A happenstance invite. Nowhere near the head table. A thirty minute wait to get to the buffet. Jesus wasn’t much more than a nobody at the Wedding in Cana.
Until they ran out of wine.
The servants approached him. “Your mother said you might be able to help us. Do you know a store open close by?” Jesus shook his head. “My time has not yet come.” Then, he told them to retrieve some large jars, fill those jars with water, and serve that water to the guests. The servants left. The jugs were filled. The water was served.
But water was not tasted.
Somehow. In an amazing change of events, Jesus had changed the water into wine. The best wine! It was a miracle. Though it wasn’t his last. Slowly Jesus began to do more miracles coupled authoritative preaching and wise teaching.
Suddenly, people everywhere were asking this question:
Who was this nobody?
Who was this Jesus?
Today we’re going to start our series on Who Is Jesus? By examining a the thoughts of many people of the time. Take a look at John 7:40-43:
40 On hearing Jesus’ words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him.
For some, it was simple. Jesus was the Messiah. But it wasn't so simple for others. In their opinion, Jesus was too Unlikely. Let's examine why.
1. Jesus Did Things Unlike What Humans Thought the Savior Would Do.
Some (v.40) called Jesus “The Prophet.” This was a reference to the Deuteronomy passage we read in our Old Testament lesson. These people recognized that Jesus was something special, but they didn’t quite want to call him “THE” Messiah.
Why? Because what he was doing too unlike their own idea of what the Savior might do. They wanted him to hold political rallies against Caesar. They wanted him to train an army. They wanted him to lead a rebellion and free them from Roman power. They wanted him to hang out at swanky Pharisee parties, eating swanky Pharisee food, and talking about how great these swanky Pharisee parties are.
But Jesus? He only talked about sin. He cared more about their relationship with God then anything. And he hung out with the lowly and dregs and society.
This wasn’t how the people wanted Jesus to act and because of his actions, they were respectful, but dismissed him as unimportant. They called him “the Prophet,” but not the Messiah.
But the truth is that Scripture never says that the “prophet like Moses” was going to be a different person than God’s Anointed Savior. Nor does Scripture ever describe the Savior as bending to your every whim and will. The people would have seen that, if they would have looked at what God said the Messiah would do, rather than what they would like the Messiah to do.
This is still a problem today. People think about Jesus more in terms of what they would like him to do, rather than what God’s Word says he would do. The temptation is to dismiss him when he doesn’t follow through. It happens like this:
- Jesus is my Savior from sin…nice. But how will that help me make thousands of dollars in a few days? That’s what a real Messiah would do.
- Jesus cares about my relationship with God…but what about my relationship with that cute guy? If Jesus can’t be my matchmaker, maybe he’s not my Messiah.
- Jesus talks a lot about eternal life…but that doesn’t help me now. I need a Messiah who will heal my aunt. If he doesn’t do that, I guess he’s no Messiah.
It sounds a lot like the Genie from Aladdin doesn’t it? “Jesus I have three wishes. If you fulfill these three wishes, then you will be a real Genie…I mean Savior…and then I’ll believe in you.”
This isn’t good. God isn’t a Genie and he doesn’t bow to your wishes.
2. Jesus is Unlike Human Assumptions about Who the Messiah Would Be
Others found a different reason ignore Jesus. Check out verse 41: “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?”
This seems like such a good assessment. Yes, Scripture did say that the Savior would come from Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) Yes, Scripture also said that the Savior would come from David’s line. (Jeremiah 33:15) They were correct.
But…Jesus also fulfilled both of these prophecies completely.
So what was the disconnect? Why weren’t the people getting it? Because Jesus was too unlike their own assumptions about who the Messiah would be.
For instance, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This was a disconnect. These people people thought “from Bethlehem” meant more that he would have grown up in Bethlehem and grown his power and influence there. (Like a local politician making his way into state politics.) Their mistrust of God’s Word was subtle, yes, but it shows their faith was in their assumptions more than God’s Word.
Similarly Scripture said Jesus would come from David’s Line. Jesus was the Son of Joseph a descendant of David…but also a lowly carpenter. These people would have liked him to be born of a fancy royal family.
In short, the people were looking for someone who looked the part a bit better. More money, a more impressive stature, even a handsomer appearance.
Jesus was a carpenter. (Mk. 6:3) He wasn’t all that pretty. (Is. 53:2) He looked like a normal guy. (Lk. 4:22) He died on the cross!
In our modern era, we might expect the Messiah to have bulging muscles, a veiny heart tattoo, a thick accent, and an affinity for smoking cigarettes. Then, he would have a looked like he belonged in The Avengers.
This is one of the reasons we struggle with putting our trust in Jesus. We put up our posters of Superman and download episode after episode of The Flash, but that guy Jesus – dying on the cross. Who has time for him?
This is not good. God isn’t a superhero imagined up by a sinful human’s invention.
III. Jesus Said Things Unlike What We Might Expect the Messiah to Say
Take a look at the last reaction to Jesus. In verse 43, "Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him.” Later on we learn more about why the people were so angry with Jesus. They had expect Jesus to say things much differently than what he did. They expected Jesus to say, “You guys are so awesome. I’m so glad I can be your friends. You are so much holier than the other people here.”
But he didn’t.
He called them sinners.
He warned them to flee from God’s wrath.
He told them that they need Him to be their Savior.
They were so upset by hearing this that they literally plotted to kill him.
Again – how is this so far off today’s reaction to Jesus? Some people are cool with Jesus as long as they don’t actually read the Bible and hear what he actually said. As soon as they do that, they drop Jesus like a bad habit.
Jesus said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts…such as sexual immorality.” (Mt. 15:19)
Modern American Society human reacts, “Like sexual relations outside of marriage is a sin? That’s wrong Jesus. Everyone is doing it. Stop being so judgy…or I’ll stop believing in you.”
Jesus said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife…”
Modern American Society human reacts, “That sounds a pretty intolerant definition of marriage Jesus. Unless you stop thinking so archaically, I’m not going to tolerate you as My Messiah anymore.”
Jesus said, “Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Mt. 5:48)
Modern American Society human reacts, “Perfect? Lighten up Jesus. Some Messiah you are. Unless you meant “be the best you can be,” you are not my best choice for Savior."
Jesus said, “I am the Way…no one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6)
Modern American Society human reacts, “Whoa…Jesus. A cool Messiah wouldn’t care if people belived in Him or not. Are you really going to talk about hell for all unbelievers? If so, you can’t be my Messiah. Maybe, I’ll look into Buddhism.”
Is Jesus a paper doll? You follow the outline and get a general perception of what he’s like. But then you can add whatever you like. A sprinkle of glittery “helps you get lots of money” here. A few buttons of “that sin that you deal with isn’t really a sin” there. Color it in with whatever level of holiness fits your own lifestyle and DONE. There’s the real Messiah.
This is terrible thinking. God isn’t a paper doll that you can cut and shape how you like.
IV. The Real Messiah
The problem with all three of these bogus perceptions of Jesus is that they are all based on human ideas of the Messiah. Humans are flawed. We are flawed. Therefore human perceptions of the Messiah will be flawed. In other words: THEY ARE WRONG.
God, on the other hand, is never wrong. It’s what makes him God. Repent, therefore. Ask God for forgiveness. Stop looking to your own wants and desires for a definition of the Savior and start looking to the Bible.
Ever heard the story of the blind men and the elephant? I’ve heard it in about 7 different sermons so I have no problems rehashing it here today. Four blind men approach an elephant. Each one touches a different part of the elephant and comes to a different conclusion of what the elephant is.
One touches his trunk and proclaims, “This is a snake!”
One touches his legs and proclaims, “This is a tree!”
One bumped into his side and said “This is a wall!”
One was poked by his tusk and said, “This is a spear!”
The point? Just as the elephant is too big for those men to identify it after one experience, so God is too big for us to come up with one experienced.
That story is nice, but it’s a bit lacking. There should really be one earth shattering, incredible realization about this elephant.
So God talks. He is too big and too large for you to ever experience enough of him to understand him, so he tells you about himself – in the Bible! Why walk around in blindness anymore? Why be satisfied to listen to your own sinful logic about who God might be, when his Holy Perfect Word declares to you who He is and what He has done to save you: That he lived perfectly, died innocently and rose triumphantly as your Savior!
What you will find in the Word is glorious. It’s what some blessed souls found. Look at verse 41: Some said, “He is the Messiah.” They knew that Jesus was the One God had promised them. He was the One selected by God for a rescue mission. Jesus was the One who would save them from sin, from death, and an eternity of punishment in hell!
This was revealed to them by the Word. Both the Old Testament Word and the Living Word himself – Jesus Christ.
The Word said, “He would strengthen the feeble hands.” Jesus went from town to town restoring the strength of incurable, leprous hands with nothing more than the words of his mouth.
The Word said when the Messiah came, “the eyes of the blind would be opened.” Jesus had covered blinds eyes only to restore their sight in an instant.
The Word said, “The lame would leap like a deer.” Jesus grabbed the hands of the 30 year crippled and helped them take their first steps.
The Word said, “The mute tongue would shout for joy.” There were formerly mute tongues throughout Israel giving praise to Jesus for their newfound ability to sing! (Isaiah 35:3-6)
The Word said, “The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem…of the line of David” (Malachi 5 & Jeremiah 33) Both of these things happened to Jesus…and many more that were all predicted in the Old Testament.
Including, but not limited to the most amazing, “God’s Holy One…would no see decay.” (Psalm 16:10) Which is what happened to Jesus. He died, but he rose.
God is so unlike human perceptions of a Messiah. But that’s not a bad thing:
- Instead of a sinful, antihero who invites the wrath of God we are to be saved from, we have a holy warrior who silences it.
- Instead of a mistake-ridden man who fumbles and bumbles with our forgiveness, we have a perfectly flawless Savior who hands it safely into our arms.
- Instead of a pride filled jerk who refuses to help us after we’ve abandoned him, we have a loving and compassion Jesus who says to us, “I love you.”
Thank God for our unlikely Savior.