Who was Jesus really?
Reasons to Believe in Jesus
I have been a Christian since I was 12 years old. I came to Christ out of desperation and deep questions about God, life, death, my purpose and whether I was going to heaven. I realized that I needed security, hope and faith for living. I needed God. It was simple then. I knew I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I put my trust in Jesus who offered me forgiveness and eternal life.
Years later, I looked for evidence to back up my beliefs. I wasn’t satisfied with a blind faith. The questions of Why God Allows Suffering and how can I know that Christianity is true kept me searching for answers and evidence. I attended Bible college and read books like C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain. I studied the historicity and authenticity of the Bible, the claims of Christ and the numerous Messianic prophecies He fulfilled. The overwhelming evidence for Christ, His life and His mission provided the foundation and assurance I needed for growing in my commitment to Him.
The question: Who was Jesus? Is as important and controversial today as it was over 2,000 years ago.
The Da Vinci Code, a mega-best seller- has caused a stir among Christians and non-Christians about the identity and real facts of the life of Jesus Christ…
The novel’s claims include: that Jesus was married, that Jesus’ divinity came late in a close vote at a church council (Nicaea in AD 325), that Mary’s role as a church leader was suppressed, that many gospels not found in the Bible portray a strictly human Jesus, a message that was suppressed after orthodoxy gained its victory, and that Leonardo da Vinci knew all of this and “coded” some of his paintings accordingly. The author, Dan Brown made a claim that the plot represents historical facts. In fact, its author claimed on national TV that had he written a piece of non-fiction, he would not have changed a thing. How could this be? How could a contemporary book discredit the historical accounts of Jesus’ life in the Bible?
Recently, in a court case in Italy, the question of Jesus’ existence was challenged by Luigi Cascioli, an atheist and the author of Fable of Christ. He accused a Catholic priest, Rev. Enrico Righi – of deceiving the public by saying that Jesus Christ existed, that He was born to a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and that He lived in Nazareth… …The Judge dismissed the case disputing Jesus’ Existence.
Through-out history all kinds of people, atheists, agnostics, scientists, philosophers, theologians, religious leaders – have debated the life of Christ and His claims. So, how can we know the truth about Jesus? Anyone claiming to be the founder of a religion… especially anyone claiming to be God must pass a pretty tough character test; possess supernatural abilities, and have a host of credible witnesses/followers.
Anyone who makes a claim about themselves and is disproved – is invalidated. Their reputation is tainted, their words discredited as we have seen with James Frey – the author of A Million Little Pieces… or should we say: A Million little lies…
Many people call Jesus “a good teacher”; “a prophet”, “a religious leader on par with Mohammed, Budda, Moses, etc.” One of the best arguments contradicting these views of Jesus was proposed by Clives Staples Lewis, a Professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University, Fellow in English at Oxford University’s Magdalen College and the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Following his conversion from atheism to Christianity he became a popular and prolific Christian apologist.
Lord, Liar, Lunatic
There are many people who are not persuaded by Christianity but hold him in high regard. Some people reject the idea that Jesus was God incarnate. Others follow His teachings to some degree. Some say, “Jesus was a great moral teacher but he wasn’t God”. According to this view, Jesus is to be followed as a great human being, but not as a divine one.
The idea that Jesus was merely a great human being or a moral teacher but nothing more, is, as C.S. Lewis argued, indefensible.
Probably one of the most commonly used arguments for the deity of Jesus is the Lord, Liar, Lunatic trilemma. It was formulated by C. S. Lewis and presented over BBC radio and later in his seminal work Mere Christianity back in the 1940’s. Lewis’ own words are worth repeating.
“Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.
One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money?Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned; the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.
Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.
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 a 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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 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 up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” From Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Book 2, Chapter 3. (Extra reading)
Jesus made the most astonishing claims, about God, society and ethics, and yes, about himself. He claimed to have the authority to forgive sins, to be the representative of all humanity come to die in order to reconcile man to God, and to be the only way for people to attain salvation. He claimed to have had glory with the Father, He claimed to be the I AM, He spoke with absolute authority, He claimed that God was His Father, He claimed to be one with the father, He claimed to come forth from God, He claimed to be the only access to the Father, He claimed to be able to forgive sins, He claimed to deserve absolute allegiance, He claimed to be the judge of all mankind and to dishonor Him was to dishonor the Father, and He accepted worship.
Faced with the fact that Jesus made these claims about himself, there are three things that we might say about him:
• Either Jesus’ claims were false and he knew it, or
• his claims were false and he didn’t know it, or
• his claims were true.
None of these suggests that Jesus was a great, but merely human, teacher. Anyone who has that view needs to rethink it.
The first thing that we might say about Jesus is that his claims were false and he knew it, in which case he was a liar. If Jesus did not believe that his claims about himself were true, then when he made those claims he was lying.
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
” I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. John 5: 19-27 NIV
In this passage from the Gospel of John – Jesus claims to be the life-giver, the one with authority to raise the dead and to judge mankind, the one who deserves honor equal to the Father.
Jesus’ claims about himself were so central to his teachings that if they were lies then he can hardly be deemed a great teacher. If Jesus set out to systematically deceive people about who he was and how their sins were to be dealt with, then he was among the worst teachers that have ever walked the earth.
Listen to Jesus’ words in John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” NIV
Are these the words of a liar, lunatic or the Lord of the universe?
The second thing that we might say about Jesus is that his claims were false and he didn’t know it, in which case he was a lunatic. If Jesus believed that his claims about himself were true, and they weren’t, then he was a delusional egomaniac. If an ordinary person believes himself to be God incarnate, then that person is, put quite simply, insane.
” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. John 14:8-11 NIV
Here we are challenged – are these the words of a sane man? If He was really only a man – and claiming to be God – how could He be in His right mind? How could He be a great, moral teacher and mislead people or be mistaken about His identity? If Jesus was not God – then, we must conclude – He was deceived or deceiving….
The third thing that we might say about Jesus is that his claims were true, in which case he was, and is, Lord. If Jesus believed that his claims about himself were true and they were, then Jesus was not only a great human being, but was also God on Earth.
If we take Jesus seriously, then we must take Jesus’ claims about himself seriously. We cannot say that Jesus was a great teacher whom we admire and look up to, but that the most fundamental element of his teachings – His identity and authority – was a monumental error. Jesus was not a great, but merely human, teacher; he was either much less than this, or much more.
In order to show that it is better to view Jesus as Lord than as either a liar or a lunatic, it would have to be demonstrated that there is some reason to take Jesus’ claims seriously.
Do we have any reason, though, to take Jesus’ claims seriously? Many have argued that we do, that we have the strongest possible evidence that Jesus knew what he was talking about when it came to the supernatural. There is, it is argued, substantial historical evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead, endorsing his claims to religious authority.
The Rev. Lee Strobel encountered a few messiahs in mental hospitals during his years as the Chicago Tribune’s ultra-skeptical legal affairs reporter. “I met people who said they were Jesus on a fairly regular basis, he said, but anyone can claim to be God. The question is whether they can back that up. That’s why the resurrection is so crucial for Christians.”
The Resurrection, it is said, was a divine endorsement of Jesus’ teachings, God’s confirmation that Jesus’ teachings were true. If this is correct, then there can be no doubt as to which of the three positions concerning Jesus outlined above is the correct one. If there is significant evidence for the resurrection, then we have to take Jesus seriously.
Many have claimed that the Christian doctrine that Jesus rose from the dead is too fantastic to be true. Interestingly, the resurrection of Jesus has led people to conversion when they have sought to analyze it historically. The accounts of the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament has been subjected to rigorous historical analysis more than probably any other aspect of the Bible. What exactly, then, have these historical analyses revealed about the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus? A careful examination shows that the conclusion that Jesus rose bodily from the dead is the best explanation for the evidence surrounding these substantiated facts from history: Jesus died, His tomb was found empty, over 500 people witnessed Him after His resurrection.
In an essay by C.S. Lewis: What are we to make of Jesus Christ? From God in the Dock – he expands on the argument:
‘There is no halfway house and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and said ‘Are you the son of Bramah?’ he would have said ‘My son, you are still in the veil of illusion’. If you had gone to Socrates and asked, ‘Are you Zeus’ he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked ‘Are you Allah?’ he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius ‘Are you heaven?’ I think he would probably have replied, ‘Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.’ The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg, when you are not looking for a piece of toast to suit you, you may be sane, but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you. We may note in passing that Jesus was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects – Hatred – Terror – Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.’
No Other Claims:
It is clear that in this passage Lewis goes further than he did in Mere Christianity. First, he says there is no parallel in other religions. No religious leader claimed to be God or a god. Lewis’ claim is that a belief in your own divinity would be such a fundamental delusion that it would undermine every aspect of your thinking.
Lewis also addresses another objection: “if the trilemma applies to Christ, why does it not apply equally to Joseph Smith or Mohammed?” Lewis points out that Christ’s claims are of an entirely different order to those of any comparable historical figure- he specifically points to spiritual geniuses who might be regarded as “on a par” with Jesus Christ. I think his claim is that a false belief in a visit from the Archangel Moroni would not “undermine the whole mind of a man” in the way that a belief that you are the creator of the universe would. He also regards it as significant that the people most generally regarded as Jesus’ spiritual equals made much more modest claims: other historical figures who have made claims of the order of those of Christ are generally regarded as lunatics and charlatans.
So, who is this Jesus? When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. Matt 16:13-20 NIV
Jesus’ question – who do you say I am?- is a question and challenge for us today.
In John 8:21-24 Jesus said, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”
But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.” NIV
Jesus makes 3 claims here:
• to be God – the I Am – Jehovah .
• To be from heaven – not of this world –
• to be the only one who delivers us from sin.
Listen to this Jesus… He said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:8-10 NIV
” Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-4 NIV
” I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NIV
Jesus’ claims still matter today! If He is who He claimed to be – God and if He is the only Savior of the world – the one with authority to forgive – the only way to be reconciled to God and the only way to heaven – we need to stand up and take notice.
By trusting in His claims and promises we can know we are forgiven and on our way to heaven. We can experience the love, joy, peace, purpose and power of Christ in our lives every day.
Maybe you are unsure of your faith and whether you are a Christian. Christ says to you: Who do you say I am? Do you believe?
Jesus’ words in John 14:6 are compelling:
” I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
He invites you in Matt 11:28-30 to:
” Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” TEV
Whatever stage of faith you are in – you can put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Consider examining the truths about the life of Christ and when you are ready – ask Him into your life.
Maybe you have questions about Christianity or would like to know more about how to have a relationship with Christ. Or maybe you have enough understanding and would like to make a decision to trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior today. I hope that my story has given you some inspiration and hope to search for God & grow in your faith.
The salvation Christ offers does not depend on what we have done for Him, but on our acceptance in who He is and what He has done for us. Instead of moral and religious effort, this salvation requires a helpless admission of our sins. Instead of personal accomplishments, it requires confession of failure to meet God’s standard of holiness.
Unlike all other belief systems, Christ asks us to trust solely in Him and His work on the cross and to commit our lives to Him–not to merit salvation but as an expression of gratitude, love, and confidence in the One who has saved us solely by grace (the unmerited favor of God).
Eph 2:8-9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast”.(NIV)
Rom 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(NIV)
Won’t you consider asking Christ into your life today. Just pray simply with me: “Dear Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life and make me the kind of person You want me to be. Amen.”
If you have prayed this prayer write to Lynette Hoy (firstname.lastname@example.org ) for the free book — Anchor for the Soul! Jesus says in Matt. 20:28: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
Read more about Christianity and how to know Jesus at Keep Believing Ministries!
by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC, CAMS-V
President, CounselCare Connection, P.C.
Anger Management Institute
Oak Brook, IL 60523