Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Great Mystery

Who then is Jesus Christ? He claimed to be God (John 14:7; 8:58; 10:30). He claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6; 17:2; Matthew 11:27). He claimed to forgive sin (Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 7:48-50). He claimed to be the One who would return to judge the world (Matthew 7:21-25; 25:31-46; 26:64). He received worship (Matthew 9:18; 14:33; 15:25), which is not appropriate for anyone but God (Matthew 4:10; Acts 10:25,26; Revelation 22:8,9).

Based on this there are different conclusions we could draw. We could claim that He was a swindler, who was telling lies to fool people. We could claim that He was someone who was off His head and needed to be taken somewhere to be cared for. Or else, He was who He claimed to be, God who became man to save us from our sins. I have to ask whether the teachings of Jesus really fit with His being a con-artist or a madman. Also, Chuck Colson asks, based on his own Watergate experience, whether such a plot by Jesus and His disciples could really have been pulled off without someone blabbing or it being exposed. And it is difficult to see why people believed them or what they thought they would get out of it. All the information that is preserved about them says that most of them died for it.

But wait, maybe there is a way out this. Maybe Jesus never really said those things. Maybe this was a legend that grew up slowly over time. Maybe Jesus was merely a moral philosopher who was deified by His followers. There are serious problems with this idea. It maintains that in a relatively short period of time Jesus' followers totally changed the basic substance of His teachings, changing Him from a moral philosopher to a supernatural personage who conquered death. Confucius and Buddha were moral philosophers. Both were later in some cases deified by their followers. But it is very clear from reading their preserved sayings what they were originally. However, from the earliest sources Jesus is put forth as the Son of God who conquered death. This is not only true of the New Testament, but of the earliest extra-biblical records of Jesus' followers, such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Irenaeus. Even the early pagan observers, such as Pliny the Younger and Lucian of Samosata,  claimed that Christians worshiped Jesus in place of other gods. The fact is, the Jews had their rabbis and the Greeks had their moral philosophers; and if Jesus had been just another one of those, He would have vanished into obscurity. But within about thirty years of the original events Christians were dying in the name of Jesus. It is extremely dubious that people would die in the name of one more moral philosopher, much less a legend not yet fully developed. So I am left once more with the original choices: Lord, liar, or lunatic. It is from these we must choose.

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