Some of Jesus’ statements are quite attractive: statements like, “God so loved the world…” and “Judge not…” are generally beloved by most people.
His actions draw crowds still today. He called out hypocrites and spent time with outcasts. He upheld the little guy and pulled down the crooked establishment.
But this is where the admiration should end. So Jesus defied some conventions and said some pretty things, does that make him special?
Hitler is attributed with the saying, “Anyone can deal with victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat.” That sounds like something to put on a motivational poster with a sun setting behind a snow-capped mountain overlooking a lake of glass.
The Belgian priest known as “Father Damien” defied conventional medicine and wisdom. He moved to an isolated leper (Hansen’s Disease) colony in Kalaupapa, Molokai, and served there for 16 years. He did what no one else would do: he lived in their environment, advocated for them, taught them, gave them fellowship and sacrificial love. He eventually contracted the disease and died at the age of 49.
Many people have defied conventions and said inspiring things.
What makes Jesus so different? Moreover, what makes him any better?
Jesus did not just do unconventional things and say inspiring things, he said downright crazy things.
Like, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Um, excuse me?
Or, “Not everyone that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21).
I’m sorry, what?
How does Jesus get a pass here? Why do people follow him? Because Jesus said and did inspiring things, should we just overlook all the crazy things?
Imagine if I began this article this way:
“Just a reminder to all my readers that I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Thank you.”
You’d have me sedated, picked up in a wagon, and probably admitted to an institution.
And this isn’t the only statement like this that Jesus makes. Not by far. Repeatedly throughout the gospels Jesus states explicitly or implies that he is God. In the flesh. That he was alive before Abraham was born (John 8:58). That he came from heaven (John 3:13; 4:10). That he is – basically – God’s favorite person ever. That he is going back to heaven and that no one can come with him unless they bow down and worship him.
In the gospel of John alone, there are hundreds of such references. In fact, the gospel seems to have been written just to highlight these kinds of statements (John 20:30-31).
Some years ago this author studied the first 17 chapters of John specifically for this purpose: to determine just how often the deity of Jesus was spoken of specifically or implied, by him, by a friend, or a by an enemy. Of all the verses – over 700 of them – nearly 3 out of every 4 verses was a statement about him being God.
You’d have to be blind not to see it.
It’s crazy talk.
C.S. Lewis came to this same realization when he said that Jesus did not leave us the option that he was just some great moral teacher. Not at all. He claims to be so much more than that. Over and over and over he claims to be something else, something more. And that makes the gospels about as crazy as anything you have ever read or will ever read.
It also makes the gospels easy to dismiss. There are those who believe the gospels were written by amateurs well after the life of the man purported to be Jesus, and then it was elaborated on and edited in the ensuing centuries.
But I must say, what a terrible job they all did. They have succeeding in giving humanity the most ridiculous character in all of literary history.
Jesus is worse than the deities of the pantheon – much worse. From Rome to Greece and back through history to Mesopotamia, to African and South American legends, to Aboriginal legends. These gods made no pretense of perfection. They are just grandiose expressions of humanity, at best, full of vice and caprice and inconsistency. They were all just placeholders for our lack of understanding about the natural world.
Jesus is surely far worse than Mohammed. Mohammed made no claim to be God, he just claimed to receive a vision or visions from an angel. Delusional? Deceptive? Likely. But at least he didn’t claim to be Allah.
Jesus is worse than all the mystic religious leaders, none of whom claimed to be the one true God of the universe. They have merely suggested that following the path they have followed will bring an ultimate state of mind.
Perhaps I should revise my opinion of the gospel writers then: what an amazing job they did. They have succeeded in giving humanity the most ridiculous character in all of literary history.
But why? Why would they do this? What motivation would they have to take a person, who may or may not have lived, and preserve some scant few of his words and then add hundreds – thousands of others, the combination of which would make him out to be the most ridiculously self-aggrandizing, condescending, arrogant person who ever lived?
Oh, and while we’re at it: how did they convince the world that he was meek and gentle and loving and just and kind and good? How did they inspire people – literally hundreds if not thousands of years after the fact – to write beautiful songs like “Jesus Loves Me,” compose unparalleled symphonies, like Handel’s “Messiah,” and craft some of the world’s most breathtaking art, like Pieta?
Why are we giving this obviously crazy person – or the crazy people who concocted him – any attention AT ALL?
And why would the authors – the original propagators of the nonsense – all die for it?
And why, why would the subsequent followers of that phony nonsense go to their graves, brutally, as martyrs, and consistently for over 250 years with that name – the name of this crazy, deranged, whatever he was, charlatan? literary invention? – on their tongues?
Unless, in fact, he was telling the truth.
Do you have a better explanation?