More Than a Man

superman“More Than a Man”

December 25, 2016

(Christmas Day)

By John Partridge*

 

Isaiah 52:7-10                                 John 1: 1-14                                     Hebrews 1:1-4

If you’ve ever watched the 90’s television show, Walker Texas Ranger, and even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of Chuck Norris.  Because of his various appearances in movies and on television, Chuck Norris developed a reputation as a tough guy but with the advent of the internet his reputation expanded to mythic proportions.  There are hundreds of jokes about how tough Chuck Norris is.  Jokes like:

Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.

Bigfoot claims he saw Chuck Norris.

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks under the bed for Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people… then it exploded.

There once was a street called Chuck Norris, but the name was changed for public safety because nobody crosses Chuck Norris and lives.

The Angel of Death once had a near-Chuck experience

At one point, Google even got into the act.  For a while, if you typed “Find Chuck Norris” into their search box, the first answer that you got back said, “You don’t find Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris finds you.”

If you believed even a fraction of these, you would believe that Chuck Norris was the greatest human being to ever live and was, in fact, something more than human.

Of course he isn’t, but by now the jokes have taken on a life of their own and there are websites that have collected hundreds of them.

But why is the pastor talking about Chuck Norris on Christmas morning?

Because something much more impressive than even Chuck Norris happened on Christmas Day some two thousand years ago.  More impressive still, we remember that the buildup for the arrival of Jesus began many hundreds of years before he arrived.  In Isaiah 52:7-10, written more than seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet wrote about the Messiah that would come.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news, who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Isaiah said that the messiah would be so amazing, that even the feet of the people who carried the news of his arrival, and the arrival of peace, would be considered to be a thing of beauty.  The news of the arrival of the messiah would be news of peace, salvation, rescue, and joy.  So great would be that news, that people living within the ruins of the city of Jerusalem would spontaneously break into singing.  And Isaiah goes on to say that on that day, God would bring comfort to his people, bring rescue to Jerusalem, reveal the strength of God to every nation, and every corner of the world would witness the salvation and rescue of God Almighty.

That, my friends, is a pretty big buildup.  An event like that would be spectacular.  Certainly, nothing ordinary, no everyday, common event, could ever be misunderstood as the day that Isaiah describes.  Whoever the messiah would be, must be… more than a man.

And of course, during Advent, and last evening at Christmas Eve, we have been reading the stories of Jesus’ birth from the first three Gospels.  But this morning I want to read the story of Jesus’ arrival from the words of his Disciple John, who told the Christmas story in a very different way. (John 1:1-14)

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

John wants to be sure that his readers understand that Jesus was not just a man, and not that Jesus was an extraordinary man, and not that Jesus was an incredible, even legendary, human being.  John is insistent that this is not a man of legend like Chuck Norris.  What John insists upon is that Jesus was not just more than a man, but that Jesus was, in fact, God in human flesh.  John says that Jesus existed from the beginning of time, was with God, and was God, that Jesus was the creator of the world and everything in it, and that Jesus was the light of the world that could not be overcome by darkness.

In contrast, John the Disciple also describes the coming of John the Baptist and describes John the Baptist as a man, sent by God.  This man, John says, came to be a witness to the light, but was not, himself, the light.

John is very clear.  Jesus, the promised messiah, was more than a man.  He was God in human flesh.

And then in Hebrews 1:1-4, Paul shared his understanding with us, saying…

1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

I studied this passage because I wanted to understand this better.  I wanted to make sure that I understood its meaning, and I discovered two things that are of great importance.  First, scripturally, when a passage like this declared someone an heir, it is not used in the future tense.  What I mean by that is when Jesus is called an “heir” it does not mean that he will inherit all things because the word “heir” directly describes ownership.  That means that Paul is not saying Jesus will inherit all things, but that Jesus has already inherited all things, already owns all things, and already rules over everything and everyone in the entire universe.  Second, Paul says that Jesus sacrificed himself in order to purify us and then sat down at the right hand of God.  Clearly, Paul is not trying to say that God is a physical being with hands, but is using a common analogy that everyone would understand about the courts of princes and kings.  Someone who sits on the throne is the ruler and the one who sits at their right hand is the person who has been singled out in the entire kingdom and given honor, power, and authority above all others and is second to the king alone.

And so, Isaiah, John, and Paul are all speaking with one voice and declare that the Messiah is someone who is much more than just a man.  He is the one who will reveal God’s strength to the entire world, the one who was present at creation, who created all things, who was, in fact, God himself, and who, after putting on human flesh and sacrificing his own human life to purify and rescue all of humanity, sat down at the most honored position in all of creation.

The conclusion is inescapable.  Isaiah was just a man, John the Baptist was just a man, John and all of the other disciples were no more than men, Paul was just a man, even Chuck Norris, however legendary, is just a man, but Jesus was much more than just a man.  Jesus was, and is, the creator of all that is, the rescuer and redeemer of all humanity, and it is Jesus who sits at the right hand of God and rules over everything that exists.

John was absolutely clear about his conclusion from the very first sentence of his gospel and wanted to make absolutely certain that we understood exactly what he meant.

John’s Christmas story is different than the stories that are told in the other three gospels.  Instead of telling about mangers, and angels, and shepherds, and wise men, John’s Christmas story sounds like this.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 And the Word became flesh and lived among us.

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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