The Reintroduction Of Jesus

 Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

I. Beginnings: Jesus 

Allow me to reintroduce this man, his name is Jesus.  Jesus the loving Messiah, Jesus, God made flesh, becoming human that God might meet us in human history.  Jesus the savior of all the world. Jesus, the one who granted us salvation with his grace.  Jesus the one who died for our sins that we might find new life in his resurrection.  Jesus, the one also known as Jehovah. And for those who might have picked up on the reference to Jay Z’s  song “Public Service Announcement,” allow me to reintroduce Jesus, not as HOV, but the REAL Jehovah, the Son of God.  The one who sacrificed his life that we might be extended God’s grace.
Each of the gospels gives us an interpretation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  When we bring each interpretation together, we can get a fuller picture of who Jesus is.  Matthew encourages its readers to live in a higher righteousness through the teachings of Jesus. Mark presented Jesus as a prophet, teacher, and miracle worker.  Luke showed Jesus as a messiah who fully saw and helped the social outcast.  But John, John’s gospel is different than the other gospels, in that it is a narrative that incorporates the spiritual and theological implications of who Jesus is as the Messiah. The author of John seeks to reintroduce Jesus, if you will, to his audience. For him, Jesus is not just a random, human individual, but Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God – Jesus is divine – Jesus is the divine son of God who became flesh, that God might enter into humanity and save the whole world.  That is who Jesus is.  John’s audience must have needed a reminder of who Jesus is, a reintroduction to the messiah, the Son of God.

 II. Reintroduce Ourselves to Jesus

The truth is, that as we travel life’s journey we must continually be reintroduced to Jesus, because it is quite clear in John’s gospel that Jesus was someone who lived in the world, but often lived contrary to the customs of society, because Jesus lived on a more holy plane and lived by a more spiritual ideology.  He was likely a man that society might call insane, because when everyone else fretted he prayed, when society tried to maintain a hierarchy he spent time in the presence of the social outcast, when he said that he would die that he might bring new life the world looked on dumbfounded – he was a lunatic by societal standards – but the reality was that he lived on a higher spiritual level that is not always understood by human understanding.  So, we as people who live in the world and who are governed and cultured by the world, must constantly reintroduce ourselves to Jesus, so that we might be refined to a more spiritual understanding, that we know the actual Jesus for ourselves and don’t mistake him for what the world has created him.  In this season of Lent, we whole-heartedly take the time to reintroduce ourselves to Jesus, being intentional about prayer and fasting that we might remove the things that block our connection to Jesus, that we might be able to see Jesus more clearly, and understand who he is in our lives.

So in this moment we directly connect to God, in Jesus Christ, that we might have a clear reintroduction to Jesus. Allow him to reintroduce himself, his name is Jesus!

 III.  Who is Jesus In the World

            We have to be reintroduced to who Jesus is because it seems like the world has misunderstood who Jesus is.  Think about it, some people have created this persona of Jesus who is a hippie like individual who strolls around in a robe, sandals, and long hair, with blond hair and blue eyes, with a smile, a wink, and his thumbs up to show his approval, thinking everyone is cool and he okay with everything that people do, no matter how sinful it is, as long as they say sorry, even if they have no intent of changing the behavior.  He is a fun-loving individual that brings us no consequences.  And then we have the prosperity gospel Jesus.  The Jesus who blesses us with material things according to our level of faith.  This Jesus has us thinking that what’s most important is for people to be wealthy.  This Jesus rarely challenges a world where a small percentage of the population holds a majority of the wealth while the disparity between the wealthy and the poor becomes larger and larger.  This Jesus laughs in the sight of those suffering from poverty, because according to his thought, they must have done something to bring this on themselves, or at least they just have not turned over their lives to Christ. Some have even identified Jesus as a conquering overlord who crushes all those who are non-believers under his foot.  And others place Jesus as a nationalistic god, who brings blessings only to the United States, as if this nation is the only place in the world, chosen to hold God’s people.  So, Jesus upholds all the things that the United States does, even if it perpetuates militarism and violence, or is shaped by a historical structure of racism, or an economic system that exploits the poor and the impoverished.  Now this is not to say that Jesus does not love Americans, but that this persona of Jesus ignores the reality that Jesus is not just blessing the United States but many people throughout the world because all people were created by God and rest in God’s love and care.  This persona believes that our nation can do no wrong, when the reality is that we all have things that must be reformed in order to fall in line with Jesus’s transformational teaching.  And the world has seen a Jesus that has become more synonymous with racism, sexism, violence, homophobia, and classism in the eyes of many.  It was even someone’s perception of Jesus, that the Proud Boys prayed to before they stormed the capital in the insurrection on January 6, before they called for the hanging of the Vice President and pushed their way with violence and force through the Capitol building – actions we know to be contrary to the Jesus we know and love. 

It sounds like its time to allow Jesus to reintroduce himself as Jesus – the Messiah, the Son of God. Allow him to reintroduce himself, his name is Jesus!

 IV. Who IS Jesus Really?

The reality is that Jesus is not a cool hippie who does not challenge our way of living; Jesus is not a wealthy deity that glorifies wealth; Jesus is not a conqueror; Jesus is not American; Jesus is not a bigot who stands firm in oppressions based on race, gender, class, and sexuality; Jesus is not liberal or conservative, not democrat or republican; Jesus does not uphold nationhood that keeps the poor, poor and keeps a small percentage wealthy.  But Jesus is a Palestinian Jew who stood along the oppressed within the Roman Empire; Jesus is the Messiah; the son of God; the Divine one; God made flesh here on earth to save human beings; Jesus is the one who helped the poor; the one who is the Savior of the world above the Roman Emperor; Jesus is the one we have all been waiting for; Jesus was the one who was crucified on a cross for our sin and iniquities and who rose again that we might find new life.

 V. Jesus Cleansing the Temple

            Our Scripture shows Jesus in a different light than we are used to seeing him.  We see him coming into the temple with whip in hand, overturning the tables in the temple.  He seems to be challenging the temple officials: the chief priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees – he is challenging the “holy” men.  Why would the Son of God, who is God made flesh, challenge the temple and the leaders within it?  The temple is supposed to house the very being of God, and yet the very son of God is chastising the holy place of God and its leaders. In order to see what is happening clearly, this may require a reintroduction to Jesus because if we look a bit closer to the larger situation, we might understand Jesus a bit better in this situation. 

This narrative takes place around the time of Passover, so many people who were celebrating the holiday would have specifically come to the area from all parts of Israel to make a special sacrifice in the temple of Jerusalem.  Those who traveled from afar, would have needed to purchase animals to sacrifice in Jerusalem.  And for the convenience of those traveling, animals were made available to purchase within the temple.  However, the salesmen took this opportunity to take advantage of not only the people who traveled far, but those who were poor as they gouged prices within the walls of the Temple.  And as people used currency within the temple, they had to use temple currency and not the foreign currency they brought in, not currency that had the face of foreign royalty.  So, they had to see a moneychanger in order to exchange their money for temple currency.  And in this process the money changers always charged an additional temple tax that would take more money than necessary.  In this instance the temple, the Holy place, had become a business that sought to take advantage of people rather than create a worship space for people that would transform their lives.

            So Jesus over turned the tables and snapped the whip, driving the animals and the manipulative salesmen out of the temple.  Jesus wreaked havoc in the temple that it might be cleansed from sin, that it might be cleansed from exploitation, and that it might be cleansed of manipulation.  Jesus was cleansing the temple that it might be returned to sacred space, he was cleansing the temple that it might be returned to a worship space, and he was cleansing the temple that it would be a place that God could transform lives.  And in the midst of the shuffle Jesus makes a cryptic statement that confuses everyone.  Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” All the people in the place thought Jesus was talking about physical things, but Jesus was talking about more spiritual things.  He was saying that he was the temple, the place that houses God’s being, the one who brings salvation to all souls, and that he would be destroyed and rise again in three days.  But as our Corinthians text shows us, the concept of the cross is foolish for all those who are perishing, for those who don’t understand the way of the Lord.  And think about it, the message of the cross is absurd to this world, it speaks of a generous savior who was whipped for our sin, bruised for our iniquity, hung up on a cross that we might be extended grace, and died – to the whole world it seemed as if this man was torn down and defeated.  And yet he rose again on the third day bringing new life.  We serve a suffering servant who brought new life from death itself.  It makes no sense.  But it shows the essence of the God that we serve.

            This calls for a reintroduction of Jesus our Lord and savior – the one who transformed the world. Allow him to reintroduce himself, his name is Jesus!

 VI. Conclusion 

            Our scripture this morning teaches us that Jesus does not want us to sit by and watch the exploitation of others. The Jesus that we choose to follow, challenges us to lead a life shaped by love, peace, and justice.  He calls us as the people of God, to the work of God in the world that introduces the true Jesus and transform lives. Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, befriend the outcast, visit the imprisoned, care for sick, and profess the transformation that Jesus brings to the world.  Jesus is the one who is concerned about the poor, and challenges those who exploit the poor.  Jesus is the one who seeks to tear down the system that seeks to keep the poor in a state of poverty. Jesus is a savior who has extend his love and grace to all of humanity, not showing favoritism to just one group of people, but sharing God’s love to all.  Jesus is the one rejects all notions of oppression rooted in racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia and instead replaces it with love and affection, compassion, and affirmation.  Jesus has called us to be concerned about caring for one another, and act in ways that keep one another safe.  This is Jesus – the one who has transformed our lives – the one who shows us how to challenge the world that we might bring about the transformation that only God can bring – the one who showed us how to proclaim the reign of the Kingdom of God here on this earth.  This is Jesus.  And it is in this season that we open ourselves to intimately know who Jesus is – to allow Jesus to reintroduce himself to us in this time.

It is time to open ourselves, and allow Jesus to reintroduce himself, his name is Jesus! Amen.