MATTHEW 21:1-10


            Everywhere Jesus went while He was on earth, He caused a stir. His words and deeds so stirred the people to the depths of their minds and souls, that they were either wholeheartedly for Him or against Him. There was something about Jesus that made it hard for people to remain neutral in His presence.


            And certainly He was a disturbing factor in Palestine in the first century. The people in the cities and villages He visited, knew something had happened in their presence. And always, the stir that Jesus created was followed by the question, “Who is this?” People wanted to know what manner of man He was. Who was this man who spoke as never man spoke, and whose utterances had the unmistakable stamp of authority upon them? Was He prophet or priest? Was he genuine, or was He a blasphemer and imposter? Did His power come from God or from Satan?


            Up and down the hill country and on the highways of Palestine, in towns and villages of Judea and Galilee, and even in Samaria, the leading question was, “Who is this Man?”


            So, it was not strange that when He entered Jerusalem for the last time, the whole city was stirred. It was only the culmination of a tide of interest which had reached its heights. It was only natural that His entrance into Jerusalem should arouse both the minds and imaginations of the people.


            This question about Jesus was answered in Jerusalem in that last week. The multitude received Him as “the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” This was their first answer. Their second answer, when Jesus stood before Pilate, was the answer of complete rejection. The Jewish leaders called Him an imposter, a blasphemer, a pretender to the throne of David, and a rival of Caesar, a disturber of the people, a perverter of the nation. In their eyes, He was a man worthy of death.


            Pilate, the representative of the Roman empire, found in Him a faultless and innocent man, delivered into his presence because of the envy of the Jews, and not worthy of death. In the eyes of at least one of the robbers who hung on the cross with him, He was the Savior; and the Roman officer who watched Him die, confessed that He was “A righteous man” and “the Son of God.”

            The disciples and other immediate followers of Jesus were strangely silent during that last week, and the words of one of them as He journeyed toward Emmaus, “We hoped that it was He who should redeem Israel,” words of deep disappointment, probably reveal what was in the minds of most of them.


            For 1900 years this same Jesus has been coming into our comfortable Jerusalems and causing a stir, disturbing us no end. And whenever He has come, the same question is raised, “Who is this man?”


            He came to that group of frightened and discouraged disciples who had left His body in the tomb with the Roman seal on it; and He did not leave them until they had answered this same question. He came to the Empire whose representative had given the word to crucify Him, and continued to cause a stir until this same question was answered. And then, when the Church had taken the place of the Empire, and through its lust for power had practically excluded Jesus from its life and plunged civilization into the blackness of the Dark Ages, He came again in the Protestant Reformation, demanding this question be answered.


            He came to the 18th century with its intellectualism and dawning industrialism, with the same question facing the people. He came into the 19th century with its wealth of knowledge, its perfection of representative government, its scientific discoveries, its literary achievements, its religious devotion, and made this same question the great question of the century.


            And he has come into the 20th century, with all its progress in increased knowledge and destruction. Still the same old question awaits our reply, “Who is this Jesus?”


            This same Jesus has come into the Jerusalem of a divided and bewildered Church of the 20th century, and has caused repeated stirrings. For years, and in each generation, church leaders talk about the need for the recovery of the real Jesus, and we still do not know what really to do about Him. He just doesn’t fit into our institutions and complacent orthodoxy, and daily we’re disturbed about His ethical demands and social and religious requirements. The Church is divided because how many reject Him as its only Head; bewildered because in the presence of so many ways and in the midst of so many voices, it has tried other ways than that of this Jesus. Still, the most insistent question in the church of our day as in the first century, “Who is this Jesus?” And He will continue to disturb us until this question is answered in such a way as to be understood adequately by our own day.


            Jesus has also come into the Jerusalem of our social and industrial order, which for the most part, has been built by people who have professed His name – and in this realm He causes a disturbance. We have tried to imprison Him in the creeds of past centuries, in the dogmas of orthodoxy. And when He has stepped out of these creeds and dogmas as a living personality and confronted men and women of our day as the friend of the oppressed and the enemy of the oppressor; when He has put the value of a child of God and an eternal soul upon each human being, and by declaring that this individual is the most valuable thing in the world, shattering the principle of much of industry and government, that machines and profits and power are of more value than people; when He repudiates the comfortable doctrine that heaven is a sweet place by-and-by where all the inequalities of earth are removed, and proceeds to outline a program in which men shall live together as brothers and equals in a cooperative world; when He puts the emphasis upon justice rather than charity and would substitute love for force----people want to know who He is. Who is this Jesus who makes such searching demands upon us?


            Jesus has come into the troubled Jerusalem of our international affairs, and His presence should be a source of grave concern for those who conduct such affairs. Yes, statesmen of most nations have called upon Him many times and have said lovely things about Him. But this same Jesus comes to us to say again, “Put up your sword”; and “love your enemies”; this same Jesus who calls people to a complete repudiation of force as the best method for settling international disputes; this same Jesus who would be Prince of Peace in reality and not in name only, Who is HE? Leaders of nations usually find it more convenient to keep Him out of their councils; but still He has come to stand in the midst of their conferences, to trouble them, and us, with His insistent demands for a civilization built upon cooperation and human values, rather than on competition and profits, and for a warless world of peace and goodwill among all people. Who is this Jesus?


            Some of His own day looked at Him as “Jesus of Nazareth” not knowing that this same Jesus was destined to take the rough timber of human life, and make of it a temple which should be the habitation of God. They saw only a man, with the tradesman’s hammer and the tradesman’s hopes.


            Others looked upon Him as unlearned, indicating that He had never studied in the higher schools, and consequently must be far behind the scribes and others of His time. And yet He was wise enough to know people, and was able to interpret life in terms of spiritual and eternal values.


            There were others who saw in Him a great Teacher, recognizing that “He spake as never man spake before.” Blind leaders of the blind had given them little help, but here was One who “taught with authority and not as the scribes.” The truth, as He taught it, cut like a surgeon’s knife, but some there were, like Nocodemus, who felt that “here was a teacher sent from God.”


            Another conception was the one held by even some of His disciples, that He was destined to become a great national leader of peoples and nations. They saw a throne in the City of David, and would have a sword in His hands had He said the word. But Jesus announced in no uncertain terms, “my kingdom is not of this world.” A crown of thorns was to be his diadem; but the world just could not understand.


            Then one day, there came the conception expressed by Peter, in his confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”


            Carpenter, Teacher, Leader, Prophet --- yes, all of these and then some. The soul-stirring, vision-clarifying, life-ennobling conception is that Jesus is the Christ. We go into the Four Gospels and find the writers in agreement, Jesus human yet divine, son of man, and, Son of God. The writer of the Book of Acts convinces us of this also, that this same Jesus has been exalted as both Christ and Lord. For the Apostle Paul, Jesus was first “the Man of Galilee”; and when he was transformed from Saul the Hebrew to Paul the Christian, a new conception appeared in his life --- this Jesus was the Son of God become both Lord and Master of the soul of Paul.


            What we think of this same Jesus colors and determines all our thinking. Nothing in all the world will so quickly set a life aright as a right conception of Jesus Christ. Miracles in the form of changed lives, world-changing thinking occur daily, though we may not notice this. The one who once gets a right conception of Jesus will from that day interpret life in terms of eternal values.


            Then, too, our conception of Jesus Christ determines our attitude toward Him. How many there are who have a warm place in their hearts for the church, and for religion as a whole, BUT are not very pronounced in their conception of Jesus personally. Consequently, their attitude is such as to make it impossible for Jesus “to do any great works” in them or for them.


            Do you see Jesus the Teacher? Then He can teach you much that is profitable this day. Do you see Him as a great national Leader? Then place Him alongside and above other leaders of the world.


            Does He appeal to you as a Prophet? If so, then you will do as some in His own day did, place Him in the ranks with Isaiah and the others. And His teachings may stir your heart and fire your imagination, and you will be a better person than you would have been without this conception of Him.


            And yet, all of this falls short of the real mark. Jesus does not ask that we give Him recognition by calling Him good, or interesting, or a great prophet, or any of the hundred other things that might suggest themselves to people. He does not come to us that we may give Him a “character” or “prestige” or some other outstanding status. This Son of God rides triumphantly on His own.


            When we behold Him as the Christ, then He does for us the work that the Christ of God, the Redeemer, came into the world to do. If our idea or conception of Him is that He is in very truth the Savior of the world, and are ready to accept Him as the Lord of all life, then our attitude is such as makes it possible for Him to do mighty works in and through us.


            Then, finally, our conception and our acceptance determine our eternity. Actually, what we do with Him now decides our future for all eternity. By this decision and action we are raised to the heights of fellowship with God, or we are cast to the deepest depths in our separation from God.


            Perhaps you saw the John Denver TV show Thursday night; it included a takeoff on the movie Oh God. And again John Denver asks about all the suffering and hunger and disease in the world. And God responds, “I’ve given you ALL the tools.” Denver asks, “What tools?” The answer, “You have each other, the tools – YOU and everyone else.” So we have the tools. We have the directions to use those tools, through the truths of Jesus Christ. We CAN rid the world of disease and suffering and war and injustice. What have we done with Him, His truths?


             Who is this Jesus? I’m not asking, where does He stand BUT

                        WHERE DO YOU AND I STAND?

                        WHAT DOES JESUS MEAN TO US?

                        WHO IS THIS JESUS?



O God, speak to us each one here this morning, we pray, that each soul may be brought into closer fellowship with you. Be Thou the Master of our lives, in worship, in work, in play. Make us willing subjects in Thy Kingdom on earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.