I’d like to have you complete this statement for me: “Life is…” Some of you may think ‘life is a bowl of cherries’. We think of Forrest Gump who said “life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Someone else has said “life is a journey.” There are T-shirts out today that remind us “life is good”. There are a whole host of possibilities with which you can fill in that blank.
Now, how would you finish the statement: “Jesus is…” Again, there are a variety of answers to put in that blank. Some are true, some half true. Some are absolutely false. Some are versions of Jesus that simply reflect our own desires and our own leanings. I do want to you to know this though: that how you fill in that blank is really important. In fact, knowing Jesus and everything you can about Him is the most important thing you’ll ever have in life. The apostle Paul, who at one time was an opponent to the Christian faith but after meeting Christ had a different outlook, wrote “But whatever again I had I count as loss for Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” It’s an important blank to fill in. “Jesus is…” And for the next few weeks we’re going to let Scripture fill in that blank for us with a variety of truths about Jesus regarding His character, His purpose, and His vision for our lives on planet Earth.
So today we began at the baptism of Jesus. God tells us quite plainly “Jesus is…My Son.” He’s the Son of God, this Jesus. Like the hymn says in ‘Beautiful Savior’ “Son of God and Son of Man.” He’s God in the flesh. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” That’s the Christmas story: God has come to be with us. Max Lucado, one of my favorite Christian authors, tells a wonderful story which encapsulates this truth:
“Charlie was 10”, Lucado writes. “School was out for Christmas and the family had chosen to spend the holiday in the country. The boy pressed his nose against the bay window of the vacation home and marveled at the British winter. He was happy to trade the blackened streets of London for the cotton-white freshness of snow-covered hills. His mom invited him to go for a drive with her, and he quickly accepted. A halcyon moment was in the making. She snaked the car down the twisty road, the tires crunched the snow, and the boy puffed his breath on the window. He was thrilled to be out. Mother, however, was anxious. Heavy snow began to fall, visibility lessened. As she took the curve the car started to slide. It didn’t stop until it was in a ditch. She tried to drive out, the tires just spun. They were stuck. They needed help. A mile down the road sat a house. Off they went and knocked on the door. ‘Of course’ the woman told them, ‘Come in, warm yourselves, the phone is yours.’ She offered them tea and cookies, and urged them to stay until help arrived.” Lucado writes “An ordinary event, you think? Don’t suggest that to the woman who opened the door. She has never forgotten that day. She’s retold the story a thousand times, and who could blame her? It’s not often that royalty appears on your porch! For the two travelers stranded by the English winter were no less than Queen Elizabeth II and the heir to the throne, 10-year-old Charles.”
The word on the streets of Heaven and the lips of Christians is that something far grander has happened to our world. Royalty has walked on our streets. Heaven’s prince has knocked on our door. His visit, however, was no accident, and He did much more than simply stay for tea. He came to save us, didn’t He? Jesus is God in the flesh come to be with us, to save us.
Now since He is God in the flesh, that means he is sinless and perfect, right? Many people wonder, then, if He was sinless why was He down at the Jordan River getting baptized by John the Baptist, (whose baptism was a baptism of repentance for sins). Well the best answer that I’ve found to that question is that, first of all, His baptism day was like an inauguration day. It was the first day of His “salvation campaign”. It marked the beginning. We also, though, have Jesus saying it was “to fulfill all righteousness”. That’s what He said to John. It was the right thing to do, in other words, the obedient thing. It was His Father’s will, part of the plan. He would identify Himself with sinful humanity. We also see that when he emerged from the waters of the Jordan River, the heavens are suddenly ripped open and the Holy Spirit, like a dove, descended and rested upon Jesus. As if another affirmation. We’re reminded of Isaiah 42: “I will put My Spirit upon Him,” God says, “this One who is to come.” Here we are also reminded of a prayer in Isaiah 64 that was answered that day. A prayer that pleads with God: “Oh, that You would render the heavens and come down!” God seems to be saying “I have come down: this is My Son.”
But there’s more here than meets the eye. God’s words about Jesus happen to be special words. They’re loaded with meaning. They not only give us His identity but they also give us His job description, His purpose. When God says “This is My Son” His words are from Psalm 2 in the Old Testament. They are words that were used at the anointing and coronation of the Kings of Israel. And there’s a promise that goes back to King David in 2 Samuel 7, as God made His covenant with David. He said, “the King that is to come, this special King, I shall be His Father, He shall be My Son.” After the exile of Israel you know there were no kings, and so this Psalm began to be read with a future hope. Someday the Son would come, our King, that God promised. He is the long-awaited King God promised, this Jesus. What is a king’s job description? We’re not really sure about that in our democratic society. We don’t have kings. But a king is to provide and protect and care for his subjects, as well as a rule over them. He establishes his kingdom in the world. So these words are meant to be encouraging words for us, then. Jesus is our King who has come to care for us, to rule over us.
But there’s more! God also says He’s the “beloved with whom I am well pleased.” That’s from Isaiah 42, which is referred to as the “Servant Song”. It’s one of several servant songs in Isaiah. The servant song in Isaiah describes one, a messianic character, who will carry out God’s plan. He would be a servant, loving people, the people of God, to the end. Of course we see Jesus washing the feet of His disciples in John 13, taking the role of a servant. And He would love them to the end. In fact, in another servant song found in Isaiah 53 it says “He will suffer and die to rescue them (and us) from our sin”. All of us, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way, Isaiah says, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. And that He has, as Jesus goes to the cross later on to pay for the sins of us all.
By the way, in Matthew this is actually a public announcement from God Himself about Jesus. It’s not just to Jesus. In fact we hear John, in John’s gospel, John the Baptist say “I saw this, I witnessed this, I heard this.” It calls for response from us. We’re supposed to do something. What do we do with this Jesus, the Son of God, the Servant King? Well the first and most important thing is that we would believe in the Son. Jesus told us that He wants us to trust in Him, to follow Him. “You believe in God,” Jesus says, “believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? When I go and prepare that place for you I will come again and take you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also.” We’re to believe in the Son. To bet our lives on Him and what He’s done for us. God testifies that Jesus is King.
So what does it mean for me to have Jesus as my King? Well, let’s go back to Psalm 2 for that answer, where the psalmist writes, at the end of the coronation, “kings of the earth be wise, be warned. Serve Him. Kiss the Son.” Which means give Him homage, bend the knee to Him. “And blessed are those who take refuge in the Son” he says. In other words, you submit yourself, every area of your life, to the King. You say to him “Jesus You’re in charge of my life from now on. You call the shots, and I will obey.”
A King is also meant to be a model to relate to, and to copy, in our lives. Which gets us to the next point: if Jesus is a servant, a Servant King, what are the implications of this if I am his subject? And it’s simply this: than I am to be a servant to others in His name. We go back to John 13 were Jesus has washed the feet of his disciples, and Jesus said to them when that was finished “you understand what I’ve done for you? You call Me Lord and Teacher, you’re right, I am. I have set for you an example. If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, I want you to wash one another’s feet.” Again as I said earlier, washing feet was the job of a servant. Jesus says “I want you to be servants to one another. Serve others in my name.” A few weeks ago I visited the Stillwater Prison to participate in a chapel service. I was asked to come and lead the singing that night, bring my guitar along, it was quite an experience. The two men that invited me, the friends of mine, they were the ones that brought the teaching for the inmates that evening. I discovered that they had been at this ministry for almost twenty years. Every other Thursday night they showed up to that prison to share the gospel, and worship with prison inmates, and befriended some of them. Some of them believers, some of them seekers. I was touched by their wholehearted commitment to serve, to walk in the footsteps of the One who said that the “Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Last Thursday two women from our church came by our home and picked up my wife Julie and they went down to a homeless shelter downtown St. Paul. They spent three hours preparing and serving lunch to homeless people. All these women there are retired from the workforce but not from the servant force of Jesus. So every week they drive downtown and give themselves to serve in Christ’s name. You see the servant of Christ the King never retires from serving others. So where can I get started? You don’t have to look far to find a person that needs your attention, your help, your service. Start seeing and hearing needy, hurting people. It’s a simple as that. Then go and serve them in Christ’s name. Mother Teresa, a real servant, said one time:
“I know you think you should make a trip to Calcutta and join me, but I strongly advise you to save your airfare and spend it on the poor in your own country. It’s easy to love people far away; it’s not always easy to love those who are living right next to us. There are thousands of people dying for a piece of bread but there are thousands more dying for a bit of love, and a bit of acknowledgment. The truth is that the worst disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, it’s being unwanted. It’s being left out. It’s being forgotten. The greatest scourge is to be so suffocated with things that we forget the next person.”
Let’s complete the statement now, according to what God’s word has taught us today: Jesus Is… the Son of God, the Servant King. Therefore, believe in Him, submit every area of your life to this King. Be a servant in His name.
Pastor Steve Kramer