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The Sea of Galilee on this particular night was unusually disturbed. A raging storm had suddenly arisen, tossing the tiny boat around like a toothpick in a whirlpool. Fearing for their lives, the disciples awakened their sleeping companion who calmly rebuked the wind and the sea and reduced the fury of the storm to a peaceful hush. Awestruck, they murmured among themselves, asking the question, "Who, then, is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41).

When this same individual proceeded both to heal the body and forgive the sins of a paralytic who had been brought to him, the Scribes and Pharisees huddled among themselves, asking the question, "Who is this man, who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sin but God alone?" (Luke 5:21).

As reports of what this man had done spread throughout the land, news of him finally reached the palace of King Herod. Puzzled, he said: "John the Baptist I have beheaded; but who is this man, of whom I hear such things?" (Luke 9:9).

When he rode meekly, yet majestically, into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, on what we call Palm Sunday, the reaction of the multitude was typical of what had already occurred numerous times before. "And when he had entered Jerusalem, all the city was moved, and asked, 'Who is this man?'" (Matthew 21:10).

There is no question as profound or fundamental or eternally significant as the one so many have asked before: "Who is this man, Jesus of Nazareth?" On your answer to that question hang suspended all the issues of life and death, good and evil, truth and falsehood, heaven and hell. The author of "Amazing Grace," John Newton, once wrote:

"What think ye of Christ? is the test;

to try both your state and your scheme;

You cannot be right in the rest

unless you think rightly of him."

Imagine for a moment that you are the host of a neighborhood dinner party. Tonight in your home are gathered several individuals from a variety of different religious backgrounds. Sitting at your table are a Mormon, a Muslim, a Jehovah's Witness, a Moonie (Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon), a theological liberal, your next door neighbor, and you! The after-dinner conversation soon turns from politics to religion. Before long, someone asks concerning Jesus: "Who is this man?"

The Mormon is the first to speak up:

"Let me tell you who Jesus was. He was the first-born child of Elohim. He was the product of the physical union between the Father-God and the virgin Mary. Don't look so shocked. For a time, God and Mary were actually husband and wife and they had sexual relations, as any married couple would, and conceived Jesus! And the good news is that if we work hard enough we too can become sons of God in the same sense that Jesus is. Please, no coffee for me."

The Muslim protests:

"No, no, no! You've got it all wrong. Jesus is just like Abraham and Moses and Isaiah. He was a prophet of God. But he was not himself God. In fact, he wasn't even the most important of the prophets. Mohammed, who lived 500 years after Jesus, was God's greatest prophet. Besides, Jesus didn't really die on the cross as Christians believe. He was rescued by God and carried to a safe place in the heavens. Since there was no death there was no atonement for sin. Since there was no death there was no resurrection either. Don’t you dare disagree with me!"

The Jehovah's Witness can no longer hold his peace:

"You're both wrong! Prior to his coming to this earth Jesus was Michael, the archangel! He's only a creature, the first product of Jehovah God's creative work. When he was born of the Virgin Mary, he was divested of his spiritual, angelic nature and became wholly and exclusively a man. Jesus isn't God. Would anyone like a tract?"

The Moonie is next:

"You people are so deceived. On the one hand, I agree with those of you who say that Jesus was a mere man. But what you don't know is that he was actually the illegitimate child of an adulterous relationship between Mary and Zacharias, the husband of her cousin Elizabeth. Jesus failed to establish the perfect family on earth so God has sent to us his second Messiah to carry on the work. His name is Rev. Sun Myung Moon. By the way, I've got some nice roses left over that I'll sell real cheap."

Disgusted by what he perceives to be religious mythology, the theological liberal takes control of the conversation:

"You're all fools! This is the 21st century, for heaven's sake. All of you talk like you live in the dark ages. Common sense alone tells us that Jesus was the natural born son of Mary and Joseph, no different at birth from anyone else. But don't get me wrong. I'm no atheist. In fact, because of his exceptional virtue and humility and spiritual sensitivity, God adopted him to be his Son. He endowed him with miraculous powers and through him proclaimed the wonderful message of the Universal Fatherhood of God and the Universal Brotherhood of Men! You all probably believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, too."

Your next-door neighbor is a bit bewildered by now:

"Golly, gee. I always thought Jesus was just a good-old-boy who told us to love everybody and be nice. It's too bad he ended up getting killed like that. But as long as we all believe in the existence of God, does it really matter all that much? Is it really worth starting a neighborhood feud?"

And there you sit, nervously sipping your coffee, as every eye at the table turns its attention to you, awaiting your opinion on who is Jesus. "Uh, well, let me see, uh . . . would anyone care for dessert?"

Colossians 1:15-20 is undoubtedly one of the most theologically profound and mysterious portrayals of Jesus in the New Testament. So, as we prepare to unpack it, word by word, phrase by phrase, I'll ask again: "Who, then, is this man?"

Longing to know him,