If you were to ask ten different people this question, you are likely to get ten very different answers. The catholic will say that Jesus is the Son of God, but He cannot fully save without our contribution of works. The Hindu will say that Jesus is an incarnation of God, but not God Himself. The Mormon will say that Jesus is one of the many elite spirit beings that were created by God the Father. And the Christian scientist will say that Jesus was a very wise man who was in sync with God.
Even within mainstream evangelicalism, the question of “Who is Jesus” will prompt many differing answers. The faithful Baptist who holds to more of a traditional understanding of Christ than a Biblical one will describe Jesus as a Savior who is on bended knee just pleading with sinners to take Him up on His offer of salvation. Basically, believing that Christ’s ability to save a person is only made possible if the person first gives Him their permission. The prosperity preacher on television will say that Jesus came to earth so that we could have our ‘Best life now,’ and if we would only give more of our money and time to His causes, we would be blessed with health, wealth, and a glamorous life. There are even a great many of professing believers who claim that Jesus is a God of love, all the while negating that He has any wrath whatsoever.
Former Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz would preach a Jesus that was soft on judging sin and willing to give grace without the shackles of repentance. Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church once stated on public television that there were many ways to God outside of faith alone in Christ. And the new age spiritualist Deepak Chopra teaches that Jesus is a state of mind that we can all aspire towards. There is even now a woke version of Jesus whose teachings are more in sync with Marxism than Christianity.
Still many will gravitate towards more of a postmodern view of Jesus, stating that it is perfectly acceptable to leave the teachings of Jesus up to each person’s individual interpretation, and that all versions of Jesus are relative. Essentially this is to believe that all of the above mentioned versions of Jesus are within orthodoxy, and therefore worthy of being placed under the umbrella of Christianity. But Biblically, individual interpretation has nothing to do with determining what is true.
“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Peter 1:19-21.
Human interpretation or what we personally believe about Jesus can be miles away from the truth of Christ as revealed in scripture. If you begin to dial your friends cell phone number and get all of the digits correct except for the last one, it doesn’t matter that you were close to having it right. That one wrong digit will put you in contact with someone other than your friend. In the same way, if we distort or any portion of the doctrine that Jesus taught or His divinity, then it becomes a different Jesus than the one in scripture.
My wife Lacy is a beautiful brunette with sparkling blue eyes and stands around 5 feet four inches in height. If someone were to tell me that they met my wife and went on to describe her almost perfectly, but finished by saying that she was six feet tall with brown eyes, they would be completely wrong. They may have been describing a person named Lacy, but it wasn’t my Lacy. Merely calling up the name of Jesus means absolutely nothing if it is not the Jesus of scripture.
So, with all of these different versions and interpretations of the Son of God floating around our world today, who actually is Jesus Christ? This coming Sunday morning at Foothills Community Church, we will begin walking verse by verse through the book of Luke as we look to give answer to this largely debated question. This journey will take years to complete, but it is one of the most crucial and greatly needed studies in the world today.
In the book of Luke, we find a Jesus that is far different from many of the Christ’s that we hear preached in our modern day culture. The Jesus presented to us in Luke is not the Jesus of Catholicism that claims good works are a way to earn salvation. In Luke 23, we read the account of the thief that hung next to Jesus on the cross. He had no good deeds to speak of. Yet he was repentant in his acknowledgement of Christ as Lord. And with no works to the thief’s credit, Jesus said to him, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43.
Jesus is not the Christ of the Mormon that teaches Jesus was once a created spirit being. Luke 20:28 says, “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Jesus is not the Christ of the traditional Christian that says that mankind holds the keys to freedom from his unbelief and in order to be saved, must first hand over those keys to Jesus. The scriptures tell us that it is Jesus that holds the keys to salvation, not man. John 8:34-36 “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Luke records that the very reason that humanity needed Christ is because man could not make any move towards God without Jesus supernaturally changing their heart first. Jesus came to set the captives free, and they could not first free themselves. “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,” Luke 4:18.
Jesus is not the Christ of the postmodern idealist, who believes that absolute truth does not exist and proposes many ways to God. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Jesus never said, “Follow which ever path you like, because all roads lead to me. Rather He said we must follow Him. “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23.
The Gospel writers, of which Luke is one, did not leave the identity of Jesus up for interpretation. Luke was crystal clear in regards to the deity of Christ, the sovereignty of Christ, the message of Christ, and the mission of Christ. Luke leaves no room for ambiguity in regards to Jesus.
The book of Luke not only highlights the person and work of Christ, but also the teachings and doctrine of Christ. Some professing believers have made statements like, “We don’t need all of this doctrine talk, just give me Jesus. However, Jesus was a teacher of doctrine. It is impossible to know Jesus without knowing the doctrine of His teachings. Within the Gospel account of Luke, we read of the doctrine of sanctification, the doctrine of justification, the doctrine of reprobation, the doctrine of the church, the doctrine of election, the doctrine of propitiation, the doctrine of worship, the doctrine of angels, the doctrine of sin, and the doctrine of glorification. And this list of the doctrines of Christ that we see covered in Luke is only skimming the surface.
In order to answer the question of ‘Who is Jesus,’ even the most faithful church going person must be willing to set aside all of their traditional beliefs and preconceived notions and humbly submit to the Christ of scripture. When the Jesus of scripture seems to make us uncomfortable, we must be very careful not to disregard Him based on our preferences of interpretation and run off to make a golden calf that looks similar to the biblical Christ, only slightly remolded to fit into our comfort zones. As the Apostle Paul would say, in Galatians 1, a slightly altered Jesus is equals no Gospel at all.
Who is Jesus? The book of Luke tells us that He is truth. And absolute truth is not up for interpretation, nor are there many different versions of it. Truth is clear. Truth is black and white. Truth does not care about our feelings or preferences. Truth has one meaning. And truth is the only way to know anything or anyone with certainty. The Gospel of Luke is a book about the truth of who Jesus is. And He is much bigger and more glorious than you may have ever imagined.
If you are near Marble Hill Georgia, we invite you to join us on our journey through Luke’s Gospel each Sunday at 10:30 AM at Foothills Community Church. www.foothillscommunitychurch.org