Recognising Jesus (Jon Fryer)

Ok, so these two guys are walking down the road. They are feeling very down, kicking at stones, and generally dawdling as they head home. A third man catches up to them on the road, and says to them ‘Hey, what’s up? Why the long faces?’ They say to him ‘You must be from out of town if you don’t know. Everyone is talking about it. Our friend, our teacher – we though he was the chosen one. We thought he was going to give us back our country and kick out the invaders – but instead, the government killed him. We followed him around for three whole years, but now we don’t know what to do, so we’re going back to our old jobs back home.’ The stranger said to them ‘You really haven’t been paying attention have you. Didn’t your teacher tell you that all of this was going to happen? Didn’t he show you the prophecies in the Bible?’… and as they walked he explained everything that had happened. The two guys got really excited, and when they reached their house the stranger went to carry on down the road. ‘Don’t go!’ they said. ‘Its getting late, and we want to talk more with you about this stuff. Come and eat with us’. So the stranger went in to dinner with them. At the start of the meal he took the bread, and gave thanks, and broke it… and the two men had the strangest sense of déjà vu as they recognised their teacher, just before he vanished. ‘That was Jesus!’ they said to each other, dancing round the room. ‘He’s alive! He taught just like Jesus while we were on the road, opening our eyes to the truth. Why didn’t we recognise him?’ … and they were so excited that they forgot about dinner and ran all the way back down the road to Jerusalem in the middle of the night to tell their friends!

The two guys in the Bible story are a lot like us really – they seem to have a very difficult time working out what is going on! They don’t recognise what Jesus has been doing, despite the fact that he told them all clearly in advance, and even showed them the prophecies in the Bible that said he was going to die and then rise again. Worse, they don’t even recognise him when he comes and walks with them, despite the fact that they’ve just spent three years hanging out with him! What is their problem?

Their first problem is one that we often share – they haven’t put the effort in to understand what the Bible says about Jesus… they do not know the Scriptures and they therefore do not understand the power of God. Often we do not recognise God when He works, we do not see what Jesus is doing in our lives because we haven’t bothered to look; we don’t recognise God’s work because we don’t know what to look for. We can’t tell our friends the good news about Jesus because we don’t actually know what is so good about Him! The entire Bible is one great description of Jesus – those of you at Soul Survivor a few years back may remember Louis Giglio teaching that the entire Bible is about Jesus, from Genesis where he is the sacrificial lamb on Abraham’s altar right through to Revelation where he is the King of Kings – reading the Bible teaches us how to recognise who Jesus is, and more importantly, what he is actually like.

Quoting from the famous sermon by Dr. S.M. Lockridge, who sums up what the Bible says about Jesus far better than I ever could: He's the king of the Jews, the King of Israel, the King of Righteousness, the King of the ages, the King of glory, the King of heaven, the Lord of Lords, the sovereign of all creation. You recognise the Queen of England – can you recognise Him? No measure can measure his love. No telescope can see the borders of his provision for us. No barrier can block him from pouring out blessing. Do you recognise Him? He's enduringly strong. He's entirely sincere. He's eternally steadfast. He's immortally graceful. He's impartially merciful. He's the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of the world. How could you not recognise Him? He's God's Son. He's the sinner’s saviour. He's the centrepiece of civilisation. He stands in the solitude of Himself. He's honest and He's unique. He's unparalleled. He's unprecedented. How could you mistake Him? He's the loftiest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He is the supreme problem in higher criticism. He's the fundamental doctrine of true theology. He's the core, the necessity for spiritual religion. He's the miracle of the ages. He's the superlative of everything good that you could choose to call him. He's the only one qualified to be our all-sufficiency. He’s everywhere we look, and yet we fail to see Him! He supplies strength to the weak. He's available for the tempted and tried. He sympathises and He saves. He strengthens and sustains. He guards and he guides. He heals the sick. He cleanses the leper. He forgives the sinner. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captive. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent. He beautifies the meek. He's the key to knowledge. He's the wellspring of wisdom. He's the doorway of deliverance. He's the pathway of peace. He's the roadway of righteousness. He's the highway to holiness. He's the gateway of glory. His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. Do you want to know Him? His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He's indescribable. He's incomprehensible. He's invincible. He's irresistible. You can't get Him out of your mind. You can't get Him off of your case. You can't outlive him and you can’t live without Him. The Pharisee's couldn't stand Him, but they couldn't stop Him. Pilate could find no fault in Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him and the grave couldn't hold Him. And His is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory for ever and ever and ever and ever. Amen.

(Listen to the original mini-sermon here - its called 'My King' or 'The Seven Way King', and is one of the most famous sermons of the Twentieth Century: Seven-Way-King.mp3 / Seven-Way-King_young.mp3 / Or you can find a download of the sermon set to dance music here!)

That’s all very cool – when we know what He is like then we learn how to recognise Him, and when we recognise what he is like, then we can do the things that please him and become more like him… but let me put it another way. What is the Bible? Is this the Word of God? If this were a Koran and we were Muslims we would not be allowed to put it on the floor, because we would believe that the book itself is holy. Is the Holy Bible holy? Is it special? Most of you agree that it is. I would like to suggest to you tonight that this is just a book. It’s just words in ink on a bunch of onion leaf pages. There’s nothing special about it at all. The Living Word of God is active and powerful. He’s alive. His name is Jesus. The words in the book only become the Living Word of God when you take them inside of you and they make you more like Jesus, who is the Living Word. They only become the Living Word of God when they live inside your mind and your heart and your soul, when they sing in your sleep and they pulse in your blood. Whilst they stay trapped in a book under your bed the things the Word has said about Himself are empty and powerless to you – its only when you meet Him face to face that they become real. The things from the Bible that show you how to recognise Jesus are great and you may want to talk to your friends about some of them, but they are only believable if they are real to you. When talking to your friends about why Jesus is special then the Bible is a useful ally, but its not the best way to start… the best way to start is ‘Let me tell you about my friend’.

Carry me

The rest of the world does not need to be introduced to a book, it needs to meet the True and Living Lord Jesus. Let me give you an example – a few years back a guy from my old church was posting on Christian message board on the internet, and he was in an argument with an atheist about abortion and stuff, and he was saying that babies who die go straight to hell because they are not Christians yet, and gave a few wildly out of context quotes from the book to back himself up. I was absolutely bouncing-off-the-walls furious – its not true, its not what the Bible says (regardless of what he might think), and worst of all, he was talking about my Jesus in a way that was so distorted that he was unrecognisable. My Jesus said ‘Let the children come to me – theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven’. My Jesus is a protector of the small and the helpless and the lost and the broken. My Jesus doesn’t turn his back on anyone. He never loses. Despite hanging around a church for years, despite being a ‘good Christian’, despite knowing some of the words from the book, this guy still had absolutely no idea as to who Jesus actually is, no idea as to what the Master is about. Otherwise he might actually have has some good news about Jesus and been able to introduce the atheist guy to the Living Word, rather than firing off smug misunderstood words from a book that he obviously has no understanding of, and about a Jesus he obviously wouldn’t recognise on the street. I hope all of you have better news to share about the real Jesus, and about how you met him, than that guy did. If you don’t, then have you actually met him? Is the good news that we have to offer ‘gay people can’t be bishops’? Do we have nothing better than ‘Thou shalt not…’? Or is our good news ‘Jesus loves you, this I know…’? Is it ‘Let me introduce you to my friend.’? Are we offering rumours of transcendence and mysteries from another world? Wouldn’t it be better to tell stories that makes someone’s heart leap within them when they hear that Aslan is on the move?

Ok, going back to the Bible story, the other problem the two guys on the road have is that they are trapped in wrong expectations, and so they don’t recognise Jesus when they see him. They expected him to be King. They expected him to fight the Romans. They expected him to be dead. What they didn’t expect was him turning up next to them on the road – they aren’t looking for what Jesus is really like, and so they don’t recognise him when he turns up. We often have the same problem. We don’t expect Jesus to ask certain things of us, so we don’t recognise him working when things happen. Surely Jesus can’t want me to lose my job? Surely Jesus doesn’t want me to give up my holiday or my money? Surely Jesus doesn’t want me to be in a situation where I get bullied? Surely Jesus doesn’t want me to hang out with the loser kid and stand up for them when they get bullied? Often we build a picture of Jesus in our heads that doesn’t match up with the real Jesus that we have met, the real Jesus we read about in the Bible. The real Jesus may not be cool enough for us. The real Jesus may be too uncomfortable to be with. Whatever the reasons:

I don’t want a splintered Messiah
In a sweat stained greasy grey robe
I want a new one
I couldn’t take this one to parties
People would say ‘Who’s your friend?’
I’d give an embarrassed giggle and change the subject.
If I took him home
I’d have to bandage his hands
The neighbours would think he’s a football hooligan
I don’t want his cross in the hall
It doesn’t go with the wallpaper
I don’t want him standing there
Like a sad ballet dancer with holes in his tights
I want a different Messiah
Streamlined and inoffensive
I want one from a catalogue
Who’s as quiet as a monastery
I want a package tour Messiah
Not one who takes me to Golgotha
I want a King of Kings
With blow waves in his hair
I don’t want the true Christ
I want a false one.
(Stuart Henderson)

Often we trade in our true Jesus for a false image that is easier to live with, and so we don’t recognise when he calls. But let me tell you brothers and sisters that the time is coming, and now is, when people will not want to hear the truth but will instead turn to whatever their ears want to hear. All around us we are bombarded with noise from the devil telling us lies about the world, about ourselves, about God, in the press, on TV, on the internet. God doesn’t shout, He whispers, and if we truly want to follow him then we need to learn how to recognise his voice in all of the hubbub. How can we know the beauty of the truth from the ugliness of both the lie and the Liar unless we learn how to recognise Jesus when he speaks? How we need to love the truth. How we need to fall back in love with the Jesus that we first met. We need to be able to introduce him to our friends with love and intimate knowledge of who he is, so that they can fall in love with him too. We need to be passionate about who He is, and most particularly, we each need to be passionate about what he means to me – and then others might even recognise him through us and in us.

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