Today: Thursday, November 21, 2019

Jesus Christ: mad, bad or God? You decide!    (8/30/2009 )

A large chunk of the earth's population says Jesus is the son of God. On the other hand, another large chunk says he was a great moral teacher, but just an ordinary man.

There are other, minor variations on the theme, but very few people claim Jesus never existed—and they haven't checked their facts, because even secular history says he did.

So, son of God or good man? Does it matter which, as long as you live your life according to a good moral code? Well, yes: living to a good moral code only affects us in this life, whereas Jesus offers salvation which will take us into the next. After all, there have been lots of great moral teachers—but if Jesus is the son of God, then the world has seen nothing like him, before or since.

What did Jesus himself say? Well, he wasn't particularly direct on the issue—perhaps to give himself time before the Jewish and Roman authorities came after him, as he knew they would. Rather than claiming to be the son of God, he hinted at it through words and actions (including miracles). He said: “I and the Father are one" (in the book of John) and “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well… Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (also in John).

It has often been said that if Jesus is not the son of God, then what he had to say was of little importance. But if he IS the son of God, then nothing could be more important. So, a choice is before us. Who is Jesus, and, therefore, is he important or not?

C S Lewis, the novelist and academic, had something useful to offer. After converting from atheism to Christianity, he said this:

“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 a 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 moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

Some philosophers and Christian scholars think that this approach, often called ‘Mad, bad or God?', is a bit simplistic. For many, however, Lewis' words have been a hugely helpful turning point, in bringing to a head the need to make that decision. We must all decide, one way or the other. Should we admire Jesus from afar—or should we respond to him, right up close?

How about you?

Pray: Lord, I have struggled with deciding about Jesus. So much of the bits and pieces I've heard over the years is confusing or contradictory. Maybe I really do have to find out the facts, once and for all, and decide what I think. I open my heart to this now: show me Jesus, help me to learn and understand more. Help me to make what could be the most important decision of my life. Amen.

Think about: Consider C S Lewis' words. Think about them as you go through the week. Mad, bad or God? If he was a lunatic, why did Jesus' teachings and works hold together so consistently, and why has he stood the test of time? If he was a liar, then how do we explain away his miracles and, again, his consistency? Or is he, in fact, Lord?

Challenge: Sometimes we have to make a leap of faith about something, even though we're not sure how it all works behind the scenes. Perhaps, like me, you've had electricity explained to you but continue to find it a bit of a mystery - yet you still press the switch when you want the light to come on. Every time I do that, it's a tiny leap of faith. Some leaps are bigger - and some are much more important. How willing are you to make that biggest of all leaps - and leave behind the idea that Jesus was a man, and accept that he was - and still is - God?

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