"Lord" Pier Franchini || One Story Ten Questions: Part 7 - 29 May 2016
LORD, LUNATIC, LIAR… INDIFFERENCE?
To say Jesus has had an impact on our world would be an understatement. Consider that our own dating system revolves around him, BC and AD; it’s 2016 AD. And over the centuries and millennia everyone seems to have had an opinion about Jesus. Well known atheists to celebrities. Some of you would have read in your growth groups this week just some of these opinions. Listen to what Richard Dawkins has to say about Him: “Jesus was a great moral teacher.” Or ex-Christian and pop singer Katy Perry, “I got a Jesus tattoo on my wrist when I was 18 because I know that its always going to be a part of me.” Even John Lennon from The Beatles says, “Jesus was alright.”
In this room alone there will be varied opinions about Jesus. And today we will be looking at one of the most popular opinion of Jesus as a great moral teacher. It seems like a compelling opinion. I mean as a teacher we can agree that he said and did some great things, things that I think most cultures would agree on. He said things like: love one another, as I have loved you so now love (John 13:34) (I mean who is against love these days?); or again: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, (Matthew 7:12). If you want to be treated well treat others in the same fashion; or what about turn the other cheek (don’t retaliate, love instead) or give to the needy (who here is going to say that’s a bad thing?), he cared and had compassion for the sick, the marginalised, the weak. And he sought to uphold justice and mercy. I mean he says and does things that most of us would clap and cheer for.
You see with this theory of Jesus you get to a have a positive view of a great historical figure, someone you can learn good things from if you want, but someone you don’t have to pay ongoing attention to if you don’t want to. That’s maybe why the idea that Jesus was a great moral teacher is so popular. But what we’re going to see this morning is that Jesus didn’t see himself as just a good moral teacher. He saw himself as so much more than that. He SAID that he is GOD. And that makes the popular view very difficult to maintain. English professor Lewis said:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.You see C. S. Lewis presents us with a trilemma (as some call it) that Jesus is either a lunatic, or a liar or he is truly Lord. I love his logic and there is something quite beautiful in the way he presents his case. Yet here is my frustration with it: we love being indifferent! The categories are just a little too extreme and so the logic that C. S. Lewis presents doesn’t quiet pierce our indifference, even though it should. I mean to call him a liar or devil would involve some sort of commitment in actually engaging who Jesus really is – no we find it easier to call him teacher. I mean it’s this happy medium of not really engaging the reality of Jesus but at the same time not entirely dismissing him either. It is why I think the label of teacher is so appealing. It fits perfectly with our indifference. Jesus can sit in our storage cupboard collecting dust – out of sight out of mind – while at the same time saying we know Jesus or know about him. You see we love Jesus as teacher for the same reason we love an all you can eat buffet restaurant.
I remember when we first moved to Brisbane someone recommended that we eat at the Broncos Leagues Club. Why? Well I think firstly cause the person that recommended it to us was a die-hard Broncos fan but secondly because it was a buffet. I mean who would say “no” to going out to eat at a buffet? Our friend even went on to say it was the best place to eat in Brisbane. I am thankful to say that Brisbane offers much more than this! Yet it made me wonder, why do we love a buffet? I think it’s because we love that we can pick and choose what to eat. You don’t have to commit to a single dish but you can eat whatever you want. I mean you want to eat pizza with ice cream on top go for it, you’re at a buffet so no one’s going to judge (well, I will probably!). But I mean the skies the limit, right? You see we love the ability to pick and choose and I think that’s the way a lot of us can approach Jesus, a good teacher we can take or leave.
And that’s how this young man in our reading approached Jesus. Read with me:
Luke 18:18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”
WHY DO YOU CALL HIM GOOD?
You see this rich young man had life going for him. He was in the prime of life, he was wealthy, he was respected. He was enjoying life, it would seem! He fits well into our wealthy western culture. I mean if life is good why not have more of it, why not try for a limitless eternal worth of it. So the rich young ruler asks Jesus the good teacher the vital question how do I inherit eternal life? I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this about Jesus but he never JUST answers the question someone asks him. Its what I actually love and hate about him because He does this frustrating thing of exposing the question behind the question! Read with me
19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.The ruler called him a good teacher, in the same way a lot of us might call him a good teacher. Yet Jesus questioned that and says only God alone is good. The shrewdness of Jesus at this point is incredible. You see if anyone culturally understood what it meant to be good or at least to have the good life, then it’s this young man here. Yet Jesus draws out his insufficient understanding of goodness or “morality.” If you heard Jayesh’s earlier talk in the series you’d know that since Adam and Eve humanity has rejected God. We’re all born godless. We live self-centred lives not God-centred lives. So there’s no one who’s GOOD! Except God alone. So if Jesus is good, he’s not just a teacher, he’s God! I mean even if you don’t buy into the biblical narrative you still have to wrestle with why you’d call Jesus a good moral teacher in the first place. I mean what basis do you have to rate Jesus as good or moral? What standard or definition of goodness or morality does Jesus adhere to? I mean think about it. If you are going to call Jesus a moral or good teacher you have to define what you mean by good or moral. Here Jesus says there is only one standard: God! And he implicitly puts himself on that same level.
Now it is very rare that I meet anyone famous. However there was one time I was walking with a friend in South Bank who stopped a group of large muscular blokes whom he seemed to know. I said hello, we talked, they were friendly. Yet during the conversation and unbeknownst to me, I said to these guys you should all play footy or something. Now I was actually talking to the Brisbane Broncos team. Now before I lose all respect among you, I never claimed to be a footy expert. But it’s the same thing going on here. This young man has no idea who he is talking to, he just thinks he’s talking to a good teacher.
So Jesus challenges his very understanding of Him – it’s masterful what he does. So Jesus says you know the commandments: you know what is right and wrong. Now if you don’t know anything about the Ten Commandments (I recommend you listen to Jeremy’s brilliant explanation of them and the laws in the previous weeks) Jesus actually misses a few vital commandments when he quoted them to the young man. He missed the commandments that have to do with God. So the young man says I have done this. I don’t murder or commit adultery, or steal. But Jesus intentionally leaves the first few commandments out because watch what he does with the young man…
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”
JESUS IS GOD
You see those first commandments that Jesus didn’t mention say that a person should have no other God but God, that they shall not worship anything other than Him and that they not misuse His name. In other words a person should be completely and utterly devoted to God. So what does Jesus do? He exposes the young man’s heart saying “You worship and follow your treasures when you should be worshipping and following me.” You see Jesus was right to say that there is only one who is good and that is God. You see you can define goodness with the amount of stuff you have, you can define goodness in terms of enjoyment and pleasure, you can define goodness as simply tolerance yet the bible will always challenge this idea by saying that God alone is good and that all the goodness that we experience is due to him. Jesus says you are measuring goodness the wrong way.
You see the young man got two things wrong, he thought he knew what life was about and he thought he knew who Jesus was. It is why people with wealth find it so hard to follow Jesus. You depend and place more value in your things than you do Jesus. You see Jesus doesn’t claim to be a teacher but God himself. Right through the Bible you will see that God alone is the one who deserves our complete and utter devotion, and for anyone (anyone!) to claims that same status and devotion is utterly detestable and wicked. Yet here Jesus says devote yourself to me. Give up everything to follow me. Why? Why miss those first commandments? Why declare that God alone is good? Why state that the one thing that young man was missing was his complete and utter devotion to Jesus? Because Jesus was and is God.
In Luke 5:17-26, Jesus heals a paralytic man by saying your sins are forgiven. No one can forgive sins but God alone. In a boat caught in the storm (Luke 8:22-25) Jesus commands the winds and waves to stop by speaking a word! And they do. No one but God can command the winds and waves. No one but God can command creation – the one Who created everything with the power of His voice and yet here creation listens to Jesus’ voice. Jesus clarifies to the religious leaders, in John 8:48-59, who he really is by saying, “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am”. That is God’s special name Yahweh – “I am who I am.” And He just claimed to the religious experts of the day that is who he is. So they rightly pick up stones to kill him for such blasphemy. I mean putting aside what he did listen to what he says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father (God) expect through me. If you really know me, you will know the Father (God)” (John 14:6-7) Jesus not only claims to be God but says there is no other way to know God but through Him. There is no possibility for salvation other than Jesus. There is no possibility for forgiveness of sins other than through Jesus. There is no other possibility for eternal life other than in Jesus. If He is just a teacher then these claims reveal he is either a lunatic or liar.
YOU CAN’T FENCE SIT WITH HIM
So what what is He? Is He liar, a lunatic, or Lord? The late and renown atheist, Christopher Hitchens says this about what C.S. Lewis had to say:
As an admirer of Jefferson and Renan (people who said Jesus was a good moral teacher) and a strong nonadmirer of Lewis, I am bound to say that Lewis is more honest here. Absent a direct line to the Almighty and a conviction that the last days are upon us, how is it “moral” to teach people to abandon their families, give up on thrift and husbandry and take to the stony roads? How is it moral to claim a monopoly on access to heaven, or to threaten waverers with everlasting fire, let alone to condemn fig trees and persuade devils to infest the bodies of pigs? Such a person if not divine would be a sorcerer and a – fanatic. (Christopher Hitchens, In the Name of the Father, the Sons… The New York Times, July 9th 2010)You see it’s all or nothing when it comes to Jesus. You can’t pretend to live in ignorance of Him. Indifference won’t work. You can’t be fence-sitters with Jesus, especially when it comes to eternal life. Read with me:
27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”If you value anything above and over Him, if you think him merely a teacher, or a prophet, or just a blip in our history then you will fail to know and understand who He is. You will fail to understand why eternity is at stake. You see as a teacher Jesus would not be able to lay claim that eternal life is possible. But if he’s Lord. If He is truly God. Then listen what he has to say…
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
For the son of man (Jesus) came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)
whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:10-11)
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26)
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3)If He is just a good teacher He has no right to make these statements. Yet if He is Lord it changes EVERYTHING!
Dear brothers and sisters, Christians. Let us not make the mistake and think him merely a Sunday thing. He isn’t a nice moral teacher that we give our kids so that they be nice moral children. Let us take seriously that He is God. That He is King. That there is a day coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. Let us take seriously that what is at stake is eternity. This isn’t a game. It’s people’s eternal souls at stake! And Jesus is the ONLY one who can give us life. Who can forgive our sins and restore the broken relationship with God. So proclaim him. Make disciples. And have confidence in Whom you proclaim.
Now if you are visiting here today. Investigate the claims Jesus makes. Indifference will not be an excuse because if He is Lord you cannot ignore Him. But If He is Lord you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Just after his encounter with the rich young ruler this is what Jesus, the God who created us, the God we rejected, says He came to do…
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man (about me) will be fulfilled. 32 He (I) will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him (me), insult him (me) and spit on him (me); 33 they will flog him (me) and kill him (me). On the third day he (I) will rise again.”Jesus came to die and rise for us, so that we may have eternal life. It’s his resurrection that confirms for us all that he said about himself. We’ll look at the compelling evidence for that next week.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life… (John 3:16)