Preaching That Changes Us

1 Corinthians 2: 4-5 “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Preaching that knows nothing except Christ and cross does more than educate. It changes us. It has the power to make us different people. Paul says his preaching was accompanied by “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” Isn’t it amazing that the gospel can turn people into followers of Jesus? The Apostle Paul shows up in Corinth from Jerusalem, a distance of about 1250 miles over land. For many of the people there he was from a foreign culture. Maybe he spoke with a funny accent. He tells them about a Jew who had died 20, maybe 25, years ago. He claims that he came back to life three days later, and then disappeared into heaven. These people had never heard of either Paul or Jesus before. They had no way of checking out his story. And yet they trust that this man they never met who died nearly a quarter century earlier in a foreign country is their Savior from sin and way to eternal life. Is that anything less than a miracle? Can you argue, or persuade, or reason a person into believing something like that?

That miracle is repeated all over the world every day. A missionary once told me about how frustrating preaching could be while he was still learning the language of his new country. He had the vocabulary of a three-year old. “Me, American missionary, tell you about Jesus. Come from God. Die on cross. Live again.” Yet it worked! People believed him! It wasn’t “wise and persuasive words,” but “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”

That’s why we believe. The message of Christ and his cross has had its way with our hearts and minds. And it keeps on working there. Let’s say we want to follow Jesus more closely with our lives, and we hear him say, “Love your enemies.” So you say, “Now how am I going to do that?” We could go and find someone to preach about five easy ways to love your enemies. Except there aren’t five easy ways to love your enemies! There isn’t even one easy way. Loving your enemies is hard, practically impossible, and you know it. My enemies make me mad. I dislike them. I don’t need advice here. I need to become a changed person.

For this, Christ and his cross are just the thing. Paul assures us, “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” Does that convict you? When God had every right to hate us as enemies, he still loved us. More than that, he let his Son die to save us. More than that, he offered, he gave his Son to save us! If God can love a sinner like me, and a whole world filled with such enemies, like that, how can I still hold my grudges against the people who have made me mad?

This isn’t primarily a guilt trip. God isn’t shaming us. He is changing us. His love so melts my heart that I want to love the people around me, even the irritating ones. I do love them for Jesus sake. That’s the way it works.

John says in his first letter. “We love because he first loved us.” And how do know God loves us? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” That’s Christ and his cross! And that produces new hearts and lives, “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

The Kind of Preaching We Need

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 “When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Paul did not preach with notable eloquence. He doesn’t say that eloquence is a bad thing. If a person has a gift for saying things in a beautiful, clever, or profound way, and he humbly offers it to serve God in the preaching of the gospel, that is a fine thing to do. But apparently Paul lost no sleep over trying to craft the most cleverly worded message he could. It was enough to be clear and direct.

What sounds “eloquent” is largely a matter of personal taste anyway. It’s a matter of “style.” On an evangelism visit, a lady once told me she was impressed by the preaching of a pastor who peppered his sermons with quotes from great works of literature. A member of my congregation once complained that my sermons sounded like I took a thesaurus after I finished writing, and exchanged all the clear and simple words for big words nobody knows. Are these two people going to be happy with the same style?

Many people want lots of story-telling in their sermons. You know that Jesus used stories when he preached. Others want carefully arranged, step-by-step logic. Paul often writes that way. Should we listen to one and not the other? I actually heard a person say once, “That’s why I prefer Jesus over Paul.” But didn’t Jesus hand-pick Paul to speak for him?

There is a problem if we elevate style over content. Preaching becomes a form of entertainment. Ever find yourself remembering a story or something funny a pastor said in a sermon, but had no idea what point he was trying to make? What does that say about us? Style or eloquence don’t change hearts and minds. Content does.

But not just any content. Paul also said, “I did not come with…superior wisdom.” God’s word is always superior to any other wisdom, and Paul preached and taught God’s word. Remember that Paul was writing to the Corinthians, and the Corinthians lived in Greece. Greece was the home of all the great philosophers and their teachings. You had Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. Paul didn’t let that kind of “superior wisdom” taint his preaching.

 Today the temptation is to turn sermons into a lecture on pop psychology to make you feel better. “Come to church, and we’ll help you heal your wounded inner child.” Or the pastor can turn his sermons into a kind of advice column. Practical tidbits drawn from Scripture, or from his own imagination, help you iron out the wrinkles in your life. It may sound wise, but something far more vital is missing.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Papa John’s uses the slogan, “Better ingredients, better pizza.” Paul could have said, “Better contents, better preaching.” Preaching “Jesus Christ” did not mean Paul limited himself to the events from Jesus’ life in the four gospels. Jesus once told his enemies, “You diligently study the Scriptures, because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” The whole Scriptures testify about Jesus.

Central to understanding Christ is understanding “him crucified.” Look again what God promises at the cross. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the entire world (I John 2). The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1). Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3). When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son (Romans 5). By his death he destroyed him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and freed those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2). I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2). Every one of those passages I just quoted is about Christ and his cross. They offer grace, forgiveness, life, and freedom. Jesus Christ and him crucified: that’s still the kind of preaching we need.

True Wisdom from the Spirit

1 Corinthians 2:10-13 “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”

So many people want to find God by looking inside themselves. Looking inside yourself is a fine thing to do…if you want to find yourself. No one knows you better than your own spirit inside of you, Paul says. But don’t be surprised if you don’t like what you see. C.S. Lewis wrote at the end of his book Mere Christianity, “Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay.” He might just as well have said, “Look inside yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.” That’s what the natural self looks like. Lusts I can’t get rid of, anger I am not proud of, stinginess, impatience, pride all run around deep down inside there. It’s not a pretty picture.

But I’m not God, and neither are you. If we really want to know God, it’s his Spirit we need. And by calling us to faith, that is what God has given us: “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” We may understand what God has freely given us. When Paul says “understand” he does not mean it in the sense that we have God all figured out according to the rules of logic. The Spirit does not give us a new mathematical formula that makes the Trinity make sense. He doesn’t take us through a dissection of communion wafers, like high school students dissecting a frog in biology class, so that we can see how “This is my body” works. He doesn’t give us some new kind of telepathy, so that we can sense exactly what good God has in mind for every cross and every burden he lays on us. He doesn’t give us balance sheets or spread sheets that illustrate how the sacrifice of one person, Jesus Christ, accounts for the uncountable sins of billions of people.

Rather, he makes it possible for us to know all these things, and to believe that they are true, even though we cannot begin to explain them. This wisdom of God, his grace freely given, has been revealed to us by his Spirit.

That Spirit reveals such things to us, not when we are trying to find the Spirit hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts, but in his word, his message, which is the wisdom of God: “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” The word and the Spirit always go together. Jesus taught us, “The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life.” Paul urged the Ephesians to take up “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Paul didn’t expect the Corinthians, and he doesn’t expect us, to channel all these truths by channeling the Spirit. He doesn’t expect us to wait until the Spirit directly drops the knowledge into our heads out of heaven. He spoke and wrote words, words taught by the Spirit, words expressing spiritual truths because they are spiritual words. Paul’s message is now our message. But it is really neither his nor ours. It is God’s, God’s own wisdom revealed by his Spirit.

God’s Secret Wisdom

1 Corinthians 2:6-10 “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

The difference between these two kinds of “wisdom” is not a simple matter of alternative paths. When I want to visit my parents, I can either take I-35 north all the way to Minnesota, or I can follow I-44 to U.S. 71 to I-35. They are two different paths, but both will get me to the same place. God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom don’t take you to the same places, either along the way or in the end.

Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life; the narrow door and the narrow path; the only way to the Father; the guaranteed way to the Father is God’s wisdom. The world’s wisdom teaches a general equality of all world religions, or, even worse, a generic, empty “spirituality” preferred by more and more Americans. The world’s paths lead neither to God nor to life. To quote Paul’s words here, “they are coming to nothing.”

But they are packaged and marketed to us in a way that make them hard to resist. Their constant promotion keeps wearing away at our resistance. The positive spin sounds like this: if you adopt the world’s wisdom, you will be more popular, have more fun, be more intelligent, and act more just or fair. The negative spin warns that if you reject the world’s wisdom in favor of God’s, you are an extremist, intolerant, bigoted, and guilty of trampling on other’s rights and freedoms. It’s a great marketing campaign, maybe the best there ever was. You feel its tug. In the next 20 years it is expected to capture 70 percent of the church’s youth, never to return. We need the assurances Paul is giving us today.

“No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” “God’s secret wisdom” is not so much the matter of godly morals. Those should be written in human hearts by nature (though more and more people manage to shut that message off or shout it down).

Paul is talking about the gospel. The Lord of glory was crucified for us. Look at the facts of Jesus’ life. If God didn’t intervene in human history, who would have known about this person who lived and died in the obscurity of Roman occupied Israel? When Jesus was born, who would have known if God hadn’t send angels to tell the shepherds, “Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” When Jesus died on the cross, who really believed they were crucifying the “Lord of glory”? His own disciples seemed to have given up on the idea. When Jesus rose again, it took the intervention of angels to convince the women his body was alive, not stolen. Without God’s own intervention, this would have remained God’s little secret.

More than historical facts, God’s secret wisdom includes the meaning of Jesus for us: “As it is written, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” In Jesus, God entered our world as one of us. He paid for all our sins by his own death. He freely forgave every sin and set us free from them. He made life and immortality our own as his gift. Who would have guessed that? The operative word in our relationship with God is not “obedience,” or “purpose,” or “effort,” or “sincerity,” or “passion.” It is grace. Grace makes us confident of his love. It gives us hope that we will live with him. It is this grace, God’s gift love, that has been hidden from the ages, including our own.

As one commentator noted, “No heathen people ever conceived a god who would actually take care of those who placed their reliance on him.” They lived in fear, not faith. They had to work their magic and pay their dues to keep their gods happy and themselves safe.

A God who freely loves us as a Father, and freely forgives? That’s our message, Paul says, and that’s God’s wisdom.

Tears Worth Shedding

Luke 23: 28-31 “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then ‘they will say to the mountains, Fall on us! And to the hills, Cover us!’ For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

A Jewish court and a Roman court had passed judgment on an innocent Jesus, and he was condemned to die. Jesus warns of a more severe judgment coming for the city of Jerusalem. Some of God’s judgments come after the end of life, or at the end of time, and he has warned us about those judgments to send us running back to God for his grace. Sometimes God’s judgments come in time during our lives, as Jesus is warning here. After he died and rose, God continued to reach out to this city and its people through the preaching of Jesus’ disciples. Only a tiny minority listened and believed. Within 40 years God brought the Roman armies to Jerusalem to destroy the city, its people, and the temple.

No one ever suffered spiritually like Jesus did on the cross. But it is fair to say that the physical suffering of Jerusalem’s citizen’s at the fall of city rivaled Jesus’ physical suffering on this day. The historian Josephus tells us that many in the city suffered starvation during the siege. Those desperate for food tried to break through the Roman lines surrounding the city. Most of them were caught and crucified. At one point, as many as 500 per day were being crucified. In order to relieve their own boredom during the siege, the Romans crucified many of their victims in strange and grotesque positions as a kind of human experiment in execution. These were the conditions that would lead the people of Jerusalem to wish they never had children, and beg the surrounding hills and mountains to fall on them.

It is because of the guilt of their unbelief that Jesus can say, “Weep for yourselves.” Tears for our sins, tears of repentance–those are legitimate reasons to weep. Those tears have some value. After he denied Jesus three times, Peter went out and wept bitterly. Unlike Judas, Peter was forgiven and restored. The sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet wept over them and wiped them with her hair. Unlike self-righteous Simon the Pharisee, Jesus assured her that her many sins were forgiven.

We don’t offer these tears as a payment, a trade for the forgiveness Jesus offers. You remember the line from the hymn “Rock of Ages”?

Not the labors of my hand
Can fulfill thy laws demands.
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone.
Thou must save, and thou alone.

We don’t deserve more of God’s grace by filling more cups with our tears, or spending more hours with them streaking down our faces.

But hearts that see their guilt, and repent of it, whether with tears or solemn apologies, are hearts that seek forgiveness. They are hearts God has prepared for his gift. They are hearts that will receive Jesus as Savior and his sufferings and death as the payment for their sins.

Then we may properly weep at the sight of Jesus’ suffering and dying, because the judgment he suffers is on account of our guilt and sin. Then our tears aren’t merely an emotional response to his pain. They are tears of appreciation for the love that leads him to stand in our place and pay off our debt. They are tears of thanks that he has spared us the judgment we deserved.

Then we can weep tears of joy, for he has given us a place in God’s eternal heart and home we did not deserve.

Faith, Not Tears

Luke 23:27-28 “A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me…”

These women, and a large crowd of others followed Jesus as he stumbled and crawled through Jerusalem’s streets. They followed, but not like Peter, Andrew, James, and John did when Jesus invited them to follow him, and they left their boats and their fishing business to do so. This is not the following of faith. This is the following of curiosity and of public spectacle.

The women’s weeping was more or less the same. It was an emotional reaction tied more to themselves than to Jesus. They saw his pain, anticipated his death, and it moved them. But they didn’t see past his pain. Their reaction was not so different than the tears you find welling up in your eyes from a sad scene in a movie or a book. Have you seen the 2009 Disney movie Up? The first five or 10 minutes follow the love story between two childhood sweethearts from their first meeting to her illness and death with such nostalgia and poignancy that you probably won’t have dry eyes after that part of the tale has been told. It’s sweet and sad and good entertainment. But I don’t know that you will be a deeply changed person after you have taken it in.

Which isn’t to say that such tears are necessarily bad. So, were the tears of these women such a bad thing that Jesus had to tell them to stop? Is it wrong for us if Jesus’ sufferings are so vividly portrayed in a Lenten sermon or a Good Friday service that we are moved to tears? Only if it keeps us from seeing past his pain. Only if it keeps us from looking further, and seeing who this suffering man is, and what his suffering is all about.

And that happens easier than we might think. Too often people take some true characteristic about Jesus, blow it out of proportion, and create a false Jesus who distracts us from his real person work. Jesus was genuinely a model of love and good morals. But when we create the moral-model Jesus, the great example for all of us to follow, and see him as nothing more, we have created a false Jesus who cannot save us.

Jesus’ lips dripped words of wisdom and good sense. People of many different faiths find his instruction appealing. But when we stop at the wise sage Jesus, we have something far less than a Savior.

Here, the daughters of Jerusalem are moved by the “heart-wrenching tragedy Jesus.” Maybe we are, too. He is good for a cry, but that is not the same as faith. It may even stop us short of it. After we have given him our sympathy and our feelings, we don’t see the greater claim he wants to make on our hearts, our minds, and our lives. Even more, his suffering may turn some away from faith in him. His pain brings a tear, but who wants to follow him if this is where following him leads?

It’s not your tears Jesus wants. It’s your trust. It’s not your feelings he wants. It’s your faith. Don’t weep for Jesus if you can’t see past his pain to your salvation. This is God loving you all the way to his death. This is the sacrifice that pays for all of our sins. This is why forgiveness isn’t a wish or a possibility. It is a promise and certainty. Those truths are worthy of our tears. But even more, those truths are worthy of our faith.

Certain Forgiveness

Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus’ forgiveness is not a reaction to my new and improved attitude, a change in me. It is his general stance, a heart full of goodwill and pardon and love. It already exists though I am still stuck in my rebellion and sin. This is why Paul can say in Romans 5 that “Christ died for the ungodly,” that “when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.”

Do you see what this means for you and me? When we do repent and seek God’s forgiveness, we don’t have to convince him to be forgiving. Forgiveness was there first. It was waiting for us to come. He has always been the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, looking down that road, hoping and yearning for us to come home. This was not so that he could scold us or give us a good beating. He wants only to open his heart and profess the love for us that has always been there, then embrace us and claim us again as his very own.

There may be those who will not come home. They will not receive the forgiveness God has in store, because they will not turn from their sins and believe. But that does not change the fact that God’s forgiveness is there, waiting, seeking.

If Jesus could forgive the injustice and pain the Roman soldiers were causing him, is there any sin of ours he won’t forgive? These were the men who were carrying out his murder. They mercilessly mocked him as life slowly drained from his body. Mass murderers may have massacred millions more. But whose violence and evil has ever been aimed at God so directly? Still, “Father, forgive them.”

This erases all fear that somehow we might exhaust or exceed his forgiveness. We can’t sin so many times that we come to the end of his forgiveness. We can’t sin so big, so cruel, so selfish that we come to the limits of his forgiveness.

Don’t misunderstand what forgiveness means. He doesn’t defend our sin, telling us it’s okay. We know it’s not. It is always hurting someone, always costing someone, when we sin. As often as not, the pain and expense are our own.

Nor does he excuse our sin, as though our unique set of circumstances made our sin acceptable. Many times we would like to make a case for sin because of the way others have treated us. “He started it.” “It was their idea.” “What I did wasn’t as bad as what she did.” These didn’t excuse us when we are children. They are no more useful when we are adults. Jesus has given us something better.

“Father, forgive them…” Jesus forgives our sins. Literally, the Greek word means “send it away.” Our Savior acknowledges the hurt and the damage we have done. He does not deny the condemnation we deserve. Then he sends the sin away. He removes it from us. Remember the psalmist’s words? “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).

He takes them from us upon his own shoulders. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). Here he paid the price for them. Here he suffered the consequences they deserved. Forgiveness isn’t based on warm, fuzzy feelings. It is based on Christ’s loving sacrifice that satisfies God’s justice and leaves us innocent. It is forgiveness so certain, on which we can always depend.

Amazing Forgiveness

Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

 Is there a sentence or phrase you have heard in your life that strikes you as most memorable? Maybe they are words like, “You have been accepted…” or “You got the job.” Maybe they are words like “Honey, we’re expecting,” or “It’s a boy!” Maybe they are words that begin, “Congratulations! You are the proud owner of…”

What about the words, “I forgive you”? Are there any words that have a more powerful affect on a relationship?

Jesus’ words of forgiveness just as he is nailed to the cross are remarkable. He is forgiving those who are still hurting him. Consider the level of injustice Jesus is suffering, if you can. Is your sense of justice offended when powerful companies steal their employees pensions and leave retirees destitute? Are you offended when murderers get off on a technicality, or worse, when innocent people languish in prison for years for crimes they never committed?

Then what do we do with this? To say that Jesus was innocent would be a gross understatement. Jesus was the only person who ever completely and perfectly loved every person who crossed his path. He was mercy, kindness, and charity in sandals. And for this they choose the slowest and cruelest method they know to torture him to death.

Consider the sheer physical pain he is suffering. Metal spikes tear through his muscles and tendons. They press directly against his bones as they hold his body to the cross. If he attempts to relax and simply hang by his hands and his feet, he can’t breathe. If he pulls himself up to breathe, his muscles quickly cramp, locking his arms, neck, and back in spasms of pain.

Would you be in a forgiving mood? Little injustices like door dings in the parking lot, noisy teenage neighbors keeping me up at night, shoddy workmanship in furniture I just purchased, or companies who won’t honor their warrantees stoke my desire for revenge. And I don’t think I’m alone when I see how other people react to bad drivers, or how upset they get at the customer service counter, or how long they will hold a grudge when someone else on the committee gets to do it their way instead.

Add to those little injustices pain no worse than a headache, and forgiveness is the farthest thought from my heart. I want payback! Christlikeness is far more than being nice to those who are nice to you. Jesus asked the question, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Jesus praying that his Father would forgive the men who are at that moment perpetrating such injustice against him, subjecting him to such suffering, exposes just how un-Christlike we can be.

But perhaps we haven’t even considered the most astounding thing about this prayer for forgiveness: NO ONE HAS APOLOGIZED! No one has said, “I’m sorry.” Jesus was praying forgiveness for those who were impenitent. Of course, how could these soldiers repent? They didn’t even know what they were doing. They didn’t know who Jesus was–just another worthless Jew as far as they were concerned. They were simply carrying out their orders.

Are we inclined to adopt a forgiving attitude toward people who aren’t even sorry for hurting us? At times we can bring ourselves to forgive serious betrayals, costly damage, or painful injuries…when the perpetrator comes groveling to us begging for our pardon. It may even give us a twisted sense of power and superiority to see them so contrite.

But when they remains our sworn enemy, when they find pleasure in our misfortune, is forgiving them the first thing on our mind? We even realize that our unforgiving, hateful attitude hurts us more than it hurts the person we despise. Are there any good feelings, any pleasant experiences, that come out of resentment? Doesn’t it leave us miserable, sour, grumpy? Still, we hold on to it, especially when no apologies are forthcoming. Then Jesus’ forgiving words confront us. They expose our unforgiving hearts.

Then we need to remember that the main reason Jesus was hanging here was just because we fail to be like him. He was hanging here to secure the very forgiveness for us that we find so hard to offer to others. And that is why the forgiveness he speaks comforts my heart as well.

The Ultimate Question

Matthew 26:63-64 “The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’”

Who is Jesus? That, finally, is the real issue, isn’t it? Jesus had asked his disciples the same question when Peter had replied with the wonderful confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

It wasn’t just the disciples who understood Jesus’ claims. Some people today say that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah or God’s Son. But even his enemies understood that this is what he claimed. Though they didn’t believe it, the fact that they understood it gives evidence that Jesus truly is.

Even more convincing was Jesus’ own testimony. “Yes it is as you say.” Even more evidence, these same men would one day see him sitting at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.

That will be clear when Jesus returns for judgment. “Every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2. But the evidence would become clear in just three days. Jesus would rise from the dead. The resurrection is a demonstration of his power as God’s Son. It is a demonstration that he sits at the right hand of the Mighty One. This is not a physical location in heaven. God is a spirit. He has no physical right hand. The resurrection proves Jesus power, the power of God himself. Even these men would be able to “see” what happened. The evidence says Jesus is God.

That truth could easily be lost as we follow Jesus through his suffering and death. He doesn’t look divine on trial before the high priest, or later in Pilate’s court. He doesn’t look very God-like as he is beaten, bullied, and bloodied. He doesn’t look very God-like as he breaths his last from the cross.  But this is no ordinary man on trial and facing death. This is our God, and because he is, we know he is our Savior, too.