All Roads Lead To Jesus - John

John – He is the Messiah Who is a God in the Flesh
Reading:  John 8

When I was a Freshman at the University of Delaware, my World Religions professor, Dr. Alan Fox made a startling claim. In front of the large impressionable class of Freshman, he said, “Jesus never claimed to be God.” He made his case. After listening to Dr. Fox, I raised my hand and asked him to turn to John 8. In this passage, Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” John writes that the crowd pushed forward to kill him for Jesus was claiming to be God. Dr. Fox had no answer. After offering a short reply, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion” he quickly moved on to the next point. Checkmate.

We can certainly disagree with the claims of Jesus and the conclusions of the Gospel accounts, but we cannot deny what they say with a certain clarity.

The opening verses of the Gospel of John give us the clear purpose of the author, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” After spending the better part of 3 years with Jesus, John concluded Jesus was and is God in the flesh. Throughout the Gospel of John, the Apostle records teaching after teaching and instance after instance that proves the opening salvo. The call of this Gospel is for all people to put their faith in Jesus by believing his words, his claims, and his victory over sin and death on their behalf.

There is no other religion that claims what Christianity claims. Only the Christian faith claims that Jesus was indeed fully God and fully man. What does this mean for us?

First, Jesus left what was rightfully his and humbled himself to submit himself to what was rightfully ours. Jesus left the glory and majesty of heaven and took on the temptations and dreariness of a world stained by sin. We don’t deserve heaven and Jesus did not deserve the brokenness of this world. But because of God’s great love for us, he became one of us, so that we could have all that is rightfully his.

Second, Jesus was subjected to every trial and temptation that we face. God did not just save us from on high. He left his throne to experience our human existence and experience it fully. The difference between Jesus and every other human being is that Jesus did not sin, and we do sin. Jesus obeyed God’s Law perfectly in word, thought, and deed. Being fully man, Jesus didn’t cheat his way through the brokenness and hurt of this world. He felt and experienced everything that we feel and experience. Jesus grieved when his friends died. Jesus had to overcome temptation as we have to overcome temptation.

Third, since Jesus was fully man, he became our substitute to bear the penalty that was due to us for sin. This is the significance of the cross. On the cross, Jesus absorbed the entire wrath of God. In John, the Apostle says that this sacrifice was motivated by love while also telling us how the work of Jesus Christ can become something meaningful to us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.” The work of Jesus, who was fully God and man, can only mean something to us when we are united to him by faith.

As God, Jesus makes a few claims in the Gospel of John about himself that rocked his audience’s world. He said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst…I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life…am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me…I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”  Each of these statements has this in common – in order for them to be true and meaningful, Jesus must be fully God.

Jesus summed up all of these statements when he said to the shocked crowds, “Before Abraham was, I am.” It was at this point that the crowds surged toward Jesus and their awe turned into anger. Jesus had equated himself to God. Only God could exist before Abraham. Only God could call himself, “I am.” This is the name God had used to introduce himself to Israel through Moses, and now it was the name that God had used to introduce Jesus to the world.

Each of us has to reckon with the claims of Jesus. No matter what we believe or what religious background we come from, we must wrestle with how Jesus changed the world. I have been a follower of Jesus since I was very young. And yet, all my life, I have been confronted with the claims of many religious leaders. I cannot ignore the influence that the prophet Mohammad, the Buddha, or even a Joseph Smith have had upon the world. I must test and listen to their claims, examine their claims, and reckon with those claims.

Jesus makes the most outrageous claims of all of the prophets and world religious leaders. He did not come to lead a new cult or start a new religion. He came to redeem the world from sin and to inaugurate a new Kingdom. He claimed to be God himself. As God, Jesus invited us into a relationship with God. The reason we have to reckon with those claims is that Jesus proved his claims by his resurrection from the dead. As a result of his resurrection, the world changed.

Jesus can change each of us in the same transformative way that he changed the world. But we have to first reckon with his claims that He is equal with God because He is God.  

When we realize that Jesus is who he said he was we also come to this revelation – God loved us so much that he was willing to die for us in order to call us his family. There is no greater love than the love of God manifest in Jesus Christ.

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