From 2015 to 2018 I preached a series on the Mennonite confession of faith. I preached this message in 2015 on the 2nd article. Please reference the confession link to read article 2.
We are often given images that seem to contradict each other. When you think of “Lamb of God” do you also think of “Jesus is Lord”?
Jesus is Lord: A simple and profound statement. It is easy to say, but what does it mean to take this simple statement seriously? What does it mean to live “Jesus is Lord”?
I will be looking at our confession of faith, article 2, titled “Jesus Christ”.
All of Christianity hinges on who Jesus is. When you consider the major Christian denominations we tend to have the same fundamental understanding of Jesus. There are some denominations which claim to be Christian and differ, but they are normally not considered Christian by the major denominations.
Most of the differences between Christian denominations is with the interpretation of Jesus’ teachings and how we practice our faith, not Jesus himself.
The purpose of the confession of faith is to remind us of what we believe and to explain to those outside our church what we believe. The essence of Article 2 in our confession confirms that we are a legitimate Christian denomination. Who we believe Jesus is, is consistent with the major Christian denominations.
While Jesus walked on earth with his disciples, he was the center of controversy. Things haven’t changed since he died and rose again. While the things that Jesus taught are challenging, it is who Jesus is that is the most controversial, something that we sometimes forget, especially if you grew up in the church.
At this point in the message, I read article 2.
The Word become flesh
The primary goal of Article 2 in our confession of faith is to emphasize the centrality of Jesus to our faith.
For ages past, prophets were given a message which they wrote down, typically on scrolls, or passed on by memory to the next generation. These words are a reflection or echo of the words God spoke. Imagine someone giving you a transcript of a concert of your favorite band and saying to you, enjoy the concert.
Jesus is the fullness of God, his Word become flesh. You don’t need to interpret the written scriptures anymore, you can see THE WORD, in action. The truth of life living out in front of you. All of scripture paled in comparison to the living Word. It isn’t Jesus’ teachings that form the foundation of our faith, it’s Jesus, the person, that forms the foundation of our faith. We are not saved by wise words, or prayer, or reading the Bible, or church attendance, we are saved by Jesus.
Fully human, fully divine
Before Jesus began his ministry, he was baptized by John in the Jordan river. His baptism is the reality of the meeting of the human and divine.
This is a quote from the confession of faith: “As fully human and tempted as we are, yet without sin, he is the model human being”
The purpose of Jesus’ coming as fully human was to set an example for us to follow. We are shown that it is possible to live without sin. From the beginning in creation, humanity patterned the life of sin that began with Adam and Eve. After Jesus entered the world, we have a new pattern to follow, one without sin.
Jesus’ mission, to save the world, to be the lamb of God, is a task we do not need to fulfill anymore. It’s a task only Jesus could accomplish. Jesus completed that task, but if this was the only work that needed to be done then we wouldn’t be needed on earth anymore. We believe that Jesus gave a pattern for us to continue his work.
Mennonites have emphasized that all of Jesus’ teachings, no matter how difficult to live out, are teachings that we are expected to obey. For example, Jesus, our Lord, commands us to Love our enemies, and to us, this means that we should show love to our enemies, not ignore them or hurt them. We see Jesus living this out in his life too, for example, he healed one of the soldiers that came to arrest him.
Jesus made it clear, being a Christian isn’t for everyone, for some the message is too difficult.
Jesus is hard to follow
Stephen was a young Christian when he was stoned for his faith in Jesus. Most early Christians didn’t need a reminder of the risk you had to live with if you became a Christian.
Jesus didn’t make following him easy. His teachings are difficult. On one occasion, a group of his followers said that his teaching went too far and many stopped following him. Jesus made two things clear to his disciples: Life would be hard, but they would have treasures in heaven.
As a young person growing up in the church, I never got the impression that the Christian life was hard. Only when I read scripture did I realize that what Jesus did and said offended a lot of people and made them angry and that the disciples were often criticized and many were later killed. I wonder what would be different if I was confronted with the following statement before I got baptized:
“Well, Wes, we’re glad that you are considering baptism and committing your life to follow Jesus, but we just want to be clear about a few things. If you want an easy life with earthly riches then you don’t want Jesus, because following Jesus is hard and while you get a lot, you have to give up a lot. But we are glad, because the easy life and earthly riches, while it looks good, it isn’t real living and in the end, you’re only cheated out of life. Think about this choice, we think it’s good, but it isn’t easy.”
Also, it can’t be emphasized enough, there is no Lord and Master like Jesus. No other Lord would stoop down as far as he has done to save us. What kind of Master washes his follower’s feet? What kind of Lord gives his life for his people? This is the Lord that we submit our lives to. And even when life is hard, Jesus bears the weight of our troubles while we follow his lead.
Jesus is Lord!
Before his death on the cross, Jesus entered Jerusalem like a King and people rejoiced at his coming. Less than a week later, the city rejected him.
Our confession is quite clear about Jesus’ Lordship and how central this is to our faith and practice. If Jesus is your Lord, then you have to surrender your life to him and you need to submit to his lordship over your life.
The theme of “Jesus is Lord” might make you think of the classic hymn titled “I surrender All”. Sometimes, Millie and I would change the words to be more truthful and sing “I surrender Some” or “I surrender Most”. The hymn, as it is written, is the ideal, but often not the truth. We are reluctant to give up all of our individual freedoms. I am reluctant to surrender all and I haven’t surrendered everything.
When I became a follower of Jesus, I didn’t know what it meant to surrender my life to him. I do not regret my commitment, but I do realize I haven’t fulfilled my commitment yet. Jesus is still changing me.
I want to leave you with two questions: (1) What is the most difficult thing about Jesus for you to accept. If you can’t think of anything, then try imagining how you would answer the question if you grew up never going to church? (2) What does it mean when we say “Jesus is Lord”?