, spirit, Trinity