8. Jesus, God's new man - 24th March 2013 - Dave Walker

Bible reading: Luke 4:1-37

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It’s easy to miss. It’s quite possible to miss the point entirely. Even when most of the work has been done. And the consequences of that are disastrous.

If you remember Gary Lineker as a footballer, you’ll remember that the thing he used to excel at was just being there at the right time in front of the goal and sticking his foot out. And the build up play had been so good that the ball would arrive at just the right time, bounce off his foot and into the goal. As you know, we’ve been going through a Bible overview for the last couple of months – we’ve been following through the storyline of the Bible, and we’ve seen that all through the Old Testament the expectation has been growing – the build up play has been going on. It’s been made more and more clear what the problem is and what is needed, and God has been promising the solution. Today we arrive at the final ball – Jesus comes on to the scene. It’s all been building up to this. So I feel a bit like Gary Lineker with his boot stuck out. I just hope that I don’t fluff it, and that you don’t miss the point entirely.

Because I think one of the most cautionary verses in the Bible is this one from John chapter 5 verse 48. Jesus is talking to some people who really knew their Bibles well, and he says this: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” It’s easy to get the Bible wrong. You can study it diligently, but if you don’t get Jesus right, then you’ve missed the point entirely. The ball has gone sailing over the crossbar and all the build up play was for nothing. If you don’t get Jesus right then all the rest of that Bible knowledge, far from being life-giving to you, is actually just extra evidence against you.

So here you go, here’s the key to understanding the Bible:

Jesus is everything God has promised.

I hope this isn’t news to you - I hope you’ve seen that as we’ve been going along. Jesus is everything that God has promised. In 2 Corinthians chapter 1 the Apostle Paul puts it like this: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ.” If you want to know how God keeps his promises, look at Jesus. Don’t look anywhere else. If you’re ever tempted to think that God has let you down, that his promises for you have failed, look at Jesus. Every one of God’s promises is kept in Jesus.

Let’s just have a quick glance over the promises that we’ve been focusing on during the last couple of months just to get a feel for that. Just to get a taste of how wonderful Jesus is. I’ve given you a list on your sheet – each of those little bullet points corresponds to one of the sermons from the overview series. If you’ve missed any of them, they’re all on the website, go and have a listen later.

Jesus is God the creator with his people. That’s the biggest promise kept. Like a marriage where you make promises, but the thing you’re promising to give is yourself; well so God has made promises and the heart of those promises is the promise to give himself to us. And that’s what he’s done in Jesus. Jesus who gets introduced in Matthew’s gospel as “Immanuel” - ‘God with us’. Jesus who gets introduced in John’s gospel as the Word made flesh – the one who was with God and who was God in the beginning has come to be with us.

And Jesus is the new Adam who doesn’t sin. He’s not just God, he’s also human. He’s everything that humans were meant to be. He has done all that we have failed to do; he’s lived the life that we couldn’t. And unlike every other human he’s not joined in with Adam’s rebellion. He’s not pushed God aside and tried to be the boss instead. He’s the serpent crusher, he’s defeated the devil instead of just rolling over and letting the devil win. He’s all that humanity was meant to be.

And Jesus is Abraham’s offspring. Do you remember how God promised Abraham that he would give him many descendents through whom the nations of the world would be blessed? Do you remember these pictures? Well here he is – Jesus, the true descendent of Abraham. He is the child of the promise. He is all that Israel was meant to be. Through him the promises of God will go worldwide.

And Jesus is the new Moses and the rescuing Lamb of God. He fulfils the Exodus, where God used Moses to rescue his people from slavery in Egypt through that Passover sacrifice. Jesus is the rescuer and he is the sacrifice, only this time he’s rescuing from a much bigger enemy, from evil and death itself.

And Jesus is the new Israel. Remember the thing that was special about Israel was that they were God’s people, they lived with God, and that’s why they had the temple and the sacrifices and the law and the land, to make all that possible. Jesus comes along and he fulfils all of that – he is the way to meet with God better than the temple, he takes away sins better than the sacrifices, he reveals and keeps God’s will better than the law, he is the place of blessing better than the land. He’s everything Israel was meant to be.

And Jesus is the Son of David, the Spirit-filled Messiah King, like King David but much better. The leader we need. The defender we need.

And Jesus is all that the prophets looked forward to. He is the end of exile. Last week we heard how the prophets promised that even though the people had sinned and now the axe of God’s judgment was about to fall on them and they’d go into exile, somehow that axe would fall in a way that saved them in the long run. There would be new life on the other side of God’s judgment. Jesus is all of that. He’s the one on whom the axe falls as he dies on the cross. He’s the one who brings new life as he rises from the grave. In Jesus God’s judgment falls in a way that saves his people.

He’s everything. He’s everything that God has promised. Jesus is everything that God has promised.

Let’s take a couple of deep breaths there, because we’ve covered a lot of ground. It’s not new ground, but there’s lots of it. Do you see the simple message at the heart of it? Jesus is everything that God has promised. Do you see that? Because if you grasp that then you’ll see there are enormous implications in every direction.

Here’s two: if Jesus is everything God has promised then that means that Christianity is not just another religion. It’s not just one option on the table. It’s not one of the Abrahamic faiths. Abraham was all about Jesus. Everything that was promised to Abraham came true in Jesus, and in no other way. If you want to know God he’s all here in Jesus. All of him. And that’s it. There’s no other way to know him – not relationally. Not personally.

Second implication is this: if Jesus is everything God has promised then that means the Bible is all about him. Now that sounds like a truism – it just sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s not because we so often miss the point here. Quite rightly, we want to know how the Bible is relevant to our lives. That’s a good thing, we should expect the Bible to be relevant to us – it is. But it’s not about us. The Bible is not about you, it’s about Jesus. The only reason that the Bible is relevant to you is because it offers you Jesus. When the apostle Paul talks about what he does to try to change people’s lives he says this in Colossians chapter 1: “We proclaim him (Jesus), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” When the Apostle Paul wants to change someone’s life for the better, he tells them about Jesus. If you really get Jesus, that’ll change everything for you.

But here’s the thing: sometimes, in our eagerness to know what to do, we miss the fact that the whole point of the Bible is to tell us about him. If you want to know what to do in life, you need Jesus. Don’t just take a bit of the Bible and try to do it yourself. Let it show you Jesus first. A test case for whether or not we’ve got that is what do we do with a passage like the one just before today’s reading. Did you spot that? The genealogy – the list of names. Graham must have been pleased that he didn’t get that one to read. Now if we think that the Bible is all about telling us how to live, then a passage like that will frustrate us. We won’t see the point of it. Because it doesn’t tell us to do anything. It tells us about Jesus and who he is. That’s why it matters, that’s why it’s supremely relevant. We’re here to know and show Jesus, aren’t we? We won’t show him if we don’t know him. We’ll show something different. If we don’t see that the Bible is all about Jesus and is there to help us know more of Jesus then when we try to do what the Bible says we’ll end up doing the wrong thing. Jesus is everything God has promised. He’s who we need.

Ok, let’s zoom in a bit on two of the ways that Jesus is everything that God has promised. If you’ve got your Bible open on page 1030 let’s have a quick look over that passage that we read.

Jesus is God with us (Luke 3:21-38)

Just look down at verse 21 of chapter 3. It’s talking about Jesus’ baptism and here we see a glimpse of God in all his glory. “When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

This is like God opening the curtains so we can peer into his family home. Here we see the Trinity, don’t we? The Father announces how he loves his Son as the Holy Spirit moves between them, and comes to rest on Jesus. This is the same Trinitarian relational God that we saw in Genesis 1, creating the world, now totally focused on Jesus. As we see Jesus we see God in all his Trinitarian glory. The Trinity isn’t a philosophical riddle or a maths problem; the Trinity describes a deeply relational God. In Jesus Christ that God opens the door to us. 

And what happens then is we have this genealogy to earth Jesus among us. Jesus is not just God, he’s one of us. Look at the end of that list in verse 38. “The son of Adam, the son of God.” That’s Jesus all over isn’t it? He too is a human, born into the same family line as you and me and all the rest. He’s got parents and grandparents and so on just like we have. He was born. He too came into the world the painful and messy way. But he’s also the Son of God.

Do you remember how a few weeks ago we said that the key problem with the world was that the relationship between God and people had been broken? Do you remember that? We said it was like a stone hitting a windscreen where the cracks run outwards – everything broken because that central relationship, the relationship between God and people, his image-bearers, has been broken by human sin. And ever since then we’ve been seeing in the Old Testament just how enormously difficult it is for humans to live anywhere near a holy God because that relationship is broken. Well here the great divide is crossed, isn’t it? God with us. The son of Adam, the son of God.

And Jesus the God-man gets it right where we went wrong. That’s what we see going on straight away in chapter 4. That scene with Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil. You see again we’re right back at the start of the Bible aren’t we, with the story of Adam and Eve and how they were tempted and just walked right into it. But that’s not the only picture in the background. Just have a look at verse 1 and 2 again: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from theJordanand was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” If you know your Old Testament history and you hear words like “Jordan” and “forty” and you see someone wandering in the desert led by the Spirit of God, well then you’ll think of the people of Israel, after they had been rescued from Egypt, wandering in the desert for forty years, led by the presence of God but all the time, again and again, rebelling against God, grumbling and sinning.

But Jesus doesn’t do that, does he? He gets faced with essentially the same sort of temptation that faced Adam and Eve, and the peopleIsrael, and us – it’s the temptation that says “don’t go God’s way, that’s hard. Just grab it yourself, you’ll be happier. You be the boss, you make the decisions, not God.” The devil even makes it sound spiritual; he quotes the Bible for goodness sake. But Jesus doesn’t give in.

Jesus gets it right where Adam/Israel/humanity went wrong (4:1-13)

He keeps trusting in God. He keeps on going the hard way of obedience instead of taking the easy way out. And thank God that he did. This Bible passage often gets taught as a model for how we can face up to temptation, and certainly we can learn things about that here. But much more importantly, this is where we see Jesus being utterly unique. Nobody else has ever done what he did, everyone else has at some stage given in to temptation. And it’s only because Jesus is so utterly different in this way, that he is sinless – only that can give hope to us.

Think of the other great temptation scene in the life of Jesus, the scene we’ll be remembering this Thursday, Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane before going to the cross. It’s another garden isn’t it – just like Adam and Eve in the garden. Again the temptation is to go his own way instead of obeying his God his Father. But what does he pray? “Not my will but yours be done.” “I want to do what you want, not what I want.” The essence of sin is saying “not your will but mine be done.” That’s what you and me and Adam and Eve and Moses and the Israelites and everyone else have done. Over and over again. “Not your will but mine be done.” And here Jesus stands it on its head. He gets it right where the rest of us have got it so wrong. Not my will but yours be done. I’ll go to the cross. That’s the obedience that crushes the serpent’s head.

Do you remember at the start of the series we looked at this picture? We saw that humans were made to live in right relationship with God and with each other and with the rest of creation, weren’t we, but since the beginning humans have broken that relationship and that means we have fallen under God’s condemnation. But here comes Jesus and he gets it right where we went wrong. He always lived in right relationship with God and with people and with the rest of creation. He is a whole new humanity that gets it right where the old humanity got it wrong.

But Jesus goes to the cross. He is the one human ever who did not deserve God’s condemnation, but on the cross he faced it in full. The crucifixion of Jesus was Son of God, the son of Adam, taking Adam’s curse. Taking the condemnation and punishment upon himself that was fully deserved not by him but by sinful people like you and me. The perfect, righteous, holy God-man, standing in the place which should be filled by you and me. This is the heart of God’s big plan. This is God the Holy Trinity, in the person of Jesus, stepping into the mess of the broken world not just by patching it up, but by actually being broken, so that we might be healed.

Do you know the words of that great Good Friday hymn: “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood; sealed my pardon with his blood; Hallelujah! What a saviour!”

Jesus is everything that God has promised. If you have Jesus, you have everything. Relationship with God, forgiveness, a new start, new life, a new family, a new future – everything. If you have Jesus you have everything that God has promised.

But don’t miss it now. Because, as we said at the start, it’s easy to miss it, to mess it up completely, even as the open goal stands before you. Because it’s easy to get Jesus wrong. You can even understand all this stuff we’ve been talking about, you can know the whole Bible and still get it wrong. You can know who Jesus is, you can see how he fulfils all of God’s promises, you can call him all the right names, and still get him totally wrong.

Because that’s exactly what the demons do. Verse 34 of Luke chapter 4: “I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” Verse 41: “You are the Son of God!” Who said those things? Demons. They knew the truth, but they still had him all wrong.

Because you only get Jesus right if you love him. It’s not enough to say the right words. It’s not enough to participate in the right rituals and come to the right meetings and sing the right songs. God is love and the only relationship with God that counts is one of love, through Jesus. You have to treasure Jesus. You have to see and enjoy and delight in the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, or else you are not a believer. You’re just someone who knows some important stuff, but it hasn’t really made any difference to you.

And remember, in the Bible love is not just a warm feeling, love is self giving. It is laying yourself down from the heart for someone. When the Spirit of God shines into your heart and you see how wonderful Jesus is, that’s what happens. You give yourself to him. Hook, line and sinker. Everything. It makes perfect sense, because Jesus is God’s gift of everything to you. Let’s pray for that sort of love, shall we?