Sunday, April 21, 2019

Who Is This Person, Jesus?

Who is Jesus?” That was the question I asked on Good Friday 30 years ago. I had come to doubt all that I had learned growing up in a Christian church. My first degree was in Philosophy, and my definition of a Philosopher was the same as Gandhi’s definition of Hindu: a seeker of Truth. I was a young naval officer who had just come off a miserable 6 week mini-deployment and in preparation for the six-month deployment brought along only “positive” things. I only brought music that I believed would be positive, and I only brought books that would be positive. I read several Hindu books in my search for truth, and I brought a Gideon’s Bible that had collected dust since being handed to me 4 years earlier. I had been praying that if God was real, for Him to reveal Himself to me. I was ready to throw away the concept of God or change it to whatever I discovered. After reading from the Hindu books, I reluctantly picked up the Gideon’s Bible. It only had the Proverbs, Psalms and New Testament. As a philosopher seeking truth, I had just put down a book on Hindu proverbs, and it seemed only right that I should start in the Book of Proverbs. 

So I was hit with the truth. As I started reading, I was confronted with words telling me that I was acting like a fool, and I understood in a very awkwardly heartfelt fashion that I could either embrace the Truth or run away from it. In either case, I knew in a very real way that it was the Truth. Truth with a capital T, absolute and unarguable. It wasn’t a relative truth or subjective thing. And I was a fool. I didn’t like what I read, but I couldn’t argue with it. So, I chose to embrace the truth that I had found. 

I continued to read through Proverbs, more and more convinced that God was real and speaking to me through this book. I was on a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea reading Proverbs and the only One teaching me was God Himself. I don’t know of anyone who has met God first through Proverbs, but that is how He reached me. 

Completing Proverbs, I decided to continue into Psalms. I believed in God with greater conviction and wasn’t ready to start reading the New Testament yet. I knew from my upbringing that Proverbs was from the Old Testament, part of the Jewish Scriptures. As I continued to read from Psalms, I changed my prayer. I said: “God, I believe You are real, but who is Jesus?” 

I said this prayer on Good Friday, as I opened up to Chapter 22 in Psalms. And I saw it there. I understood from my upbringing that Psalms was an Old Testament book, pre-dating Jesus. Yet here I read the story of the Messiah’s crucifixion, a prophecy of that first Good Friday. I did not, and do not, believe in coincidences. If God exists as I believe He does, then He was speaking to me and saying: “Yes, Jesus is the Messiah, My Son. Listen to Him.” 

That day changed my life and led me one night to say to God: “I believe You are God. I have made myself to be my own ruler, but I realize now that my control over my life hasn’t been leading me to where I need to be. I make a pretty poor god over my own life, and I ask You to be not just my Savior, but my Lord. Lead me!” 

So Who is this Jesus? When I read that chapter in Psalms, I learned that God Himself planned for Jesus to go to that cross, and I subsequently believed in the rest of His story: He died for my sins (past, present and future). He proved He was God incarnate by rising from the grave on Easter. I now believed that both the Old and New Testaments were relevant to my life. How could I understand Jesus as the Pascal Lamb without knowledge of the Jewish Passover Celebration? 

Easter is a celebration of Life, a remembrance of both His resurrection and His promise that He did not come to change the Law of the Old Testament, but that He came to complete it. (See Matthew 5:17) He completed the Law by paying the price for our violations of the Law. His mercy and grace don’t negate the Law, but they emphasize how the Law is still good and true, exacting the price from God’s own Son for our violations of the Law. His grace declares His undeserved love for us, His proclamation of peace and good will toward man as announced by angels when Jesus was born. (Luke 2:14) 

Paul was awed by God’s amazing love and boundless grace, but he was quick to point out that God’s love and grace are not an license to continue in sinful lifestyles. (See Romans 6:1-2) Rather, it’s an invitation to grow in holiness as we imitate Christ (1 Peter 1:16, 2:21), Who came not just to save us but to show us how to live. We are not required to live our lives perfectly; we can’t live it perfectly! Rather, we are called to walk with Him daily in a relentless pursuit of Truth that is ridiculed by men and discouraged by demons. 

Who is Jesus? He is our Lord, our Mentor, and the very Model of a life in relationship with God the Father. He is alive, risen from that grave, working in the lives of men who are tenacious enough to follow Him in a world that prefers darkness over light. And He is the King that we represent daily as Ambassadors of Grace, changing us from glory to glory as become more like Him. (2 Cor 3:18) 

Jesus is my Lord, God, and Brother, and with His help I will serve Him and rule with Him through all eternity!

copyright ©2019 Mitchell Malloy