The Real Jesus: The Million Dollar Question

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  MY name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here on staff – and today I get to talk with you about Jesus – we’re coming towards the end of our series that we are calling the Real Jesus.  And what we’ve grown fond of saying here at Journey through the years is that we believe that when you discover the real Jesus, you will find him irresistible.  He’s amazing.

But you have to come to that conclusion for yourself.  So wherever you might be on your spiritual Journey today – we are very thankful that you are spending time with us here this morning – whether you are here in person or worshipping with us online today.

Today I want to talk about a question that I consider the million dollar question.  I remember a few years ago watching the tv show – who wants to be a millionaire, with the late, great Regis Philbin – and it seemed to me to be pretty rare that anyone ever reached the million dollar question.  The first one – and honestly, the only one I remember – was the time when Regis asked this guy the last question- that if he got right would win him a million bucks.  And he still had a phone a friend helpline deal – so the guy looks at the question and asks if he could call his dad.  When the dad answers the phone – the son says – I don’t actually need your help Dad.  I’m just calling to tell you I won a million dollars – and then correctly answers the question – it was a mike drop moment.

Well, the question that is asked in the portion of the Bible we are reading today, is – in many ways – the million dollar question.  We find it in Luke chapter 7.  Luke is one of the four books in the bible that detail the life and ministry of Jesus.  Along with Matthew, Mark and John.

Let me tell you where we are headed this morning.  We are asking ourselves

1.  Why John asks the million dollar question.

2.  How Jesus responds to the million dollar question.

3.  Why the question is worth (far more than) a million dollars.

Today I will be using the New International Version of the Bible.  Most often we use what is called the New Living Translation here at Journey.  And sometimes I use the NIV – and so – the deal is that the New Testament was written in a first century form of greek – and so any English version of the bible comes from the same greek text.  But in any translation there are different ways to translate – so I try to pick the best translation for the passage that week – and so this week I’m using the NIV – hopefully that doesn’t irritate you too bad.

In fact – when I’m studying a passage – I go to a website called Bibegateway.com and I actually have it set up to show me three different English translations of the passage – and it helps if I’m going to spend time in one passage – to look for differences.

Now – reading from Luke 7 in the NIV

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things.

All of what things?  Well, by this time Jesus’ ministry has taken off, and he is teaching large crowds and doing incredible miracles.  And verse 16,17 says people were filled with awe at what they were seeing – And news spread quickly about Jesus.

Now if you read Luke you’ll learn that John the Baptist was already quite acquainted with Jesus.  John and Jesus were in fact cousins.  And in previous chapters we read that John had become a prophet – and had grown a large ministry out in the desert baptizing and teaching and getting people ready to hear the good news that Jesus was one day to bring.

And one day John the Baptist looks across the Jordan river and sees Jesus and declares – behold the Lamb of God – who has come to take away the sins of the world.  And John tells those who were following him – hey – don’t follow me any more – you should be following Jesus – He must increase, and I must decrease.

In fact – it was John who baptizes Jesus – and he’s there to hear the words that came from the heavens – this is my beloved son – in whom I am well pleased.

But why does John need people to bring him word about Jesus’ ministry?  Why isn’t John there to see Jesus for himself?

John the Baptist was in many ways – Jesus hype man!  Which is what makes the next section we read – so difficult to understand.  John sends two of the people who were still following him around to Jesus with a question.  Indeed – with the million dollar question.

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

And this is the million dollar question.  Jesus, are you the one?

Does it feel kind of weird that John the Baptist seems to be struggling with the faith he announced in Jesus? What changed between “Behold the Lamb of God!  He must increase and I must decrease.”  And – Jesus, are you the one?

Well, I’ll tell you what happened.  See – Herod was the ruler over Galilee at the time – and one day Herod visits his brother – who has married a beautiful woman – at least beautiful in Herod’s eyes.  So beautiful in fact that he demands that his brother divorce her so that Herod could marry her instead.  Nice brother, right?  You think YOUR family thanksgiving day meal is awkward.

And of course, who on earth would dare question Herod’s decisions?  Well, John the Baptist, for one – who preached that it was wrong – and in the end end – we learn from Luke 3, 19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

Why is John asking the question?  Suffering will always challenge you.  Suffering will always force you to evaluate where your faith is placed.  And John’s faith is being challenged.

Can we just stop here to say – how thankful I am that these great characters in the Bible – they are so human.  Here’s John – he’s lost his influence- he’s lost his crowds – he’s lost his freedom – he’s chained in prison knowing that at any moment Herod could end his life – and in fact will soon do exactly that.

And John sends some people to double check.  Are you the one?  You are the one right?  I wasn’t misled, I wasn’t wrong.  I just need to make sure.

Can we just stop here and say Thank you Lord – thank you Luke – Thank you for writing what really happened – and in the midst of his suffering and pain John wants to make sure his faith in in the right place.

I was looking at this passage earlier this week with my small group – and my friend Jim said – you know – sometimes I hear people say that we can’t trust the bible – that it was changed and cleaned up by scribes and translators – but he said, doesn’t this prove that it wasn’t.  I mean – if we were going to scrub the bible to clean it up – wouldn’t we take this piece out.  Cut John a break and lose this passage – it doesn’t make John look good.

But God said – no – we keep it in here.  Because God knows that all of us will someday come face to face with a pain big enough that will force us to ask the same question John asks – are you the one?

Has that ever happened to you?  Is it happening to you now?  You had this image of God in your heart and head and then life throws a rock that smashes our once pristine view of God?  And you’re wondering – did I make a mistake following you, Jesus?

I hope you are encouraged – in some way – by John’s question.  John saw  – more than you or I probably have seen or heard- I’ve never heard a voice calling from the heavens – this is my son – and yet – when trouble pressed him on every side – then some measure of doubt got pressure cooked into him.  In spite of all he saw and heard.

If John struggled, we might expect to as well.

  

Unfortunately – there’s a part of us that wants to think that If I decide to follow Jesus he will shield me from difficulty and pain.  But the truth is that becoming a follower of Jesus doesn’t guarantee any kind safety from the brutal harshness of life.  Jesus is not a rabbit’s foot.

You, like John, might be thinking – this isn’t what I envisioned when I said I’d follow you Jesus.   This isn’t what I had planned when I said that I’d follow you wherever you lead.

So what are we going to do when we are faced with these difficult times?  We are going to ask the million dollar question.  Are you the one?

So how will Jesus respond?  Will he be annoyed with John?

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

Now one might expect Jesus to answer right away – but in fact he doesn’t say anything – he just continues his ministry.

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

AM I  the one?  Check this out – heals the sick – deaf woman hears –

hey check this out – blind guy sees.   

It’s interesting to me that Jesus doesn’t just come out and say – of course I am – in fact – he kind of tells the guys – tell John what you see – and tell him he’s going to have to make that call.

Sometimes – when we are suffering or in pain – what we really want is to hear a voice call out from the heavens – we want to hear God tell us – I’m here.  I’ve got you – trust me, I know what I’m doing.”

But the truth is that most often, God tells us – look around. See what you know to be true of me.  John the Baptist – in the end is really no better off than you or me.  John has to hear from others what Jesus did in response to the question.

You and I have to read it.  Neither John nor I could see Jesus doing these miracles.  And truthfully – many times people like to think – if only I could have been there then I would believe – but honestly, the miracles that Jesus did – people then and now were so skeptical – that the number one response to seeing a miracle wasn’t – I believe – it seemed to be that every time Jesus did a miracle the crowd said, huh.  Do another one.

At some point we have to bring all the evidence into scope of our decision.  All the evidence comes together – and we’re forced to make the call.  Jesus.  Are you the one or not?

Jesus says – check out what I’m doing.  And in a couple of weeks we will celebrate Easter – the celebration of the greatest miracle of them all – After dying with our sins on his shoulders – Jesus went into the tomb – and three days later he rose from the grave – he left our sins in that tomb and walked out of the grave – where is your sting death?

By the way – you can look around today too and see what is being done by Jesus.  You know – any of you out there in the healing professions – you are an extension of Jesus’ healing arm today.  As we speak people’s lives are being saved.  Those who were certain to die in Mali just five years ago now – their lives are being saved in Jesus name.

When you serve at Heartland Hope you are an extension of the ministry of Jesus bringing good news to the poor and near poor.

How does Jesus respond to the million-dollar question?  Look around you – see what is being done in his name.  And make the call.

But he does say one very interesting sentence – he tells the disciples to tell John – 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

What is Jesus mean?  He means – John – hang in there John.  Don’t lose faith because I’m not doing what you think I should do.  Don’t lose faith because you are in prison.  Don’t quit because I’m not doing what you demand I do – don’t stumble in your walk with God because he sends you where you don’t want to go.  Hang in there!

I don’t know – maybe you are in a situation where circumstances have cause you to ask yourself – if God is all powerful and all loving then why is he allowing me to suffer?  It seems to you that it would be an easy thing that would bring God great glory if he were to simply flip the switch and change your situation – to relieve your pain.

I just want to encourage you – to hang in there.  Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Blessed is the person who doesn’t bolt because they are upset with Jesus’ decisions about their life.

Hang in there.  It’s going to be okay.  Even if it costs you your life – you’re going to be okay.  Because when you place your faith in Jesus your life becomes an eternal life.  Death may come and it will be a blip on our eternal timeline – we are and always will be safe in God’s hands.

Blessed is the person who hang tough.  Who doesn’t quit.  Who doesn’t turn back or give up.  God knows what he is doing with your life.  You can trust him.  He will never leave you – never forsake you.  You are his.  And you are going to be okay.

Which is why, I believe, that John’s question is the million dollar question.

Let me wrap up with our third point here.  Why is this the million dollar question?

Because IF Jesus is who he says he is – If Jesus is the one – then John knows he will be able to endure anything.

Notice – John doesn’t ask – can you get me out of jail.  Can you get me out of this place?  No one would have blamed John if he sent disciples to ask Jesus – can you get me out of here.

John doesn’t send people to ask Jesus to get him out of prison.  He asks Jesus if he is the one?  And if he is – John will be okay.

If you are the one – then I’m okay with whatever you ask of me – with whatever path you lead me down – because you are my good shepherd.  And if Jesus is our good shepherd, then we fear nothing.  We lack nothing.

And for you and me – the million dollar question is – Jesus, are you the one?  Are you the one sent by God to save me from my sins?  Are you the one I’m to look to as the ultimate source of wisdom and guidance?  Are you the Messiah?  The Lord of all?  Are you the creator of the universe –  are you the one this bible says you are?

If he is – and if our faith – in whatever shape we find our faith – if it is placed in him – then all other questions fall into line.

So – are you ready to answer the million dollar question for yourself?  Do you believe he is the one?   Then right now – as I pray – you can pray a prayer – it’s the kind of prayer that is a declaration really.  It sounds like this – Jesus – I believe you are the one.  And I commit myself to your care and guidance from this day forward.  I’m yours Lord.

Help me believe and help me when I struggle to believe, but Lord give me strength to do what I intend to do – which is that I will never turn back or turn away from you Lord.  Where you lead, I will follow.