his one and only Son
THEME: “The Only One and Only” March 11, 2018
Dear Friends in Christ, “his one and only Son”
For years he was recognized as perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time. His powerful slam dunks, his graceful ability to elevate and then hang in mid-air a few milliseconds longer than the average player, his uncanny ball handling skills, his 6 NBA championships during which he was named the Finals MVP a record-setting 6 times, his amazing ability to hit game-winning shots under the most pressure packed of circumstances. For these and many other reasons, Michael Jordan was a basketball player who was truly in a class by himself. In his heyday he could have easily been classified as a “one and only.”
But in recent years Michael Jordan’s “one and only” status has been challenged by this fellow here: LeBron James. While his career has been comprised of one highlight after another, I’ve never forgotten one of his greatest feats that elevated him to that one and only status fairly early on his career as he and the Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves in the playoffs and LeBron scored the final 25 points and 29 of the last 30 points for the Cavaliers, including a game-winning drive to the basket with only 2.2 seconds left in the second overtime. Every time the Cavaliers got the ball, they passed it to Lebron and just kind of spread out and let him do his thing. And his thing included off balance, fade away 3-pointers, slicing drives to the basket, and thunderous slam dunks that rivaled the best that Michael Jordan ever did.
What’s my point? Well, when it comes to human one and only’s, there is no guarantee that they will remain in that position forever. It seems like there’s always another one and only to come along to take their place: a Jordan Spieth to take over the #1 spot held by Tiger Woods for so many years; a Roger Federer who has held the #1 position in the world of tennis longer than any of the other greats that have occupied that spot; an Albert Pujols who rivaled Stan Musial as the most popular and productive player in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals until he was traded to the California Angels a few years ago.
So human one and only’s come and go. But when it comes to God’s one and only, Jesus Christ, there never has been and there never will be another who can even come close to measuring up to him. For he truly is in a class by himself. He truly is what I’m calling him in my sermon title for today: “The Only One and Only.” Or as our text for today puts it, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” As most of you know, we are slowly working our way through John 3:16, this familiar and famous passage of Scripture, in a sermon series that I have entitled “The Gospel in a Nutshell.” And as we examine God’s only one and only today, we’ll be taking a look at 3 views that people, especially Christian author C.S. Lewis, have offered over the years concerning Jesus. And here they are: Jesus was a liar. Jesus was a lunatic. Or Jesus was Lord.
So how about it? Was Jesus a liar? Well, there’s no doubt that he made some pretty lofty claims when he walked this earth. Throughout the Gospels we find him claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, and even God himself. If he made those claims, knowing full well that he was not God, then he was a liar. And if he was a liar, then he was also a hypocrite because he taught and said much about the importance of being honest. For example, in Luke 16:10 he said: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” On the night before he was put to death, Jesus warned Peter that later on that night he would turn into a blatant liar as he would deny even knowing Jesus not once, not twice, but three different times.
So Jesus understood and consistently emphasized the importance of telling the truth. Which means that he would have to be one of the biggest hypocrites to ever walk this earth if he lived his life knowingly propagating the lie that he was the Son of God. But not only would that make him a hypocrite, it would also make him a demon, a devil, because he deliberately told others to trust him for their salvation, for their eternal destiny. For example, in John 14:6 he said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And in John 10:9 he said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” And people believed him. People followed him. People trusted him and what he said. But if he was lying, if he was knowingly leading them astray, then that would put him in the same league as the greatest deceiver of all, the one whom Jesus once called a liar and the father of lies, none other than Satan himself.
But there’s more. If Jesus was a liar, then he was also a fool because it was his claims that he was the Son of God that led to his crucifixion. When he was put on trial before the Jewish Council, Caiaphas the high priest ultimately placed Jesus under oath and said: “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” To which Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” That did it. That sealed his doom. That resulted in the sentence of death being pronounced upon him. Jesus then would have been the world’s biggest fool if he died for what he knew was a lie.
So what do you think? Was he a liar? Does that make sense? No way! Like former atheist and now Christian author Josh McDowell says in one of his books: “If Jesus was a liar, a con man, and therefore an evil, foolish man, then how can we explain the fact that He left us with the most profound moral instruction and powerful moral example that anyone has ever left? Could a deceiver – an imposter of monstrous proportions – teach such unselfish ethical truths and live such a morally exemplary life as Jesus did? The very notion is incredulous.”
Well, if Jesus wasn’t a liar, then was he a lunatic? Could he have thought he was God but have been sadly mistaken? After all, it is possible to be both sincere and wrong at the same time.
Interestingly, his family (mainly his brothers) at one time thought he was a lunatic. In Mark 3:21 we read: “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” Then in the very next verse we read the opinion that the religious authorities had about Jesus. They were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” Out of his mind? Demon-possessed? That’s what you call a lunatic, right? So how about it? Was Jesus a crazy man who deserved to be locked away in some mental ward somewhere?
A psychiatrist by the name of J. T. Fisher would answer that question with a resounding NO. And he does so on the basis of what Jesus had to say in his Sermon on the Mount. After carefully analyzing this most famous of all sermons, Dr. Fisher basically says that if you were to take the sum total of all the articles ever written by the most qualified psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental health, and if you were to condense them and combine them and refine them into their most basic principles, he says: “You would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison.” In other words, the principles that Jesus laid down in that sermon far outshine the finest and best that the most qualified of human psychologists and psychiatrists have ever been able to come up with. And then a little later he offers this summary of that sermon: “Here…rests the blueprint for successful human life.”
Now my point is, could a lunatic be the source of such incredible and perceptive psychological insight? Would a lunatic make statements like these that Jesus made in his Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Or “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Or what about the words of the Lord’s Prayer which comprise part of the Sermon on the Mount? Would any of us dare to say that those high and lofty words that cover the gamut of our physical and spiritual lives were given to us by a man who should have been committed to a psych ward?
I’m not sure whether Napoleon Bonaparte was a Christian, but he sure hit the nail on the head when he said the following about Jesus: “I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a [mere] man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist…Between Him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself.”
Even the brothers of Jesus who once labeled him a lunatic changed their minds later on. For they realized that while a lunatic might say he was going to rise from the dead, as Jesus did multiple times, there’s no way that lunatic could do it – unless that man was not a lunatic, but rather our third option that we want to consider today. And that is Lord. So how about it? Was Jesus Lord?
Peter proclaimed this truth about Jesus in Matt. 16:18 when he said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Martha proclaimed it when she was talking to Jesus outside the tomb of her dead brother Lazarus and she said: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” Thomas proclaimed it when he saw the risen Christ in the upper room and he said: “My Lord and my God!” Even God the Father proclaimed it at Jesus’ baptism when he said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Listen, my friends, other self-proclaimed gods and saviors have come and gone upon history’s stage, but only Jesus remains, standing head-and-shoulders above them all. The corpses of all others have been turned to dust and remain buried in their graves, but one of the best attested facts of history is that the tomb of Jesus was empty on the Sunday morning following his crucifixion, not because the disciples stole his body, not because the women went to the wrong tomb, not because Jesus only passed out on the cross on Friday and revived again on Sunday, all of which are answers the skeptics have given over the years. No, the tomb was empty for one and only one reason. And that is because it could not hold the resurrected glorified body of history’s only one and only and of God’s only one and only. And with no less than 15 resurrection appearances to his credit, one of which was to more than 500 eyewitnesses at one time, Jesus proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he’s not a liar, he’s not a lunatic, but he is Lord.
And this is the one that John 3:16 speaks of when it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And make no mistake about it, my friends. Who you determine Jesus Christ is in your own heart – whether he’s a liar, a lunatic, or Lord – will ultimately determine where you spend your eternity. May you by the power of the Holy Spirit bow your knee to this one who alone is Lord. May you trust his substitutionary and sacrificial death on the cross as the God-ordained payment for your sin. May you believe with all of your heart that his victory over death will result in your victory over death. And may you live out your remaining days on this earth in faithful obedience and willing service to him that flows out of nothing but sheer gratitude and appreciation for all he has done for you. For he alone deserves it. He alone is worthy of it. For he alone is the only one and only.