(if you go to Trinity, Milton, DON'T READ THIS!!!)
WHO WAS JESUS?
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads here.
I’m thinking today of my son and son-in-law who are the fathers of my wondrous four grand-daughters.
And I’ve been thinking all week about my father, Virgil Hoyt Bradley, who grew up on a turkey farm in Monroe County, West Virginia.
When he moved to McDowell County, West Virginia to be a coal miner, he told the cook at the boarding house for miners that she had given him the best chicken he had ever eaten, she told him it was turkey. He wouldn’t believe her until she took him in the kitchen and showed him the carcass.
He had never tasted turkey—you don’t eat the cash crop.
He had an eighth-grade education, but was one of wisest men I’ve ever known.
He was a life-long Republican in what was then a deep Blue state. How things change as time passes.
He enrolled in the army and was a corporal in the engineering battalion of General Patten’s troops. He spent the war building bridges for Patten to drive his tanks across rivers and then blowing the bridges up.
He once told me, when I asked why they blew the bridges up: “General Patton told us we weren’t coming back!”
There’s lots more I could tell you about him, but we need to get to the Sea of Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee was not a ‘sea’, it was a lake and not a big one. 46 square miles of water very susceptible to sudden storms.
Imagine being on a first century boat on a lake when a tropical storm came up.
Imagine waking up the only passenger who was asleep and telling him they were all going to drown.
Imagine that person calling out to the elements of nature and calming the storm.
Wouldn’t you, like the disciples, wonder “who that guy was that the forces of nature obey him”?
Who is this? Who was Jesus?
That, by the way, is the name of this sermon—Who Was Jesus?
I typed, “Who Was Jesus?” into Google and got—are you ready for this?—266 million responses!
I only read one of them—about eight pages—but it had 566 footnotes!
People have been wrestling with Who Jesus Was? Since the 2nd century.
Scholars and theologians have struggled for centuries to distinguish between “the Biblical Jesus” and the “historic Jesus”, without much success.
The Jesus we know from the New Testament and from the early Christian writing that are called ‘the Sacred Gnostic writings” that didn’t make it into the canon of scripture established by the Council of Nicea in 325 a.d.
I brought a copy of the Gnostic writings to show you how much we know about the Biblical Jesus.
The ‘historic Jesus’—we don’t know much about him.
There’s a joke about how the archaeologists of Pope John 23rd came to him with bad news—they had found Jesus’ body.
“This terrible,” the good Pope said, “we must tell the world, but first I’ll call the Protestant Theologian, Paul Tillich in Chicago and tell him.”
The Pope and Paul (who called God ‘the Ground of Being’) were on the phone, “Bad news, my brother,” the Pope said, “we’ve found Jesus’ body.”
There was a long pause and then Paul Tillich said, with a sigh of relief, “My God, he really lived!”
So, “Who Jesus Is?” cannot be answered with any certainty. It all comes down to ‘belief’.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus asks his disciple ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they answer that some people say, John the Baptist, but others say Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Then Jesus says, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God”—and Peter becomes the Rock the church is built on.
It all comes down to ‘believing’.
“Believe”, literally translated, means “to live as if…”
So, in the end, “who Jesus is” depends on who we ‘believe’ he is—who we ‘live as if’ he is.
That puts a lot of pressure on you and me.
“Who do WE say that he is?” What do we believe about him? How does he help us to live our lives?
That is what we must always be asking ourselves, “Who do I believe Jesus is?”
And how do I live ‘as if’ he was my brother, my friend, my savior, my Lord and my God?
That’s the question we must always be asking.
It’s up to us.