Who is Jesus, exactly? No, I don’t want an answer about what He’s done to save sinners. I want to know who you think Jesus is. Who is He to you? There’s a big push in Christianity in general to allow everyone to define for themselves who Jesus is, as if that was somehow up to us to decide. Forget what the Bible actually says, and just let your feelings tell you who Jesus is. He’s kind and accepting, and a personal relationship with Him is more of a buddy system. Jesus is my blue jean buddy, my pal, someone who won’t judge me or tell me what I’m doing is wrong. He’s someone to hang out with, someone to talk to, someone who will be a casual companion no matter what the activity. But to define Jesus this way is to deny a huge part of who He actually is.
To get a better picture of who Jesus is, let’s look in the Bible itself. Let’s start in Isaiah 6, where the Triune God appears to Isaiah. He saw God’s glory, and what was his reaction? Absolute terror. “‘Woe to me!’ [he] cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty'” (Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah saw God with his own eyes, and the very first thing he thought about was his own sin. That’s what happens when a sinner stands in the presence of a holy God. Isaiah wasn’t thinking, Gee, this is great! Wait till my pals hear about this one! I actually get to see God face to face! No, he recognized his own sinfulness in contrast with the holy and perfect God, and He was terrified.
Let’s look at another example. After the miraculous catch of fish where Simon Peter had to summon James and John to come help them haul in the fish, Peter realized that this Jesus was no mere man. He didn’t give a trite response like Hey, man, come fish with us whenever you want! You’re awesome, dude! No, he looked at the two boats sinking under the weight of the fish, the nets breaking, and realized, This guy is holy. And I’m not. Luke 5:8 tells us, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said,’ ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'” Again, the first thing he thought about was his sin while in the presence of the sinless Lamb of God.
The text note in the Concordia Self-Study Bible says this about Peter’s reaction, “The nearer one comes to God, the more he feels his own sinfulness and unworthiness.” So true. When you stop to think about it, what do you have to offer Jesus? Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. Unless, of course, you count your sin.
Our Old Testament lesson from this past Sunday was kind of harsh. God tells His people, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them” (Amos 5:21-22). This was their worship God was rejecting here, the “good” stuff they did. God wasn’t condemning murder or stealing or adultery. He was condemning their very act of worship. Why? Because their hearts weren’t right before Him. They thought they could justify themselves merely by going through the actions of worship. Isaiah 64:6 reflects this same concept when it says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Actually, the English translation cleans that one up a bit for us. The Hebrew is more blunt and says our righteous acts are like “menstrual rags.” Men, take a female perspective on this one and trust me when I say that’s disgusting. And these are our “righteous” acts? Sheesh. That’s depressing. The very things in which we take pride before God are nothing before Him.
So what do we bring to God? We bring Him our sin. We can’t earn His favor in any way. We can only confess our unworthiness before Him. And ironically, it’s when we do that that we are freed. When we give up trying to earn His favor and throw ourselves at His mercy, crying, “Depart from me, Lord! I am a sinner!” That’s when He lifts our eyes and shows us the cross. Jesus did take what we had to offer. He took our sin upon Himself and in exchange gave us His own righteousness so that we can stand before our holy God. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God,” 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us. That’s the God we worship.
Be careful not to get too casual with God. Yes, He is a personal and loving God, but He is also holy and all-powerful. If you were invited to the White House to meet with the President, you wouldn’t go in blue jeans and slap the President on his back saying, “Hey, buddy, how ya doing?” You’d have respect for his office and act accordingly. The same goes for God. Remember that He is the holy God of the universe, who is worshiped by angels in heaven. You can bet that when you see Him in his glory in heaven He won’t be wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt. And neither will you. You will stand before Him with a robe that has been washed and made white in His holy and precious blood. I’ll take that over blue jeans any day.