"Figuring out who Jesus is"
1. "The Truman Show" is a movie about unreality. In case you havent
seen it, the story begins with the birth of a baby boy telecast around the world. From
that moment until his adulthood, every detail of his life is telecast for billions of
people to see and hear. They watch him eat, sleep, go to school, get married and work at
his job. Cameras are hidden everywhere in his world. Everyone can see him but he
doesnt know they are watching. He lives on the worlds largest sound stage and
all the people in his life are paid actors. Everyone knows what is going on except Truman.
He thinks his make-believe world is real.
Then one day he begins to doubt. He cant quite fit it all together. He begins to
challenge relationships and beliefs. His world begins to crumble.
2. When I was a child I wondered if I was Truman. Not that I knew his name, but I
wondered if my world was real. I used to think that maybe the whole thing was a scientific
experiment and I was the guinea pig. I wondered if my parents and family and teachers were
all in on the research.
Now that I am an adult I have decided that my world is the real world. My big regret is
that I did not copyright my childhood fears and sell the script under the title "The
3. Do you ever doubt the most fundamental assumptions of your life? Do you wonder
if the world is really the way you have always assumed it to be? Do you have doubts about
God? About heaven and hell and good and evil? About the Bible? About Jesus Christ?
4. The Bible reports the claims of Jesus that he is the Son of God. Jesus came from
heaven to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross to pay for human sin, and is the
only way to salvation, to God and to eternal life. But, is all that really true? Might it
be that he was mistaken? Could it be that Jesus was a fake? What if he was just another
nice man but hardly the Savior of the world? What if he really isnt the Christ?
5. All the responses of belief, unbelief and doubt swirled around Jesus in the story of
Luke chapter 7. Then, as now, some people seemed to easily believe.
I. Believers Luke 7:29
1. Luke 7: 29 says that "all the people, even the tax collectors, when they
heard Jesus words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been
baptized by John."
2. They heard Jesus and believed. They believed what he said. They believed who he
was. They were ready to follow him anywhere. Even tax collectors! (Tax collectors
were apparently considered to be the lowest level of society, skeptics, ungodly and
irreligious. If a tax collector believed, that was a big deal!).
3. The only reason given for their easy belief was that they had been baptized.
You may remember that the prophet John baptized so many people that he was nicknamed
"John the Baptizer." His baptism was somewhat unusual because Jews were
rarely baptized. Baptism was for converts to Judaism, not those who were born Jews. Yet
these people volunteered by the thousands to be baptized by John as a symbol of their
repentance from sin.
Apparently those who were baptized were inclined to believe - - - they had hearts
for God and truth. They were (or wanted to be) spiritual people. Baptism was more than
a symbol of repentance from sin, it was an act of persons who wanted to believe. Baptism
was a dividing line of faith for them.
4. One evening I visited in the home of a couple I had never before met.
They had no religious background that I can recall. After getting acquainted I explained
to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. I told them the bad news that we are all sinners - - -
and that there is nothing we can do to earn or deserve salvation (it doesnt make any
difference if our parents were Christians, if we grew up in a Christian home or went to
church or were baptized or tried to always do good things). I told them the good news that
Jesus Christ came to die on the cross to pay for our sins. I explained that the only way
we can get rid of our sin and go to heaven is to believe in Jesus. I told them that they
should pray a prayer to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
After all this talking I said, "does this make sense to you?" They
both said that it made sense. I asked, "would you like to pray to God and tell him
that you want to commit your life to Jesus?" They said that they did. And I said,
"Dont you have questions? Arent there some objections? What barriers
stand between you and faith?" They had no questions. They couldnt think of
any objections. They said there were no barriers. They just believed!
5. Some people are believers. Even tax collectors! They hear Jesus words,
acknowledge that Gods way is right and believe in Jesus Christ.
II. Unbelievers Luke 7:30-35
1. Then there are unbelievers: "the Pharisees and experts in the law
rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John."
2. The Pharisees were very religious people. They claimed to know the Bible better
than anyone else. They were experts on religion. But they were unbelievers.
3. This wasnt the first time they had said no. They didnt believe John
the Baptizer and they refused to be baptized. I guess they figured they were good enough
without repenting, believing or being baptized. They didnt need it. And, if they
didnt need it with John, they didnt need it with Jesus.
4. There is such a sad line in their brief report of unbelief: they "rejected
God's purpose for themselves."
This indicates that God had a purpose for each one of them. God had a plan, a
dream and a potential design for their lives - - - but they rejected Gods best when
they rejected Jesus.
I assume that the same applies to each of us. God has a purpose for each of our
lives. God dreams the best for us. But, Gods purpose for each of us is always tied
to our belief in Jesus and following him as Lord. Everyone who rejects Jesus also rejects
Gods best for life. Everyone who accepts and follows Jesus says "yes" to
Gods purpose and plan for life.
It makes me wonder if someday after death unbelievers will find out what their lives
could have been. Will God run a film clip or open a "Could-have-been
Biography" and show every unbelievers the difference Jesus Christ would have made in
every details of their lives?
How sad, that the Pharisees were religious but unbelieving. How sad that they rejected
Gods purpose for themselves.
5. Jesus explained all that God had done to convince the unbelievers. He tried
multiple approaches, but none of them worked.
Jesus uses an illustration from children at play. There are two groups of kids.
Group #! plays a flute with fun music and invites the kids in Group #2 to dance with them.
They refuse. So, Group #1 plays funeral music and invites them to cry with them. They
refuse. "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and
you did not cry."
Jesus was referring to Gods two messengers. John came shouting and
preaching repentance. He wore clothes made out of sack cloth and lived in the wild and
gave up every luxury and looked super religious. They wouldnt listen to him - - said
he had a demon. Jesus came looking quite normal, hung out with ordinary people, eating and
drinking and having a good time. They wouldnt listen to him - - -said he was a
glutton and a drunk.
6. The point is that some people just wont believe! No approach will work.
They always find something to criticize. No matter how many books, how many churches, how
many arguments, how many kind deeds - - -they will always find a reason for disbelief.
They are just unbelievers in Jesus, no matter what.
7. Jesus summed it all up with a proverb from his time, saying: "wisdom is
proved right by all her children." Today we would probably say, "wait and
see how it comes out in the end." In other words, in the long run the results will
show who was right, the believers or the unbelievers.
III. Doubters Luke 7:18-20, 24-28
1. There is another category of people trying to figure out who Jesus is. They are
doubters. Doubters sort of believe or mostly believe but arent quite sure.
Surprisingly, the doubter in this story was none other than John the Baptizer himself.
2. John was a powerful prophet from God. He was a fierce believer and a forceful
preacher. He was the "warm up man" for Jesus who told his crowd of loyal
followers that Jesus was the Christ sent by God. If anyone believed in Jesus, it was John.
3. John also got tangled up in the politics of his day. The head of government
where he lived was King Herod. Some would say that Herod was a very effective king. While
he had his share of critics, he did many things right for the country.
While he was king, Herod became sexually involved with a woman named Herodias - - - a
woman he had no right to be sexually involved with! The majority of the people in the
kingdom looked the other way, saying that that was the kings private business. John
publicly and severely criticized King Herod for his immorality saying that what he had
done was illegal and wrong.
Herod became outraged against John for these accusations and criticisms and had him
arrested and imprisoned in a dungeon at the fortress of Machaerus near the Dead Sea.
Eventually the King had John beheaded.
4. While John was in prison he began to have doubts about Jesus. Apparently John
thought that the Messiah would organize the people into an army and use his powers
politically as well as spiritually. He may have thought that Jesus would spring him from
jail and maybe even zap King Herod. John expected, as did most people, that the Messiah
would chase the Roman occupying army out of Israel. He expected the Messiah to attack sin
and sinners and punish evil and scare people into following him.
But, the reports John received from his friends who visited him in jail were the
opposite of what he expected. Jesus wasnt doing anything politically. He wasnt
denouncing sinners, he was going to their houses for dinner. He wasnt scaring people
he was loving people.
John began to wonder if he had made a mistake. He wondered if he believed in the wrong
man. He doubted that Jesus was really the Messiah he thought him to be.
5. So, John sent two of his closest friends directly to Jesus to ask him:
"Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (7:20)
6. Have you ever doubted like John? Even though you are a Christian. Even though
you have told others to believe in Jesus.
Maybe like John, your doubts have come from a period in your life when you have been
sentenced to some difficult dungeon. While probably not a dungeon in the basement of a
Roman fortress, it could be the dungeon of disease, depression, or disappointment. It is
not all that unusual for believers to have some doubts about Jesus when he doesnt
quite fulfill their expectations of him - - -when (like John) he doesnt do what we
wanted him to do. Then, out of our doubt we wonder if he really is the Christ we thought
him to be or if we should start looking for someone else.
7. I have always been impressed with the way Jesus responds to doubt.
He does not condemn those who doubt but helps doubters move toward belief.
Jesus didnt criticize John for doubting. In fact, he praised John as one
of the very best people who has ever lived!
Another follower of Jesus was such a doubter that "Doubting Thomas" has
become part of our popular vocabulary. Jesus didnt kick him out of his band of
disciples when Thomas doubted Jesus resurrection from the dead. Instead, Jesus
appeared to Thomas and offered to let Thomas examine and touch the crucifixion wounds on
Jesus otherwise healthy and alive body.
8. So, if you are like Thomas or like John and have your own doubts, you may expect
that Jesus will not reject you but will reach out to you. At least, thats what
Jesus does for those who truly seek the truth. I guess that some people doubt as an excuse
for unbelief while others doubt with the desire to believe.
IV. Seekers Luke 7:21-23
1. Jesus encouraged those who questioned and doubted him to be seekers.
2. It is fascinating that Jesus didnt just say "Believe or else." He
didnt even give them a straight answer like "Yes, of course I am the
3. Instead, Jesus invited them to check out the facts: "Go back and report
to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who
have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached
to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (7:22-23).
Jesus said, look at the facts for yourself, but make sure that you dont
fall away from belief just because youve made up your mind in advance about what the
Messiah from God is supposed to be like. Check out the facts. Seeks the truth.
4. There are many doubters who have become seekers who have become believers.
One of the most famous was the English scholar C.S. Lewis whose seeking led to
his best selling book MERE CHRISTIANITY.
At Wooddale Church we had a debate last year between an atheist and a Christian.
Over 2400 attended to listen and seek the truth. Later this year we will sponsor a forum
with spokespersons from each of the major world religions. Regularly we sponsor
FaithStudies to honestly examine the truthfulness of the Bible and the credibility of
All of this is based on the assumption that Jesus Christ has nothing to fear from
careful scrutiny. Doubts do not threaten him. Doubters are welcome. Seekers are
Suppose that a major Hollywood production company was casting a movie on the life of
Jesus. Which part do you think you would most comfortably play from todays
Are you a believer? If so that is just great! God bless you and all those who
are like you in fast, easy and strong belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Just be
sure you clearly communicate your faith to God.
Are you an unbeliever? Certainly that is your right to choose, but please
reconsider. Dont miss out on Gods purpose for your life through Jesus Christ.
Are you a doubter? Well, you have some very good company. Doubt is okay, as long
as you dont get stuck in your doubt. Let your doubts be temporary - - - try to
switch roles from doubter to seeker.
Are you a seeker? Good. Jesus welcomes seekers. Tell God you want to check out
Jesus. Look him over. Read the Bible. Go wherever you need to go. Do whatever you need to
do. Seek the truth - - - and, I believe, your journey will led you directly to Jesus
9/10/98 Wooddale Church, © Copyright, Leith Anderson.