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Who is this Jesus?


September 20, 2020

All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ

Text: Luke 4:16-21

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Perhaps the most common question that has occurred when it comes to Jesus – is who was this man?

Throughout history this question has been posed by various people, those who encountered or read of him in the gospel accounts and wondered how he could have the power which he had. We might remember various stories when this questions is asked of him – some wondering how he could do the things he did, or even his challenging of his disciples to identify him.

We might remember when Pilate questioned his identity when Jesus was on trial. Pilate the local governor wanted to know if he was the king of the Jews, to which Jesus told him, you have said so.

The early church, likewise wrested with these questions. By the 4th century various thoughts started to rise and were debated with vigor.

Some thought that he was a god, who appeared with flesh, but was merely a spiritual being.

Others thought that he was a man who was adopted by God-the-Father as son.

These debates raged, but neither of these viewpoints were correct. Instead the church, through the meeting of the early ecumenical councils and study, discussed and eventually penned what we now call the Nicene Creed, though what we recite today was really the product of both the councils at Nicaea and Constantinople.

In the creed we confess that we believe that Jesus is: “the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Life, Very God of very God; begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

This definition can feel overwhelming, or perhaps if you have recited it from your youth up till today, it has become rote.

Surely, at some point – perhaps confirmation class, or in Sunday school you spent time contemplating it – but maybe that is a distant memory.

Or maybe you know exactly what we are confessing, maybe this excites you, maybe you know the incredible thing we profess when we say these words.

When we confess the Nicene Creed – we proclaim the incarnation of Jesus – we proclaim that God, in the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, came to earth – and was fully man – and fully God. He did not lack in any sense of the word that which it is to be a human being, nor did he lack, in any sense of the word that which it means to be God.

If we need to be concise with the question of who Jesus is, we confess that

– He is fully God and fully man.

In JI Packer’s phenomenal book “Knowing God” he summaries the importance, the glory, and the mystery of this when he writes:

“But in fact the real difficulty, the supreme mystery with which the Gospel confronts us, does not lie here (in the atonement, the resurrection, or the Gospel miracles) at all. It lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation. The real staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man – that the second person of the Godhead became the “second man,” determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that he took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly, and fully divine as he was human.”

Did you catch that? The entire Christian message hangs on what happened the first Christmas – what happened at the annunciation to Mary – when the angel told her that she would be with child.

My friends – though the question still rages today – as orthodox Christian believers – we confess that this really happened – that Christ is really God, come to save humanity.

Can you imagine anything better? Can you imagine anything more? Can you grasp the hugeness of what we have just heard?

When someone asks us – who is Jesus?

We know what we confess: he is fully God, and fully man, he came to earth as the anointed messiah, to usher in His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.

I think we would be at fault if we were too hard on those who walked with Jesus in the first century, those who met him, and marveled at all he did. For he came, and people were expecting him, they were expecting one who would “proclaim good news to the poor. (who would be) sent to proclaim liberty to the captives and recover the sight of the blind.”

The people of His day expected such a messiah – they expected that he would come and by the power of God in him drive out the Romans and set the people free from their captivity.

But Christ, the anointed one of God came – not as a temporal messiah, that is not as a messiah that would bring perfect economic justice in this life time, not as a messiah that would fix every crooked road, every unjust system – but as one that would begin to mend our spiritual malady today – so that we would be prepared for the perfect kingdom, prepared for the kingdom where there is justice, where sin is washed away, where we dwell with God.

This morning we read of Jesus walking into his hometown synagogue to worship His father – “as was his custom.”

We know very little about synagogue worship at this time, and in fact, some commentaries say that this passage in the Gospel According to St. Luke is one of the very earliest accounts that we have.

But here we get a slight glimpse into their lives with God.

They gathered – as we do, week in and week out, they read the word of God, and they heard someone teach on it, much like our patterns of worship.

While we have a spiritual leader, a priest and pastor to guide and shepherd us – it seems that synagogues in the first century were more lay led. We read this morning that there was an attendant, but it does not seem that there was an official leader set aside just for that task.

We have no confirmation that there was a lectionary, although, we know that lectionaries much like our own came into being within a few centuries of Christ’s life.

We also need to understand that the synagogue would not have had a bible sitting on a lectern like what we have. Instead they would have had scrolls. These scrolls contained either a whole book, sections of a book, or in some cases several shorter books of the Old Testament. So when the attended handed Jesus the scroll, it seems that he was assigned to read something from the Prophet Isaiah, and so he unrolls that scroll. And reads:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And the eyes of all were fixed upon Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary – it seems that all hung is suspense, wanting to know what this young man would say.

And he says – “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing – Jesus is the one who was predicted.

There are three things that we learn from this:

First, Jesus is anointed

Second, he is the Messiah

Third, Jesus is Lord and King.

It is odd to think of Jesus, the incarnate Lord as being anointed, and we might have a few questions about this – We may wonder what does it mean to be anointed? Who anointed him? And perhaps even why, if he was the incarnate Lord, did he need to be anointed?

First, we must understand what anointing was – it was a setting aside of someone for a specific service. We might think of it as what happens in an ordination service or perhaps the swearing into office of a public official. Anointing is basically a public ceremony to announce this man or woman has been set aside to do a specific thing.

In this case, Jesus’ anointing begins when John the Baptist baptizes him in the Jordan River. John’s baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of his service, his calling as Messiah.

But, what happens as Jesus comes out of the water is the more significant thing, it wasn’t merely Christ’s submerging in water that marked the beginning of his ministry, if we remember, as Jesus comes out, we see the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and came upon him, and God the Father spoke to him saying “you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus is commended, and empowered.

And here we get the answer to our second and third question:

God the Father anoints God the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

God does the anointing.

All three members of the trinity are acting in the ministry of Christ – Christ is sent by the Father, Christ is empowered by the Holy Spirit, Christ is fully God and fully man.

How amazing is that?

Now – this is the trickier question – if Jesus is who he is who we claim him to be, why was Jesus anointed?

The coming up the Spirit upon Jesus marks the beginning of his official ministry, from there, he is sent into the desert to be tempted by the devil, to be tempted by the one who has tripped up men and women for all of history, who tempted the first man and woman into sin.

Having fulfilled that which we have failed to fulfill – he then officially begins his public ministry.

Jesus’ anointing was necessary for two reasons – first so that the whole glory of God, all of the trinity would be revealed to humanity, and we would see how God works in our salvation.

Secondly it acted as the official start of Christ’s ministry, from there he would start to fulfil his call to undo Adam’s curse – it was a bold outward statement that the long anticipated and expected and waited for Messiah was here.

And why was here?

He came to proclaim good news to the poor.

He was sent to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

We might find that we have other questions as we read this, perhaps we wonder:

What is to good news?

Who are the captives whom he freed?

We know that the blind received sight but does that even play into our day and age?

And what of the oppressed?

First, we know from the gospel records of Jesus’ ministry that he frees those who are the bondage of demons, he brings sight to the blind, and even looses the tongues of the mute, and heals the sick.

However, I think we can go further - there is a call for the Christian, that is Christ’s church, Christ’s manifested body on earth in this age, to care deeply for those who are hurting, to care for those who are broken, the sick, and the oppressed.

We have seen organizations like the International Justice Mission fight valiantly against slavery around the world, bound together by a love for Christ.

Numerous hospitals throughout history have been built to the glory of Christ.

While Christian organizations are often among the first to respond to humanitarian crisis, such as Samaritan’s Purse and their pop up hospitals sent to assist in the worst areas of the Covid crisis.

While Christ healed in His time – we have seen His church stand up to find for the oppressed, to seek their freedom, and to heal this sick and dying and to proclaim the good news of sinners set free.

But did Christ only come to relieve a little of our temporal needs?

Certainly not!

You may remember the call that keeps getting sung in the beautiful hymn Amazing Grace which summarizes this healing beautifully as the author recalls his conversion, he writes and we sing: “I was blind, but now I see.”

I was spiritually blind, clueless, but now I see Christ’s inestimable love for me.

So often Christ rebukes the people of his time for their spiritual blindness – and in reality, before we knew Christ we were blind – blind to our sin, blind to our brokenness, blind to the goodness, and mercy, and grace, and glory of God.

It is through Christ that we are made spiritual alive, it is in Christ that we find healing.

The captives and the blind whom he has healed and freed are you and me and every Christian that has walked the face of the earth.

In Christ we find healing.

One of the minor but interesting divergences between the Eastern and the Western Church’s liturgy is how the East render the phrase which we read as “world without end.” In the Eastern liturgy where we would say “world without end” they say – “unto the ages of ages.” It is a more literal translation of what scripture sometimes says.

While I think the western rendering more accurately captures the essence of what the scripture writers were trying to convey - I find something rather appealing in the eastern version. It captures this idea of ages – We are living in the age in which we long for the return of Christ, the age in which we hope and look forward to the fullness of His justice and mercy, we look forward to the ages of ages, the world without end, the age when Christ will reign and we will dwell with God and He with us.

As we discussed last week – Christ came to proclaim the coming of the ages of ages, the coming of the world without. He came to ushering in the kingdom of heaven, where he will be the king.

So it is, that we as the church look forward to the year of the Lord’s favor, we look forward to the time when all will be made right. We look forward to the age when God will dwell with us.

Now, perhaps you are wondering does having a thoroughly thought out view of who Christ is really matter?

It does! Because Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God is the one consistent force in this world, in a world that is filled with madness and instability, in a world that is horribly confusing at times. Christ has not changed and will not change and it is to Him that we can find our one true hope, that we can find our peace, that we can find our rest and so we are invited to know Him as our savior and invited to worship him.

When someone asks us –What do you believe about this Jesus?

We can say – he is my king, and my savior – he is fully God and fully man, he is the one anointed as messiah to set the captives free, he is the king of kings, and the Lord of Lords, and I look forward to the day when his kingdom will be established forever.

When someone asks us – who is Jesus?

We can boldly respond: he is fully God, and fully man, he came to earth as the anointed messiah, to usher in His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

ALL SAINTS ANGLICAN CHURCH

Anglican Province of America

Presiding Bishop: The Most Rev. Walter Grundorf

Episcopal Visitor: The Rt. Rev Robert Giffin

Rector: The Rev. Ian Emile Dunn

(928) 443-5323

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