Being that you are surrounded by the Jesus culture you may not have noticed that there are a lot of people in this world who do not know who Jesus is. Oh, many of them have opinions of who they think Jesus is and what he did. If you ask, some people will tell you that he is a fictional character but most will agree that he was a man from a long time ago. Some will tell you he was a prophet, a holy man, a good teacher, an advocate of love. Most of them don't get the whole "Son of God" thing and really don't understand why people keep telling them that Jesus loves them. How can some guy who died 2000 years ago love them and why would they care if he did? After all these centuries the world remains confused and unconvinced about Jesus.
Nicodemus is a good example of this. He was drawn to Jesus but he couldn't really explain why, so he came to him under the cover of darkness. It only made sense since he was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin; he needed to protect his reputation. As he stood before Jesus he felt obligated to recognize what he did understand so far:
“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2)
Jesus ignored the lack of recognition and went to the heart of the reason why Nicodemus had come to him, but we will consider that tomorrow. For this morning I only want to use Nicodemus' statement as a means of recognizing that we are not always successful in conveying who Jesus is to the world. It is sad to think that people lump Jesus in with men like Gandhi, Buddha, and Muhammed; supposedly wise men by the standards of this world. Jesus was no ordinary man and made it clear not only by his actions but by his statements.
There was a point when Jesus wanted to draw out of his disciples who they thought he was. He asked them what the world was saying about him and they gave him a mixed reply, somewhat like we still find in the world:
“Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14)
The world considered him a wise man, even a prophet but Jesus wanted his disciples to make up their mind who he was to them and asked them plainly to sate it. It was Peter who spoke for the rest of them:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
Now consider Jesus' response to his disciples:
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." (Matthew 16:17)
Jesus called this divine inspiration and that is still what it takes today in order to see Jesus for who he is. Jesus told us that no one can come to the Father except through him and at the same time he said that no one will come through him unless that person is drawn to him by the Father. Divine inspiration. Sometimes I am not sure that we are entirely convinced of who Jesus is. By the way we talk and live it looks like Jesus was nothing more than a wise man who came to give us a new morality code.
Jesus did not come to teach wisdom but instead to proclaim that the door was opening to a restored relationship with the Father. Jesus stated clearly:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Jesus was not some wise man with an emphasis on love. Jesus is the door to the restoration of the relationship we once had with God, and it was his blood shed on the cross that makes it possible for us to be cleansed of the sin we were powerless to do anything about, the sin that separated us from God. There was something in us that we were born with, that we could never remove, that kept us from seeing, knowing and obeying God, but Jesus made it possible for the power of this thing to be broken and removed. Jesus was born to die.
That's another part of all this, people think that Jesus was the victim of some tragedy. If they read anything about Jesus they see that there was a plot against him, that there was a failed attempt at a trial, and that he fell victim to a crowd mentality, a crowd that wanted to see blood. But Jesus was no victim; he went willingly to the cross. When Peter tried to rescue him and protect him during the arrest, Jesus stopped him and told him:
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54)
There is so much more to Jesus than the world knows and, I think, than we know at times. We, the Church, seem to forget that we are no longer victims of anything because Jesus made us victorious over everything. We have no reason to feel lost, defeated, overwhelmed, oppressed or any of the rest of it. Jesus' victory on the cross over our sin which had us bound up has set us free to live lives of victory. This is what the world needs to see to know that Jesus is not some ordinary man with a message of love. They need to understand that there is power in the blood that was shed on the cross and they need to see it in our transformation from what were were to who we are in Christ today. We have to be just as Jesus was with Nicodemus. We have to be available to answer questions without being offended and we have to be able to cut through the surface stuff and get to the heart of the matter. But even more, we need to live the victory of Jesus so that they can see Jesus' glory in us. Jesus is no ordinary man so we should not be living an ordinary life. Let the world see the power of Jesus in you today.