“And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Matthew 21).
Who is Jesus? This is the time to get your answer to that question straight, in case you have never done it before. Matthew has presented Jesus as God’s King. We have seen Him rejected by many but believed on by a few. Where do you stand on this issue? Is Jesus the King? Is He the Son of God? Is He the Savior? Have you trusted Him for the salvation of your soul?
If you are still hesitating with your answer, let me take you through the possibilities. There are only three of them, once we eliminate the one truly impossible idea that Jesus was merely a good man. Whatever He might be, He was certainly not just a good man, for no good man could honestly make the claims He made. Jesus presented Himself as the Savior of the human race, claiming to be God. Is He? If so, He is more than a mere man. If not, then He is at best mistaken (consequently, not “good”) and at worst a deceiver. What are we to do with His claims? John R. W. Stott wrote, “The claims are there. They do not in themselves constitute evidence of deity. The claims may have been false. But some explanation of them must be found. We cannot any longer regard Jesus as simply a great teacher, if He was so grievously mistaken in one of the chief subjects of His teaching, namely Himself.”
C. S. Lewis wrote similarly, “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 for 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.”
Thinking of Jesus merely as a good man or a good teacher is impossible, but what are the alternatives? The quotation from C. S. Lewis lists the actual possibilities clearly.
First, Jesus may have been insane or suffering from megalomania. Hitler suffered from megalomania. Napoleon probably did as well. Was Jesus like them? Before we jump too quickly at that explanation, we need to ask whether the total character of Jesus as we know it supports that speculation. Did Jesus act like a person who was crazy? Did He speak like one suffering from megalomania? As we read the Gospels, we see that rather than being mad, Jesus was actually the sanest man who ever lived. He spoke with quiet authority. He was in control of every kind of situation. He will not fit that first, easy classification.
The second possibility is that Jesus was a deceiver, that is, He set out intentionally to fool people. Before we settle on that answer, we need to examine what is involved in it. In the first place, if Jesus was a deceiver, He was the best deceiver who ever lived. Jesus claimed to be God, but that claim was not made in a Greek or Roman environment where the idea of many gods or even half gods was acceptable. It was made at the very heart of monotheistic Judaism. The Jews were ridiculed, even persecuted, for their belief in one God, but they stuck to their conviction fanatically. In that climate Jesus made His claims, and the remarkable thing is that He convinced people to believe in Him. Lots of people – men and women, peasants and sophisticates, priests, rulers, eventually even members of His own family.
On the other hand, if Jesus was a deceiver, if He was not God, He should be judged a devil, for He did not merely say, “I am God,” and let it go at that. He said, “I am God come to save humanity; I am the way of salvation; trust me with your eternal destiny.” Jesus taught that God is holy, that we are separated from Him because of our sins, and that He came to be our sin bearer. That is good news, even great news – but only if it is true. If it is not true, then His followers are of all human beings the most miserable, and Jesus should be hated as a devil from hell. If it is not true, Jesus sent generations of gullible followers to a hopeless eternity.
Is He a deceiver? Is that the explanation we have for one who was known for being “gentle [meek] and lowly” – listen to the heart of Jesus:
Fatherlike he tends and spares us
Well our feeble frame he knows
In his hand he gently bears us
Rescues us from all our foes.
(H.F. Lyte 1834)
Jesus became a poor itinerant evangelist in order to help the poor and teach those whom others despised? Somehow the facts do not fit. We cannot face the facts of His life and teaching and still call Jesus a deceiver. What then? If He was not a deceiver or insane, only one possibility is left. Jesus is who He said He is. He is the one the Gospels, including Matthew, proclaim Him to be. He is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior. Do you believe that? If you do, now is the time to turn from your sin, trust Jesus for your salvation, and follow Him.
Pastor Steve can be reached at PastorSteve@MaranathaBibleChurch.org