Jesus was not a great man.
Either he is the
Lord or he is a liar or a lunatic. There are no
other choices left open to us.
Jesus from Nazareth is supposed to be God.
Could this claim just be the product of his over zealous followers? Did he
really claim deity for himself and if he did, does that make him the world's
greatest liar, or was he indeed the Son of the living God? To come to a
rational conclusion about the man from Galilee, we must critically examine
the nature of the claims and the supporting evidence.
What Did the Disciples Think of Him?
Early in his ministry, before the disciples had begun to follow him full-time, Jesus was speaking to the multitudes by the Sea of Galilee. When the crowd began to press him, he turned to see two boats lying at the edge of the lake. The owners, Simon and his brother Andrew along with James and his brother John, were washing their nets nearby.
Jesus climbed into Simon's boat and told him to push out a little way from the land. From the boat he continued speaking to the crowd.
When he had finished teaching, he turned to Simon and said, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."
"Master," Peter complained, "we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But . . . I will let down the nets."
When Simon and Andrew had done this, the nets filled with so many fish they began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help, and both boats filled with so many fish they began to sink.
All this was too much for Simon Peter. He fell at Jesus' feet and worshiped him, crying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!" (Luke 5:1-8).
Did Peter know what he was doing? The Jews did not worship anyone but God. The first commandment said plainly only the Lord God was to be worshiped.
We could always guess that poor Peter had just made a mistake. Once he thought about what he had done, he would probably never bow and worship Jesus again. But he did, on several other occasions.
We could also imagine that being an unlearned fisherman, Peter might not have realized that to bow down in front of someone was to imply he was worshiping him as God. But then we read in the book of Acts a Roman soldier fell at Peter's feet. His response? "Stand up; I'm just a man." (Acts 10:25-26). No, it seems obvious that Peter knew what he was doing when he worshiped Jesus.
In all of the Old Testament Scriptures there is no recorded example where a godly man allowed himself to be worshiped by other men. But Jesus let men and women bow down to him and never told them their behavior was improper. He accepted worship from his disciples as if he were God. So this brings up a question.
Did Jesus Claim to Be God?
When Jesus was in Capernaum, word spread quickly in the little village that he was teaching and healing, and soon so many came to the house where he was staying that it was impossible to get through the door.
After a few minutes, four men came up carrying a pallet on which a paralytic was lying. When they saw the crowded conditions, they realized they would be prevented from reaching the healer. So they used their ingenuity. They climbed on top of the house and tore open the roof above where Jesus was teaching and lowered their friend down in front of the teacher.
Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, young man; your sins are forgiven."
Now in the crowd that day were scribes, Pharisees, and teachers of the law who had come from every town in Galilee and from Jerusalem itself to hear him. And they began to mumble among themselves.
"Is this man speaking blasphemies?" asked one.
"Why does he say these things?" said another. "Who but God can forgive sins?"
The religious leaders did have every right to be disturbed. Imagine all the people that young paralytic had sinned against. The Nazarene appears and without bothering to consult all those whom the young man has offended, he forgives the paralytic for all his sins.
Jesus knew what they were saying and thinking.
"Why are you thinking evil about me? Which is easier to say to this paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or 'Stand up, take your bed, and walk'? But so that you will know I have the authority to forgive sins on earth, I tell you [to the paralytic], stand up, take your bed, and go home!"
Immediately the paralytic stood, picked up his bed, and walked home praising God. The crowd was amazed at this display of healing power, but the Pharisees remained upset at the healer's statements. (Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26).
No one has the right to forgive sins but God. If Jesus was a normal man, that paralytic is still under the weight of his sin. It is all right to forgive someone who does wrong to you, but when you start forgiving men for what they have done to others, you're stepping out of bounds. Either Jesus was under a self-delusion that he had the power to forgive—or he really did have that power.
One day the prophet told the crowd, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad."
"Oh, come on, now! You aren't even fifty years old, and you claim to have seen Abraham?" they replied.
"Truly, truly, I tell you, before Abraham was born, I AM (or I existed)." (John 8:56-59).
At that statement they became so enraged that they began to pry up the stones from the Temple courtyard to throw at him!
It is easy for us to miss the reason for the crowd's sudden hostility. They knew anyone who claimed to have existed before Abraham (who lived 1,500 years earlier) was in reality claiming to be God, for only God had such longevity. To those Jews, he was guilty of blasphemy and deserved to die.
On another occasion, Jesus was asked, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."
"I told you, and you didn't believe me because you are not my sheep," he replied. "I and the Father are one." (John 10:24-26, 30-31). Instantly the people started to look for stones to throw at him.
Every Jew was taught there is only one God. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord." (Deuteronomy 6:4). Jesus was claiming oneness with God—a sin worthy of death under Jewish law.
Jesus taught that the first and greatest commandment was to love God with all one's heart, mind, and soul. Then he had the audacity to teach that men owed their supreme love to him. Anyone "who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37).
So close was the association Jesus claimed with God the Father that he equated a man's attitude toward himself as his attitude toward God. He said that to know him was to know God (John 12:45; 14:9), to believe in him was to believe in God (John 12:44; 14:1), to hate him was to hate God (John 15:23), and to receive him was to receive God. (Mark 9:37).
Once he was asked, "What shall we do, that we may do the works of God?"
"This is the work of God," he responded, "that you believe in him whom God has sent." (John 6:28-29).
Other religious leaders have said, "This is the truth as I see it." But Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me." (John 14:6).
When he was in the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus and offered him the world if he would fall down and worship him. "'Get out of here, Satan,' Jesus told him. "For the Scriptures say, "You must worship God and serve only him.'" (Matthew 4:10 NLT).
Yet, there are many occasions in the gospel records where people fell down and worshiped Jesus and he did not tell them to get up off of their knees. Peter fell down and worshiped after the big catch (Luke 5:8); Thomas fell down after the resurrection and worshiped him saying "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).
The disciples sensed Jesus possessed the authority to make these demanding claims. Although he proclaimed these doctrines about himself, he taught his followers to be humble, rebuking them for self-seeking and the desire to be great. He firmly believed he was not seeking his own glory, and on one occasion said if his followers did not proclaim who he was, the very stones would cry out.
If Jesus was a mere man, he possessed a gigantic ego. Only a megalomaniac could have uttered these words . . . unless what he said was actually true.
Jesus cannot be merely an outstanding religious teacher, nor can he be great. A man who makes the sort of claims Jesus made, unless they are true, is not "great." If he lied about being God, we cannot trust anything else he said; he is immediately eliminated from being a man of high stature. Jesus was either a liar, or he was a lunatic, or he was what and who he claimed to be. I don't believe he can be anything between though three choices.
Could Jesus Have Been A Liar?
If Jesus was a liar, what was the motivation for his deceit? Most people lie for personal advantage, but the claims which this man made only brought him into conflict with the very people who had the most to give him.
If the prophet had been seeking the acclaim of the crowd, he would not have fled from them every time they attempted to make him their king. If Jesus was trying to achieve recognition or power, he would not have claimed a false equality with God. These claims caused his death, and if they were mere fabrications he was his own worst enemy.
Could Jesus have been a habitual liar—the kind of person who invents tales so often he can't tell the difference between the truth and his own dishonesty? Liars of this type falsify everything and are extremely easy to detect. Not only would this character fault have been discovered quickly by those who knew him best, it would be easily detected in the written record of what he taught. But I think anyone who carefully reads the Gospel records will see that Jesus was too consistent in everything he did and said to have been a habitual liar.
Maybe Jesus Was Just A Lunatic
There is always the possibility that Jesus was just a self deluded man. But he never showed signs of true paranoia, although many were actually trying to kill him. He never exhibited a split personality; his behavior and claims were always consistent. He never tried to escape reality and the problems of life; on the contrary, he was never afraid of opposition and the stresses it brought. I can see none of the common symptoms of the unstable or insane person present in Jesus from Nazareth.
Through the centuries many men have claimed to be God—and most have ended up in institutions for the mentally insane. With Jesus we find the two missing elements lacking in every other man who ever cried out that he was God.
First, we see in Jesus the power of God. No other man has ever stilled storms or raised men from the dead at will. Jesus alone possessed the power we would expect from God in human flesh.
Second, we see in Jesus human perfection. No other man has attained this kind of faultlessness. He towers above all the so-called great men of history. Between him and them there is a moral gap so big it seems foolish to measure anyone against him. Jesus possessed the perfection we would expect from God in a human body.
When we examine the things Jesus said and did, it quickly becomes clear that he is more than an ordinary man. No man could have said and done the things which Jesus did unless he was God. Logic cannot bring us to any other conclusion than that Jesus was, indeed, God in the flesh. The Gospel accounts of his life will never make sense if we attempt to force the narrative of his life into any other conclusion.
The only conclusion I can come to as a result of my research is that Jesus simply had to be God. Not to come to that conclusion, in my mind, is simply to commit intellectual suicide. You can say you don't WANT to believe in him. But if you try to say that he is not what he claimed to be you either have to misrepresent the facts, lie to yourself, or refuse to be rational. I see nor other possibilities.
So What's Your Response to Jesus?
You may never have seriously considered the life and claims of Jesus from Nazareth. Perhaps to you Jesus has been nothing more than a name. As you have examined the claims of Christ in these articles, I hope you've seen that you are now actually faced with a challenge.
Because if Jesus is God, as logic declares he must be, to ignore him becomes extremely foolish. He claimed that he alone can give salvation, and he said he would judge those in the world who do not respond to his offer of salvation.
If you intellectually accept the fact that Jesus is God—then you are admitting he's responsible for your very existence, let alone your eternal destiny. The only logical decision you can make is to actually respond to him—as God. To allow yourself to go in any other direction is to commit spiritual suicide. Don't be so stupid as to flaunt the God who holds your future in his hands by simply ignoring him.
Well now, you may be thinking, I don't have to become some kind of Christian fanatic. I'm sure it's enough that I believe Jesus is God and worship him in my own way.
But let me assure you—that's not enough. Christ made it plain that he wants a complete commitment from you. He said, "If you are not with me, you are against me." (Matthew 12:30). You see, there is no middle ground with Jesus. And he made it that way on purpose. Either we accept him—on his terms—or we discover that we have rejected him.
Christ did not come to give us a good example; he did not come to burden us with a new set of laws. He did not come to give the world a new religion. He came to liberate us from ourselves. He came to give new life. This life is spiritual and it lasts forever. The physical life we now possess will soon end. The new life he gives us is abundant and it overflows, filling our lives with purpose and meaning. Jesus said, "I came that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10b).
Christ's claims make no sense apart from this message. Jesus from Nazareth will have lived and died in vain, as far as you personally are concerned, unless you receive what he came to give you.
What You Must Do
To start off, you need to repent. But what does that mean? The biblical term "repent" sometimes puts people off because it sounds so religious. But by definition that word simply means "to change one's mind." So the first thing you must do is change your mind about who Jesus is and what he has done for you.
What state of mind have you been in about him? Perhaps you have willfully rejected him in the past. Or maybe you have just been ignorant about who he really is. Maybe you have never given him any thought. Whatever your attitude towards Jesus has been in the past, you now need to change your thinking about him. To come to Christ there must be a change in your attitude about him.
But becoming a Christian is not just having a changed mental belief in Christ. You must also change your mind about yourself. This begins when you admit that you are a sinner, just like he says you are. If you are not a sinner, you cannot come to Christ, because good men don't need a savior. Jesus died for sinners, not good men. The Bible says when someone has truly repented, the change in their thinking will end up changing their actions as well. (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19).
So when you come to Jesus, it involves a complete personal revolution in your heart and life. Christ wants to forgive your sins. He wants to come and dwell inside your heart and fill you up with his Holy Spirit. If you would like to know more on what to do, check out How to Become a Christian, and also How to Repent of Your Sins. Of course there are many other articles on this website that will help you in your decision for Christ.
In the next few articles in "The Liberator" series I'll paint for you the bigger picture of The Conspiracy against Jesus and how it led to his death. We'll also take a look at the claims of his resurrection that followed soon afterwards.