Who Is Jesus?

Who Is Jesus?

Who Is Jesus?

 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”[1] This is surely one of the most pertinent questions to have ever been asked! How you answer this question depends on how you see Jesus. People have and always have had lots of opinions about Jesus’s identity. What I hope to show is that the only rational option is to believe that Jesus was and is God.

Believing Jesus was and is God is the Only Option

In an effort at being as clear and simple as possible, I’ve listed the steps of the argument. This way, you can see exactly what I’m saying and judge for yourself if there are any mistakes. The reason that you should believe that Jesus was God is that:[2]

  1. Jesus claimed to be God.
  2. Jesus was either correct or incorrect.
  3. If Jesus was incorrect, then He either knew He was incorrect, or didn’t know He was incorrect.
  4. If Jesus knew He was incorrect, then He lied.
  5. If Jesus didn’t know He was incorrect, then He was insane.
  6. Jesus did not lie, nor was He insane.
  7. Therefore, Jesus was correct in claiming to be God.[3]

Since the logic here is valid, the only option to escaping its conclusion is to deny one of the statements. If one of the statements is shown to be false, then the entire argument is worthless. Since some of the statements are obviously true, I’ll just mention the ones that need more proof or explanation.

(I.) Jesus claimed to be God

You can find what Jesus thought about Himself in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament of any Bible, and I encourage you to fact check me. So, what did Jesus think about Himself? The only possible answer to this question is that the Jesus thought He was God. Jesus claimed to be God on numerous occasions, but we often miss them. In Matthew 16.15-17, Jesus calls Peter blessed when Peter said that Jesus was “the Son of the living God.” In their culture, the Roman emperor was worshiped as the son of god, and thus divine. So, the title “Son of God” as seen in the New Testament would have carried a different meaning to Jesus and those around Him. When Jesus affirms what Peter says in Matthew 16, He isn’t saying that God is His dad in the sense that Justin is my dad. He’s implying much more. This phrase “Son of God” is more of a title than a description of a familial relationship. In the book of John, Jesus claims to be “I am,” a clear reference to the Old Testament name for God used in Exodus 3.14, and the reason that the Jews attempt to stone Jesus in the following verse.[4] Perhaps Jesus’s clearest claim to deity comes when one of Jesus’s disciples asks Jesus to show them God the Father. Jesus responds by saying, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”[5] Finally, all Jesus would have had to do to avoid being tortured and crucified was to say that He was not the Son of God, nor was He the King of the Jews. Yet, Jesus went to the cross because He refused to say that He was not God.

But what if we can’t trust the New Testament? What if Jesus never actually said any of these things, and the Gospels are just myths? This is probably the best objection; however, it too falls short. The New Testament books were all written by an apostle (one of the men who had literally walked with Jesus) or by someone whom the apostles had approved. This implies two important points.

First, all of the books in the New Testament were written extremely early. Every book in the New Testament was written within a lifetime of Jesus’s resurrection. This is significant because myths and legends of this size don’t just pop into existence. They take time to develop. As the holocaust slips further into the past, more people will be able to deny that it happened. This is because the eye-witnesses and those who were affected by the holocaust die, and are replaced by people who don’t have that first-hand experience. The Gospels being written early means that there wasn’t enough time for a myth of this proportion to gain strength and acceptance.

Second, the Gospels beings written soon after Jesus’s death means that they could easily be fact checked. If the early Christians had a problem understanding what Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount, they could ask Matthew who was there when it happened! If they doubted something, then John could answer their questions! If someone claimed that Jesus was never crucified, Peter could give them a first-hand account of the time he denied Jesus three times! In fact, Luke even says that he fact checked everything he put in his Gospel![6] If anything recorded in the Gospels was inaccurate, it would have easily been pointed out. But, we have no evidence, and thus no credible reason to believe, that anyone ever raised serious questions concerning the content of the Gospels. Instead, there is positive evidence that people died because they heard, were taught, and believed that Jesus claimed He was God. People don’t willing die for stories they made up! As a child, would you die for an imaginary friend? So, based on the facts that the New Testament was written very early, and that all the apostles except John were killed because they believed the New Testament stories were true, we can be confident that the New Testament stories are true.[7]

(V.) If Jesus didn’t know He was incorrect, then He was insane

One of my high school teachers was famous for saying, “I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong.” Any sensible person who reads this highly ironic statement immediately realizes that it is completely false. Indeed, even without knowing this teacher’s identity, you probably can see that the statement is false for a few reasons. One reason you saw straight through this statement is that you know that everyone makes mistakes on a consistent basis. In fact, the idea that a mistake would be a rare thing for someone is what makes this statement comical. So, if mistakes are so common, couldn’t Jesus have been honestly mistaken in the Gospels when He claimed to be God? Couldn’t He have been just a good-old-boy who had some kind of ego problem that would make the stars in Hollywood blush?

Though you probably want to say yes to that last question, the answer is actually no. Jesus could not have been just some deceived, yet otherwise average, Jewish man in first century Judea. The reason is that for a man to think that he’s the handsomest man on earth when he is not is just sad. For an overly intelligent woman to think that she’s the smartest person on earth when in fact she isn’t simply shows she thinks too highly of herself. What about, to use C.S. Lewis’s analogy, a man who thinks he’s a poached egg?[8] This man who thinks he’s a poached egg is surely in a different class than the other two misguided individuals! The difference is the depth of their delusion. The man who thinks he’s a breakfast item is far more deluded than a man who finds himself overly attractive, or than a woman who believes she is smarter than she is. What then are we to say about a man who thought he was the God of the universe, the only eternal One, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, the One who breathed the stars into existence, the One who commissioned Moses, the One who spoke through the prophets, and the One who alone can forgive sins? If you aren’t grasping how serious of a problem this would be, go read Job 38-41, Isaiah 40, and Psalm 33 to name but a few. The God described in these passages is the very same God that Jesus of Nazareth, the firstborn son of a carpenter in the eyes of his contemporaries, claimed to be. If Jesus wasn’t God, but sincerely believed Himself to be God, then He belonged in a padded room, for He was surely the most deceived person to have ever walked the earth!

(VI.) Jesus did not lie, nor was He insane

As has been said already, Jesus is widely known to be the most erudite ethical teachers to have ever lived. The mere suggestion that the man who produced the famous Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7) could have based his entire ministry and teaching on one big, fat lie is highly unlikely at best. The fact that His claims to deity led to His death makes the thought of his being a liar all the more ridiculous, because nobody willing dies for a lie! So, based on Jesus’s personality in the Gospels and based on the fact that He was willing to die for His claims, He almost certainly did not lie. It is simply more rational to believe that He was telling the truth.

Any honest reader of the Gospels must certainly declare that Jesus was not self-deceived and insane! As the renowned Church historian Philip Schaff once said, “is such an intellect—clear as the sky, bracing as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword, thoroughly healthy and vigorous, always ready and always self-possessed—liable to a radical and most serious delusion concerning His own character and mission? Preposterous imagination!”[9] The mere thought that Jesus, the man revered by non-believers and believers the world over for the clarity with which He taught, could have been insane is laughable! The sort of things that Jesus said and did are not the things that insane people do! Jesus always had the correct reply. He knew how to get to the heart of the matter. At times it’s evident that He knew others better than they knew themselves! This man was certainly not insane!

The Shocking Conclusion

The shocking outcome is that unless you want to pointlessly question the New Testament’s authenticity, are willing to openly avow the position that Jesus was a liar, or can stomach the idea of Jesus being insane, you are bound to admit that Jesus really was God. That’s simply the only other option! So the question is, what will you do with Jesus? If He’s God, then you can follow Him as Christians do. Or, the other alternative is to admit that He’s God, but to go about living your life as you would so choose, as some have chosen to do.[10] The problem with the second choice is that if Jesus is God, then what He taught is complete truth. Jesus taught that the only way to ever know and have peace was to know Him. Negatively, Jesus taught that all people who did not follow Him would be punished for their mistakes and shortcomings. If Jesus is God, then what you do with this Jesus who is called the Messiah is the most important decision you will ever make.

If you believe Jesus is God, then the rational choice is to follow Him. But what if you have questions about how old the earth is, doubt that Jonah was ever actually swallowed by a whale/big fish, and wonder why a good God allows so much suffering? If Jesus is God, then you should follow Him even if you have doubts and questions. As Christians, we talk about issues like these all of the time, and we often have questions about the Bible; however, the one thing that all Christians agree on is that Jesus was and is God. So if you look at the argument above and realize that only real option is that Jesus is God, then you should bring your doubts and questions with you as you begin to follow the God who took on flesh for you.

For more information on following Jesus, please email pastor@hessmerbaptist.church, or visit a local church in your area. As a pastor, I can say that they’ll be flabbergasted when you walk up to the pastor and say, “I want to follow Jesus!”

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Notes & Sources

[1] Matthew 27.22. All Scripture quotes are NIV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Though this argument’s form is different, it is actually a very old argument. The first place I encountered it was in C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York, NY: Harper One, 1980), 52. It has been claimed that the argument may even predate Lewis. However, the form of the argument found in Lewis’s writings has been shown to be invalid. This form has (I hope) avoided Lewis’s fallacy.

[3] This form is similar, though not identical to, the form of this argument found in Stephen T. Davis, Christian Philosophical Theology, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 152.

[4] John 8.58-59.

[5] John 14.9.

[6] Luke 1.3

[7] These are just two reasons among many. The fact is that the New Testament is one of, if not the most, reliable ancient texts that you’ve ever read. The books you could read on this topic are practically endless. Gary Habermas has some really good books on the early church’s perception of who Jesus was. For a less academic version, see Josh McDowell’s numerous books.

[8] Lewis, 52.

[9] Philip Schaff. “Person of Christ: The Miracle of History. With a Reply to Strauss and Renan, and a Collection of Testimonies of Unbelievers.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Accessed October 19, 2016. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/person.iii.xii.iii.html.

[10] Matthew 19.16-22.