Riddle Me This…Who Is This Jesus? God in the Flesh or Just Some Radical Rabbi?

Posted: May 2, 2015 in Gospel of Luke
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Luke 20:41-44 — Everybody likes riddles. There are even websites dedicated to them. We loved them as kids and we love them today. For example, here’s one…what building has the most stories?….a library….(rimshot heard on the drums in the background). Riddles are wonderful word plays. Jesus loved them. Yes, I believe Jesus had a great sense of humor. Just look back at Luke 6:41-42 where Jesus talks about having a log in your eye. That seems so ridiculous but that was the point. When we write about such things we today make it about hypocrisy and it certainly is, but we often bypass the fact that it is funny. Jesus was a funny guy. I would have loved to have been there and hung around with Him. He loved word plays, just look at the camel and the eye of the needle in Matthew 19:24. In Aramaic, the words for camel and the eye of a needle were very similar. That made the truth of what Jesus was saying all the more humorous and memorable. It shows you a glimpse into the humor of our Lord. So, it is not stretch to think that Jesus loved ironic humor and riddles. Doesn’t this thought make you love our Savior all the more? One day, you and will be able to sit down in heaven with Him and have some side splitting laughter over the stories of our lives and Jesus will laugh right with us. So, in today’s passage, realize that Jesus had a mind that looked for humor, irony, as ways to teach the truth in ways that would be memorable.

Today, in this passage, Jesus gives the priests, elders, and temple elite a riddle. Jesus was probably chuckling inside when He said it because in the irony of the riddle lies the truth. Jesus said:

41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
43 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

As we have progressed through Luke 20, we see the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the supporters of Herod had been asking Jesus trick questions to try to trap him in some way that they could use against Him. Now, Jesus turns the tables on them and asks them a penetrating question in the form of a riddle – who they thought the Messiah was! The Pharisees knew that the Messiah would be a descendant of David but they did not understand who the Messiah really was. Jesus quoted from Psalm 110 to show that the Messiah would be greater than David. How can that be in ancient Middle Eastern society where age was revered and respected? In that society, unlike in America today, the aged were respected and revered and given honor. The elderly commanded respect and the young would bow and give way to their elders. How then would David accord the Messiah such honor unless David recognized that the Messiah was something far greater than he. This is the riddle that the world must ponder about Jesus. Who is He? This is the central issue of life – what we believe about Jesus. Other spiritual or theological questions are irrelevant until we answer this one question. Your answer to this question determines the answers to all other question about faith, religion, God, etc.

To the average Jewish person in Jerusalem and even to many of the elite religious leaders of the day, Jesus was a new king descended from the line of King David, and as the OT prophesies suggested, he would be a king who would rule over the nation of Israel forever. Laying down their cloaks and branches was a ceremony for a king. The crowd cheered on their king who they hoped would help alleviate their suffering under the occupation of the Roman Empire. He was to be a conquering hero.

The religious leaders believed something about Jesus too. They believed he was a fraud, and a threat to their religious traditions. Jesus actually placed himself on level with God by forgiving people’s sins and he routinely violated the Sabbath day by healing people. Jesus was a rabble-rouser and they planned his death. Jesus’ riddle here implies that He is more than a Messiah, a conquering hero, He is Lord. He is God!

Peter was the first to get it. In Mark 8:29 (NIV), it says, “And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Messiah”. It is this question that we all must answer. Who is Jesus Christ?

How do you answer this question? Is Jesus just another road to heaven? Is he one in a long line of prophets that offer the way to heaven? Is he simply an option on the menu of how to get to heaven. Is He simply a great philosopher to you? Is He simply a political revolutionary that you admire for standing up against the political power structure of his day and was martyred for it? Or is He the Son of God, God in the flesh?

If Jesus was simply an option, just one of the ways to get to heaven, if He was just a great philosopher, if He was just a charismatic political revolutionary? Then, as CS Lewis once said, Jesus is clearly a lunatic and liar. He said He and the Father were one.That means that He and God were of the same essence. He and God are one and the same. You can’t have him be a great philosopher or political revolutionary only if He said this. You have to throw parts of the Bible out to not see that Jesus said He and God were one and the same thing. If you keep that in, and just believe that Jesus was simply a human figure, he is then a delusional lunatic. You have to deal with the fact that throughout the gospels, Jesus directly or indirectly indicated that He was God numerous times. You must throw out most of the gospels’ contents to avoid Jesus saying in one way or another that He was God in the flesh. You can have Jesus be a great philosopher, a radical rabbi and a political revolutionary and respecting Him highly in that way and not deal with the 80 times that referred to Himself as the Son of Man and other references to being divine that He made about Himself. The only conclusion that you can come too that Jesus was a liar and lunatic unless of course you have the faith to believe that He is who He claims to be – God in the flesh.

What about the miracles and the resurrection? Modernists blow these things off as fabrications of the church. They say Jesus was a great philosopher but that the miracles were added later by the church. They say the resurrection was a fiction added also. All of this was done by the church to make Jesus divine so as to compete with the gods of other religions. Unlike other religions where it took centuries or even millenia for the words of their founders to be written down, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the canonical letter of Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and the revelation of John all can be demonstrated through scholarly research to have been written within the first 60 years after Jesus died and was resurrected. The first Pauline letter, Galatians, can be demonstrated to have been written with 12-15 years after Jesus death. The first gospel, Mark, was written within 25 years of Jesus death. All the books of the New Testament were complete within 60 years. That’s pretty amazing. Many of the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life were still alive when these books were written. Don’t you think they would have raised a stink if this stuff about Jesus being God was fantasy? Never mind his followers. His enemies were still alive too. Wouldn’t they have raised a stink? Lies never last. You and I know that from our own experiences. Even the most elaborate ruses are exposed within several years. However, not only did no one dispute the claims of the New Testament books when they were first published, they have endured through the centuries. And, we can prove through archaeological research that the Bible, and particularly, the New Testament we read today is the same as what was originally written. We are now as close as 100 years to the original manuscripts of New Testament books. People of the faith have been painstaking, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in ensuring the faithfulness to the original manuscripts of the books of the Bible.

People have died through the centuries too for the name of Jesus Christ. They continue to do it today. Would people be willing to die for a lie? No way all these martyrs all through the centuries would willingly lay down their lives for a man that is simply a great philosopher. No way they would lay down their lives for simply one way to God. No way that 21 centuries after His death will people in Egypt allow themselves to be beheaded rather than renounce their faith if Jesus was just a mere radical rabbi. Yes, they are willing to die for Jesus because they believe as Peter believed. He is the Messiah. They believe that He was not a lunatic or liar because He is Lord. You have only two choices. You accept Jesus as Lord and believe all He says about Himself, all of it, or you reject Him. If you try to be middle of the road on Jesus by saying he was a great philosopher but not the Son of God, you reject Him. There is no middle of the road with Jesus. You believe Him or you don’t.

Are you willing to reject Him because you do not believe God loved us enough to break into human history and live the sinless life and offer Himself willing as the sacrifice for your sins and mine? You must answer the question. All religions have a position on Jesus because Jesus is the real deal and every religion must have a position on Him. All people on the planet have heard of Jesus including you. YOU must answer the question. Who is this Jesus? Are you willing to bet your eternity that 2 billion people are wrong and misguided? Are you willing to bet your eternity that people throughout centuries have died for the name of Jesus? Are you willing to be all the believers in Jesus Christ over 2 millenia that have come and gone (which would have to be ten times or more the currently living Christians) are all, all, all suffering from some kind of delusion that Jesus is God and that through Him we are forgiven for our sins and that He alone is the way to the Father in heaven? How delusional do YOU have to be to say that Jesus is just another guy. No one ever is as well known as He. 21 centuries later He is more well known that when He walked the earth. How many radical poltical revolutionary philosophers can you say that about? There has got to be something to this Jesus thing! Right now, my friend, believe in Him. He is who He says He is. Don’t risk your eternity on rejecting Him. He is who He says He is.

He welcomes your skepticism. He welcomes your looking under his rocks. He welcomes your questions. He welcomes all the research you can do. He is not afraid of it. He probably laughs out loud at our vain attempts to discount Him. He wants you come to Him with all your doubts and questions and He will answer them all. He will show you that He is Lord. He is the Messiah. He is the Savior. He answers all your questions with a smile. Once your are saved, you and He will have many great belly laughs over the folly of not believing in Him.

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