Who is Jesus Sermon – January 12, 2020


“Who is Jesus?” Matthew 3:13-17

“I want it simple and straightforward.” – Who is Jesus – Exactly?


In Matthew 16:13, our Lord asked the most important question ever posed. “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” What do world religions say?

“Jews believe Jesus was Mary’s son, was a teacher (Rabbi), had many disciples, was respected, performed miracles, claimed to be the Messiah and was crucified on the cross. They also acknowledge His followers reported Jesus was raised from the dead. Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin, is to be revered and respected, was a prophet, a wise teacher who worked miracles, ascended to heaven, and will come again. Ahmadiyya Muslims believe Jesus may have been born of a virgin, was a prophet and wise teacher, worked miracles, and was crucified on a cross. Bahá’í believe Jesus came from God, was a wise teacher who had a divine and human nature, worked miracles, and was crucified and resurrected as an atonement for humanity. Hindus believe Jesus was a holy man, a wise teacher, and is a ‘god’. Buddhists believe Jesus was an enlightened man and a wise teacher. New Age believers maintain Jesus was a wise moral teacher.”[1] All major religions speak of Him.

Why? Christmas changed everything. The Cross must be accounted for somehow. The empty tomb, though, is the real issue. World religions have to deal with Jesus. New Agers call Him a wise moral teacher and ignore His preaching of the Kingdom. Muslims say He’s coming back, sure, but when He does He’ll be a Muslim – a defender of Islam! It runs from the serious to almost silly in an attempt to reference Him without accepting Him.

In every case, they do not take Jesus at His Word. They don’t accept what it is He says about Himself or the things He affirms that others say. The Baptism of Jesus was the public announcement that Jesus is divine. The Holy Spirit descended and the Father spoke over the Second person of the Trinity.

CIS: If Jesus is not all that He claims to be, He is a fraud or a fool. His is neither.


Who does Jesus say He is?

John’s Gospel is organized in sets of sevens. Among those sets are the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus. In our text the Holy Spirit and the Father publicly demonstrate the nature of Jesus. He is one of us! In Mathew 16 Jesus asked the disciples who people said He was. The crowds said maybe He was a new prophet or Jerimiah or Elijah. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said, “This was revealed by the Father.”

In the Old Testament, God revealed His name to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). In Judaism, “I AM” is unquestionably understood as a name for God. Whenever Jesus made an “I am” statement in which He claimed attributes of deity, He was identifying Himself as God.”[2] This was obvious to His audience.

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51). In this chapter, Jesus establishes a pattern that continues through John’s gospel—Jesus makes a statement about who He is, and He backs it up with something He does.

The evidence for Christ is astounding!
The manna came directly from God. There was only one source!

In this case, Jesus states that He is the bread of life just after He had fed the 5,000 in the wilderness. At the same time, He contrasts what He can do with what Moses had done for their ancestors: “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die” (verses 49–50).

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). This second of Jesus’ “I am” statements in John’s gospel comes right before He heals a man born blind. Jesus not only says He is the light; He proves it. Jesus’ words and actions echo Genesis 1:3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

“I am the door” (John 10:7, 9). This “I am” statement stresses that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven by any other means than Christ Himself. What does this say of our Muslim or Atheist neighbors? It says the same thing because faith is not the instrument of salvation. Christ is. Do you see?

It is good to be a good neighbor to whomever we live near. Kindness. Friendship. Helping with the trash can. Also, when God opens the door, sharing Jesus.

[Casual Creeping Universalism “vs” Stone Cold Fundamentalism]

We must share Christ in action and directly and or support those who do!

Christ to the Nations is our call!
Because of who He IS!
Liars, beggars, and false teachers come in on smiles and prosperity promises. Christ makes sense of the madness, offering hope!

“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). With this “I am” statement, Jesus portrays His great love and care. He is the One who willingly protects His flock even to the point of death (verses 11 and 15). When Jesus called Himself the good shepherd, He unmistakably took for Himself one of God’s titles in the Old Testament: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).

Christ, not good intentions, is the only remedy for sin.

“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Jesus made this “I am” statement immediately before raising Lazarus from the dead. Again, we see that Jesus’ teaching was not just empty talk; when He made a claim, He substantiated it with action. He holds “the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18, NLT). In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus showed how He can fulfill Yahweh’s promise to ancient Israel: “[God’s] dead shall live; their bodies shall rise” (Isaiah 26:19, ESV). Apart from Jesus, there is neither resurrection nor eternal life.

“I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). This powerful “I am” statement of Christ’s is packed with meaning. Jesus is not merely one way among many ways to God; He is the only way. Scripture said that “The very essence of [God’s] words is truth” (Psalm 119:160, NLT), and here is Jesus proclaiming that He is the truth—confirming His identity as the Word of God (see John 1:1, 14). And Jesus alone is the source of life; He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life and the Giver of eternal life.

“I am the true vine” (John 15:1, 5). The final metaphorical “I am” statement in the Gospel of John emphasizes the sustaining power of Christ. We are the branches, and He is the vine. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is joined in vital union with the vine, only those who are joined to Christ and receive their power from Him produce fruit in the Christian life!


Why was Jesus baptized by John? Jesus was affirming the baptism of John  and renouncing, not sin, but life at home. He was announcing, along with the announcement of His nature by the Holy Sprit and the Father, He was announcing that He was done with His season of ordinary identification with man through His life in Nazareth. He was bravely embarking on His mission.

Jesus took baptism to identify with us in preparation for taking our sin at the Cross. He is our sin bearer, the spotless lamb. His blood atones for sin! Jesus began His journey to the Cross that day in the river Jordan. Who is Jesus?

Who do you say Jesus is? There is the initial faith proclamation. That is a different path for people. There is the path of the prodigal. (My path) There is the path of the other brother. (Raised in church) Regardless of how we arrived at faith in Christ, now that we are here, who do we say Jesus is?

  1. Romans 1:20-21, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
  2. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”
  3. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  4. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  5. Romans 10:9-10, ““That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
  6. Romans 10:13, “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
  7. Romans 11:36, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”

Who do you say Jesus is? That is the only question that really matters. The Chrsitian life has nothing to do with being a “good person.” It has to do with being just as imperfect as everybody else is but with a great savior! Amen.

[1] https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/who-is-jesus-according-to-other-religions/

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/seven-I-AM-statements.html. (Source for Exposition Outline)

Heritage and New Beginnings!

Thank you to everyone who went out to celebrate though 175th anniversary of First Congregational Church of Detroit last month. You are a few photos I took at First.

Mount Hope began as a Mission of First. We began as the Mount Hope Avenue mission at what is now 25th Street at Michigan Avenue. So much has happened since! this new year in 2020, learn from your heritage and move forward with the leading of the Holy Spirit in new ways to glorify God!

It doesn’t take a great group of people to start something great! It just takes a willingness to start!
One of my heroes of the faith oh, and brilliant and articulate Congregational preacher, Gaius Glenn Atkins. His book, “The Goword side of life,” is a masterful collection of sermons that inspire me regularly!
First Congregational Church of Detroit is perhaps the most beautiful and ornate of all Congregation of churches in America.
A real privilege to preach a short message on the same platform where so many have stood and declare God’s Word.

Christmas Services @Mt. Hope Church!

Join us Friday December 20th @ 7 p.m. for Blue Christmas. This is a healing service, a safe space to worship Christmastime when you aren’t finding joy so easy to find…

Join us Sunday December 22nd for the final Sunday of Advent at our normal time of 10:30 a.m.

Join us Tuesday December 24th @ 7 p.m. or 11 p.m. for a traditional Christmas Eve Candle Light Service. You are welcome!

– Pastor Chris

No Hate

Among the things I love about Detroit is Mexican Town. I’m a California native and spent much of my life living in the Southwest. On a recent family outing for tasty culinary delights, I stopped to allow the kids take a few photos of some beautiful wall art in that area. While they took their selfies, I captured an image of the most beautiful little flower springing forth from a little clay pot. The words, “No Hate,” are painted over it.

Graffiti, Mexican Town Detroit

It’s difficult to know what was in the mind of any artist as they practice their craft. That is part of the beauty of all art. It leaves us with the work of interpretation. I am imagining the flower as the burgeoning faith of a lost and weary soul wondering in this world. Having had the courage to peak out of the safety of the seed, the little flower of faith felt the warmth of sunlight and it made her grow.

The flower of faith has not grown that tall yet. Her roots are just beginning the fill the clay pot. One day she will be too big for the comfort of her clay jar. To continue to grow she’ll need the nutrients of the open ground and the room to send her root tips out into the soil searching for new territory to explore. The artist knows there is just one thing that can crush the precious little flower of faith before it is fully cultivated; before faith is strong enough to survive the cold winters of this world.

The painter that painted young’s faith’s portrait as a flourishing flower hurries to warn faith and all who gaze upon her portrait. NO HATE. Hate kills faith. Hate mocks faith’s founder and her founder’s purpose in the world. In I John 4:20 the Bible says, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” The only thing worth hating in this world is hate itself. Hate, pure hate, is the only darkness in this world that has no hope of learning from the light. Hate is a poison that too often infects faith and kills her flourishing flower of beauty before she has a chance to shine her beauty in the world.

I don’t know if this was the interpretation I was supposed to find in the art, but it is the application I am making in my life and in the world. The best nutrition for faith is love. Love begins and ends with forgetting oneself. If we want our faith to grow and if we want to be an instrument of fostering faith in others, the only hate we can carry into the field of faith is hatred for hate. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:8, ESV) No Hate.

Mt. Hope Avenue Mission

Last night I was up late doing what I love to do most, dive into a dusty old book! This particular book is a late 19th century robust history of Detroit and Michigan. Wouldn’t you know it, Mt. Hope was and is counted worthy to be mentioned on a short list of important congregational ministries in Detroit. This book was published in 1884. Notice Mount Hope on the right side of the third image in this post.

image 1

Notice what it says, “Mt. Hope Avenue Mission.” Mount Hope was founded as a local missionaries Sunday School endeavor. Our Mission is rooted in our history and our history is rooted in mission! God isn’t just calling us to be, but created us to be, a group of Jesus followers who’s Mission is to share the Good News of God’s love in Christ! We are a chosen people. We are loved people. We are the people of God!

image 2

We or a part of historic Church, but we are not relegated to the pages of history! God is at work in calling us to life on mission today!

Notice further, the Mt. Hope Mission was built at a cost of $400 on least ground in 1882. Our current parking lot renovation cost, let’s say, many times more than that. We are a “Divinely Resourced” people! God has given and will continue to give us everything we need to prosper in accordance with is calling on our lives as a cluster of Christian families and as it fellowship of believers.

image 3

I’m excited to be your Pastor today because I know that God’s provision and protection remain on His people and His calling is as grand and eternal as it is beautiful in the simplest of details. Many blessings in Christ and… In the grip of his grace!

Pastor Chris

September 2019 Congregationalist Magazine, Galatians 6:2, Pastor Surber

I’m excited about my article in the September 2019 issue of The Congregationalist Magazine. (Pages 25,27 – this is a screenshot image. follow the link below to download the .PDF magazine) There are some other great articles worth reading. Notice the smiling face of Kim Quint, who went with Christina, the kids, and me to Haiti, along with several other folks and her husband Jay Quint, daughter Emily Quint, and a team of folks from Mt Hope and Harvest Bible Church in nearby Westland, MI. Kenneth R. ErtmanSue CasbarAnnMarie Bulbuk Dan McGhee




Come Home to Grace, Sermon August 25, 2019, Rev.Dr. Chris Surber

Love Stained Glass
Love Stained Glass, Mt Hope Congregational Church

“The Unveiling of Deity,” John 3:12-17

The Experiment of Faith


For years, I have been telling people that Haitian Creole is rooted in French and that many of the words are just slightly altered French. I have said that to a number of French speakers and then had them report to us how baffled they are by so much of Creole. Their French skills will work sometimes, especially with more highly educated Haitian people who are learning modern French in the university. Well, their in lies the problem. Haitian Creole is the amalgamation of French, Spanish, and West African Tribal Languages, 17th Century French! “Both Haitian Creole and French have experienced semantic change; words that had a single meaning in the 17th century have changed or have been replaced in both languages. For example, “Ki jan ou rele?” (“What is your name?”) corresponds to the French Comment vous appelez vous ? Although the average French speaker would not understand this phrase, every word in it is in fact of French origin: qui “what”; genre “manner”; vous “you”, and héler “to call”, but the verb héler has been replaced by appeler in modern French and reduced to mean “to flag down.”


Language is a manner of communication, whereby we attempt to express an idea or impression that exists in our mind, quite possible only in form of an image or series of impressions and feelings, to the mind and heart of another person. Language is horribly imperfect bridge to transport ideas.


CIS: God revealed Himself fully in Christ. In order to share Christ with one another and to the world we must learn to speak God’s language in the world.



Human language is imperfect but it is what we have. We must cultivate care in the art of langue and learn that God’s language is not only or even primarily about words. We are called to reflect the unveiling of deity in Christ; Sometimes in words but always in ways consistent with the person of Jesus.

Exposition Let us consider first how it is that God has communicated to us in Christ.


What does that mean? What is Bushnell saying? There is a very real sense in which Jesus atoned for our sin in terms of taking our punishment upon Himself. This is salvation in a kind of legal sense. This is Jesus as advocate and judge taking our life sentence. He grants us a truly unconditional pardon.


This is a little like the judge for Carmelie’s adoption who required us to take several extra steps in her adoption to make the decree iron clad. God didn’t just pardon us without merit. He revealed His perfect nature of love and justice, truth and grace, in Jesus and then transferred His life to us in blood.


That is pictured, revealed artfully, in communion. “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” (Luke 22:20b NASB) However, the simple knowledge that there is a pardon available seldom leads anyone into a genuine and honest relationship with God. The knowledge that there is a pardon for sin available in Jesus leads no further than the lobby of religious tradition. It seldom leads to honest religion that warms our heart and transforms the actions of our hands in the world – making us living reflections of the love, truth, power, and justice of God revealed in Christ.


Bushnell is calling us beyond the language of a courtroom into the language of a royal dance hall. These notions caused a great deal of controversy in his day because he was calling Christians to think and feel their way more clearly into answering the great question, “Who are we saved from whom in Christ?”


Are we being saved from the wrath of God through Jesus who implores the Father to relent from His deep desire to destroy us? Or are we being saved from ourselves who, in our self-destructive nature, nearly refuse to receive the deep fellowship offered to us by God because of His love for us?


Jesus did not come into the world to save us from wrath to spite the cruelty of His Father. Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of God’s love for man! Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Christ is the fullness of the revelation of God, not an alternative deity. God in Christ is rescuing from ourselves! The language of God is love and that love is expressed in portrait of Christ on the Cross. The Blood of Jesus covers our sin. It is the method of God. The Love of God in Christ calls us home. It is the motive of God. Jesus is the fullest expression of God’s love, not wrath. Jesus on the Cross is an artful, living, painful, bloody, soul-rending, communication from God to man that grabs hold of our hearts beyond the capacity of words.


The message of Christ is a message of pure hope. It is God saying, “This is how much I love you, no matter what…” Too often, the message of the Church and of individual Christians is “God does not love unless…” Conditional love is not consistent with the love of God revealed in Christ. What kind of love do you carry in your heart when Christ is the content of your thoughts? Did Jesus, in our conception, die only to appease the wrath of the Father, even perhaps against His will, or is He the artful expression of the deep, not entirely explicable love of God for you and me and everyone?


How consistent is my understanding of the love of God in Christ? How consistent is my communication of that love to the world around me? Have we narrowly escaped the wrath of the Father or are we the formerly lost sheep that God left the 99 in Christ to discover, rescue, and cover in love? Our conception of God’s love for each of us frees or cages our heart’s ability to be the reflection of God’s love in Christ to the world around us.



The limitations of communication with words is a despicable curse. That is what the biblical account of the Tower of Babel is saying to us. While I take that account as historical and literal, whether you take as such or not, the psychosocial implications are obvious. The difficulty of communication is a constant and present reality and directly linked to sin and the curse associated with the rebellion of the human heart to God. It harms us.


My wife Christina accumulated a whole host of quirks of communication that took me years to get over! Have you ever heard of a hoppergrass? Me neither but apparently that is another way to say grasshopper – for her at least!  At the recent funeral for my dear friend Dine Baldwin, the funeral home attendant kept saying to me that the repass would be the last event. I had no idea what he was saying! I am an experienced professional Pastor. I did not want to ask and seem ignorant of something he considered clearly to be so obvious and self-evident. I asked my wife. She had never heard the phrase. I finally found the humility to ask. It turns out a repass is a funeral reception.


The Cross is the artful, painful, loving, needful, treacherous, and perfect communication of God to man that His love is available. Come Home. “Jesus Christ was and is the Savior of all humankind and indeed of all creation. The transcendent God, beyond the reach of our minds, has entered our world with a saving power in a way that we can only grasp by faith.”  In the expression of that faith, we should mimic God in Christ. Everything we need to know about communicating Christ to world is found at the Cross. We share His love through actual acts of sacrifice. We grow to know His love more completely as we grow through sacrifice. Keep thinking that you will be happier if you comfortable. That trap will enslave the mind and heart.


This sentiment is at least a part of the practical application of Hebrews 12:2. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV84) Sacrifice. Service. Sharing the love of God in Christ. These alone are where joy is found!


This is what Jesus is saying in Luke 17:33 and related passages, “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (NIV84) Love is His message, calling us home. Love is to be our message through acts of real service, sacrifice, and separation to God, calling them home. Amen.