Who is Jesus?
Jesus’ teaching style involved asking a lot of pertinent questions. In the area of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “’Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?’’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matt. 16:15,16)
Today, the question still needs to be asked. What do you believe about Jesus? Who was/is He? Was He the Son of God?
What Do Others Believe About Jesus?
The answers to this question will vary widely depending on who you ask. The Mormons believe that Jesus is a man who achieved great things. “He was God’s firstborn spirit-child. Whatever happened to Him may happen to any of us.” (Elder B. H. Roberts citing Sir Oliver Lodge in Joseph Smith, King Follett Discourse, p. 11 note). According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses Jesus is a created being who was given the status of second-in-command. They claim Jesus is “a god, but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah” (Let God Be True, p. 33) and “a created individual” who “is the second greatest personage of the universe” (Make Sure of All Things, 207).
Jesus is a man and no better than we are according to the Unification Church begun by Sun Myung Moon in Korea. He wrote, “It is plain that Jesus is not God Himself” (Divine Principle, 25). He further claims that Jesus’ work was a failure. The Way International teach “Jesus Christ’s existence began when he was conceived by God’s creating the soul-life of Jesus in Mary” (Victor Wierwille, The Word’s Way, Vol. 3, pp. 26,27). According to this view Jesus’ existence began at His conception.
Modern-day Judaism teach He was not the Messiah. “Jews know that Jesus could not possibly have been and mashiach. Assuming that he existed, and assuming that the Christian scriptures are accurate in describing him (both of which are debatable), he simply did not fulfill the mission of the mashiach as Jews have always understood it” (The Mechon Mamre). Jesus was just a prophet and messenger of God according to Islam’s Qu’ran. It says of Jesus in surah 4:171: “Jesus…was only a messenger of Allah” Surah 4:171.
Jesus was one of many forms that god (Vishnu) has taken according to the traditions of Hinduism. Buddhism believes Jesus was not the Son of God in the literal sense, but an enlightened master who followed and taught the teachings of Buddha.
William Channing of the Unitarian church says, “Christ was sent to earth as a great moral teacher rather than as a mediator.” The New Age movement tells us “The christ is not God, he is not coming as God. He is an embodiment of an aspect of God, the love aspect of God. He is the embodied soul of all creation. He embodies the energy which is a consciousness aspect of the being we call God…He would rather that you didn’t pray to him, but to God within you, which is also within him…He said it himself. “The kingdom of God is within you” (Benjamin Cream, The Reappearance of Christ, p. 135). The late Bertrand Russell a renown atheist wrote, “I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history” (Why I am not a Christian, 19). Others like him see Jesus as no more than a myth. Carl Jung, Swiss psychologist wrote “our culture hero who, regardless of His historical existence, embodies the myth of the divine man.”
What about the day-to-day man on the street? How do they answer the questions about Jesus’ identity? They will tell you Jesus was “a prophet from God” or “a great moral teacher” or “a good man” or “a man touched by God more than anyone else in history” or “the greatest man who ever lived.” Although these are all true of Jesus, He was so much more than these, He was the Son of God.
A Question Everyone Needs to Answer
What is so important about this designation for Jesus? Can’t we just learn from His wise sayings and admire His good life and leave it at that? NO! Jesus said, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). He also said, (John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” It is by belief in Jesus that one becomes a child of God. ”But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). The apostle John warned, “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (John 2:24)
Examining the Possibilities
In 1987 I met a patient at 4West the psychiatric ward on an Air Force Base Hospital. He was about seven feet tall. He came up to me and extended his hand. As he shook my hand, he wore a slight but friendly smile on his face. Then he confidently and casually introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Jesus Christ.” Was this Jesus? Was this man a liar? What proof did he offer? He offered none. No scripture of prophecy and sign, wonder or miracle. Perhaps this man was insane?
Who other than the insane would make such a claim? Buddha did not claim to be God. Moses never said that he was Yahweh. Mohammed did not identify himself as Allah. Nowhere will you find Zoroaster claiming to be Ahura Mazda. “If you had gone to Socrates and asked, “Are you Zeus?” he would have laughed at you. Jesus did claim to be God. The difference is this: Christ got the world to believe him.
Was Jesus just another feeble-minded lunatic like someone believes himself to be Napoleon? Jesus showed no signs of mental illness, such as being vehemently angry, unable to relate socially to others, schizophrenic, plagued with anxiety, paranoia, inappropriate depression or emotions. Unlike His cousin John, Jesus did not dress oddly. He showed no signs of desiring to escape from the world of reality, dementia, delusions of grandeur, bloated ego etc.
Jesus spoke some of the most profound sayings ever recorded. His instructions have liberated many individuals from mental bondage. How could a feeble-minded lunatic accomplish such? Some did conclude Jesus was mad. “And many of them said, ‘He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?’’’ (John 10:20). This is not a diagnosis by a trained mental health professional. If only we were as sane as He.
Was Jesus a fiend or demon? Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:21). Was the person named Jesus in the New Testament just a myth of fiction? Among the secular historians and writers of antiquity who refer to Christ and Christianity are Tacitus, the Roman historian; Suetoinus; Pliny the younger, Epictetus, Lucian, Aristides; Galenus; Lampridius; DioCassius; Hinnerius; Libanius; Ammianus; Marcellinus, Eunapius, Zosimus. Others have written whole books against Christianity, including Lucian, Celsus, Prophyry, Hierocles, and Julian the Apostate. No one would argue the identity of people like Lincoln, Michelangelo, or Aristotle. There is a great deal of evidence that Jesus was a real man who lived in the first century.
Did the disciples of Jesus falsify His identity? Some believe Jesus never really claimed He was the Son of God; instead, this belief was superimposed on the Jesus tradition by overzealous followers years after his death. Could mere men create the image of a perfect man like Jesus? Men tend to create their gods in their own image and likeness. It would have taken a miracle to have created such a perfect man with a world changing message.
Another possibility to explore is the honesty of Jesus. Was He who He said He was or was He a deceptive fraud and liar? He would thus have been a hypocrite because He told others to be honest. Also, Jesus would have been a demon, because He told others to trust Him for their eternal destiny. To have faked all those miracles in public would have required Jesus to have been the greatest magician of all time. How could someone fake the fulfilling of many centuries’ old prophecies? Someone who lived as Jesus lived, taught as Jesus taught and died as Jesus died could not have been a liar. Liars are not consistent with the truth. Jesus was completely and constantly consistent.
What would Jesus have to gain by such a lie? Would He die for a lie? Was He just a fool who got Himself crucified? Jesus knew the Law and the Jews knew what to do with anyone foolish enough to blaspheme. “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God’” (John 19:7).
This leaves us with the only other possibility. Jesus was who He claimed to be: The Son of God and equal with God. Jesus was the Father’s Son. “Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly’. …’I and My Father are one’” (Jn. 10:24,30).
You choose. Was Jesus 1) a feeble-minded lunatic; 2) fiction or myth; 3) falsified character; 4) fiend or devil; 5) fraud; 6) fool; or 7) Father’s Son?
– Daniel R. Vess