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Outrageous Jesus


									Outrageous Jesus

„We‟re more popular than Jesus‟.

That‟s what John Lennon, singer, songwriter and founding member of the Beatles, the
most famous rock band in history, said that about the Beatles in 1966. „We,‟ the
Beatles, „are more popular than Jesus.‟

And people were outraged. People, Christians particularly, got together and burned
Beatles records; tore down Beatles posters; protested at Beatles concerts; and some of
them—and this was of course very un-Christian—even made death threats.

And indeed, one very mentally unstable person did kill John Lennon, but I don‟t
know if this quote had anything to do with that.

But still: „We‟re more popular than Jesus‟. I wonder if Lennon knew, when he said
that, how much outrage he would cause? I also wonder if he knew that Jesus himself
caused just as much outrage, if not more.

That‟s the first point I‟d like to make—it‟s there in your outline—Outrageous Jesus,
because Jesus outraged people. And a lot of people. With John Lennon, you had a
few death threats, and one person crazy enough to carry it out.

But with Jesus, at the end of his three-year tour of Israel, teaching, healing, helping
broken people sort out their lives… at the end of that, Matthew tells us, almost
everyone in Jerusalem wanted him dead. Crucify him!‟ they shouted „Crucify him!‟

Why? What had Jesus done to cause so much outrage? Obviously he didn‟t say he
was „more popular than Jesus‟. So what did he say? Well, he said—this is what made
a city full of people so angry they wanted him dead—he said that he was the Messiah.

Now, if you‟re not sure what Messiah means, it‟s a Hebrew word; it means exactly
the same thing as Christ, which is King chosen by God. King chosen by God.

The Old Testament of the Bible tells us that Israel had a few different Messiahs
through their history, a few different kings chosen by God. But it also tells us that one
day, someone would come along who would be the Messiah, the Messiah to end all
Messiahs, the King chosen by God to rule forever.

And this Messiah, the Messiah, the Old Testament predicts, would not just rule Israel.
No, the Messiah would rule the whole earth—because the God of Israel is the God of
the whole earth, and so the whole earth should serve God‟s king.

But don‟t take my word for it. Let me read you one of the prophecies about this,
written at least a couple of hundred years before Jesus was born. Daniel 7:13 & 14:

       In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man
       [that‟s what Jesus called himself, the Son of Man], coming with the clouds of
       heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days [that‟s a way of saying „God‟]—
       he approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

Here‟s the important bit:

       He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and
       men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting
       dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be

And Jesus said, „That‟s me.‟

Can you see why people were outraged? Of course, various people, often mentally
unwell people, say stuff like that all the time and we just ignore them. I‟ve personally
met three people who told me they were the Messiah. But Jesus wasn‟t just any old
crazy person: he was famous; people liked him; he had followers.

So for the Jews, particularly the Jewish leaders, Jesus‟ claim to be the Messiah wasn‟t
just annoying. It was offensive. It was threatening. It threatened their own power.

How dare you say that, Jesus? How dare you? We know you. You‟re not a king,
you‟re a carpenter‟s son, from Nazareth, nothing good comes from Nazareth! We‟ve
got your family right here. Here‟s your mum and your brothers and your sisters;
they‟re not the royal family, are they?

You‟re not the Messiah; you‟re just a travelling sideshow who‟s getting a bit too big
for his boots.

Now they could‟ve left it there, left it with mockery… except, once again, Jesus had a
bit of a following. Not really in Jerusalem, not with the city folk, they‟re much too
sophisticated to get caught up in a passing fad like Jesus.

But the country folks, on the other hand, the country bumpkins, the peasants, the
rabble; well, they‟re easily impressed—and annoyingly for the Jewish leaders, Jesus
was impressing quite a few of them.

So the leaders decided there was only one thing for it: Jesus had to be taken out of the
picture. They couldn‟t kill him themselves, of course; they couldn‟t do it legally and I
reckon they didn‟t want to get their hands dirty by doing it illegally. So they pressured
the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to do it for them. And he did.

And after a few mock trials, after some flogging, some insults, some spitting… this
upstart, this nuisance, this outrageous Jesus, was nailed to a wooden cross to die. And
as we heard in the first reading, these embarrassments, these sufferings, proved
conclusively, conclusively, to almost everyone that he was not, in fact, the Messiah.

See there in the first reading, Matthew chapter 27, from verse 27:

The guards who put a crown of thorns on his head, „Hail, King of the Jews‟. The

passers by, shaking their heads: „If you are the Son of God come down from the
cross!‟ The chief priests, unable to contain their delight; „He's the King of Israel! Let
him come down now from the cross, and we‟ll believe in him. Let God rescue him
now if he wants him…‟

And, you know, their argument… it had something to it, didn‟t it? The prophecy said
the Messiah was supposed to have „power‟. He was supposed to have an „everlasting
dominion‟. Clearly a power-less man like Jesus, a dead man, can‟t fulfil that
prophecy, can he? Clearly the God of Israel did not support Jesus‟ outrageous claim.

Even his disciples were starting to see that.

And then he died, and then he was buried, and that was that. The Jewish leaders,
sensibly enough, put guards outside Jesus‟ tomb, so none of his disciples could steal
his body and say he rose from the dead… but otherwise, that was that. Jesus: Not-the-
Messiah. Verdict passed, motion carried, myth busted… case closed.

Vindicated Jesus

Case closed, at least, until God reopened it. Until God showed that he did support
Jesus‟ outrageous claim. Until God vindicated Jesus, and that‟s my second point,
Vindicated Jesus. That‟s what Matthew 28 is all about: Vindication, when a doubted
claim is proved to be true, when an innocent person is cleared of blame or suspicion.

In 1973 a man named Ziggy Pohl, was convicted of murdering his wife, Kum Yee. He
said he was innocent, but was sentenced to life imprisonment. He behaved perfectly in
gaol, and after 10 years he was „released on license‟, with all sorts of conditions. So
he was still considered guilty, just not a threat to society.

Anyway, in September 1990 a man named Roger Bawden entered Queanbeyan police
station and confessed to murdering Kum Yee back in March 1973. I‟m told that
Bawden did this because he‟d become a Christian, but that‟s not really the point.

Astonishingly, an inquiry into Ziggy‟s conviction didn‟t start for another 10 months.
But when it did, Ziggy was granted an unconditional pardon by the Governor of
NSW. However, Ziggy‟s local state MP argued that this didn‟t totally vindicate
Ziggy‟s name, and that Ziggy should receive financial compensation.

It took some arguing, but in the end he did receive, I think, $200,000. Now whether or
not you think that makes up for 10 years in gaol—I‟m not sure any amount could—
the point is Ziggy Pohl is now famous for being an innocent man. His claim has been
proven true; he has been cleared of blame and suspicion. He has been vindicated.

As we heard in our second Bible reading, see there in Matthew 28 verse 1, Jesus‟
vindication happened in the early hours of the first day of the week, on a Sunday.
Two women who had followed Jesus, two Marys, went to see Jesus tomb. They
weren‟t expecting any excitement; they just wanted to pay their respects.

But then… you‟ve heard the expression „all hell breaks loose‟—well here, all heaven
breaks loose. There‟s an earthquake. An angel of God who looks like lightning;

clothes so white you can‟t look at them without squinting. And he moves the stone,
the massive stone put there to keep people out of the tomb; it‟s flung aside.

The guards—remember they were put there by the Jewish leaders—were
understandably scared to death, almost literally: Matthew says, verse 4, they became
„like dead men‟. I think he means they passed out. But it‟s ironic, isn‟t it, the guards
become like dead men, while the dead man they‟re supposed to be guarding…

Mary and Mary are scared too, but the angel comforts them. „I know why you‟re
here,‟ he says, „You‟re looking for Jesus, who was crucified; you‟re looking for a
dead man. Well, I‟m afraid I‟m going to have to disappoint you. He‟s not here. He has
risen. Just like he said he would. Remember?‟

Because Jesus had actually said he would be raised from the dead, quite a few times.
In fact he also predicted his death. For example, 11 chapters ago, 17:22: „As they
were meeting in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed
into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”

I‟ve counted, in Matthew‟s Gospel, Jesus predicting his Resurrection at least 6
times—let me know if you find more. How his disciples forgot about that, I don‟t
know. We do know they could be a bit slow sometimes, and maybe they were just so
shocked by Jesus‟ death.

In any case, Jesus predicted that he would be raised, and the angel says, „That‟s
happened. Look, look inside his tomb—he‟s not there. He‟s going to Galilee, his old
stomping ground, so go and tell his disciples, that‟s where he‟s going, that‟s where
you‟ll see him.‟ And the Marys left to do that, still a bit scared, but also, very excited.

But as it turns out, the Marys didn‟t have to wait till Galilee to see Jesus. They saw
him right away, as soon as they left the tomb. Jesus said to them, „Greetings!‟, verse
9, and the Marys ran to him, grabbed his feet—I think the point of that is to show us
that Jesus had a real body, he wasn‟t a ghost—and, it says, they worshipped him.

Now if you ask 10 different people what worship means, you‟ll probably get 10
different answers. But in Matthew‟s Gospel, worship means a physical expression of
submission and service. So when you worship, you bow or kneel or something to
show someone that you intend to honour them, to serve them, to do as they say.

Which is the right response to Jesus.

And as the women kneel, Jesus repeats the angel‟s message. Don‟t be afraid, go and
tell my… not disciples this time, but brothers, that‟s just wonderful, isn‟t it? The
disciples abandoned Jesus when he was arrested, but Jesus is saying, „no hard
feelings.‟ Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.

Do you see the point of all this, of this story, this true story? Men killed Jesus to prove
that he was not the Messiah; not the King chosen by God, not the one given authority,
glory and power, not the one to be worshipped by all peoples, not the one with an

everlasting dominion, not the one with a kingdom that will never be destroyed.

But then God himself, that‟s what we‟re supposed to get from the earthquake, from
the angel, from the fact that Jesus is there and is walking around on his real, physical
feet: God has done something; God has worked; God himself has overturned man‟s
verdict. God has vindicated Jesus. Jesus‟ outrageous claim is true.

[Seedy little episode]

Now, at this point, verses 11-15, Matthew takes us aside for a moment to show us
how the bad guys handle all this. It‟s like in the movies—most of the attention goes to
the hero, but every now and then you flick back to the evil castle, or the Death Star, or
the base in the side of a volcano, to find out the villain‟s next scheme.

And it‟s a seedy, dark little episode.

Basically, the tomb guards report what they had seen to the religious leaders, and the
leaders bribe them to lie about what happened, to say that they were asleep at their
post, and while they were asleep Jesus‟ disciples stole the body. And Matthew tells
us, verse 15, it caught on—many Jews believed that version of the story.

Now there‟s a lot of holes in that version. Even if the guards were asleep, how could
the disciples have moved the massive rock, especially without waking the guards?
Plus, the disciples were cowards: when Jesus was arrested, they abandoned him.
Where did they suddenly get the courage to risk death by raiding a guarded tomb?

In any case, it just reminds us that even when people are confronted with the truth,
they won‟t always look into it properly, or respond rightly, if they have a vested
interest in ignoring the truth. And that‟s still the case as we tell people about Jesus
today, people often have a vested interest in ignoring him.

Lord Jesus

But we‟ll leave that there. My third and last point is Lord Jesus.

The last four verses of Matthew‟s Gospel tell us about the disciples‟ meeting with
Jesus in Galilee, where, remember, they were told to go.

When they saw Jesus, verse 17, they worshipped him—they bowed in submission to
him—good, right response… But some doubted—that just means they didn‟t believe
their eyes at first. Would you? But Jesus came to them, verse 18, probably so they
could touch him; and that removed their doubts.

Then Jesus speaks, and he states his outrageous claim more boldly than ever before:
„All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.‟ „All authority in heaven
and on earth has been given to me.‟

Now, it‟s not that Jesus didn‟t have authority before, or wasn‟t the Messiah before…

I think of this a bit like the hero Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings—I wonder if

Aragorn is partly based on Jesus. In The Lord of the Rings Aragorn is, by ancestry, the
rightful king of Gondor. But he doesn‟t actually live in Gondor, or rule it; he just
travels around helping people, and very few people know who he really is.

But then his identity is revealed, as he leads a great victory against the armies of the
Dark Lord Sauron. And after that, after that he is crowned King, and rules Gondor for
120 years. Aragorn was always King, but his kingship was not confirmed and
publicised and indisputable until after his great victory over the forces of evil.

And, in the real world, Jesus was always King, but his kingship was not confirmed
and publicised and indisputable until after his great victory over the forces of evil;
that‟s the Resurrection. There can now be no doubt that God has indeed given him all
authority in heaven and on earth.

„Therefore,‟ Jesus tells his disciples, „Go and make disciples of all nations.‟ You see
the logic there? God has made Jesus the supreme ruler of the world by raising him
from the dead, vindicating him as Messiah, and so now, therefore, the people of the
world need to be told about their new ruler so they can start obeying him.

And in case that makes Jesus sound like a megalomaniac, can I just draw your
attention to something Jesus said in Matthew chapter 11: „Come to me, all you who
are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn
from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.‟

Jesus wants to rule the world, yes, but he wants to rule for the good of the world.
When Aragorn, in Lord of the Rings, became King of Gondor, he ushered in an age of
peace and prosperity. And, in the real world, that‟s what Jesus is ushering in, an
eternal age of peace and prosperity; that‟s what we look forward to.

And so, Jesus disciples wants his disciples to baptise people, to symbolise the fact that
Jesus forgives sins. And they are to teach people to obey Jesus‟ commands, because
that‟s what you do when you‟ve got a king, you obey his commands, and also because
his commands are good for us; they show us the best way to live.

This is an honour the disciples have, but it‟s also a pretty massive job Jesus has given
them. But Jesus doesn‟t leave them to do it alone, v. 20: „And surely,‟ he says, „I am
with you always, to the end of the age.‟

Not meaning he will physically be with them—Matthew wrote this Gospel after he
had seen Jesus ascend into heaven. What he means is, I will help you to the end of the
age, to make disciples of all nations. And he did. A few weeks later, his disciples
started proclaiming Jesus, and thousands of people responded, and joined them.

And those new disciples started proclaiming Jesus and more people became Jesus‟
disciples, and so on, right up to the present day, more and more people are continually
becoming disciples of the Lord Jesus.


And so. What do we do with this? God has vindicated Jesus‟ outrageous claim. Jesus
is the Messiah. The King chosen by God. Our King. Forever It seems to me the main
thing we have to do is worship him, to bow to him, to embrace his rule.

If you‟re already a disciple, you‟ve already done that, but you also know that it‟s not a
one-off thing. It‟s not a one-off thing obeying any king, you don‟t kneel down once
and then go off and do whatever you want. You seek out his commands, you try to
find out what pleases the king and you do it. That includes making more disciples.

If you‟re not a disciple… you know, we Christians are always saying you should
become a disciple so you can be forgiven for your sins, or go to heaven when you die.
Those things are true, but they‟re not the only reason you should become a disciple.
I‟m not even sure they‟re even the main reason you should become a disciple.

Psalm 2 in the Bible is a song and a prophecy about Jesus, & Psalm 2 v. 12 says this:

       Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
       And you be destroyed in your way,
       For his wrath can flare up in a moment.
       Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The main reason to become a disciple is simply that Jesus is King. All authority in
heaven and earth has been given to him. If you ignore that fact, if you refuse to bow
to him, you are in great peril. You‟re on the wrong side. And when you meet him,
either when you die or he returns, whatever comes first, you will regret your choice.

If you recognise that he is King, on the other hand, if you worship him, if you take
refuge in him, you will be blessed. You will find rest for your soul. And not just on
Judgement Day but now, as you start living his way. looking forward to the eternal
age of peace and prosperity he is bringing. Come, Lord Jesus.


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