We’ve spent the last couple of months examining the things Jesus said, the things he did, and the things the people closest to him documented. Now that our quick review of his life is coming to a close, it’s time for each of us to consider who he was. And, more importantly, why it matters.
It is hard to deny that Jesus is one of the most significant historical figures in the past 2000 years. Christians aren’t the only ones who make claims about him, either. Every major religion in the world has things to say about Jesus. Many of them believe he was a miracle worker. Many of them believe him to have been “holy” in some form. All of them believe him to have been, at a minimum, a great moral teacher. Even atheists in Western societies are living off of the principles he taught – whether they want to admit it or not. Given that Jesus has influenced so many different world views, the things he said and did matter more than the things any other person has said or done.
Was Jesus More Than “Just A Man”?
As I pointed out above, almost everyone can agree that Jesus was a wise man. For atheists and a few other religions, though, once the topic of him being a miracle worker – and his rising from the dead – comes up, they are out. I think that, given what we know, it is clear that Jesus was more than just a wise teacher, though. More than just another miracle worker even. Jesus lived a life that no one else has ever lived. And he did things that no one else has ever done.
Why Should We Pay Attention To Jesus?
There have been many wise people throughout history. People who have had things to say about how the world works and how we should live our lives. Philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Hume, and Nietzche have shared wisdom and shaped much of how we think. Men like Moses, Mohammad, Buddha, and Bahá’u’lláh were all wise men who started religious movements that are still followed by millions around the world to this day. The majority of whose practitioners are seeking to live good, moral, and peaceful lives.
But, Jesus was different.
You see, Moses may have been a wise man, but he didn’t rise from the grave. Mohammad may have been a wise man, but he didn’t rise from the grave. Buddha, Bahá’u’lláh – also wise men. Who didn’t rise from the grave.
Rising from the grave gives Jesus an entirely different level of authority than other wise men. If Jesus had a lot of wise things to say, predicted future events, predicted his death and return, and then returned from the dead – he’s the one we should be listening to.
You see, we can get lots of wisdom from teachers and leaders. But, they still leave us with the problem of dealing with the imperfect lives that we live. All of the other religious systems teach what to do to find peace and harmony. And yet, if we are able to be honest with ourselves, none of us can live perfect, sinless lives. Perfect lives that would be required to be in the presence of the most perfect being in the universe.
Only someone who is the infinite God could bear the full penalty for all the sins of all those who would believe in him. Any finite creature would have been incapable of bearing that penalty. The whole message of Scripture is designed to show that no human being, no creature, could ever save man—only God himself could. Only someone who was truly and fully God could be the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), both to bring us back to God and also to reveal God most fully to us (John 14:9). If Jesus is not fully God, we have no salvation and no Christianity.
Lunatic, Liar, Or Lord
I want to leave you with the words of C.S. Lewis from his book, Mere Christianity. If we study the life of Jesus of Nazareth, there are three possible conclusions you can come to about his life.
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. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Who do you think he was?