Billy Graham: Who is Jesus, Really? (Full Transcript)

Full text of renowned evangelist Billy Graham’s famous sermon titled “Who is Jesus” delivered at Chicago’s convention center in McCormick Place in June 1971.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:

TRANSCRIPT:

Billy Graham – Evangelist

I’m going to ask that we all bow our heads in prayer. Every head bowed and every eye closed. For many thousands of people here today, this will be an hour of decision, and you will never be the same today.

Even if you refuse Christ, you’ll never be the same. Once you’ve faced him, once you’ve heard the gospel and rejected it, you can never be the same. It says: “When the rich young ruler rejected Christ, he turned away grieved, emotionally disturbed”, because when you reject the claims of Christ, that’s a very serious thing.

It will be an hour of decision for many of you who receive him today. Your life will never be the same; your home will never be the same.

So let’s listen carefully and prayerfully today and reverently to the message of the Word of God. Shall we pray?

Our Father, we thank thee for this love of God that reaches around the world and engulfs all of mankind. Thou dost love the Russians and the Chinese as much as Thou dost love the British, all the Americans, all the African. Thou dost love the whole world. Thou didst send Thy Son to die for the whole world. And we’re all included in Thy Redemption plan. And we thank Thee that at this hour of history we can stand and proclaim good news that God is love, and that God is willing to forgive.

We pray that many this day will receive that message, accept it and act on it and live by it for we ask it in his name. Amen.

We’ve been having a marvelous time here in Chicago. I think Cliff has already told you how big this building is. There’s no indoor arena in the world except the Astrodome in Houston, Texas that’s bigger than this. And here today thousands of people, just about filled to capacity today, as it has been almost every night during this crusade, except I think the opening night.

But we’ve had gigantic crowds that have come here to this great arena, night after night, and we’ve seen thousands of people coming forward to make their commitment to Christ.

Now today I want you to turn with me to Luke’s Gospel, the 11th chapter… the 11th chapter of Luke’s Gospel beginning with verse 29… beginning with verse 29, I hope you have your Bibles. How many have a Bible today, lift them up? Look at the Bible, thousands of Bibles everywhere.

Now the Eleventh chapter and the 29th verse of Luke’s gospel (Luke 11: 29-32)

“And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say ‘This is an evil generation. They seek a sign, and there shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonah, the Prophet. For as Jonah was a sign unto Nineveh, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. And behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah. And behold, a greater than Jonah is here.’”

Now ancient Israel wanted Jesus to do something sensational to prove that he was really the Son of God. But Jesus is saying in this passage: You’re seeking for a sign. All right, I’ll give you a sign; I am the sign.

And Jesus was saying that the people of Jonah’s day listened to the message of God and repented and they’re going to rise up at the judgment as witnesses against the people of Jesus’ day that rejected him.

He said the Queen of the South recognized the wisdom of Solomon, but he said, in me you have a greater wisdom than all the wisdom of Solomon. He said you’re blind, you cannot see the truth; you’re deaf and you cannot give the truth. He said I’m the truth; I’m the light of the world; I’m the sign.

Now when you face Jesus, what is your reaction? When you’re confronted with Jesus Christ, what is your reaction? The reaction of the Scribes and the Pharisees was one of hostility. The people of Nineveh’sday were humbled and repented when they faced and confronted God.

And the question that we all ask today is this question: What think ye of Christ?

There’s a rock opera at the moment called Jesus Christ, the Superstar. All over the country thousands of young people are talking about Christ; they can’t escape him.

There’s a Broadway play right now entitled God-spell, a musical version of Saint Matthew’s Gospel. There’s a new movie right now called Brother John in which Sidney Poitier plays Jesus Christ in the form of an Alabama black man.

The front cover of Life magazine a few weeks ago ran Jesus Christ Superstar. And this rock opera from England was confronting young people with one question: Who is Jesus Christ? An 87 minute long electronic probe into the life of Jesus. Who is Jesus? And the opera concludes with the voice of Judas, coming back from the dead and still questioning who Jesus is: “Don’t get me wrong,” says Judas in the Opera, “I only want to know.”

And then the haunting chorus follows: “Jesus Christ, Superstar!”

Do you think you’re what they say you are? Jesus Christ, do you think you are what they say you are?

It’s interesting to me that in 1971, the plays, the books, the operas, the movies about Jesus. Our generation cannot escape Jesus, and when Good News for Modern Man came out a new translation of the New Testament by the American Bible Society, they sold 25 million copies.

We cannot escape Jesus. I’ve never heard of an opera or a play, even about Buddha or Mohammed, or Gandhi, but our generation has become hung up on Jesus. Young people are talking about Jesus. He’s the subject of conversation today on the campus, in the high schools. Everywhere young people are discussing Jesus Christ and they’re asking the question: Who is he? Who is this Jesus? We cannot escape you.

You remember that day when Saul who was persecuting Christians was on the road to Damascus, and a blinding light came, and he fell down. And the first question he asked was: Who art Thou, Lord? The question that our generation of young people on the campus are asking today is: who are thou, Lord?

Who is Jesus? Why cannot we escape him? Why is he in our conscience and in our mind so that our plays and our poems and our operas are about him?

Is he just a revolutionary hero? Why is he something more? He only lived 33 years. He never travelled more than a hundred miles. He never had any formal education, and yet 2,000 years later, an entire generation is talking about Jesus Christ.

Some say that he was a madman. Some of the people of his day said he was mad, said he was a maniac. Was he?

There were others that said he was revolutionary. He’d come the lead a revolution? Was he a revolutionary? In the sense that he changed men’s lives, he was; but he never led a revolution against Rome. He never led a revolution against the existing authorities. As a matter of fact, some of them tried to get him to, and some of them thought he was going to.

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And when they found out that he was building a spiritual kingdom, they were no longer interested in him. And when they tried to tempt him about that, he said “Bring me a coin.” And he said “Whose picture is on that coin?”

They said “Caesar.”

He said, “All right. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And the scripture says they quit asking him questions. They didn’t know how to answer that.

Or was Jesus an establishment man? Some people say that he represented the status quo. Some people say that Jesus Christ is the one upon which Western culture has been built and that America is really Jesus organization on earth.

Well I want to tell you if his organization depends on the bureaucracy we built up in Washington, we’re finished. There’s not much hope for the world. Jesus Christ…he is not the establishment Christ. He’s building another kingdom. He’s building an eternal kingdom.

And then there are some people that say that he was the first hippy. They said he had long hair, went around with his disciples in a commune. You know actually we don’t know what he looked like. We don’t know whether he had a long beard or not. Those are just pictures that artists have painted. We think he did.

We don’t know whether he had long hair or not. He probably did, because the people of that day that was the style but we don’t know. We don’t have a picture of Jesus, and God did that purposely so that we would not be worshipping an image. Because God is a spirit and must be worshiped in spirit.

And then there were people that said that he was deliberately evil, that he was an evil man. That he was a devil. What was he? That’s the question: Jesus Christ, who are you? Who is Jesus?

We can’t escape him. We try to run from him but there he is. He keeps popping up everywhere. Our greatest philosophers write about him. Our greatest historians write about him. Our greatest poems and plays are about him. Our greatest architecture is about him. Even in the Soviet Union, you go to the Kremlin. I’ve been in the Kremlin and it’s all filled with paintings and pictures about Jesus.

You go anywhere in the Soviet Union and you’ll see images in art and much of the music has to do with Jesus. They can’t escape him.

Well we know some things about him. We know he was a man. Jesus was completely human. He was representative of man, because the Bible says he was identified, he was numbered with the transgressors. We know that he was hungry; we know he got thirsty; we know he got tired.

We know that he had the joys of friendship. We know that he wept at the tomb of a dead loved one. We know that he had all the characteristics of a man, and yet very interestingly the Bible says that he never committed a sin. In fact, he stood in front of the people of his generation, and he said I’ve never committed a sin. He said if any of you, my neighbors ever seen me commit a sin, they couldn’t say a thing.

Wouldn’t that be something for a man to come along, 33 years of age and say who of you have ever seen me commit a sin? Well, I’ll tell you if I said that, all my team would jump straight up and say I have. My wife’s here.

All of us are sinners, but Jesus was tempted in every point like as we are. He went through every temptation you’ve ever been through. There isn’t a trial or a testing or a temptation that Jesus has not been through before you and he resisted them and overcame them all.

Everyone, he was a man just like you but he was more than that. He claimed to be the unique only Begotten Incarnate Son of God. In fact, he claimed pre-existence. The scripture says, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.

Before time began, he existed. He said before Abraham was I am. I am in eternal existence. No wonder they got angry; no wonder they threw stones at him. No wonder they tried to kill him and no wonder they eventually did crucify him. He stood and said I am God. Was he?

Was he who that he claimed to be, the Son of the Living God?

One day he asked his disciples, who do men say that I am? And Peter answered and said, “Well, some of them say you’re John the Baptist come back, or you’re Jeremiah, you’re Elijah.”

He said I’m really not interested in what the people say. I’m interested Peter in what you say, what do you say?

Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

And Jesus said, “Peter, you’ve done well. You’ve passed your examination. But Peter, those are not your thoughts; those thoughts came from God. It has been revealed to you by God.”

Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of the Living God. And you know, at his incarnation or his birth, that was not his birth, or that wasn’t the beginning, that wasn’t the origin of Jesus; that was the beginning of his incarnation, because he has always existed. From everlasting to everlasting, he is God, the Bible says, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. In other words, the logos, the Word of God, the eternal God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and lived like a man among us. That’s what the Bible teaches.

And when you come to Jesus Christ you have to accept that. He wasn’t just another revolutionary; he wasn’t just another hippy. He was not just another great man. He was God in the flesh, and all the ethics that he taught, never a man spake like that man.

When you get hit on one side, he says turn the other cheek. He never said what to do after that. But he did say forgive seventy times seven, count that up.

How about the little irritations from your wife, or your husband? Seventy times seven, you forgive.

My wife once said that the secret of a happy marriage is two good forgivers. And that’s what it is: two good forgivers — people that can forgive each other.

Jesus taught that we’re to forgive. He taught a revolution in the way we’re to live. He taught us that it wasn’t just our outward actions that God judges but it’s the inward thoughts and intents. He said Moses said that in the Ten Commandments, thou shalt not commit adultery, but I tell you that if you even look on a woman to lust after, you’ve already committed it.

He said Moses said, thou shalt not murder, but I tell you if you have hate in your heart against your brother without cause, you’re already guilty.

He lifted man’s ethics to the highest plane and demanded that we live that kind of a life. He himself lived that kind of a life, and the scripture says that he judges the inside. The Attorney General of the United States said the other day that America is imperiled more from within than without, and so are you here today in your personal life.

David said in sin, did my mother conceive me. Jesus said out of the heart proceed evil thoughts and murders and adulteries and thefts and blasphemies, all the evil in the world comes from the human heart. That’s got to be changed and that’s why Jesus said you must be born again, you must be converted. You must have a new beginning and he can do it.

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How do you explain Jesus? Jesus Christ, are you what you say you are?

You know, they only brought three charges against him to crucify him. One, they said this man loves sinners. That was one charge.

The second: He healed on the Sabbath day.

And the third: he claimed to be the son of God.

Was he the son of God? Look at his authority. Jesus came unto them and spake unto them saying all authority has been given to me. I know one thing he forgave sin and no prophet ever did that. Jesus himself forgave sin. He said thy sins are forgiven thee.

I know that he had authority over nature. One day, one night he was in a storm. The lightning was flashing; the thunder was roaring; the sea was raging; the wind was blowing; the disciples were afraid. And Jesus was asleep in the boat and he stood up in the boot and said “Peace, be still.”

The lightning quit its flashing and the thunder quit its roaring and the rain ceased to fall and the wind quieted down and the sea quieted down and nature obeyed him. And our young people believe that today because one of their top tunes at the moment is put your hand in the hand of the one who calmed the sea.

He calmed the sea. He had power over nature.

I was flying… Cliff Barrows and some of us were flying some time ago. I think we were leaving… we were in a typhoon leaving the Philippines. And just before we got out of the typhoon, the captain of the plane had invited me to sit up front with him, and it was fairly smooth. We had a lot of rain and all; it wasn’t too rough.

But all of a sudden, the plane hit something, it seemed to me as though it hit a wall, it jolted and jerked and quivered and went up and down for about two minutes, and then all of a sudden we plunged out into brilliant sunshine, into smooth air. And the captain turned to me with the perspiration coming down his face, he said you know he said that was God telling us there’s something up here more powerful than this airplane.

But Jesus could take a storm like that and turn it around. He could take the lightning and throw it back in the cloud. He has power over nature. Why? Because he’s the God of nature. Those are his laws. They are obeying him.

He had authority over disease. I read the other day where Mao Zedong in China claims to have cured 80% of all the deaf people in China. And one of those men that came back on the ping pong team said that Mao Zedong is the Jesus Christ of China today. They talk about personality cult; looks like to me they’ve got quite a personality over there.

But Jesus did make the blind to see. He made the deaf to hear. He made the dumb to talk. He raised the dead!

According to the record, he had authority over demons. You say Billy, do you believe in demons? I surely do. And Jesus confronted demons time after time and he could cast them out. And people that were insane under the powers of demons would regain their sanity.

And then look at the death, he died. Did ever a man die like Jesus? The lightning flashed and the thunder roared and the earth began to shake, and even the soldiers confessed that this must be the Son of God. Anyone that can see Jesus on that cross and not be touched has a heart of stone.

They first took off his clothes. Then they took long leather thongs with steel pellets or lead pellets on the end and beat him across the back until he could hardly stand up.

Then they put a crown of thorns on his brow and his face was bleeding, and they laughed at him and they spit on him. And they mocked him. And with one snap of his finger, 72,000 angels had already drawn their swords ready to come to his rescue and wipe this planet out of existence in the universe. And Jesus said no, to this end was I born.

And he dragged and lifted and hauled that cross. And don’t you black people ever forget one thing. The man that helped Jesus carry that cross was a black man.

And don’t ever forget another thing. Jesus belongs to Africa as much as he does to Europe and Asia. He was born in that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe, and Jesus was not a white man like me, nor was he as black as some of you. We don’t know what the color of his skin but it must have been a dark color like the people of his day, because he was a man like them.

Don’t ever say it’s a white man’s religion or a black man’s religion. It’s a world religion. He belongs to the world.

When he died on that cross and they nailed him… they put the nails in his hands. And you know what he said, forgive them, they know not what they do. Forgive them.

Could you forgive somebody that’s putting nails in your hands and you know you didn’t deserve it? He didn’t squirm, he didn’t yell, he didn’t scream. He just took it, and said “Lord, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

That’s how he confronted the violence of his day.

And then on the cross, he said “My God, why has thou forsaken me?” And then he dropped his head and said, “It’s finished.”

What did he mean? He meant your plan of salvation is finished. God can now forgive you of all your sins, because Jesus had finished God’s plan for your salvation. Because you see, God knows every one of you by name. He has the hairs of your head numbered. God looks upon you as though you were the only person in the whole universe. He sees you and you alone.

And on that cross, Jesus had the capacity to think of you, and he loved you enough to stay on the cross. Was there ever such a love is that when he could have been rescued and taken back to heaven and to sit on his throne but he didn’t. He said, no, I’m doing it for the joy that is set before me, because he saw that he would be raised from the dead.

He saw that they would be a gathering in the generations to come of a people for his name that would make up his body. He saw the day when we will reign with him in his kingdom.

Yes, they laid him away in a tomb, and that’s where Jesus Christ Superstar leaves him. But out in Kansas city, some people got hold of the rock opera and they carried it right on to the next step, the resurrection.

And if you don’t have the resurrection, you don’t have any gospel. Jesus Christ is alive and when they went out to the tomb that morning, they heard the greatest news the world has ever known. He is not here; he is risen. He is alive today.

And the thing that inspired the disciples to turn the world upside down in their day was the resurrection. They went everywhere declaring that Jesus is alive.

You know, some of us Christians live as though Jesus is dead. He’s not dead. He’s alive! Oh, you’re going through your troubles and your trials and your temptations and your testings and your pressures, and you’re under satanic attack all the time constantly.

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You know, I think in many ways, in some ways, it’s easier not to be a Christian in this world, because the devil may leave you alone. The moment you receive Christ as Savior you’re in for it, unless you live on your knees and live in the scriptures and keep your guard up and have your spiritual armor on at all times, because if you’re let down even one day as a Christian you’re in trouble.

The moment you receive Christ, you see all the world is going this way; you turn around and start against the tide as a Christian. And that’s hard.

But you know, it’s hard to be a sinner too. The older you get, because the Bible says the way of the transgressor is hard.

I watch sometimes the programs on television, where they have crime. I have never in my life seen criminals worked so hard for the money they get. It looks like to me they could get a legitimate business and have a much easier time to get their money. They work at it. That is according to the script, and I’m sure they do in real life.

Jesus Christ is alive, and if he’s not risen from the dead, if he’s not alive, then there is no such thing as Christianity. We’re yet in our sins, Paul said, and the whole thing’s a farce; forget it.

And then the people that have received Christ, what has happened to them. We had a fellow here the other night that was a Black Panther leader. He said that he thought he could change the world through the Black Panther movement, until he said he met Jesus, and he said Jesus changed his life and took all the hate out. Now he said I believe the world can be changed but he said I believe it can be done with Jesus power; that’s it. Jesus… coming into our hearts.

You know if I had no proof whatsoever, no scientific proof that Jesus ever lived, I still would trust him, because of what he’s done for me. The joy and the peace and the security and the love that he’s given to me, his grace that is mine today, and then the satisfaction that he gives to those who have trusted him.

Who are thou, Lord? Jesus Christ, are you who you say you are? This is the question that every one of you today are going to have to answer. Who is Jesus? If Jesus claimed to be God knowing he wasn’t God, then he’s a liar; and we will have to say, Jesus, you’re a liar; you’re a fraud and a hoax and you’re the biggest fraud in the history of the human race.

Or if Jesus thought he was God and did not know the difference, then he desperately needed mental health. He needed several psychiatrists.

The third alternative is that he was who he claims to be God in the flesh, I believe that the evidence is overwhelming that he is who he claims to be: the Son of the Living God. But I cannot prove it scientifically.

But I can prove it by the lives that he transforms every day. I can prove it because in my heart I don’t say I think I hope; I say I know.

And you know, there’s another element in our lives that we don’t think much about and that’s the element of faith. You think of the faith that you have to have every day.

You have to have faith that your wife didn’t put poison in your coffee this morning. You have to have faith in her. She might have felt like it but she didn’t.

You have to have faith in the bank. When you write a check and sign it, you have money in the bank, you have to have faith that the bank is going to pay it.

You have to have faith in the government. When you pull out a dollar bill, now I know it’s shrinking, but you have faith that back of it is a dollar that people will accept it as money.

Everything we do is by faith. Now for example when I come upon a hill and I live in the mountains of North Carolina, we have a lot of hills, I don’t stop my car before I get to the crest of the hill and get out and walk over and see if somebody’s coming up the other side on the wrong side. I have faith to believe that the drivers are going to stay on their side.

Faith, faith, faith, everything when you sat in that chair, had you ever sat in that chair before? I bet you didn’t pick it up and examine it and put your hands on it to see if it would hold you. By faith you just sat down in it. You had faith that people wouldn’t build a chair that wouldn’t hold you.

Everything we do is by faith. All right, take the same faith, put it in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and you will know who Jesus is. You accept him by faith and he comes into your life and into your heart and you know that he’s who he claims to be.

On that Damascus Road that I referred to a moment ago, the Apostle Paul said who art thou, Lord?

And then Paul asked him another question. Paul said “What do you want me to do, Lord?”

And Jesus said “Arise and go.”

I’m asking you today to arise and come to him. Now some of you can ridicule, some of you can reject him, some can just put it off and say I’m going to wait till another time, or you can accept him as your Lord and your Savior and your Master and the Son of God and He will come into your heart and forgive your sin and change your life.

Jesus Christ Superstar… Judas, don’t get me wrong, I only want to know he said, and then the haunting chorus Jesus Christ Superstar, do you think you are what they say you are. Yes and more, 10,000 times more than two men in England ever put in those lyrics is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and you are asked today to receive it.

In fact, if you’re going to go to heaven the Bible teaches you have to receive him. If you’re going to have your sins forgiven, you have to receive him.

And I’m going to ask you to do it today and I’m going to ask you to do it publicly. How do you do it? I’m going to ask hundreds of you to get up out of your seat right now and come and stand in front of this platform quietly and reverently and say I want Christ in my heart. I want him to forgive my sin. I want to know I’m going to heaven. I want him to change my life. I receive him as my Lord and Savior. If you’re with friends or relatives or in a delegation they’ll wait if you’ve come in a bus they’ll wait.

Why do I ask you to come forward? Because every person Jesus ever called in the New Testament, he called publicly. You come publicly and openly and declare yourself; you may be Protestant; you may be Catholic; you may be Jewish; you may be Orthodox or you may not have any religion but God has spoken to you today and you know that you need Christ, you come and make sure right now.

Resources for Further Reading:

Defying The Urge To Quit: T.D. Jakes (Transcript)

Martin Luther King Jr. on Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool Speech (Transcript)

The Gospel of Doubt: Casey Gerald (Full Transcript)

I’ll Die Before I Quit: Chad Williams (Full Transcript)

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