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This is an important issue, and one I had to wrestle with myself. If Jesus is just a historical figure, a great moral teacher, then what he said doesn’t need to have any bearing on my life. But if he is God, then I need to sit up and take notice! So that questton of whether he’s a great historical teacher or much more than that is really pretty crucial.

It seems to me only fair to Jesus to listen to what he said about who he was. Let me tell you about one event in his life, that you can read about in the gospel (the biography) of Jesus written by John. Jesus called himself “I AM”, and the people listening picked up rocks and tried to stone him! Why? Because “I AM” is the Old Testament name for God, and the people listening understood that Jesus was indeed calling himself God.

So you see, that’s what Jesus had to say about himself—not that he was a great teacher, but that he was much much more than that.

Now of course, anyone can say that they’re God! The amazing thing about Jesus is that he backed up what he said with what he did. It’s hard to examine Jesus’ life and think he’s just a great historical figure. His miracles are astounding. He healed people, he brought them back from the dead, he changed water into wine, he even walked on water.

My point is this—a great man, a great moral teacher, wouldn’t have made the claims that Jesus made, and wouldn’t have had the power to do the things that Jesus did.

Jesus’ claims to be God don’t allow us the option of thinking he’s just a good teacher.

If you think about it, because he claimed to be God, Jesus was either a madman—someone who thought he was God, but was really crazy; a liar—someone who was deliberately deceiving the people; or he was who he said he was—he was God. So in other words, Jesus was either mad, bad, or God.

And I‘d say his resurrection, his rising from the dead and literally conquering death, is resounding proof of his claim to be God.

Now as I said, this is an issue that I’ve really thought about myself; and once I read the Gospels I was just utterly convinced that Jesus was who he said he was. And if he is God, then it’s important for us to think through what that means for us and for our lives.

 

Thanks for clicking on “Go Deeper” after watching or reading Kara’s answer. This section gives you some more points to think about, in a slightly deeper way, and points you to some other online resources you might find helpful if you want to take this issue further.

What Jesus said.

As Kara said, Jesus claimed to be God. He called himself “I AM” (John chapter 8 verse 58), which was the name Jews called God. The people listening knew exactly what he was claiming—just as if someone turned up and said “I’m the US President” we’d understand they were making a huge claim.

That claim wasn’t just a one-off slip of the tongue. For example, in one conversation with some religious leaders, Jesus said: “I and the Father [God] are one” (John 10:30). And again, those listening in knew exactly what he was saying. They picked up rocks to stone him, saying: “We are stoning you… for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).

Jesus’ claims narrow down the options for us. He either was God, as he said, or he wasn’t. He can’t be half-way in between, or “sort-of-God”: he either is, or he isn’t.

So was he God?

If you were God, living on earth as a man, how would you prove it? You’d have to do stuff that only God could do.

For example, you’d need to heal incurable diseases with a touch—which Jesus did (you can read about it in Mark 1:40-42. If you want to do that now, just click on “Read Mark” to the right of the video screen).

Or, you’d need to raise dead people back to life—which Jesus could do (Mark 5:35-42, Luke 7:11-17).

You’d need to face down evil and defeat it—which he managed (Mark 1:23-28).

You’d have to show you had control over creation—which Jesus proved as he calmed a fierce storm with a word (Mark 4:35-41).

And your best proof would be to predict your own death, and resurrection from the dead, even down to the details of timing, and then come back from the dead as you’d promised—which is exactly what Jesus did (Mark 8:31, Mark 16:1-8).

The question Jesus poses us each time he does something God-like is the one which his closest friends asked themselves when he calmed a storm with his voice. It’s: “Who is this man?” Jesus’ answer to that question is: “I am God”.

Promises, promises.

Perhaps you’re still a bit cynical about the whole Jesus = God thing. But there’s another way in which God helps us to see that Jesus really is who he said he was, God the Son, God on earth.

For thousands of years before Jesus, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, turned up, God had been promising to send his King, his Son, into the world. Through his messengers, the “prophets”, God had said that at some point in the future, his King would arrive. And he’d even suggested that this King would be divine—would be God himself.

  • Six hundred years before Jesus turned up, God had said that his King would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
  • Seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, God had said that he would come to be with his people in a unique way through a virgin giving birth (Isaiah 7:14).
  • Through the same prophet, God also said that this King would make blind people see; would heal those who couldn’t walk; would give the dumb their speech (Isaiah 35:5-6).
  • A thousand years before Jesus died on a cross, God had even predicted how this man would die. He’d predicted, centuries before crucifixion had even been invented, that his King would one day say: “They have pierced my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16).
  • He said that people would “mock” his King, saying “He trusts in the Lord: let the Lord rescue him” (Psalm 22:8).
  • He promised that people would “divide [this man’s] garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” (Psalm 22:18).

There are dozens more promises like that, many of them dealing with tiny details of what would happen. And here’s the thing: Jesus fulfilled every single one of them.

Of course, some of those prophecies could have been set up by Jesus’ parents (like where he was born); or staged by Jesus (pretending to heal the blind). But it’s impossible to arrange for men to throw dice to see who gets to keep your cloak while you hang dying on a cross: or to sort out a virgin getting pregnant!

So we’re left with two options. Either Jesus was who he said he was—God on earth, fulfilling the prophecies made over hundreds of years—or it was a coincidence. Perhaps it just happened that they came true in this one man’s life?

Someone has worked out how likely that is. It’s like covering the state of Texas with dollar coins to a depth of two feet; then marking just one of them; and then a blindfolded man happening to pick that one out first time.

Getting to grips with Jesus.

As Kara said, as we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, we meet an amazing man. We meet a man who said he was God; who did things only God can do; and who fulfilled all the predictions God had made about the coming of his King and Son. To get to grips with who Jesus really was, the best thing you can do is to read a Gospel. Mark’s the shortest!

So if you’d like to think through who exactly this Jesus is, why not:

READ Mark’s Gospel (you can do that on this site, just click on “Read Mark”)

GO TO www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus

GET A COPY of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, a book which looks at the evidence for Jesus and asks all of the questions people have about who he was (you can get a copy here).