Borrowing from my pastor’s sermon this week for this post. You can check out his blog at: grahamprouty.wordpress.com.
Almost the entire world knows about “Jesus,” but we don’t all know the same “Jesus.” I was in Lagos, Nigeria, earlier this year, and I was eating alone in the hotel restaurant. My waitress noticed that I was reading my Bible, and she struck up a conversation. In between waiting tables on a slow night, she continued to return to mine to talk to me about different scriptures. I was really impressed at her ability to remember and direct me to certain passages. Before I left, she said that she would like to bring me some books to read if I was going to be at the hotel for another day or so.
Appreciative of her willingness to share resources, I arranged to meet her back in the restaurant the next evening. When we met again, she gave me a four-inch stack of Watchtower magazines and other resources defending the Jehovah’s Witness faith.
I was so disappointed. I thought I had met someone on the other side of the world who shared my faith and who was a skilled teacher of its truths. Unfortunately, though she claimed to know “Jesus,” he wasn’t the Savior Jesus from the Bible.
I think there are probably four main possibilities for who we believe Jesus to be. The first you may hear commonly referred to as “Jesus!” or “Jesus Christ!” or even “Jesus H. Christ!” though “Christ” is actually His title (it means, “the Messiah”) and though He didn’t have a middle name. Those who know this Jesus don’t really know Him at all. They use His name as an expletive or a derision. To them, Jesus is nothing more than a pop icon and fair game as the object of ridicule and condescension.
While I find it terribly sad, I also find it interesting. Have you ever noticed that we don’t swear using the names of other gods or spiritual leaders? I wonder why the name of Jesus is so popular? Could it be that there is no need to deride the names of other gods or spiritual leaders, since they have no legitimate authority or power?
The second possibility is that we believe Jesus to be a good man, maybe even a great man or a prophet. People who hold this view of Jesus admire His example and His teachings, but they don’t believe that He is God. They may even study His words and imitate His life, but they do not call Him Savior. They keep Jesus in their heads, but they won’t allow Him access to their hearts.
The third possibility is that we believe Jesus to be just what His name means: Savior. Anyone who believes that Jesus is Savior is a Christian and will one day join all the other Christians in heaven. This is a correct view of Jesus; it’s just not sufficient.
The fourth possibility is that we believe Jesus to be not only our Savior but also Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 tells us:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
You might think it strange that the prophecy says His name was to be Immanuel when He ended up with the name Jesus, but Mathew 1:21-23 makes it clear that Jesus was to have both names. While Jesus is His called name, Immanuel describes another aspect of His person.
“Immanuel” means “God with us.” So, not only is Jesus “Savior,” but He is also “God with us.” The reason knowing Jesus merely as Savior is not sufficient is because He wants so much more in our lives. Jesus doesn’t just want to be the one we call on when we are in trouble. He doesn’t want to simply be a ticket to heaven or “fire insurance.” He wants to be an integral part of our lives. He wants to be our companion, our friend, our Lord.
He wants us to talk with Him and consult Him and share our experiences with Him, but He won’t force Himself on us. We’ve got to invite Him into all the different parts of our lives. We’ve got to take the initiative to open up to Him about work and home. We’ve got to ask for His counsel as we struggle with problems and relationships.
Jesus came into the world to save us in order to restore us into relationship with God. If we treat Him just as “Savior” and only call on Him when we need help, we’re like an estranged relative who apologized for the terrible thing he did but never called or came over for dinner afterward. Every once in a while, he calls to ask for money, but other than that, you never hear from him. God wants more than that. He wants us to have a deep, abiding relationship with Him.
It’s Christmas, and this is as good a time to ask as any. Which “Jesus” have you been living with this past year?