Who do you say I am?

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Luke 22:66-23:25

In Luke 9:18-20 Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Next he asks, “But what about you, who do yousay I am?” …  Peter answers, “God’s Messiah.” (God’s anointed king)

Today I want to ask all of us here—who is Jesus? Who do you say Jesus is? Is Jesus truly God’s Messiah?

If Jesus truly isGod’s Messiah, what does that mean as we consider his trial and conviction?

If Jesus truly is God’s Messiah, what effect does this have for those aligned against him, past and present?

  • Since Jesus isGod’s Messiah, the charges against him were false and he is innocent.
  • Not only is Jesus innocent, but he is God’s rightful and anointed King, who reigns
  • Therefore we have to be really careful with how we respond to Jesus’ wrongful conviction.
    • We can be ‘accomplices’ to his conviction
    • Or we can be ‘beneficiaries’ of his conviction

Is your mind made up?

As we approach this topic I want to raise the question of whether your mind is already made up, so that it doesn’t matter whether Jesus is, or isn’t God’s Messiah.

Like with the sensitive topic of climate change, there are some people who have already made their mind up about it — whether it’s a thing, and whether humans are or aren’t responsible for it. No matter what evidence is presented for or against it, their mind is made up. 

The reason? 

Probably because the truth (one way or the other) would mean a massive change in the way they live, or in some cases a real loss of credibility, or power, or money. I don’t want to say what I think about it, particularly not from the pulpit! But I would hope that my response to it would be driven by the facts, and not by anything else.

As we look at the record of Jesus’ conviction, for the council of the elders of the people, their minds were already made up about Jesus.

Read Luke 22:66-71 with me:

66       At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 

67       “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.” 

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 

68       and if I asked you, you would not answer. 

69       But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 

70       They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” 

He replied, “You say that I am.” 

71       Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Do you see how for these religious leaders, their minds were already made up?

They ask Jesus whether he is the Messiah and they ask whether he is the Son of God, but they’re really not interested in the answer, are they?

You may remember a similar kind of thing happening back in chapter 20, where Jesus’ authority cameinto question. 

There, the Jewish leaders refused to enter into dialogue with Jesus and take up an honest position.

And here, what are they really interested in? The truth? No, an excuse. An excuse to do away with Jesus.

To their first question, Jesus responds, (22:67) “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you you would not answer…”

Suppose Jesus had said “Yes, I am the Messiah”—a true statement—how do we expect they would have responded? “Oh well we’re very sorry Mr. Messiah!”…?

No! Jesus knew that for them, these leaders, to recognise Jesus as Messiah, meant a total loss of power and prestige.

This I think explains what Jesus says in v69, because Jesus puts his finger on the issue at hand. They’re worried about losing power, but whatever it is they think about Jesus’ identity—whether they will acknowledge it or not—the Son of Man, the Messiah, heoccupies the seat of power, and not the religious leaders.

This is something we need to recognise as well. We may have all sorts of opinionsabout who Jesus is, but what really matters is who Jesus IS, whether we acknowledge him or not.Is Jesus God’s Messiah? If he is, then he is king over everyone in here, and everyone out there. He is “seated at the right hand of the Mighty God.”(v69). He is king over you, and your spouse and family and coworkers and friends.

So have you made your mind up already? Or are you willing to consider the facts about Jesus?

I love the story about Lee Strobel, the investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. A considered atheist, he had already made his mind up about Jesus, when his wife Leslie became a Christian. Strobel vowed to discredit his wife’s christianity, which I’m sure caused some friction between them… but what this turned into was an honest search for the truth. 

Where did Strobel’s research leave him? 

Convinced that Jesus was God’s Messiah and this answer radically changed his life.

But you know, it’s not just those of us who are yet to follow Jesus who can fall into the this trap. For those of us who currently confess that Jesus is God’s Messiah, we need to be careful that something like the desire for power, or prestige, just like the religious leaders of the day, doesn’t eventually push the facts of Jesus’ Lordship aside.

The religious leaders were the people ‘in the know’, you might say, just like us. They were waitingfor the Messiah—teaching people that he would someday come—and yet the problem that Jesus represented for their position and place in the world if he did turn out to be the Messiah, was enough for them to turn him over to Pilate.

Are you still figuring it out?

Pilate is the one who held the authority to find Jesus innocent or guilty. A bit like our investigative journalist, except that the conclusion that Pilate reached would affect whether Jesus would be executed, or set free.

What I want to ask us today is, if you are still figuring out who Jesus is, how committed are you to the truth, versus the voice of Jesus’ accusers?

There is no question that upon Pilate’s investigation, he found Jesus to be innocent.

v4 “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

v14“You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.”

I think what’s particularly interesting about this is that this response of Pilate is after being told that Jesus opposes taxes and claims to be a king (23:2). Surely if these accusations were true, Pilate would have reason under Roman law to execute or severely punish Jesus. He even asks Jesus directly in verse 3 (quoting NIV 2011), “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied.

I don’t think Pilate was naïve, or misunderstood what Jesus was saying. I would even hazard a guess to say that Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus, an accused insurrectionist, was more detailed than one simple question! In fact, in John’s gospel we’re told that Jesus made clear for Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world (see John 18:36). And we know don’t we that the claims about Jesus opposing the payment of tax to Caesar is completely false (See Luke 20:20-26).

Well, during his investigation, hearing that Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who was nearby in Jerusalem at the time (v7). Probably this was a courtesy, it’s possiblethat Pilate wants someone else to make the call, but it’s also possible that Pilate thought Herod, as Tetrarch over the jews, would know more about jewish goings on—maybe he missed something?

But Herod sent Jesus back without a conviction. See in verse 15 “Neither has Herod, [found basis for the charges against him] for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.”

Pilate knew from his investigation that Jesus was innocent. So surely this was an easy decision for Pilate to make. Set the innocent prisoner free. Then why was Jesus executed?

Jesus was executed for the same reason that we often give in, in our schools and workplaces, or at our family dinners when it comes to speaking up for the gospel. The reason is, the voice of others, or the crowd often wins the day.

One of my lecturers at college just the other day mentioned standing up at his kid’s school’s P&C meeting to speak up for the gospel—he was shouted down.

Three times Pilate tries to reason with the crowd, but, see in verse 23 “with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified and their shouts prevailed.  24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand.

We can come down hard on Pilate, and for sure, there is no excusing what he did. But if we’re going to do come down hard on him, we first need to honestly consider how we fare ourselves. It can be hard to insist on the truth when the voices of our communities are so loud.

Are you convinced Jesus is not only innocent but is God’s Messiah? I want to encourage you not to back down when the voices of our communities outside these walls grow louder and louder. Perhaps they want to say Jesus was just a pretender, or confused, or that his teachings are outdated, even offensive and immoral. Please, in love, be more committed to the truth than to the voice of Jesus’ accusers.

Or perhaps, like Pilate, you’re still working it out for yourself. Conducting your own investigation into the claims of Jesus. To you I want to say the same thing. Please be committed to the truth. Try to shut out the voice of the media, or your Facebook newsfeed. Don’t let the loudest voice win the day.

For Pilate, he became convinced of one thing, but then he did another, because he allowed the loudest voice to win the day, leading to the wrongful conviction of God’s Messiah. Let us not follow his example but speak and live by conviction of the truth.

Is Jesus ‘For you’?

Now I do want to talk about Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch, or ‘Ruler of a Quarter’ for a minute. Again, like Pilate, Herod did not find any reason to convict Jesus.

In fact, when Herod saw Jesus, “he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him.” (v8) But notice why he wanted to see him. Understandably, because of what he had heard, see in verse 8, Herod “hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort.”

Now, unfortunately for Herod, it seems he didn’t get to see a sign being performed and while he asked Jesus many questions, we’re told he didn’t receive an answer from him either (See verse 9).

Well, what was Herod’s response? It wasn’t to convict Jesus of some crime, but to mock him, to ridicule him.

11       Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 

Whatever it was that Herod wanted from Jesus, he didn’t get it and he expressed his disappointment in ridiculing God’s Messiah. 

Here is a situation that’s fairly common to my experience. I’ll be in a conversation with a friend or a stranger about Jesus and at some point they’ll say something like, “It’s just not for me. It’s good for you, not for me.” In fact this happened to me not that long ago.

What I like to ask is, what is it that you’re looking for?

I have two friends (that I won’t name) that represent two different ways this can go.

The first tells me that, very similar to Herod, she wants an experience. Some sort of mystical affirmation of the divine. An out of body experience. A conversation with an angelic being. 

She’s not found Jesus offering this kind of experience and so she’s been looking elsewhere. She doesn’t mock Jesus, but she writes him off. She most certainly doesn’t recognise him as God’s Messiah.

My other friend isn’t interested in signs, or experiences. He’s interested in wealth creation and weekends. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Now, this particular friend wouldmock Jesus, who he really sees as a kind of intrusion into his otherwise enjoyable life. To him, Jesus is for people who either can’t think clearly, or, being weaker than others need a kind of ‘crutch’ to lean on. As far as he is aware, Jesus isn’t going to make his weekends any better, so, he says, “Jesus isn’t for me. He’s good for you. Not for me.”

Here is the fundamental issue with the way my two friends see Jesus—and it’s the same issue Herod had. They all think that this life is fundamentally about them, and that if Jesus exists, he exists to meet their needs, on their terms.

Those of us that follow Jesus can be in danger of thinking in the same way, when we’re following him so long as we’re getting what we want. A good job, a good house, good friendships and family, maybe even what we might call ‘spiritual experiences’. But when things get hard, or we can’t sense God’s presence, or we get a better offer from elsewhere… that’s often when we find ourselves drifting from the truth and our allegience is given to something or someone else.

There are two things I want to say to any of us who may be thinking in this way—that Jesus ‘isn’t for me’.

  1. Jesus is God’s Messiah. He is the King—of everyone. What matters, is not what you or I or anyone else is ‘looking for’, but who Jesus is. 

    If Jesus is God’s Messiah—seated at the right hand of the Mighty God—then whether you’re looking for him or not, or feel like you need him or not, or are getting what you want from him or not, none of this changes who he is. God’s Messiah. And how you respond to him reallymatters. We must not mock him, or write him off, but receive him as king.

  2. What Jesus is offering is way better than anything we could imagine. We want to get the most out of life, but Jesus offers life itself.

Will you live by conviction?

In this passage, we actually get a picture of the life that Jesus offers. We get a picture of the cost of that life. And we get a picture of what it means to be abeneficiaryof Jesus’ wrongful conviction.

Let me explain. The charges against Jesus brought before Pilate were that he was an insurrectionist—stirring up the people to overthrow Rome. We’ve already seen that Pilate found these accusations to be false. Jesus was doing no such thing. So Jesus was and is an innocent man, who did not deserve death.

But there was another man, Barabbas, who was a convicted insurrectionist and a murderer. Under the law, Barabbas deserved to die.

So you have an innocent man.
And a guilty man.

A man who gave life.
And a man who took it.

Who should go free? Who should keep his life? Surely the innocent man! Surely Jesus.

But, verse 18, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!”

The crowd, who up until this point had loved Jesus, suddenly backflips and are now calling for his murder. And, as we saw earlier, despite Pilate’s efforts their shouts prevail.

V25,    He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. 

This is a picture of what they call “The Great Exchange.” The sinner is set free and given life, God’s Messiah is convicted and killed.

1 Peter 3:18 says, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

We often don’t realise what it is we really need. You and I are unrighteous. Sinners. People who have rejected God and tried to run life our own way without him. People who have at times chosen to follow the crowd rather than the truth, or decided that Jesus—the king, God’s Messiah—‘isn’t for me.’ What we deserve is judgement and to be shamefully removed from the presence of God and his people. We, each of us are just like Barabbas.

We are like insurrectionists, accomplices to Jesus’ conviction. If we are not with Jesus, we are against him, because Jesus is God’s Messiah, God’s King. In Luke 11:23 Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” There is no neutral territory or middle ground.

But Jesus isn’t just God’s King, he is God’s king who saves. 1 Peter 3:18, Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

There is a way to liveby Jesus’ conviction. 

Just like Barabbas, who deserved judgement, was released and given life, so we, trusting in Jesus, living with him as our King are given life. Not so that we can die again in old age like Barabbas would have, but eternallife. More life than you can poke a stick at.

So who do you say Jesus is? Is he God’s Messiah?

If he is, then humanity rose up and killed their king. But this king Jesus died in exchange for you if you would put your trust in him.

Have you already made up your mind about Jesus? Please think again.

Will you let the truth about Jesus speak? Or will the voice of the crowd win the day?

Is Jesus ‘not for you?’ Or have you realised what it is that you really need—A pardon and life.

I invite you today, if you haven’t already, trust in Jesus, who is God’s Messiah. Live by his conviction.

And for those of us who already trust in Jesus, liveby conviction. Speak the truth of the gospel. And remember that no matter how loud the voices of our world get in opposition to the gospel, Jesus isKing.

And what Jesus offers, the world reallyneeds.