Who Is Jesus?

Published 8:00 am Saturday, January 15, 2022

2022 is off to a rough start. Sunday was warm and beautiful, but Monday brought a massive winter storm to our area dropping 10 to 14 inches of wet heavy snow, knocking down trees, severing power lines, leaving us without electricity, without heat… without coffee! On Interstate 95 near my house, stalled traffic became a catastrophe as thousands of motorists were stranded, some for as long as 27 or 28 hours. An everyday road trip turned into a struggle for survival.

And I’ve said nothing about the rapid spread of the COVID variant, “Omicron” and I haven’t mentioned the one year remembrance of what happened on January 6.

What a week! If this is typical of 2022, we are in for a rough ride. We need a word of encouragement but instead, I am studying Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Maybe I need to change my topic? Then as the week progressed, I asked questions:

Suppose I didn’t know Jesus. How could he offer encouragement and hope as we struggle with the effects of a pandemic, a snowstorm, no power and other issues? Why should I listen? What would make me believe? Why would I follow Him? How could Jesus convince me he was more than just a smooth-talking preacher? Could Jesus really be the Son of God? How would I know?

The fourth chapter of Luke provides a lot of answers. I discovered why Jesus is more than a smooth talker and why that matters. I rediscovered the Jesus who provides calm during a snowstorm and hope when everything looks hopeless. That’s the Jesus I want to share with you.

In the first part of Luke Chapter 4, Jesus goes to the wilderness, where he fasts and is tempted by the devil for 40 long agonizing days. We forget Jesus is human. He faces problems and difficulties. In addition to dealing with hunger, Satan tempts him with three attractive possibilities.

1. “Turn this stone to bread.” Immediate gratification looks good at first, but Jesus teaches and models the importance of staying focused on what is most important.

2. “I will give you everything.” Early in my ministry I was occasionally offered other job opportunities but to accept them would mean giving up what I was called to do.

3. “Jump off this ledge. God will protect you.” Jesus knew his ministry led toward a cross, but Satan offered an easier way. Jesus said: “You must not test God.”

Lesson one: Jesus withstanding temptations. Do we “test” the Lord our God or do we “trust?” Faith is being able to trust. It is this trust that will ultimately see us through.

Next in Chapter 4, Jesus teaches at his hometown. They want to hear what this man who grew up in their neighborhood, played in their streets, studied in their schools, had become? Jesus reads from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor, proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Lesson two: Jesus is anointed by God. He brings hope for the poor, offers release from what is holding us back, vision for the blind, freedom for the oppressed. God’s time has come.

The last part of Chapter 4 shows Jesus healing someone, then he heals Simon’s mother-in-law. Word spreads and they bring more people to be healed. The community begs Jesus not to leave but Chapter 4 ends with Jesus saying: “I must preach the “Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns too, because that is why I was sent.”

Lesson three: Jesus brings healing, not just for me but for everyone.

1. Jesus’ faces temptations and provides guidance and encouragement.

2. God’s Spirit is upon Jesus bringing “Good News.” Are we listening?

3. Jesus offers healing not just for us, but for everyone, worldwide.

So, how does Jesus offer encouragement and hope when we are struggling with the effects of a pandemic, a snowstorm, no power and other issues?

We know Jesus faced difficulties and not only survived but accomplished miracles. God’s Spirit is upon Jesus as he brings hope. Jesus provides healing from suffering. He is sent by God to bring this same message of hope and encouragement to everyone.

Why should I listen? What would make me believe? Why would I follow Him? How could Jesus convince me he was more than just a smooth-talking preacher? Could Jesus really be the Son of God? How would I know?

Those are hard and personal questions. So, I ask: Do we “test” the Lord our God or do we “trust?” Faith is ultimately about trust. It is this trust that will see us through.

Jesus faced storms but God’s Spirit was upon Him. Jesus offers healing and brings a message of hope and encouragement to see us through difficult weeks, challenging years and provide meaning to our existence.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.