Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?"

“Who Do You Say I Am?” (A continuation of Jesus For the Layman)

I started my working life as an apprentice Marine Plumber in a Glasgow shipyard. I was fifteen going on sixteen when my dad, a boilermaker/plater, asked me what I was going to do when I left school. I just sort of shrugged and grunted whenever he asked me these types of questions. My eldest brother had become an art teacher and my second eldest a journalist. “I’ll get you a real job,” said my dad. “I don’t want you ending up like that pair of pansies!” (or words to that affect and said tongue-in-cheek). So, before I knew it I was sitting aptitude tests to see if I had the right stuff to work in the same shipyard as my dad. Apparently I did. So, as an apprentice Marine Plumber I learned how to bend big bore pipes using heating torches, arc-weld, gas weld, braze, burn and all that heavy industry stuff.

From there I went on to become a Domestic Plumber working on houses in the Vale of Leven, Scotland and Toronto, Canada. Then I became a Railway Pipefitter in Winnipeg, Canada. Upon subsequent arrival in Brisbane, Australia I began working on building sites as a plumber. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, it’s merely to make a simple point. Whether Scotland, Canada or Australia the language is the same. No, I don’t mean the English language, but rather the colourful use of profanity that, like a caulker’s gun, reverberates throughout shipyards, railway yards and building sites.

Now, I wasn’t sure whether I should be stopping my use of four letter words, but upon my conversion I could see clearly that I needed to stop using God’s name(s) as a swear word. There it was, staring right back at me from Scripture, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”[1] I found that my taking the LORD’s name in vain (i.e., blasphemy) immediately disappeared from my vocabulary when I was converted (while in the Canadian Railway job). The use of four letter words followed somewhere behind like a caboose, and, like the caboose, eventually was done away with.

One would need to believe that Jesus is God the LORD if one would see the need to stop using His name as a swear word. Sure, lots of people try to tidy up their “act” from time to time by cutting down on their use of foul language. I think even the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly once tried this for five minutes! However, surely you can see that if you really believed that Jesus was Lord you wouldn’t be taking His name in vain? You wouldn’t be using His name as a curse word.

CS Lewis is usually credited with coming up with the trilemma argument about who Jesus is: Lunatic, Liar, or Lord? Or sometimes the question about who Jesus is is phrased like this, Mad, Bad or God? How do we answer this question? Should we run off and ask the site foreman? The shipyard or railyard supervisor? Anyway, let’s have a wee look at a quote from CS Lewis before we try to answer that,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would 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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[2]

After the reports of Jesus resurrection from the dead Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”[3]

Obviously, Thomas was one of those “seeing is believing” type of people. However, Jesus met with Thomas a week later and said to him,

Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.[4]

It was then that Thomas was changed from doubter into believer. For Thomas did not exclaim to Jesus, “Lunatic! Liar!” Rather “Thomas said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”[5]

If you hit your thumb while hammering in a nail, think of something other than yelling any of the LORD God’s titles! Best just to say, “Ouch!” and leave it there. The rebellious Jews had the ruling Romans nail Jesus to the cross for blasphemy, for swearing, for allegedly taking the LORD God’s name in vain, i.e., for supposedly breaking the Third Commandment. For Jesus was going around claiming to be God by making Himself equal to God.[6] Clearly they thought He was either a Liar or even a Lunatic. They did not believe that He was the Son of God.

One time as He was going around the place He sought His disciples’ opinion as to who He was. This is where you can take a few moments to consider the opinions of plumbers, journalists and art teachers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Who did your mum say Jesus was? Who did/does your dad, your teacher, your friends, your next door neighbour say Jesus is? Who did your local minister or priest or Atheist uncle say Jesus is?

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’[7]

This is where all your upbringing comes in, the movies you watched, the books and magazines you had read, the people in the pubs and clubs you have spoken to, the people you hung around with, your classmates at school. All of these and more influence us, our way of thinking. If Jesus really and truly is the Son of the living God then every last one of us would do well to come at the question of who Jesus is without all the background din, chatter and clatter of the school hall dining room. Let there be silence! Away with everyone! It is hard to think clearly with the sound of a thousand different voices echoing in the temple of your mind. Silence! At this point I am reminded of the words to an old hymn,

God reveals His presence;
Let us now adore Him,
And with awe appear before Him.
God is in His temple;
All within keep silence…[8]

After hearing what His disciples said regarding who and what others claimed Jesus to be, He got personal and pointed the Sword of the Spirit at their hearts and jabbed. How are His disciples going to reply? Have they made up their minds as to who Jesus is because Bob the boatbuilder had an opinion? Or Ned the net-mender’s pontifications? Or are they going to be like the Bereans and search the Scriptures to see if these things He claims about Himself are so? Anyway, Jesus didn’t give His disciples any wiggle or wriggle room. You are either on His hook and safe on His boat or you’re still lost at sea.

‘But what about you? He asked. Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.’[9] 

Only God can remove the scales from your eyes and reveal His Son to you. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. But keep in mind that it’s not you who gets to judge Him, but He who gets to judge you.

Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.[10]

May He be gracious to you.

[1] The Third Commandment as found in Exodus 20:7 KJV. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” NIV.
[2] CS Lewis, Mere Christianity.
[3] John 20:25b NIV.
[4] John 20:27 NIV.
[5] John 20:28-29 NIV.
[6] See e.g., Matthew 9:3; John 5:18.
[7] Matthew 16:13-14 NIV.
[8] Gerhard Tersteegen, 1697-1769, translated by Frederick William Foster, 1760-1835.
[9] Matthew 16:15-17 NIV.
[10] Acts 17:29-31 NIV.

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