“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“Whom Do Men Say That I The Son Of Man Am?” Sept. 2009. Part 1.
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” Matthew 16; 13-15.
Many years ago, back in the 1950s as a young Christian back home in Jamaica, we had a favorite song to sing in our Sunday night worship services that went like this: “Everybody ought to know, everybody ought to know, everybody ought to know who Jesus is. He’s the lily of the valley, he’s the bright and morning star, he’s the fairest of ten thousands, everybody ought to know.” Another favorite went like this: “Let’s talk about Jesus, the King of kings is he, the Lord of lords supreme through all eternity, the great I am the way, the truth, the life, the door, let’s talk about Jesus more and more.”
For a number of weeks now, it has been heavily present within my spirit that I should write a lesson on the total sum of who Jesus really is. Speaking quite frankly, I must say that I count myself unworthy and inadequate to address a subject of such magnitude, and of such mystery. The awesomeness of the origin, nature, and spiritual implications of this man Jesus renders me feeble, unlearned, and ignorant in my effort to unveil all of who he really is. Ever since the horrors of September 11, 2001 when the United States was attacked by radicals who claimed adherence to the Muslim Faith, the question of who Jesus is has been brought to the forefront of religious discussions. This became more prominent during the election campaign of 2008 because one candidate was a Baptist Minister, another was of the Mormon Faith, and others declared themselves simply as Christians. In one debate a candidate in replying to a question from the moderator testified that he believed in Jesus Christ, and that he died on the cross to become the Savior of mankind, or something very close to this.
As far back as the early 1940s when I entered grade school, I began learning how to get along with some who believed that Jesus was just a man on the same level and with all the same idiosyncrasies as Adam. One of my school mates told me in no uncertain term, that if Jesus was anything greater than Adam, he could not have died to save Adam’s race. Another school mate believed that Jesus, on the last day, will have all the sins of the world placed upon him, and he in turn will carry mankind’s sins away into eternity. Let me be quite clear up front with you, my Friend! No matter in what light we see Jesus; no matter to whom we liken him; nothing we say or think will change the reality of who he really is. Over the years, in my soul winning efforts especially at bible school, I used to tell people I witness to that Jesus is one person you cannot be neutral about. Even if you reject him, or declare that you will have nothing to do with him, one day we all will have to face him. Why?
Because when God raised Christ from the dead, he “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.” Ephesians 1; 20-22. Paul inserted this little nugget for good measure! “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” Romans 2; 16. And Jesus noted: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” Matthew 25; 31-32. It is evident that no one is excluded from this great ingathering for the purpose of accountability by the Lord himself. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done his body, according to
that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2nd Corinthians 5; 10. It is plain to see that our personal opinion of Jesus Christ has no effect upon the man Jesus or his involvement with the human race.
In this lesson we notice that Jesus asked his disciples a question in general terms; collectively, who do men say that I am? I suppose as you walk the streets, you hear men talking about me; what are they saying? Do they have any clue as to who I am? Yes, Lord! Some say that you are John the Baptist raised from the dead. Others say that you are Elias, and others think that you are Jeremias. Okay! So much for generalities! Enough of what people think about me and my true identity! “Whom do you say that I am?” As men walking with me and aspiring to be my disciples, “Do you know who I really am?” Why do you think that so many who profess Christ in a saving relationship, do not really know him as he really is? Since he is not living in Jerusalem where people can go to visit and talk with him as we do in case of the Dalai Lama of Tibet, or a Guru in the foothills of the Himalayas, or even an audience with the Pope, we are left with a single tested and tried source.
The Master himself said: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5; 39. “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will O God.” Hebrews 10; 7. “How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15; 3,4. So hold on to that plane ticket! Cancel that hotel reservation! There is no need to travel far or wide to consult with an expert on who Jesus is! Simply open your bible and begin to read! But there is an obvious problem in this ongoing saga. There are vast numbers of Christians who’ve been following Jesus all their lives and at this late moment in time, they still don’t know who Jesus is.
Not speaking in derogatory terms, and not meaning to demean any member of the clergy, but the truth is that even among ministers of the gospel of Christ, there are those who have no true knowledge of who Jesus is. There is a root cause to this problem that we need to address at this juncture. The missing link is getting the true message out of what we read in the bible. For the most part, we read and move on, read and move on. For instance: “And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” John 8; 23. Now, let us be honest! How many times in your Christian life have you had a preacher or teacher read that verse and in turn, analyze it, breaking it down into small nuggets of truth that the congregation can go away with a complete knowledge of what Jesus alluded to in that single verse of scripture.
“I am from above; I am not of this world” should be reason enough for bold discussions in trying to ascertain the truth. Immediately, we should be asking the pastor or teacher, what did he mean in the term, “I am from above” and what is he saying in the statement that he is not of this world? But no! We simply move on to the next passage and the next scripture reading session. Here is my favorite passage that I have fun with because it speaks volumes, mostly missed by many, perhaps understood by a few. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” John 8;51-58. Now, my Friend! Sit up and tell me when, or how many times have your minister taken you on an in-depth study of this passage. Did he or she explain when and under what circumstances did Abraham see Jesus? Well, it must be true that the two met while Abraham was still alive because Jesus said so. It is no wonder that the Jews took up stones to stone Jesus. These must have been wild and reckless statements for Jesus to have made, if they were not true; but they were true. Over the years I have been in countless meetings where this passage of scripture was read, but in all honesty I must confess that from 1955 until this very day no preacher in my presence has ever bothered to tell us and show us the details of Abraham meeting with Jesus. Why? Because they knew not who Jesus was and IS! We will come back to these scriptures later on.
Here is another verse of scripture that is quoted frequently and there is even a song centered around its message but preachers simply do not preach sermons on the truth it conveys. Jesus said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.” John 12; 32,33. Many of us get happy in worship services as we sing, “Lift Jesus higher, lift him up for the world to see. He said if I be lifted up from this earth, I will draw all men unto me.” O yes! We get happy and break out in a dance, but what if I come along and teach that Christ will indeed draw all men unto him just like he promised? Many would pull the shutters down, cry wolf, and stay away from me even though I am simply repeating what Jesus himself said he would do. Once again, here is the sad result of preachers and teachers not taking the time to dig deeply into every word of scripture and what each word means in its broadest context.
Let us look at another verse of scripture that conveys profound truths as they pertain to the true identity of the Christ, but either missed or treated very lightly in passing. “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17; 51. This verse alone is enough to underscore the fact that this man Jesus did not have his beginnings in a stable between the hooves of a few animals. He did not appear over the horizon and walked into a world in which he was a total alien and had to be taught the points of the compass. Many seem to forget that he walked into a world that he made and died upon a tree that he created in the first place. Before there was anything solid, tangible, and visible HE already WAS! As if existing on the edge of nothingness—an empty void—he already WAS! When he said peace be still and the winds and the waves obeyed him, the disciples marveled saying, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the waves obey him?” They obeyed because this was the voice of him who created all things and was before all things, and in all things he has preeminence.
Do you think that you really know Jesus? Think again! Saul on the Damascus Road came face to face with Jesus and was never the same again, and even after such a life changing encounter the apostle hungered; “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” Philippians 3; 10. Many, who, presumably see the need to lend God a helping hand embrace the Big Bang theory as to how our universe came into being. But in order to have a Big Bang there had to be something to Bang. “Through faith we understand (seemingly a general consensus that needs no further debate) that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11; 3. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth, for he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33; 6,9.
It is obvious that God did not harness an atom and said to the electrons, from your negative charge I am going to design a third of my creation. Then to the protons he said, with your positive electrical charge I create another third of my universe. Finally to the neutrons he said, although you contain no electrical charge I will draw from your other two components and create the final third part of my universe including all matter. The scripture is very clear and emphatic “that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” In sermons I like to emphasize the fact that God stood on the edge of nothingness (figure of speech only) and said LET THERE BE and there was, because it all came out of him. “For of him (or out of him) and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Romans 11; 36.
These truths are without controversy and need no lengthy deliberations or long days at a monastery high in the mountains of Bangkok, Thailand. Did you notice how involved the WORD is in what God does? It highlights a principle called “The Creative Word” outside of that Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12; 36. Why? Because words were never meant to be idle or vain—they are a creative force at our disposal. The following is the most powerful testimony to the true person of Jesus Christ, that makes the idea of him being a mere man a complete mockery and a display of ignorance pertaining to his true identity. This statement is not meant to be incendiary or derogatory to any person or persons. Our effort is simply to get to the truth as it is contained in scripture. John puts it this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life
was the light of men.” John 1; 1,3-4. At this critical juncture we can safely say that before there was anything visible and solid even the earth, sea and sky, there was the Word. If the story ended here, we could no doubt leave its true essence up in heaven somewhere and we would not bother to look into the issue any further. As we take a step further into this lesson we want to see what happened to the Word which was God. Do you remember? The Word was God!
Since it was never God’s intention to hide himself through all the ages from his creation, he did a remarkable thing. “And the Word (God) was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1;14. All we need to do to find God dwelling among men is to seek out that one person to whom all Deity can be ascribed. It brings us back to the thought rendered by Jesus himself. “I am from above, I am not of this world.” In laying out man’s sordid history beginning with Adam, Paul said: “The first man (Adam) is of the earth, earthy: the second man IS THE LORD from heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15; 47. As if the concept needed more under girding facts, Paul said to his son in the gospel: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God (the WORD of John’s gospel) was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” 1 Timothy 3;16. This speaks of none other than the man Christ Jesus!
Go to google.com; go to yahoo.com; go to any library in your town or village and search for any man who fits the description featured in scripture, and who lived his life exactly like the scripture said, other than Jesus Christ. If he was a con man, he was also a magician, because he would have needed some heavy magic and a host of witches and bush doctors to streamline his life in such manner as to fulfill the scriptures upon himself. What manner of man is this? This is a valid question and it becomes a personal responsibility that requires each person to answer. Name any prophet, priest or king who ever lived on earth, and at the end of your exhaustive search you will find that there never was a man like Jesus the Christ who walked the earth.
God appointed this man to be heir of all things, “by whom also he made the worlds; who being in the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” Hebrews 1; 2-4. I will repeat that I feel that I am inadequate and even unworthy to speak freely in my limited way of a person so huge, so powerful, and so divine. Back home in the late 40s there was a big meeting in our village with delegates attending from other districts. That night I went to sleep and dreamed that I was walking through a large field of blooming roses and there was a choir or a congregation in the distance singing: “Let’s talk about Jesus, the King of kings is he, the Lord of lords supreme, through all eternity. The great I am the way, the truth, the life, the door, let’s talk about Jesus more and more.” I’ll never forget that melody!
A few months ago the IMF (International Monetary Fund) had their meeting at the World Bank building here in Washington D.C. and my company asked me to operate a shuttle from a local hotel to the World Bank building. The person serving as coordinator of the buses was a young man from Egypt, with a warm smile and a very soft disposition about him. Before long we got to talking about his faith as a Muslim. He told me how God made Jesus the Messenger and how God decided to deal with the Jews as a nation for a certain period of time. I told him that in the Christian faith, we do not see Jesus simply as “The Messenger”. We know him to be God made flesh, who died to redeem man back unto himself. Neither of us was abrasive or intoxicated with what we believe.
Perhaps out of ignorance (lack of understanding or knowledge) or because of the teachings of their particular religious affiliation, many have sought to diminish and obscure the true identity of Christ. They call him a good man and a prophet possibly heading a long list of prophets. But almost 800 years before his birth an ancient prophet wrote concerning him, saying, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9; 6. Go through the history of the human race starting with Adam and tell me of a single individual who lived and was worthy to bear these names and titles. Many years
ago, on my first airplane flight I was returning to London’s Heathrow Airport from Belfast, Ireland. A gentleman came on board who seemed a bit tipsy, and my first impulse was to change my seat. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity to talk about Jesus. The gentleman worked on Fleet Street which is the heart of London’s newspaper industry. As we talked the conversation brought me to the scripture in which Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” John 14; 6. The gentleman said: “I don’t believe that Jesus is the only way to God. He named Confucius and many other notable religious persons who were trail blazers and trend setters, and concluded that many others must also be the way to God. My reply was that to us your argument seems rational and justified, but we do not set the standards; we do not draw the line and determine what is to be and by whom. Jesus is the only way to God and that is how it is going to be. As the door to the sheepfold, he said that everyone who comes in another way is a thief and a robber.
When Peter and John were dragged before some of the big named high priests of their day, Peter got bold and spoke saying, “Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4; 8-12. This just about clears the deck and terminates all arguments against the man Christ Jesus. Hello! Salvation is in none other—He is the DOOR!
Because he laid aside Deity and came to earth as a man in order to die for our redemption, Paul wrote the following: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2; 8-11. Again I challenge you and invite you to surf the Internet, go to your local library, or come to the National Archives here in Washington D.C. and try to find a record of any man who ever lived to whom such profound statements can be ascribed. Quite frankly, my Friend, the more I write, the more I feel that this subject is too great for me. I know what I want to say on every page, but I find that the words that seemed appropriate are few and those I can get my hands around seem puny and frail and totally inadequate. But I pray that Jesus my Lord will judge me according to the contents of my heart even though my vocabulary is proving to be far too shallow and limited.
The writer of the Hebrews made some very candid statements about our subject: “And ever priest standeth daily ministering and offering often times the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man(Jesus Christ) after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth(right where he is) expecting till all his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected forever them who are sanctified.” Hebrews 10; 11-14. It is amazing that devils know who Jesus is, and intelligent and well learned men can only see him as a good man. “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” Mark 1; 23-24. “And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.” Mark 3; 11, and you say that he was just a good man?
I don’t know if I should call it alarming, uncanny, absurd, and mind boggling that devils correctly identified Jesus as the Son of God, while educated, career people on every rung of the economic ladder see him only as a good man who came on the same level of existence as Adam, and as a prophet or messenger as the young man from Egypt told me some months ago. Listen to this description of the man Jesus! “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” Hebrews 1; 3-4. These truths are worth repeating and repeating until the slow of heart and ear eventually get a hold of it and can digest it into the inner man. Indeed, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Thank you Jesus! We bless thy holy name!
Royce O. Kennedy