Mission

Jesus is the Answer (Part 1): Who is Jesus (Mobile)

  This chapter begins to cover the third point of the Gospel presentation: Jesus is the answer by looking at the question: Who is Jesus?


UNDERSTANDING

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS PASSAGE?

Read Mark 8:27 – 29

 

Goal

Last week, we looked at the first two points of the Gospel: that we are made for relationship and that this relationship is broken by sin. This week, we are going to begin to look at our third Gospel presentation point, that Jesus is the answer to the brokenness in this world. Today, our goal is to explore the question: Who is Jesus?

 

Context

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Who is Jesus? The answer to this question is highly contested. Some claim He was a fraud. Some claim He was only a prophet. Some claim He never existed. Some claim He was God. This controversy about Jesus is nothing new. During His lifetime, people often debated and discussed His identity.

In Mark Chapter 8, the writer describes a conversation between Jesus and His disciples about who He is:

 “And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say that I am?’ And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.’ And he asked them, But who do you say that I am?’” (Mk 8:27 – 29).

Many people answer this question by saying Jesus was a good moral teacher, but not God. They will admit that He was very influential in His day and that He possessed incredible wisdom — but as with other great teachers, people can choose to use His wisdom or ignore it. Perhaps the best source of information for who Jesus is would be Jesus Himself. Let’s see who He claims to be.

 

Jesus’ Divinity and Solution

Throughout Scripture, Jesus makes claims about His identity. Here are just a few examples:

• First, in John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” Afterwards, His audience picks up stones to throw at Him. They readily give their reasoning: “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

• Second, Jesus claims to be not just one path to God, but the path: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6).

• Third, we talked last week about the brokenness in our world, in our relationships and in our own lives. Rather than simply pointing to God as the solution to our problems, Jesus points to Himself: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35).

 

Climax

If Jesus claimed to be God and declared that He was the answer to our problems and isn’t, this definitely disqualifies Him as a great moral teacher. C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia and a professor at Oxford, once said:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about [Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”

What C.S. Lewis points to is called the trilemma. Jesus was either Lord, Liar (devil of hell) or Lunatic (madman). Simply being a great moral teacher isn’t an option. Let’s look at the claims that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic.

 

Jesus Was a Liar

If He is a liar, then we have to ask ourselves, why would He lie? In his book Made for More, Curtis Martin states, “Liars lie in the pursuit of some gain. What does Jesus gain as a result of His claims? Earthly power? When they try to crown him, he runs away. Status? He only wins the fleeting admiration of a small crown of seemingly unimportant people…When He is on trial for His life and is challenged point-blank to answer whether He is indeed the Christ, the Son of God, he does not hedge or fib…No liar bent on earthly gain would do this.”

Jesus has opportunities to be named king by His people (Jn 6:15) or escape His death (Mt 26:47 – 56) — and yet, He doesn’t do either. Rather than attempting to get something out of His audience, He continually gives of Himself.

 

Jesus Was a Lunatic

If Jesus wasn’t a liar, maybe he was a lunatic. I mean, if someone claims to be God, but isn’t, maybe He is crazy. Curtis Martin speaks to this point as well: “The trouble is that He is radically unlike any other lunatic who has ever claimed to be God. Read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7. Does that sound like the manifesto of a psychotic to you?”

There’s a reason why people believe Jesus is a great moral teacher: It’s because He possessed and shared incredible wisdom for our lives. This is something a lunatic could not do on the scale Jesus did. Even some of His enemies said this about Him: “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men” (Mt 22:16).

 

Jesus Was a Legend

Finally, some might say Jesus didn’t claim to be God, but His followers made up this claim after His death. Over time, the story was exaggerated or changed, and Jesus became something in myth that He never was in real life.

When we look at this claim that Jesus was simply a legend, we have to try to understand why someone would make these claims. Peter Kreeft is a distinguished professor of philosophy at Boston College and has been studying Jesus and the Christian faith on an academic level for more than 50 years. He notes what Christians had to gain if they did exaggerate claims about Jesus: “Here is what they got out of their hoax. Their friends and families scorned them. Their social standing, possessions, and political privileges were stolen from them by both Jews and Romans. They were persecuted, imprisoned, whipped, tortured, exiled, crucified, eaten by lions, and cut to pieces by gladiators” (Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics).

Whether they were leaders in the Church or new believers, Christians were persecuted for the first 300 years of Christianity. One early leader was St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was a bishop and disciple of St. John the Evangelist, the author of the Gospel of John. Toward the end of his life, St. Ignatius was taken to Rome to be killed in the Colosseum. As he traveled to Rome, he wrote seven letters that we still have today. He is just one of the many Christians who died for the faith during the first 300 years of the Church. Why would so many people die for a lie?

 

Application

The application for this chapter could be very intense. As your group explores the topic of Jesus, we don’t want to force this issue too early. We want them to continue to explore the person of Jesus and the ramifications of His message throughout the study. This chapter is mostly designed to get that discussion going rather than to move people to an action point.

If members of your group still have questions, you can point them to the books A Case for Jesus by Brant Pitre or Made for More by Curtis Martin. These books will address topics like the trilemma in greater detail, the historical reliability of the New Testament and an argument for the resurrection.

If your group thinks the idea that Jesus is Lord is pretty obvious, you can use this quote from Jesus: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS’” (Mt 7:21 – 23).

It’s one thing to claim Jesus as Lord; it is another thing to live it out. How do we claim Jesus is Lord in our relationships (dating, friendships, roommates, etc.)? How do we claim Jesus is Lord regarding our fears about the future? How do we claim Jesus is Lord in what we listen to or watch?

You might consider using this analogy to help your group: When we have guests over to our houses, we normally clean up the rooms people will see — but we often will hide certain rooms that are messy. In fact, we might have certain drawers or spots that we definitely wouldn’t want anyone to see, so we make sure no one can get inside of these places. The same is true with Jesus and His Lordship in our life. Some people invite Jesus into their lives, but in a restricted way. They want Him to come into certain places in their lives, but in other places they shut Him out. At times, certain areas of their lives are so messy that they don’t want Him to see them, either out of fear or pride. The ultimate goal of the Christian life is to allow Jesus to be Lord over our entire lives, not just certain parts of it.

On one hand, don’t assume that everyone in your group will claim Jesus as Lord. On the other hand, be prepared to challenge people to not just think that Jesus is Lord, but to live like it.

 

 

DISCUSSION

DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR YOUR BIBLE STUDY

Mark 8:27 – 29

 

Notes to the Leader

• Reminder of the goal for this chapter: The goal of this week’s chapter is to begin to look at our third Gospel presentation point: that Jesus is the answer to the brokenness in this world. Today, our goal is to consider the question: Who is Jesus?

• Instructions for this chapter: This chapter is mostly designed to get a discussion going rather than move people to an action point. Do everything you can to ask good questions and understand your participants’ perspectives rather than answering their objections.

 

Opener

1. For those who are single: If you like someone and want to get to know them better, what do you do to learn more about them? (Or for those in a relationship/married: If you want to learn more about an acquaintance, what do you do?)

[Note to leader: Most people will mention social media, but dig a bit deeper. People can (and do) fabricate their identity on social media. What else can someone do to get to know someone? For instance, you could talk to their friends or have a conversation with them and see what they say about themselves.]

(Share aloud with your group.)

Last week, we looked at two points: that we are made for a relationship with God and that this relationship is broken by sin. Over the next two chapters, we are going to begin to look at the claim that Jesus is the answer to this brokenness. Today, our goal is to answer the question: Who is Jesus? Just like other people we seek to learn about, we have to look at the facts and evidence surrounding the person of Jesus.

 

Context

 

Read Mark 8:27 – 29.

 

2. During Jesus’ lifetime, people had all sorts of theories about His identity. What are some ideas people have today about who Jesus is?

Allow the group to discuss. A common answer today is that Jesus was simply a good moral teacher, but not actually God.

 

3. When it comes to Jesus’ identity, we should probably start with what Jesus said about Himself. Let’s look at three short passages: John 10:30, John 14:6 and John 6:35. Could I have three volunteers to read one of these passages?

 

4. So, after hearing Jesus’ own words, can someone describe some of the things Jesus says about Himself?

Answer: Jesus makes the claim that He is divine (Jn 10:30); that He is the way, the truth and the life as opposed to one of many ways (Jn 14:6); and that He is the one who can heal our brokenness.

 

5. Given opinions about who people think Jesus is and in the context of other world religions, why are these statements so controversial?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

Climax

6. C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia and a professor at Oxford, once said, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about [Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.” What do you think of this quote? If what Jesus claims about Himself is not true, could He be a good moral teacher?

Allow the group to discuss.

Some things to keep in mind for this discussion:

1. This quote from C.S. Lewis has often been called the trilemma. It proposes that Jesus is either Lord, Liar (devil of hell) or Lunatic.

2. If Jesus is a liar, we have to ask the question, why would Jesus lie? What does He gain as a result of His claims? He ultimately dies for these lies.

3. If Jesus is a lunatic, we have to explain how He is capable of so much great wisdom. Teachings like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) don’t sound like they come from a madman.

4. If Jesus is a legend (something His believers made up), see the question below.

 

7. Some might say Jesus didn’t claim to be God, but His followers made up this claim after His death. Over time, the story was exaggerated or changed, and Jesus became something in myth that He never was in real life. When we look at this claim — that Jesus was simply a legend — we have to try to understand why someone would make these claims.

Peter Kreeft is a distinguished professor of philosophy at Boston College and has been studying Jesus and the Christian faith on an academic level for more than 50 years. He notes what Christians had to gain if they did exaggerate claims about Jesus: “Here is what they got out of their hoax. Their friends and families scorned them. Their social standing, possessions, and political privileges were stolen from them by both Jews and Romans. They were persecuted, imprisoned, whipped, tortured, exiled, crucified, eaten by lions, and cut to pieces by gladiators.”

What do you think about the idea that Jesus is a myth or a legend?

Allow the group to discuss.

For a specific example of an early Christian who died for the faith: One early leader was St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was a bishop and disciple of St. John the Evangelist, author of the Gospel of John. Toward the end of his life, St. Ignatius was taken to Rome to be killed in the Colosseum. As he traveled to Rome, he wrote seven letters that we still have today. He is just one of the many Christians who died for the faith during the first 300 years of the Church. Why would so many people die for a lie?

For more on this topic, see The Case for Jesus by Brant Pitre.

 

Application

8. This week, we looked at the identity of Jesus. He claims to be God and the solution to the brokenness we read about in the first chapter. We saw that there are only 3 – 4 options with Jesus. He is either Lord, Liar, Lunatic or Legend. Regardless of whether you believe in Jesus, how would your life change if you lived with 100% confidence that He was Lord?

[Note to Leader: Depending on where you group is, you can use this quote: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS’” (Mt 7:21 – 23).]

Allow the group to discuss.

You might consider using this analogy to help your group: When we have guests over to our houses, we normally clean up the rooms people will see — but we often will hide certain rooms that are messy. In fact, we might have certain drawers or spots that we definitely wouldn’t want anyone to see, so we make sure no one can get inside of these places. The same is true with Jesus and His Lordship in our life. Some people invite Jesus into their lives, but in a restricted way. They want Him to come into certain places in their lives, but in other places they shut Him out. At times, certain areas of their lives are so messy that they don’t want Him to see them, either out of fear or pride. The ultimate goal of the Christian life is to allow Jesus to be Lord over our entire lives, not just certain parts of it.

 

Summary

(Share aloud with your group.)

After looking at Jesus’ identity this week, we will continue to look at whether or not Jesus is the answer to the problem of sin and brokenness. Next time, we will discuss the question: Why did Jesus die?

 

Challenge

(Share aloud with your group.)

Throughout the week, take some time to think about how certain decisions you make would change if you fully believed that Jesus was Lord.