A Portrait of Jesus Painted By His Best Friend: His Person
To be perfectly frank, I could hardly believe what I was reading.
A prominent minister stood before his congregation of several thousand people and said from his pulpit: “Jesus is not the only begotten Son of God, but one of many. He is a man, not God. And if you believe that He is God, then you are headed for trouble.” That’s what he said. Ironically enough, that minister wound up proving that the opposite of what he said is true. He said that if you believe that Jesus is God, then you are headed for trouble. But you see, he wound up being fired from his very prominent Texas pulpit because of a whole multitude of bad choices and bad decisions. So the opposite of what he said is true: If you don’t believe Jesus is actually God, then you are headed for trouble.
That minister is simply the product of the age in which we live- the age of broad mindedness. This is a time when many people think of Jesus as simply a notable figure who lived for a time on the earth, accomplished some significant things and then passed away. But He is nothing more than that. This is an age when many people regard His life as a source of some inspiration and they respect Him as an effective teacher and advocate for sacrificial love, but they see Him as nothing more than that. This is an age when many people think that Jesus’ view of life was too limited for us. For example, He knew nothing of democracy and its problems. He offered no advice about the separation of church and state. He never mentioned nuclear bombs or labor unions or political machines. And therefore, His words may have some historical value, but nothing more than that. This is a time when many people say that other religions of the world are just as valid as Christianity, that what Buddha is to the Buddhists and Mohammed is to the Muslims so Christ is to the Christians. But He is nothing more than that.
Let me suggest to you today that the so-called broadmindedness is a polite way of saying that Jesus is not adequate for our time. It is a gentle method of removing Him from His central position as the world’s best hope for the future. And it is a tactful means of declaring that He was mistaken when He claimed to be the only way to salvation. Some people, I suppose, would label it narrow or dogmatic or old-fashioned or intellectually inferior. They may call it whatever they wish, but in this broad minded age when people are downgrading the deity of Jesus I say to you without any fear of contradiction that He is God Almighty in human form and there is salvation in no one else. No one has ever made that truth clearer than the disciple John in the Gospel which bears his name. John was Jesus’ best friend. Both Jesus and the other disciples acknowledged that to be true. And because John was so close to Jesus, he possessed an insight into the Savior which is without equal. He understood Jesus better than anyone else and that shows in his Gospel. The other Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, give us a catalog of all that Jesus did. John, however, gives us a portrait of who Jesus is. It is one of the most poetic and one of the most powerful descriptions of the person of Jesus Christ ever written. And right from the very beginning, right from the very first line of his Gospel, John establishes the fact that God and Jesus are one. “In the beginning was the Word- that’s Jesus- and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” He then goes on to make the point that God became a human being in Jesus Christ and lived among us, the only perfect life ever lived.
I know it seems strange to call it a perfect life, doesn’t it? One writer put it this way: “Think about what his life included. It included rejection. His hometown people tried to throw Him off a cliff and His family thought He had lost His mind. It included temptation, desertion, denial, betrayal, false accusations and finally, criminal execution. What we call the perfect life included all of that. Yet think also of what was missed in that so-called perfect life- the love of wife and children, education, job security, home, travel, social status, longevity. All of these things Jesus missed in His earthly life. Yet, nevertheless, we call His life perfect. Why? Because He claimed that Himself. He claimed sinlessness and perfection of character, and the record supports His claim. In His person, the real and the ideal, the human and the divine have met. Jesus said it Himself, and John, His best friend, the one who knew Him the best, repeats the claim all the way through His Gospel. Hang on tight and listen to the words:
John 8:19: “If you knew Me you would know the Father also.”
John 10:38: “Understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.”
John 12:45: “Anyone who sees Me sees the Father who sent Me.”
John 13:20: “Whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.”
John 14:1: “Believe in God, believe also in Me.”
John 14:9: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
John 10:30: “I and the Father are One.”
To put it plainly, when we see the person of Jesus, we see God. The two are one and the same. That is the great recurring theme that you find in the Gospel of John from its beginning to its end.
You see, John understood that how you view the person of Jesus Christ is the most important decision you ever make in life. For it determines how you live and work and think and play and love and serve. John understood that if you don’t believe that Jesus is God, then you are headed for trouble. John understood that people’s lives are not transformed from the weakness of sin to the strength of purity by the wonder of blazing sunsets or the glory of mountain peaks or the songs of birds in the stillness of the evening, or even by the love of a mother for a child. While these things may point to God they are not God. John knew that people are transformed only when they encounter the reality of God. People are transformed not when God is discussed as a proposition, but when God comes to them in a person, the person of Jesus Christ.
John Grisham, the best-selling novelist, is a man whose personal faith I have come to know and admire. He has a new book out. It is called The Testament. At its core, it is a story about what happens when you see Jesus Christ as God in human form. It changes your life- everything in it- everything about it. That’s what the Gospel written by an earlier man named John is all about.
In the museum at Dusseldorf, Germany there hangs a dramatic painting of the crucifixion of Jesus. When the artist finished his first sketch of the face of Jesus he called in his landlady’s daughter and asked her who she thought it was. The little girl looked at it and said: “It is a good man.” The artist knew he had failed. He tore up the first sketch. After praying for greater skill, he finished a second sketch. Again he called the little girl and asked her impression. This time the little girl said: “It is a man who was suffering.” Again the sketch was destroyed. Again the painter prayed. When a third sketch was finished he asked the little girl who it was. She immediately exclaimed: “It is the Lord.”
Dear friends, here is the only thing that matters in life…not that a good man came. Not that a wise teacher came. Not that a great sufferer came. But that God came. So call it narrow, dogmatic, old-fashioned, intellectually inferior, call it whatever you will, but I stand in this pulpit today to declare to you with the disciple John that Jesus Christ is my Lord and my God. And more than anything else in all this world, I want Him to be your Lord and your God as well.