What’s so special about Jesus? This question has been asked down through the centuries by many people, and it’s still being asked today. It is asked by the person, who sees all the various faiths of the world around him, then scratches his head and asks, What makes Jesus so special from the others? It is asked by the husband whose wife insists on going to church on Sunday for worship and giving away some of their hard-earned money for the church offering. Who is this Jesus? What makes Him so special?
How do you answer that question? We have to admit, He has made quite a splash in this world.
I came across an article that points this out. The author, Philip Yancy, writes, “When I switched on my computer this morning, Microsoft Windows flashed the date, implicitly acknowledging that, whatever you may believe about it, the birth of Jesus was so important that it split history into two parts. Everything that has ever happened on this planet falls into the category of before Christ or after Christ.
“Richard Nixon got carried away with excitement in 1969 when Apollo astronauts first landed on the moon. ‘It’s the greatest day since Creation!’ crowed the president, until Billy Graham solemnly reminded him of Christmas and Easter. By any measure of history Graham was right. This Galilean, who in his lifetime spoke to fewer people than would fill just one of the many stadia Graham has filled, changed the world more than any other person. He introduced a new force field into history, and now holds the allegiance of a third of all people on earth.
“‘More than 1900 years later,’ said H. G. Wells, ‘a historian like myself, who doesn’t even call himself a Christian, finds the picture centering irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man . . . The historian’s test of an individual’s greatness is ‘What did he leave to grow?’ Did he start men and women to thinking along fresh lines with a vigor that persisted after him? By this test Jesus stands first.’ You can gauge the size of a ship that has passed out of sight by the huge wake it leaves behind.” One has to admit, Jesus Christ has left a HUGE wake.”
What makes Jesus like no other, so unique? This is what our sermon series until Holy Week is going to answer.
Today, first of all, we say Jesus like no other because He was promised like no other. The entire Old Testament points to Him. God promised Him long before Jesus even entered this world of ours. We see this pointed out again and again in the Gospels, which were written about Jesus – how He fulfilled the Old Testament promises. When He began His ministry, He said in His first sermon, “The time is fulfilled! The kingdom of God is at hand,” as He pointed to Himself. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said, “I have come to fulfill the law and the prophets.”
Throughout the Gospels, especially in Matthew, we hear editorials – “This happened to fulfill the prophecy of (so-and-so).” Near the end of Luke, when Jesus has been resurrected and is with His disciples, He explains how the entire Old Testament pointed to Himself. Beginning with Moses and the prophets, Jesus interpreted all the things about Himself in all the Scriptures. All of the Old Testament, you see, points to Jesus.
I came across something by Pastor Timothy Keller that I thought really makes a good point here for us. “The Bible is not a series of disconnected stories. It’s a single narrative pointing to one person – Jesus Christ.”
Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden (His garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, a much tougher garden). His obedience is now imputed to us.
Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go into the void not knowing wither He went . . .
Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us.
Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his power to save them.
Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
Jesus is the real Passover Lamb. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true light, and the true bread.
Jesus is true and better. All of the Old Testament points to Him.
When you examine the Old Testament, you find three kinds of writings. The first is what we call the Law, the first books of the Old Testament. They describe how the world got to be in such a sad shape because of our sinfulness and then the covenant God made to restore us to Himself. In those books, we read the stories of the beginnings of Israel and their calling to be the people of God. Even in those writings, the Law points us to Jesus.
Next we find the writings called the Psalms, the wisdom sayings. Many of them, as well, talk about Jesus long before He ever came.
Then we come to the prophets. Their prophecies given to Israel are about a Messiah who would come and fulfill the promises of God to His people. We find three hundred thirty-three prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah, and all of them kept by the coming of Jesus.
I tell the people in my congregation again and again that Christmas really is all about kept promises. He is the Promised One.
Today we look at Isaiah. He says some wonderful things about the Messiah at the beginning of his book. The Messiah is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (9:6). Near the end of this book, we find writings as in today’s text. Isaiah 53 is called the servant songs. It tells about the suffering of the Messiah who would deliver His people from their sins.
It says He was very ordinary looking. No one thought that much of Him.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?
Why should we listen to him?
He was despised and rejected by the religious authorities.
Who gave you the right, Jesus, to forgive sins?
And they began to plot to kill Him.
He was a man of suffering.
He bore our infirmities and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us.
Isaiah is talking about the cross.
He was oppressed and afflicted but did not open His mouth as He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. By a perversion of justice He was taken away.
We think of the kangaroo courts as He stood before the Sanhedrin on Thursday night before His crucifixion.
He was killed, and they made His grave with the wicked. He was crucified between two thieves and buried in a rich man’s tomb, Joseph of Arimathea. No deceit was in His mouth, and He did not defend Himself – all the way through.
Near the end – I will allot him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong. By His righteousness, He will make many righteous.
Let me ask you, who and what does this sound like? It describes Jesus and His passion to the tee. It is Jesus. The same Jesus who was promised wants to have a special place in your life. This is the call today, the appeal. His promises are as good for today as yesterday. They are good for today as well as all the way into eternity. This One, who came to be our Savior, is still available to all who call upon Him in faith.
If you have done some things in the past and are wondering where you stand with God, if you think that maybe even God would never be able to forgive you – Jesus offers pardon for our sin. He points us to the cross. Our relationship with God was broken. Yet God intended for us to live in a personal relationship with Him.
At the cross, the Suffering Servant, Jesus, gave His life. He poured out His blood, to make our pardon happen. On Him our iniquity was laid, and the promise is He will make many righteous in God’s sight as sin is covered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Now the door is open to have a relationship with God that will last all the way into eternity as we receive His forgiveness.
To the individual who might be feeling overwhelmed by life, who is facing so many obstacles and hardships, this One, the Suffering Servant, offers the peace of His presence. He promises, I will never leave you orphaned or on your own. I will walk alongside of you. I will carry you through the roughest of times. You can count on me. It gives a person peace to know, I am not alone.
To those who struggle with prayer . . .
Sometimes I feel like I’m just talking to the ceiling, a person might say.
Jesus tells them, I am interceding for you. I am at the right hand of the Father. I am connected with Him. I bring all of your groans, all of your hurts, before Him. You are being heard. I am interceding for you.
Turning to Jesus for help is the wisest thing you will ever do. He’s like no other.
I’m reminded of a story from the book of Acts, chapter 8. It’s the story about a fellow named Philip, who was known to be a real evangelist. One day the Spirit nudged him to go out to the countryside and wait by a road. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a chariot coming down the road. As it got closer, Philip realized it was not a local person, but an African. As the chariot came even closer, he heard the person reading our passage from Isaiah 53. The Spirit nudged Philip to approach the chariot where an Ethiopian from the royal court sat. Phillip asked, “Do you know what you’re reading about?”
The Ethiopian answered, “How can I understand unless someone explains this to me? Come on up and talk to me about this.”
Philip, using Isaiah 53, told the story of Jesus and His sacrificial death. He told how Jesus fulfilled the promises He gave to His people as He went to the cross and rose from the grave. He is the fulfillment of God’s promises. All who trust in Him shall have salvation and a new life with God.
The Ethiopian was so taken by this Good News message that he asked, “What does it take to get in on this?”
Phillip replied, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
The Ethiopian asked, “Well, I see a pond over there. What’s to prevent me from being baptized?” Then he pulled the chariot over, and Philip baptized him in the water. When the Ethiopian came up out of the water, Philip had a new brother in Christ. God had a new sheep for His flock as the Ethiopian jumped back into his chariot and headed home with the Good News of Jesus Christ ringing in his ears. Even today, a great Christian church exists in the country of Ethiopia.
I want to use the Ethiopian’s statement made to Philip – What is to prevent me from being baptized and receiving these promises? My question is, What is to prevent you from receiving these promises? The answer is this: Absolutely nothing! The only thing that could possibly prevent you from receiving all this is your self and your own foolish pride. Jesus stands ready to give you life – His life – a life like no other.
This our Good News for today. Receive Him. He will give you a life like no other. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer