Who is Jesus? That’s the most important question you can ever answer. How you answer it decides your eternity. Many answers have been given. When Jesus asked the disciples this, they said some people thought He was a prophet, maybe one of the prophets back from the dead, maybe even John the Baptist back from the dead. They were all wrong.
The bad guessing hasn’t stopped. Many have claimed He’s just a man. Some said He was the first thing God created. Some said He was really some sort of phantasm that just showed up. Some said God turned Jesus into Christ at His Baptism and abandoned Him at The Crucifixion. Things haven’t changed much. Some deny He ever existed. Some think He’s just a prophet and great man, but not God in the flesh, risen from the dead.
But when Peter answered Jesus’ question, he said: “Thou art The Christ, The Son of The Living God.” And Jesus responded: “Blessed are you, Simon bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.” And then He said that on that rock He would build His Church. He was not referring to Peter. The Rock The Church is built on is the confession Peter made: Jesus is The Christ, The Son of The Living God. He is both God and Man; true God, begotten of His Father from all eternity, and true man, born of The Virgin Mary. This is what we see in tonight’s Passion reading.
He is true Man. He is like us in every way, except without sin. Even though He had no human father, He is just as human as we are. After all, Adam had no parents, and Eve was formed out of Adam. How human is Jesus? You know He has a body; that’s obvious. If He didn’t, He couldn’t die or be arrested, and you know it’s a real body because of everything that happened to It in His Passion. No blood, no body! He was born of woman, and that makes Him just as human as we are.
He doesn’t just have a human body. He has a human will and soul and mind too. Yes, He has all that. One preacher said long ago that whatever Christ did not take on in His Incarnation He did not redeem. What does this mean? If He didn’t have a human soul, He couldn’t die for your soul – you could never get to Paradise of the blessed in that case.
How do you know He has a human soul, mind, and will – yet unstained by sin? Because He says so in tonight’s Passion reading! It’s not just in the compassion He shows Malchus by healing his ear. He says to His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Wait here, and watch with Me.” You can see right there He knew intense sorrow and grief, far worse than anything we’ve ever known. You can also see He didn’t always like to be alone, it was good for Him to have friends. You can even see He had fears and trepidation about what He was going to go through precisely because He is fully human, just like you. How human? He prayed 3 times that this cup might pass away from Him, fully recognizing the entire time it wasn’t going to.
He’s not just true Man; He’s also true God. He has always existed. As long as God has existed, He has existed. He is God’s Son, yet He has always been begotten by The Father. This is a mystery we cannot understand in this life, yet this is what He reveals to us. When God created all things, God’s Son worked with The Father in creating. He was the one Who spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden, Who promised to be the woman’s Seed Who would crush the serpent’s head.
He reveals His Deity in this Passion reading. It shows up when He calls God “Father” while He prays to be rescued from the cup of wrath. But you really see it in that exchange He has with the temple guard that came to arrest Him. “Whom do you seek?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I AM.” They fall over. They get up. “Whom do you seek?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I told you I AM. If I AM is the one you’re looking for, then let these others go.”
“I AM.” That’s what He said. He didn’t say “I am He,” which the translations all do because they think it makes for better English. He said “I AM,” as in “Before Abraham was, I AM – Tell the Israelites that I AM has sent me to you – I AM WHO I AM.” That’s what He’s saying. He’s telling the temple guard it’s about time they’d come to the true temple of God, where God dwelt with man! For this Christ is the one Who dwelt in the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s temple, and now He has taken up flesh in The Virgin’s womb. This is your Jesus: true God from all eternity and also true Man, born of Mary during the reign of Cæsar Augustus.
This is very good for you, that Jesus is both God and Man. You most certainly are not God, or even a god. You are like Simon Peter and the other disciples though. Jesus told them to watch and pray lest they fall into temptation, but they fell asleep. How asleep? Peter cut off Malchus’ ear! He wasn’t just talking about physical sleep. He was talking about spiritual sleep too, the sort of sleep the devil loves because then he’s in control.
Spiritual sleep – that’s what Lent’s for. It’s supposed to wake us up. We’re very good at sleeping spiritually. It happens when we start to avoid God’s Word. It happens when we stop praying. It’s happening when a Christian like Peter does something obviously wrong, like chopping off an ear or slapping somebody in cold blood. That’s why our Lenten evening hymn prays God to keep The Tempter away from us. It’s begging God to keep us awake in spirit, that we not fall into temptation. After all night is a time when sinful thoughts can easily catch us unawares – and we all know “nothing good happens after 2AM!” Watch and pray lest sin, death, and devil lead you into temptation and away from Christ.
You can only do that with Christ’s help. You can only watch and pray with the aid of His Word. How can His Word do it? God the Holy Ghost comes to you there, comes to you with the message of what The God-Man did for you via His holy Passion. He drank the cup of God’s wrath down to the dregs. He took it all into His holy Body. He suffered all hell’s wrath on His Cross. God has no more fury left for sin.
Now His cup still exists, but it is filled with The Blood shed on The Cross. At His Altar Jesus gives you His Body and Blood to give you strength to live in this world, to help you stay awake as the devil tries to put you in one of his very effective sleeper holds to knock you out into the world of sin and death. Christ’s Body and Blood are the antitdote, the medicine of immortality, that breaks the hold and leads you to want to stay awake with your Lord and fight off temptation and that works in you so you do stay awake and reject temptation.
So repent of your sleep-sins and watch with Christ. Give thanks that God took on your flesh and bones, your soul, mind, and will, to rescue you from your sins and win for you eternal life. Only He could do it. Only God had the strength and the holiness, yet only a man could pay for sin. So God took on flesh and did it. “Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”