I am Napoleon!
Hesham Shehab: Jesus, Lunatic or Lord!
Sermon text preached by Rev. Hesham Shehab
Sunday, June 6, 2021
Jesus, Lunatic or Lord!
Grace to You and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are many unhinged people running around in our world today who claim they are important deceased figures, like prophets or world leaders, who came back to life. Some even manage to gain a following. This is not a new phenomenon. In the New Testament we have the example of the disciples who thought that Jesus was Prophet Elijah or John the Baptist come back to life.
Here is a contemporary, non-Christian example, of this idea. Take the Ahmadiyyah founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. You may remember the term “Ahmadiyyah” from the late bestselling author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi, MD. Dr Qureshi, before becoming a Christian, was a former Ahmadiyyah. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s followers promote peace, unlike other Islamic sects, and they were the first Islamic sect that came to Chicago in the early 20th century and have two thriving mosques in Illinois.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back as a Muslim prophet. However, some Muslims also believe that a Muslim messianic figure (the Mahdi) will come before Jesus returns to earth.
The founder of the Ahmaddiyyah sect, in the 19th century, claimed that he was Jesus and the Muslim Messiah (Mahdi) in one person at the same time. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad took a verse from the Quran (surah 61:6) that claimed that Jesus said that someone by the name of Ahmad would come after Jesus and applied it to himself. In other words, he believed that he could fulfill both the role of Jesus and the Mahdi at the same time.
Illustration from life #1
Once, in the 1980s, at the American University of Beirut, I came across a man who claimed to be the Messiah. He was a middle-aged man with a long grey beard dressed in flowing robes. He was standing on the staircase of the main building at the college campus giving a speech about peace and understanding among religions. A crowd of students were enjoying his message of reconciliation until he suddenly made the astonishing claim that he was the Messiah. Immediately, the students lost interest and melted away. But I stayed. I wanted to know more about him.
College security arrived, detained the man, and then escorted him off campus. I followed behind and once we were on the street, I introduced myself to the man and invited him for cup of coffee. As soon as we sat down, he said that his name was Ahmad and told me that Jesus appeared to him standing on a electricity power post, and told him that he (Ahmad) was the Messiah, a prophet on equal standing with Jesus and Muhammad. As soon as coffee was served, he pulled out a pack of Marlboro cigarettes out of his robe and lit a cigarette. At that point, I thought to myself: I know he is a lunatic, but a “Messiah” smoking a cigarette does not look good at all – even for a lunatic!
I AM NAPOLEON!
Speaking of lunatics, I’m reminded of a story of an inmate of a mental institution who was lying in bed and repeating the phrase, “I’m Napoleon! I’m Napoleon! I’m Napoleon!”
A man in the bed next to him says, “Who told you that?”
The man claiming to be Napoleon answered, “God did.”
The other man said, “Oh, no I didn’t.”
JESUS’S FAMILY COMES TO TAKE HIM AWAY
In our text today, we read that Jesus’ family traveled from Nazareth down to the Sea of Galilee, to the town of Capernaum, to take Jesus back home with them. What’s going on? What had Jesus done? What had they heard about Him that provoked this family intervention?
Perhaps word had reached them that their family member was claiming he was the Messiah. Perhaps they even heard that Jesus was claiming divinity. They were concerned. Was he having some kind of nervous breakdown?
In fact, Jesus’s was not only in his right mind His mind was absolutely pure, perfect and profound. His utterances were out-of-this world. No one ever spoke like He spoke; no one ever heard anything from anybody ever the way they heard things from Him. Profound, pure, and divine reason.
But of all things, His own family thought He was out of His mind. John chapter 7, verse 5, says they (His siblings) didn’t believe in Him.
You can just imagine what family life was like with a perfect child in the mix. A perfect child would be alienated, ostracized, labeled odd, strange. Because He was perfect – not in the sense of just innocent, but perfect in the sense of being righteous – every comment He ever made would be perfect; every response would be perfect. Every reaction to what anybody did would be perfect. Everything would be exactly the right thing to do and done in the right way, with absolutely the right attitude. That would be a formula for complete alienation from a pile of sinful siblings.
And so, I think the best that could be said was the family probably thought of Him – at least the siblings, not his mother, Mary – as odd. They definitely did not believe in Him, yet.
And now, this very odd child, this precocious child, this child with whom they cannot relate, has gone over the edge. He has lost His mind. He is now declaring Himself to be God. He is now proclaiming that He has supernatural powers. And not only that, He’s going to get Himself killed because He’s upset the powerful religious establishment.
And so, they decide maybe the best thing to do is to rescue Him. To rescue Him before His lunatic conduct costs Him His life.
HE IS DEMON POSSESSED!
But I guess the concession would be that at least they didn’t call Him satanic. Many people did. John 10:20 says many people called Him demonic. They bought into the lie of the Pharisees. There were some, like we saw back in the earlier chapters of Mark, that there were many people who were buying the lie the Pharisees were sowing. According to verse 22 of Mark 3, they were going everywhere repeating this same mantra that Jesus was satanic. “And they came down from Jerusalem saying, ‘He’s possessed by Beelzebul, He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.’”
BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT
Only on this point does Jesus sounds different from the forgiving Jesus we know and says: “… whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
The first thing we have to understand, if we’re going to unpack the meaning of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to understand that the warning comes in the context that we have just examined. Jesus gives this warning when His opponents are charging Him with doing His work in the power of the devil of accusing Jesus of being in league with Satan rather than performing His work in the power of the Holy Ghost.
Notice the difference between this warning here and Jesus’ statement from the cross, when he looks at those who have delivered him into the hands of the Romans, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, those who were there.
Jesus looks at this group who have mocked Him and what does he say? “Father! Forgive them!”
Here’s what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “Father forgive them because they know perfectly well, what they’re doing here.” He says, “Father, forgive them for, they know not what they are doing.”
Also, Jesus says anyone who sins against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but not if you blaspheme against the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12: 32). Why the Holy Ghost is singled out?
Some theologians believe that if, after the Holy Ghost has made it clear to you who Jesus through the power of the Spirit, if you then say that Jesus is the devil – you know perfectly well that He’s not the devil – then you’ve committed the unforgivable sin.
You can connect the dots here yourself and conclude whether followers of religions that deny the divinity of Jesus and deny the Holy Spirit are saved!
Now, to complete the story about His family coming to seize Him, we have to go to the end of the chapter, verse 31.
So, His mother and His brothers arrived and stood outside. They sent word to Him and called Him. And verse 32 says:
“A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’”
Mary, certainly a believer, wants to rescue Him. And in a most interesting reply, verse 33, He answers the crowd who are saying, “Behold, Your mothers and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”
“Answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?
Of course, He knows His family. He knows exactly, from a human standpoint, who His mother is. And He knows exactly who His brothers are. He rejecting them. He is not being unloving towards his mother, Mary.
What He is asking is: “Who really has a genuine relationship with Me?
Verse 34, He answers His own question:
“Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers!’” – all of you who believe in Me – “‘For whoever does the will of God, he’s My brother and sister and mother.’”
The writer of Hebrews (2: 11) tells us that we are Christ’s brothers, and He’s not ashamed to call us brothers.
You know, this is the message of Jesus from the beginning. If you go back to Matthew chapter 7, that great sermon, the first sermon in the New Testament, as He brings it to its great climax in chapter 7 and verse 21, He says:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ is going to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
You want to enter heaven? Not everybody who says, ‘Lord, Lord, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. And the will of My Father who is in heaven is that you believe in the Son, and confess Him as Lord, and obey Him, and submit to Him, and obey His Word.”
Always, in the New Testament, salvation is demonstrated by obedience.
Finally, the good news is that His family abandons their wrong headed assumption that He was crazy and embraced the fact that He was Lord.
James, Jesus’ brother was martyred for the gospel. He was thrown from the top of the Temple in Jerusalem then beaten to death with clubs. Jude, another brother who wrote the epistle, was martyred in Beirut (now Lebanon) in 65 A.D.
“As we come to the end of the service, Lord, we do so with grateful hearts. We thank You for the power of the truth.
And so, we as believers happily stand up, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.
May we demonstrate that confession in a life of obedience to His commands as willing servants, giving Him all the glory, we pray in His name, amen.
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