C.S. Lewis was right when he said of Jesus:
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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to (Mere Christianity).
How did Lewis reach this conclusion? He read the gospels. The more we read the gospels the more impressed we are with what we find, particularly in the words of Jesus. The things Jesus says are so ingrained in the “idea of Jesus,” that we regularly miss the shocking nature of them.
For example, when Jesus cast the demon (or demons) out of the man of Gadara, he told him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (Mark 5:19).
What strikes you about this statement?
When teaching younger Bible school classes, I usually have the kids read from the Bible. I don’t do this just for the academic act of reading, I do this so I can challenge them to open their eyes and see what is there.
When reading a passage of Scripture, we can easily gloss over things. I tell people, “When you read the Bible, remember that you are not just reading, you are eating. You are consuming God’s word. It is food for your soul. You have to slow down, and chew, and take time to digest it.”
Look again at the response of Jesus in Mark 5:19, but go slowly. Chew on it. Digest the words, the phrases. Notice what is there.
Now, let me share what I see. Notice these words: “great things the Lord hath done.”
Jesus – he calls himself, “The Lord.”
Now, there may be some quibbling here about the Greek word kurios, which can be used as a sort of generic and courteous term, equivalent to “sir” in English. But the context demands that Jesus is doing more than giving himself a courteous title. He is telling this man, in no uncertain terms, exactly who has driven the demons from him. He is not using the term colloquially, he is using it regally, authoritatively – and to boot, singularly.
He is the Lord.
He is The Lord.
He is God.
Someone is not saying it about him.
The inspired writers are not making it up. It is completely unlikely that the Jewish writers would have made up something like that. It would have been heresy – still is for many.
Yet, here is Jesus, claiming to be God. This is a type of claim that Jesus actually makes so often that it is ubiquitous with him. He says it, and we move on as if nothing happened.
The only way we can fully appreciate it is to imagine someone we know saying the same thing. Read the words of Jesus in the voice of your next-door neighbor, your son, your spouse, your minister, your boss.
For example, suppose your boss comes to work tomorrow and provides lunch for everyone (not miraculously, of course), and you say, “Thank you so much!” And she replies, “Think nothing of it! Now, go back home and tell everyone in your neighborhood that the Lord has provided for you.”
How does that sound?
If your boss says something like this, you instantly know she is either being silly, or has a screw loose. When Jesus says it, it doesn’t sound foreign or strange. Why? I believe it is because everything we know about Jesus’ life is completely consistent with the claim he is making. He truly was tempted in every point like the rest of us, yet without sin (Heb. 5:8-9).
This is what Lewis was getting at: “Let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
No, he did not. His claims were higher and greater than those of average men. But the life he lived, the death he died, the resurrection he accomplished, make all of those words, all of those claims, sit perfectly within the realm of reason.
Is there anyone else in history for whom this is the case?