Dr. Daniel Bush & Jim McCausland
Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
Some of you may remember that old game show called “To Tell The Truth.” If you do, you’re older than John Muench. The object of that show was to guess who the real so-and-so was from a panel of impersonators. After the players asked their questions and make their guesses the host asks the famous question: “Will the real [so-and-so] please stand up?”
If you listen to the word on the street about who Jesus is, you might begin to feel you’re on “To Tell The Truth.” So, here’s a question for us to discuss in 5 words or less…
- If you didn’t attend church, what impression might you get about who Jesus is?
This morning we’re going to be talking about who Jesus Is. Did you know Jesus was often secretive about his identity? Like in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark when Jesus healed a man of leprosy the scriptures say: “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone’” (Mk 1:41–44).
There are two reasons he did that; scholars call it the “Messianic Secret”:
- He knew popularity over his miracles would cause such a crowd that it would hamper his ministry; and …
- He knew the Jews had a different idea of who the Messiah, the Christ, should be and do.
Jesus was secretive in order to curb confusion about who he was and what he came to do. His aim was show his identity, not be pressed into an conception folks had prior to knowing him.
It’s said: “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Our main passage today gives us a picture of Jesus’ identity that’s worth a thousand words.
Mark 4:35–41, ESV.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Jesus Saves in Which Way
Last week Dan said that folks across the Roman Empire didn’t know much about Christianity, but some were curious. So when Mark’s Gospel is read aloud to them the first thing they hear is that Christianity is about a bloke named, Jesus, who has come from God to save us.
That begs the question: Save us from what? What do you think folks might have thought?
What do you think people might have first thought Jesus came to save them from?
A lot of folks, even today, think Jesus come to save us from particular circumstances, the pot holes that hit along the road of life. Sometimes when they get a flat tire they get really upset at God saying, “Why am I suffering like this? You suck as a God, God!”
Responses like that really reveals who we think Jesus is: He’s suppose to save me from pain and suffering. The Jews thought that too. They thought the Christ would come and kick the Romans out.
But, as Dan said last week, Jesus has a different mission: to save us from our sin and its eternal consequences. But that’s not what the common person thinks.
Jesus Come to Us Today
Dan told me a story about himself this week. He said when he was a wee laddie he often went to the Detroit Auto Show. He loved the buzz of the crowd and the chance to look at the hottest new car, especially the futuristic concept cars. He’d go home with a big bag filled with free paraphernalia he’d gather from visiting the displays.
We all know Dan has his heads in the clouds, so it’s not surprising to learn that he’d go home and dream about his future ride. He’d pull out a catalogue and see the base model of page 1 and think it wasn’t too bad, but then he’d flip a few pages in and find the sports coup and think, “No, no, this is the one I have to have.” The coup made the base model look blah.
Well, Mark wants us to see that Jesus isn’t a supped-up version of us, the perfect cross between the sports coup and luxury model. He wasn’t someone who one day had an epiphany about himself, one which it is available to all of us if we just get enlightened.
No, no. Mark tells that Jesus is God come to us as one of us. Now, lets think about this…
Imagine you’re standing outside the White House gate house hoping to catch a glimpse of the President. You’ve got you sign that reads, “Dear Mr. President, I’m not sure if you exist, I’ve only seen you on the television, but if you do, can we do lunch?”
Now, imagine something very different. You are standing at the gate and the President’s big black suburban rolls up with the windows rolled down and there is the President hold a sign that reads: “Dear [insert you name], I’ve been wanting to meet you, are you free for lunch?” How different would that be?
This is what the Gospel of Mark is saying. We don’t have second hand news about God. God has come to us.”
Jesus’ Authority Four Ways
The Gospel of Mark has blocks of material laid out as evidence to show what Jesus wasn’t a sport coup model of humanity with ground effects, a spoiler, and a muffler that sounds like a Harley. He is different. He is God come to us.
Mark is paints a picture of Jesus acting with God’s power and authority. That’s something people were starting to see early on in Jesus’ ministry. Some didn’t like it, so they moved to get Jesus arrested on a trumped-up charge of blaspheme—they rejected him. Others got it, and they followed him.
There a 5 blocks of evidence that Mark gives. Dan will talk about the fifth one next week. But very quickly here at the first 4.
First, Jesus is recognized as having power and authority to teach. He’s different from priests and scribes, not because of his credentials, but because of taught with first-hand knowledge of God. Notice what the people say: “On the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:21–22).
When Jesu taught people came into contact with God, because he wasn’t speaking about someone else. He was speaking about himself, for Jesus is the eternal Word of God (John 1:1).
Second, we have passages in which Jesus is healing people. Here’s an example: “And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (Mark 1:29–31).
Thus far Mark is showing us that Jesus has the power and authority to teach, and has power and authority over sickness.
Third, Jesus has power and authority over nature, which is our main text today, which I’ll come back to in a moment.
And fourth, in the 5th chapter of Mark a little girl has died and everyone is weeping and wailing. But Jesus waltzes in and says, “Oh, she’s not dead.” That’s either a stupid or a cruel thing to say. Or, there’s a third option: you say it because you’re about to do something very powerful. Which is what Jesus did: “After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.” (Mark 5:40–42).
So what are we being shown? Jesus has power and authority to teach, power and authority over sickness, power and authority over nature, and power and authority over death.
A supped-up version of me—even if I spent ten times more time in the gym than I already do, ate only turkey, wore the trendiest clothes, and drive the top sport coup—still wouldn’t have that and of power and authority. Jesus is one of us, and yet he is not like us.
There’s something different about Jesus, something to focus on—the dude is different.
Jesus’ Authority and the Waves
Now, let’s go back to the third block that I skipped over.
Paint this picture in your mind: It’s evening on the Sea of Galilee. It’s been a very hot week. Hot air has risen off the hills surrounding the lake. But as evening comes the air cools and descends onto the lake, stirring up furious squalls. The water is more than choppy, its so bad that professional fisherman are terrified they’re going to die. They know everything about the water, but they’re not only losing their lunch and dinner over the side, they’re losing yesterday’s breakfast too. They think they’re going to die!
What would you do if you were a professional fisherman?
Notice what these guys do… they turn to a carpenter who doesn’t know they first thing about fish and water. A carpenter doesn’t know the first thing about sailing in a storm, except this one does…
… Jesus is the one through whom the water and weather was made. So, the “real Jesus” simply stands up and speaks.
What happens? … Immediately there is calm.
Mark doesn’t elaborate. He doesn’t dress it up. He just reports it and says, “There… What ya gonna do with that?” These terrified fisherman were gobsmacked.
What do you think their focus was on?
They turned—no longer with fear over the wind and waves—but with another “great fear … and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:41). Their focus had shifted to the carpenter, Jesus. Those words: “Who then is this…” could be put: “What kind of a person is this?”
This is the real Jesus standing up with power and authority.
I tried to speak to the rain this morning on the drive here, but nothing happened.
What kind of a person is this? He’s God come to us!
Mark is saying to us this morning: “Consider Jesus. Don’t put him on the sideline; don’t think his identity claim is like anyone else’s—it’s not! So, don’t think his call to follow is like anyone else’s either—it’s not!”
The Real Jesus Has Funny Ways
There are a lot of things said about Jesus, most of it would make us miss the real Jesus. The real Jesus does funny things, like standing up in boats, which makes the boat dance a bit.
The real Jesus also never turns our following him into a soldier march. Note does he treat us like oarsmen rowing a slave ship. Instead, he invites us to come and dance in boats.
I think he knows dancing is more fun. And so the real Jesus sets us free to dance by turning our focus to himself and who he is, “freeing us from the need to obnoxiously our on our goodness” (Steve Brown), freeing us from worrying if we trimmed the sails correctly or rowed the boat rightly.
When our focus is on the one who alone has all power and authority, we can chill out. And do you know what that looks like? I think it looks like dancing. The Jesus who invites you to dance in the boat is the real Jesus not an impersonator, as Psalm 149 says, “Let them praise His name with dancing” (Psa 149:3).