Over the past few weeks, and in the weeks coming up, we are exploring this question. We have been reading the stories of what others said about him, what God said about him, and what he said about himself. We have seen the growing storm as he stood firm and certain in his power and purpose, facing down those who would try to make him toe the line and follow their rules. Jesus wasn’t here to follow the rules. What was he here to do? Who is this Jesus?
Some called him the Messiah, the one who Israel had been waiting to arrive for generations. John called him the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. After he was baptized God said, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well please.” Who is this Jesus?
The leaders of the Temple in Jerusalem wanted Jesus to toe the line. “Who does he think he is” they wondered over and over and over again as he went where no good Jewish boy would go, taught a curriculum that hadn’t been approved, and claimed the power to forgive sins. Who is This Jesus?
Faced with a set of laws, the Rabbinic laws, which had come not from God but from the teachers and leaders of the Temple itself, Jesus refused to step in line. He declared himself “Lord of the Sabbath” and reminded them of the restorative, healing intention of the original Sabbath laws. He proclaimed that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Finally, in a synagogue, on the Sabbath, in front of the assembled crowd, Jesus went ahead and healed a man with a withered hand because it was the loving thing to do. He had come to do something new for you and me. Who is this Jesus?
Who is he? He is the one who, faced with pressure from both the Temple and the Romans, chose to do what he believed God was calling him to do. He died trusting God to make good of his death. After his resurrection, the stories told by those who encountered him, and the power of their message of hope rippled out across the land. The stories were told and retold, despite the possibility of death at the hands of an angry Roman Empire, and are retold to this day. The Temple in Jerusalem was torn down, Rome fell, and the hills of Rome are now adorned with crosses as the message of Love, forgiveness, healing, and hope continues to call out to any who will hear.
You may not follow Jesus—but it is worth finding out what was up with that guy. You may not believe in him as the Son of God, but what the heck has driven and empowered the stories of his followers centuries after they stopped telling them. This is a man who welcomed questions, who was happy to hang out with the so-called undesirables, and who changed the lives of those who sought him. Jesus of Nazareth—who the heck is he? Join us in the coming weeks as we explore more of the stories about this itinerant preacher. Bring your questions. Bring your doubts. Let the man and the people around him speak to you. Make up your own mind. Come and see for yourself.