There is a church phrase that has always kind of frightened me. It tends to be used when you go on a mission trip or sometimes in regards to the importance of sharing your faith. It is a phrase that, I think, is supposed to encourage us and focus us on our mission but I'm not sure that it does. If anything, it might actually take away from our mission and focus. Here it is . . .
"We may be the only Jesus that people may ever see"
How scary is that? Think about it, I may be the face of Jesus.
And it's scary on two levels.
First, to think that my words are the words of Jesus and my actions are the actions of Jesus is a bit overwhelming. And for some, it could be a turn off from ever getting involved in a church - after all - we may already be a bit ashamed about how we live our lives - and we certainly don't want the added pressure of having to be "the only Jesus people will ever see" - who wants to be looked at under a magnifying glass and certainly don't want to represent the Son of God?
And on another level . . .
If it is true that we are the only Jesus that people may ever see than the Jesus that people see is very flawed. Because what people would see is a God that is hypocritical, judgmental . . . . Well, human. And how can a God with so many flaws offer what people need . . . Grace and Salvation and hope.
So, it is no wonder that in a time that over 90% of all people are desperately searching for spiritual meaning to their lives - over ½ - don't connect that search with the Christian church.
But even if you have never heard this phrase before, the reality is that most churches have adopted the idea that they are the only Jesus that people may ever see and have in a sense tried to be Jesus.
Think about what we do, we create programs / do ministry in order to attract people to a church.
We buy books about how to do ministry and we study successful churches in order to duplicate the same success ratio. We have created this cycle of ministry that is more focused on building a church rather than building God's Kingdom.
And the reason is because we spend more time and energy focusing on how to get people to church and less time and energy understanding why we are getting people to church.
Our focus tends to be on the practice of ministry rather than the theology of ministry.
We tend to ask the question "What works?" before "What is True?" Can you imagine any other organization putting as much time and energy into creating events or programs - as churches do - in order to attract people - bounce house, clowns, great band, and wonderful food, an atmosphere that would be welcoming and exciting to everyone - but when people came and they asked, why are you doing this?
The only answer they could come up with was "I'm not really sure but isn't this fun, don't you want to come back again? . . . Look we have a bounce house- and by the way an offering plate will be coming around in a little bit could you put a little bit into it so we can continue doing great things for the community like this"
NO, this would never happen and yet as churches we do it all the time.
We are so busy trying to attract people to our churches with our programs that we have forgotten the central question people are asking . . .
Who is Jesus?
And this is not a question that we can just skim over. For it is the most important question we could ever ask because how you answer it determines everything . . . It determines your direction in life and more importantly your direction in eternity. And as a church, it should be the basis of everything we do. To miss this question is to miss it all.
Who is Jesus?
This is the central theme of the book of Hebrews and in just a few short introductory verses the writer makes a beautiful, poetic and artistic theological statement about who Jesus is.
Let's read it together. Hebrews 1:1-3
There is a concept called progressive revelation which means that God has revealed Himself over time. It is the understanding that there is a larger narrative that God has been uncovering since the beginning of creation. And this narrative points to the true nature of God - the revelation of God.
In the OT we find a partial incomplete revealing of God's nature which was revealed to the Israelites through the prophets - like Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Just to name a few.
The word prophet means: one who boils over - and it refers to one who is inspired by God to speak for Him. The language imagery is one who is "boiling over" with the Words of God to the point that some were unaware of what they had spoken.
And the methods God used to reveal Himself were various - storms and thunder, a burning bush, a still small voice, dreams and visions, floods, fruit, angels, symbols, fire and smoke. He even spoke through a Donkey.
So we see in the OT that God revealed himself as one who speaks - who calls out to His people.
We also see in the OT that many people never listened. They never heard the Word of God and did not respond in obedience to His Word.
And then God was silent for four hundred years.
And then God spoke again.
The writer of Hebrews points out a stark contrast about how God communicates with His people over time
In days past - it was through the prophets - it was a partial revelation
In these days it is by His Son. - and His Son was to be the final revelation.
Everything that went before pointed to something more. It pointed to Jesus as the culmination of God's Word to us. There is nothing more to say because Jesus has said it all. Every promise in the OT is fulfilled; every hope is validated through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And the writer of the book of Hebrews is telling believers to hold fast to their belief and trust in Jesus because there is salvation in no one else. You can't do better than Jesus!
And Here's why:
Jesus is the exalted heir of all things
This is a reference to Psalm 2:7-9: a messianic psalm which speaks prophetically of the enthronement of Jesus as King over the whole created order.
You are my son, today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
It says that Jesus is the son of God and He will be given the authority to raise and judge the dead, and be given the authority to rule in heaven and on earth.
This is God's Kingdom and Jesus Christ, the son of God, will reign over it.
Not only is he the heir, Jesus is also the agent of creation.
Scripture tells us that all things were created "by him or through him" (Heb. 1:10, John 1:3, col. 1:16)
Both Father and Son are in the beginning but their roles are different which Paul better defines in 1 Cor. 8:6.
The father was the source of creation and the Son was the agent of the creative process. And all space and time was brought about by Him.
So we have learned so far that Jesus pre-existed before time, he created the universe with His father and that he has been given authority to rule over it.
But it gets better . . .
Jesus is Divine
He is the one who reflects the glory of the father. He is the radiance of God's Glory.
In the OT we learn that people are unable to look upon God and if they do . . . they die. But through Jesus we get see God - God is revealed to us because Jesus is the exact representation of His being.
I love the imagery here.
Radiance - have you ever tried to look directly at the Sun? Probably not - at least not more than a couple of seconds because if you did, you would go blind and yet we experience the sun all around us everyday because of its radiance. It brings light to the darkness and that is what Jesus does.
And He can do this because he is an exact representation of God's being. Jesus is Divine.
And this is why Jesus could say to Thomas in John 14:7
If you had known me, you would have known my father also; and from now on you know him and have seen him.
Or to Philip a couple of verses later, John 14:9
He who has seen me has seen the father.
Great stuff, but it doesn't stop there
Jesus, through his word, is the Sustainer of All
By his word the universe is held together. All he has to do is say the word, and the universe is no more.
What a powerful way to illustrate the importance of His word.
By his word we were created
By his word we are sustained
And by his word we shall spend eternity with the Father
It seems like the word of God - the "Logos Dei" - is pretty important.
Now because Jesus is the divine creator and the divine sustainer . .
He is also our redeemer . . . the only one who can purify us from our sins
This is a clear reference to Jesus' death on a cross and this is a major theme that the writer of Hebrews will flesh out for us over the next 12 weeks. This is why Jesus is better!
And with his work on earth complete - "having made purification . . . He sits at the right hand of God"
This is a place of honor and it what it says to us is that God accepted the work of his Son Jesus Christ and now he is in a seat of authority to rule over God's kingdom.
Welcome to Hebrews . . . the exposition of the exalted Son. Pretty impressive, huh?
So what do you think? Do you think that we could do better than that?
Is it possible to be the only Jesus that people ever see?
I don't think so . . . That is not our job, we are not called to be Jesus - We didn't create the universe, we don't sustain all that is within it and we certainly do not have the ability to save people.
Our Job is to point people toward Jesus, the Son of God who is the creator, who is the sustainer, who is the redeemer and now sits at the right hand of God to rule over His Kingdom.
Our Job is to build the Kingdom of God.
Are you up for that?