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Trilemma: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord - Part 4

Tom Pennington • Mark 3:20-35

  • 2015-12-27 AM
  • Sermons


Well, I invite you turn with me again this morning to Mark 3. We've taken a break from our study of Paul's letter to the Romans over the last several weeks to consider the reality of who Jesus is. You've probably heard what was originally written by James Allan Francis; it actually was written in its entirety in a little tiny book that had just these words:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies, went through the mockery of a trial, was nailed to a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying. When He was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. And yet, all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

That's exactly right. It's an amazing thing. An amazing person. And the reason for Jesus' impact on this planet can be traced to the reality of who He was.

That's why the most important question Jesus ever asked His disciples, the most important question you will ever be asked, is this one, as He asked it in Caesarea Philippi, "'Who do you say that I am?'" Who do you say that Jesus is?

Four weeks ago we considered several wrong answers to that question. Wrong answers that circulate especially at Christmas. Last week, sort of, putting a positive spin on that I gave you an outline to follow as we share the gospel in an increasingly pagan culture. And this outline you can, sort of, pick up, depending on where you find the person you're talking to, and the ultimate issue with that person is always, who do they believe Christ is?

It begins at the most basic level. The first point that needs to be made is that Jesus was a real man who lived in the first century. And I gave you two lines of evidence for that, one from outside the Scripture, the other from within the Scripture. First of all, secular and non-Christian sources confirm the existence of Jesus and the key events of His life. They will accuse us, if we use the Bible only, of circular reasoning, it's not, but they will accuse us of it. But even outside the Scripture you can make the case that He was a real person who really lived. I've given you several examples: Josephus, Tacitus the Roman historian, the Jewish Talmud, Pliny the younger. All are claimed to be historically reliable sources, all of whom affirm the existence in the first century of Jesus of Nazareth and the key events of His life.

More importantly, however, is the evidence from within the Scripture. We noted that Jesus intentionally selected 11 eyewitnesses, He had 12 disciples but He knew from the beginning that one of them was not a true believer, was a traitor. So, He selected 11 eyewitnesses to testify about the details of His life. In fact, after the resurrection in Luke 24, He says to them, you have been with Me from the beginning and therefore, "'you are witnesses of these things.'" In fact, just before He left them, in the ascension, in Acts 1:8 we noted He said to them, in a way that's unique to them, "'You will be My witnesses.'" He intentionally selected them to that end.

So, Jesus was a real man who lived in the first century. That cannot be questioned. The second little point in our outline as we lead people to the reality of who Jesus was, is that we have historically dependable accounts of what Jesus did, taught, and claimed. And again, we took one line of evidence from outside the Scripture and the other from within the Scripture.

First of all, we have more manuscripts of the New Testament, 5,700 of them, and more manuscripts that date closer to the originals, when the originals were written, than any other ancient document, period. I mentioned to you we have the Rylands Papyrus, a portion of the Gospel of John, that dates within 25 years of when John wrote his Gospel. Whereas most ancient documents on average, the copies that we have, are separated by 700 to 1,400 years from when the originals were written. By any standard used with ancient documents, we have reliable records of what the apostles first wrote.

But again, more importantly, from within the Scripture we saw that Jesus authorized the apostles to write the New Testament as the definitive explanation of His life and teaching. In the upper room discourse in John 14, again in John 16, He says to them I'm going to send the Spirit. And when the Spirit comes, the Spirit is going to teach you more than I've had a chance to teach you, and He's going to bring to your remembrance all that I taught you. And the purpose for that was so that they could then bear witness and testimony. In fact, in chapter 17 of John, verse 20, Jesus, in the high priestly prayer, alludes to the fact that He expects their word to be the source of others believing.

So Jesus then, authorized the apostles to write the New Testament. The New Testament documents are the authorized version of Jesus' life and of His claims. He pre-authenticated the New Testament for us. Not by giving us a list of the New Testament books, but by identifying the authors.

The third point in our little apologetic outline is, once we've established the fact that Jesus really existed, that we have historically reliable documents of what was written in the first century about Him, then we come to this. In those historically reliable documents Jesus clearly claimed to be God and the savior of the world. And again, there are so many examples we could look at, we looked at two of them in detail. The first being John 8 where Jesus says to His enemies, "'Before Abraham was,'" 2,100 years earlier, "'I am.'" And He uses that classic expression from Exodus 3 of the eternal name of God.

And they understood, His enemies who disagreed with the claim picked up stones to stone Him, in John 8, because they understood He was claiming to be God. Mark 14, Jesus is at the Jewish trial, Caiaphas the high priest puts Jesus under oath. At the trial, as at least a quorum and perhaps most of the members of the Sanhedrin are present, and he puts Jesus under oath and he says, I adjure You, tell us, "'Are You the Christos,'" the Messiah, "'the Son of the blessed one?'" And Jesus said under oath, "'I am.'" There can be no doubt but what Jesus claimed to be God, God the Son.

Now that brings us to item number four in our little list here. And that is, once you understand the claims that Jesus made there are only three possible conclusions to Jesus' claims: He was either a lunatic or He was a liar or He was the Lord He claimed to be. I noted for us that C.S. Lewis popularized this final argument, often called the trilemma, in his book Mere Christianity, but it wasn't original with C.S. Lewis. The first time this argument really appears is in the mid 50's of the first century in Mark's Gospel, here in Mark 3.

Let me read for you again this amazing account of one day in the life of our, Lord. Mark 3, I'll begin reading in verse 20.

And Jesus came home, [that is, back into Capernaum, into a house there] and the crowd gathered again to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses." The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons." And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

In those three scenes that we've just read together we are confronted with the only three alternatives when it comes to Jesus' extraordinary claims to be God. Option one is that His claims were false and He knew they were false. In this case, Jesus was a hypocrite and He was a liar, an unspeakably evil man who was lying knowing He was lying. The second option is that His claims were false and He didn't know they were false. Obviously, in this case, He was sincere in His claims to be God but He was deluded, He was crazy. The only other possibility is that His claims were true and He is the Lord of glory, He is God incarnate. You see, in this section, as Mark writes his Gospel, he intends that every person who reads this record, that we've just read together, be forced to make a choice of what to do with Jesus and His remarkable claims.

First of all, you could conclude with Jesus' brothers that Jesus was, in fact, a deluded lunatic. We looked at this passage together several weeks ago, verse 21, "when His own people heard of this," that is, His brothers, we find out in verse 31, "they went out to take custody of Him," literally, to arrest Him, to grab Him by force, and force Him back to Nazareth, "for they were saying, 'He has lost His senses.'" He's crazy. He's delusional. Until after the resurrection Jesus' brothers, we looked at them, we were introduced to the four of them by name in Mark 6, they came to this conclusion about Jesus' claims, He's out of His mind. He's nuts. You know, the world is filled with people who are troubled. And I've actually encountered, I've had a discussion with someone who claimed to be God. He ended up shooting his roommate and killing himself. There are plenty of people who are just nuts, who think they're God. Maybe that was true of Christ. That's an alternative.

A second alternative to conclude is that Jesus was a demonic liar. He wasn't a lunatic. He wasn't a nut. He was a demonic liar. You see this in verses 22 to 30. We looked at this last week in detail. Jesus' enemies, the religious leaders, embrace this option. You remember, a group of influential scribes, those who copied and taught the Law of God in Israel, were sent from Jerusalem to Galilee to spy on Jesus and the disciples. And they were there, in the house or just outside, where Jesus was teaching in Capernaum. And after Jesus healed a man who was demon possessed, the people, who were as of yet unconvinced, there were people there who weren't Jesus' disciples, who were just curious, who were swept along by the crowd. When they saw this miracle, Matthew tells us they said, "'Is it possible this is the Messiah?'"

The leaders from Jerusalem simply couldn't let that idea stand. At the same time, they couldn't deny that a genuine miracle had taken place. So they're left with only two options, either accept Jesus' claims or accuse Him of collusion with the only other being in the universe powerful enough to pull this off, Satan, which is exactly what they did.

Notice verse 22, they made two explicit accusations against Jesus. One, He is possessed by Beelzebul, name for Satan, as we saw in the context. In other words, Jesus is inhabited by, controlled by, under the domination of, Satan himself. The second accusation in verse 22 is, "'He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.'" Now understand that in saying this about Jesus, they were saying several things. First of all, they were saying, listen, Jesus is not the deeply spiritual man He appears to be. He is, in fact, a hypocrite. They were also saying, He is in league with Satan; that has to mean He is unspeakably evil. He has aligned Himself with Satan to accomplish His own selfish agenda. He is unspeakably evil and, moreover, He knows that His claims to be God aren't true. That means He's a liar as well. That's what they were accusing Jesus of. He is a hypocrite. He is unspeakably evil and He's a liar.

So far then, we've seen only two responses to Jesus' claims. He was a delusional lunatic, ought to be locked up for His own good, or He was a demonically inspired liar. But if those things are not true, if He was not a lunatic, and if He was not a liar, there is only one other option, He is the divine Lord. This third option surfaces in verses 31 to 35 when Jesus' family arrived later that same day. I want to look at this with us together this morning, verses 31 to 35.

Notice, first of all, in the first couple of verses, the unusual circumstances, sort of, played out here. Remember, as we saw, this event is part of one very long day in Jesus' earthly ministry. Early that same morning Jesus' family, in Nazareth, had concluded, we've got to go to Capernaum and we've got to take Him, by force, back to Nazareth. We've got to control His outrageous and embarrassing behavior. From Nazareth to Capernaum is about 20 miles, about five hours' brisk walk for those who are accustomed to walking as transportation. So likely, late that same morning, while Jesus is still teaching, they arrived in Capernaum.

Notice verse 31, "Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and were standing outside." So understand then, this text happened after the confrontation with the Pharisees in verses 22 to 30. Back in verses 20 and 21, the family decides, the brothers say, we've got to go to Capernaum and deal with this. We've got to bring Him back to Nazareth. Then Jesus continues teaching there in Capernaum, the encounter with the Pharisees takes place, verse 31, "Then," sometime late that morning the family arrives.

Matthew describes it this way in his, in the parallel account in Matthew 12:46, "While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him." My father-in-law, who taught theology for 50 years, is now with the Lord, he used to say, when you read the Scriptures, read it with a sanctified imagination. Put yourself back for a moment and imagine the scene. You can imagine what this is like. Jesus was at this point either standing or, likely standing, possibly sitting, inside this house and the crowd is all around Him. In fact, the crowd is so tight around Him that not one more person can squeeze into this house.

First century houses were smaller that our homes and often had a little courtyard area. Everybody's crowded around, perhaps if it's a nicer home they're in the upstairs looking down on to that central open area. So there's this huge crowd that's gathered around Christ and they're seated in, sort of, concentric circles around Jesus. First of all, there were the 12 that He had chosen, His apostles, and then there were many other disciples, it becomes clear from the parallel passages, that were there as well, true followers of Jesus. There was the entourage of the scribes from Jerusalem. In addition, on the fringes, were those who were not yet convinced, who were swayed by this miracle that Jesus performed to think maybe He could be the Messiah.

So there's this crush of people and Jesus is likely standing in the middle with, sort of, 360-degree audience all around Him. Mary and Jesus' brothers simply cannot get to Him. So, they pass word along. You can see how this would happen. Jesus is still teaching in this scene and everyone's listening to Him that's seated there in the house and word starts at the back of the house and begins to slowly, person by person, make its way forward. There are these whispers that, sort of, circulate through the crowd as it gets closer to Jesus. Verse 31, "they sent word to Him and called Him." As Jesus continued to teach, the message was passed from person to person until finally word gets to Jesus. Verse 32, "A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, 'Behold Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.'" Luke says, simply, "It was reported to Jesus." Matthew says, "Someone told Him." And Mark simply says, "." All of those are true. You can see how, in one sense, the entire crowd is responsible for getting the word from the back up to Jesus. Eventually, someone near the front gets Jesus' attention and says, Your family's outside looking for You.

Now, what happens next is Jesus' shocking response. Jesus first asked a question, verse 33, "Answering them, He said, 'Who are My mother and My brothers?'" Now obviously, Jesus understood at a basic level that His family, His four brothers, His mother, were outside trying to get His attention. But He asked this sort of rhetorical question to get the crowd, to get His disciples thinking. And then He makes this shocking statement, verse 34, "Looking about at those who were sitting around Him." The Greek text here is very expressive. Jesus, sort of, does a 360 of sorts and turns around and looks at all of the people that are packed in tight around Him. And Matthew adds, "stretching out His hand toward His disciples." So He's looking around and He's motioning with His hands of all the disciples that are gathered around Him. And verse 34, "He said, 'Behold My mother and My brothers!'"

This is one of Jesus' hard sayings. In fact, a famous skeptic of Christianity used this saying to accuse Jesus "of trampling underfoot everything that is human, love and blood and country." And it is true that Jesus' statement here would have been absolutely shocking to that first century Jewish way of thinking because they were very family oriented. Family was your highest priority. In fact, you can see that even in the way that this family's request makes its way through the crowd. That implies, Jesus whatever else You may be doing, including teaching this large crowd, You need to stop because Your family's here. That was the mindset in the first century.

But Jesus used the interruption to make a profound point, a point the New Testament makes often. Listen carefully, think about this, Jesus considers His true followers to be His family. Not just here, but in a number of places in the New Testament. For example, in Matthew 25:40, He's describing Himself as the ultimate judge and king, "'The King will answer and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."'" Matthew 28:10, Jesus after the resurrection says, "'Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brothers to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.'" My brothers. He meant His followers. Romans 8:29, "For those whom God foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that His Son would be the first born among many brethren." Hebrews 2:11-12 says, "He is not ashamed to call those who are His followers, brothers, saying, 'I will proclaim Your name to My brethren.'" Think about that for a moment. Jesus says, those who really follow Me, they're My brothers, My sisters, My mother.

Jesus then explains the reason behind this shocking statement that He made. Notice verse 35, "'For,'" because, here's why I say this, "'whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.'" What does Jesus mean, "'whoever does the will of God'"? Well, we get a little explanation from Luke's account. Luke 8:21 says this, "He answered and said to them, 'My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.'" That's doing the will of God. It's hearing the Word of God and doing it. Notice, Jesus defines all true Christians as those who are His disciples and who do the will of God. It doesn't matter what your race, ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, academic credentials, if you do the will of God, you're a Christian and you belong to Him as family.

Now, the question here is, is Jesus teaching that we are made right with God by our works, by something we do? Absolutely not. That runs contrary to the rest of the New Testament, what we're studying in Romans, and what Jesus Himself taught. Obedience to the Word of God doesn't save us; it proves the reality that we have been saved. But what is the will of God, that obeying, marks me as a true Christian? There are several points we could make about that. Doing the will of God, first of all, is becoming a disciple of Jesus. It's placing your faith in Him. Repenting of your sins and believing in Him. Because Jesus says, in this very context, as He points at His disciples, these are My mother, brother, and sisters, "'For he who does the will of God is my mother, brother, or sister.'" So, part of doing the will of God is faith in Christ.

We could secondly say that, doing the will of God also includes true obedience to the commands of the gospel. The gospel is an invitation, but the gospel is also a command. The gospel is an announcement, but the gospel is a command. In Mark 1:14-15 Jesus says, "'repent and believe the gospel.'" Doing the will of God means repenting and believing in the good news that comes through Jesus Christ in His death and in His resurrection. We could add that doing the will of God also includes doing the rest of what Jesus taught. In Luke 6:46 He says, "'Why do you call Me, "Lord, Lord," and do not do what I say?'" That doesn't make any sense. And finally, we could say that doing the will of God means doing whatever the Scriptures teach. Again, listen to Luke 8:21, "'My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.'" That's doing the will of God.

What I want you to note is that here in this third paragraph, in this larger section, we see the third conclusion that you can draw about Jesus. And we see it in the disciples that are sitting around Jesus feet. You see, the disciples gathered around Jesus that day, they did not agree with Jesus' brothers. They didn't think He was a deluded lunatic. They didn't agree with the assessment of the scribes and Pharisees that He was a demonic liar. Instead, they had been led by the work of the Spirit to the third conclusion, they embraced Jesus for all that He claimed to be. They believed that He was the divine Lord.

We're not told what happened next in the story, I would love to know that. What we do know is that they left without Jesus, they went back to Nazareth empty handed. Undoubtedly, they also, as unbelievers, went away angry, offended that Jesus had treated them this way. It wasn't until after the resurrection that they came to believe in Him. But, they did come to believe in Him.

What a remarkable scene. There are several serious implications from this brief passage for us this morning, as we celebrate this Christmas season together, several serious implications. First of all, this reminds us that there are only three possible responses to Jesus' claims to be God. The same three choices people made on that day in Palestine. Jesus is either a deluded lunatic, a demonic liar, or the divine Lord. What I want you to see this morning is there is no middle ground. You see, there are always people who think there is. There are always people who think they can have it both ways. They think they can acknowledge Jesus' remarkable character and teaching without embracing all of His claims. But that's just not possible. That is not logically possible.

C.S. Lewis, Professor of English Literature at Oxford, Oxford in Cambridge, pointed this out in his book Mere Christianity. He was, for many years, an agnostic, came to faith in Christ. Listen to what he wrote,

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he's a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

So which of those three possible responses, that we see here in Mark's Gospel, do you believe? Have you concluded that Jesus was an unspeakably evil man, a hypocrite, a liar? Or have you decided no, I think Jesus was nuts, I think He was crazy, out of His mind, delusional? Or have you examined the claims of Jesus Christ and concluded that He is everything that He claims, that He is Lord?

I suspect that most of us gathered here this morning to celebrate Christmas believe that He was, in fact, the divine Lord. But what I want to tell you is, that is not enough. It's not enough. Even if you've decided that Jesus is everything He claimed, that's not enough to save you. You see, even if you are intellectually convinced of this third option, that Jesus is Lord, there are still three possible responses to Jesus as Lord.

One, you can confess Jesus as your Lord and truly follow Him. You can, like this crowd of disciples, sit at Jesus' feet and listen to Him, and then intentionally try to carry out what you learn from Him in the Word, in your life. If that's the pattern of your life, if you find yourself consistently sitting at the feet of Jesus, that is, sitting at the feet of His words, recorded for us in the Scripture, and then trying to do those things and follow Him in your life, that displays genuine faith, genuine repentance and faith, you're a true Christian.

A second option is you can confess Jesus as your Lord, but then not live in obedience to Him. There are lots of people who do this. They grow up in Christian homes or in the Bible Belt South and they make some childhood profession. They get baptized and they live their entire life as a pagan, never sitting at Jesus' feet, never listening to His words and trying to carry out what He commands, and still claim to be a Christian. Listen, if that's true of you, you are not a Christian. No matter what profession you may have made. No matter what you may have written in the front of your Bible. No matter what aisle you may have walked. You are not a follower of Jesus Christ. His followers sit at His feet and listen to His Word. They hear the words of God and do them.

Luke 6:46, "'Why do you call me "Lord, Lord," and do not do what I say?'" In Matthew 7:21 and following, Jesus says,

"in that day [that is, the final day of judgment] many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, we know you, we followed you, we profess you.' And I will say to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me you who work lawlessness.'"

There's the issue. You professed Christ, but you don't do what He says.

There's a third option and that is to continue to rebel against Jesus' authority. You can believe He's Lord and continue to refuse to commit to Him. There are many people who believe that Jesus is God, I suspect there are a number here this morning, and yet, who have not yet confessed Him as their Lord. They've not yet begun to follow Him. And they think, maybe you think, I'm neutral. Listen, there is no Switzerland in the spiritual world. There is no neutral position. You cannot be neutral when it comes to Jesus Christ.

In fact, in the parallel passage, on that very same morning when Jesus had these things happen to Him, He made this statement, this is Matthew 12:30, "'He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.'" That's a remarkable statement. Jesus uses two metaphors. The first metaphor, a military metaphor. You're either with Me or against Me. He said, look, this is a war and you're either on My side or you're on the other side. Again, there is no Switzerland. So, this morning as you sit here, you're either with Jesus or you're against Him.

And then He uses an agricultural metaphor. He says, you're either gathering with Me, in other words, you're either helping Me accomplish My mission in the world, or you're fighting against Me. You may feel this morning, as you sit here, because you believe Jesus is who He claimed but you haven't yet trusted Him, you may feel like you're, kind of, in a neutral position. Jesus says, that's just not true. You're either with Me or you're against Me. That's how Jesus sees it this morning.

Broadus, John Broadus, writes this, "In this great and deadly struggle there can be no neutrality. No man can be friends with both sides, nor be indifferent to both. It is probable that many of those present were thinking that they would not take sides between Jesus and the Pharisees. Men often fancy that they are by no means opposing Christ's service though they are not engaged in it. This is impossible. If we are not yielding Christ our whole heart, we are really yielding him nothing. Professed neutrality may even be more offensive to him."

Having some connection to Jesus, even being physically related to Jesus, as obviously His brothers were, is no substitute for being His true followers. James Edwards writes, "Those who assume that they are close to Jesus should think again. There is no proxy membership in God's kingdom. If those around Jesus, even the holy family, are placed under question, then Mark places under question all who grow up amid the trappings of Christianity, whether through baptism, Christian homes, confirmation, church attendance, or charitable giving. Anyone can be an insider who sits at Jesus' feet and does the will of His Father, and no one can be an insider who does not."

There's a third implication from this passage. For every Christian, our primary relationships are spiritual relationships. In this statement Jesus didn't mean that we should sever our family relationships or we should treat them as unimportant. He's the one who commanded us to love our family members and even to care for our parents in their old age. He took care of Mary as He hung up on the cross dying. He made a point to look up His brothers after the resurrection. Jesus' point, however, is that our relationship to Him and to His people must take priority, even over our relationship with our earthly families.

Your greatest relational priority is Jesus Christ, if you're His follower. And your second greatest relational priority are His other disciples. Of course, the closest are those followers of Christ who are, at the same time, members of our earthly human families. They're the closest to us. Maybe you're the only believer in your family, I know that's true for a number in our church, maybe you're the only Christian. Look around you. These are your mother and brothers and sisters in the same way that it was true for Jesus that morning. This is your family.

Number four, I love this, like the disciples gathered around Jesus that morning, we too are closer to Him than His earthly family was. When Jesus thinks of us, He thinks of us as His brothers and His sisters and His mothers, because we have not only concluded that Jesus is Lord, but we are also following Him day after day as Lord. And in so doing we've shown the reality of our faith. And He thinks of us as His own family. You are part of Jesus' family. He's your older brother. That's how He thinks of it. That's how you should think of it as well. He is Lord. You remember the announcement of the angel in Luke 2:11, "today, in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for recording the events of that long day in the life of our Lord, for showing, with such clarity, the choices that lie before us. Father, for those of us who are in Christ, I pray that You would strengthen our faith as a result of this study we've had together. Also, equip us to share the gospel with others, to make the issue about Christ. Father, I pray that You would open our mouths and give us courage to share the truth of who He is with the people around us, particularly in this season and throughout the year.

Father, help us to live adoring Him, praising Him, glorifying Him, sitting at His feet, sitting at the feet of His Word, learning and listening and doing. Father, encourage us with the reality that He is our brother and that we are family.

Lord, I pray for those here this morning who are not in Christ. Lord, some of whom know they are not, they think of themselves as being somewhat neutral. Lord, strip that excuse away, help them to see the reality of our Lord's words, that this morning they are either with Him or against Him. And may they run in humility to Christ, confess their sin and find forgiveness through His work on the cross.

Father, for those who may be here this morning who have made some profession, perhaps a childhood profession of faith confessing Jesus as Lord, but they have lived ignoring Him and the demands that He makes on their life. Lord, help them to see the emptiness of that profession. Help them to see how that will truly go at the judgment. And even in this season when we celebrate His birth, may they come to embrace Christ truly as Lord. Father, do your work, by Your Spirit and Your Word. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.