Who is Jesus?
In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked his followers, “Who do people say that I am?” After receiving their responses, which varied from reincarnated religious figures to the next great prophet, Jesus asked them directly, “Who do you say that I am?”
The question still stands before us today: Who is Jesus?
We know that Jesus really existed. The vast majority of scholars - secular and sacred - acknowledge that reality. There are a few conspiracy theorists who still claim that his very existence is a lie and a hoax, but those are few and far between.
Of those who acknowledge that a Jewish builder named Jesus truly did live and, eventually, die as a criminal on a cross, there is some unity as to what he said and how he lived.
Most will acknowledge that Jesus helped the poor, spoke out against injustice, was willing to stand against religious and political corruption, and aligned himself with outcasts and despots.
He would turn away from crowds who sought to follow after him, and instead preferred to be alone, in times of spiritual prayer and reflection, or with a small group of his core team. He was driven in his task, unrelenting in his passion and disciplined even unto death - unwilling to forsake his cause even when crucifixion was looming before him.
While these are admirable qualities, they don’t prove anything about his divinity. They just make him out to be a nice, good guy, a moral teacher, a good example for life. Maybe that’s all he is.
Truth be told, that’s where many rank Jesus. He taught some nice things. He helped people who were oppressed. He stood up for what was right. He’s someone worth following, worth modeling your life after, but that’s about it. Christ is a good example of “a godly life,” which doesn’t make him much different from Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or many others throughout history.
But there’s just one problem.
Strangely, this good, moral, nice, kind, revolutionary claimed to be God. When describing himself in the gospels, Jesus refers to himself with titles like: Son of God, Messiah, Lord, and Son of Man. Within Jewish culture, all of these titles carry with them essence of divinity.
Jesus made statements about his divinity which got him into trouble. He would call himself “I AM” (a reference to the divine name of God in the Jewish tradition). He said, “I and the Father are one” and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
Even if you don’t buy into these statements, it’s hard to argue with his actions. Everywhere else in the Old and New Testaments, when people try to worship an angel or a person, if the person isn’t off their rocker they say, “Don’t do that! Only worship God!” Jesus, on the other hand, accepted worship, received prayer, and encouraged his followers to place their religious faith in him.
He told people that their sins were forgiven. Notice: he didn’t say, “I forgive you” or “God will forgive you,” but that their sins were forgiven, as if he were the one to forgive it officially on behalf of God.
Well, Jesus was killed, and it wasn’t because he helped poor people. It was because he claimed to be God.
Here’s the thing: lots of people say that Jesus was a great moral teacher, but no great moral teacher (e.g., Buddha, Muhammad, or Gandhi) has ever professed to be God, and if we are honest, who would?
It seems that you can’t be a good guy, a moral teacher, a good example for life if you claim that you are God. Unless… it’s true.
Author C. S. Lewis 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 is 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 with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.
Want to learn more? Come to Revolve Church or any of the other churches participating in the Explore God sermon series this coming Sunday. For more information, including more articles and videos like this, check out www.exploregod.com.