What is so threatening about Jesus?
Why do people desire to replace him with domesticated distractions like the Santa and Easter bunnies? Perhaps it’s because Jesus Christ can only be explained by use of categories beyond our experiences. The terms needed to reveal Jesus are so beyond our reality that they shatter many of our normal expectations.
How do we begin to wrap our minds around the truths taught about him in the Bible:
- His eternal existence in trinitarian co-equality as Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
- His Christophonies – pre-incarnate appearances throughout Old Testament history?
- His physical conception in the virgin and incarnation as Immanuel—God with us– in hypostatic union as the God-man?
- His numerous miracles and fulfilled prophecies? Here is one who healed the sick, made the lame walk, opened the eyes of the blind, and raised the dead to life. Here is one who fulfilled ancient prophecies in His birth, life and death. Here is one who repeatedly predicted His own death and resurrection.
How do you respond to one who:
1. Claimed to exist before Abraham was born?
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). This is one of the strongest claims to Jesus being God (his deity) from his own confession. Concerning His use of “I am” (ego eimi), N. T. scholar, D. A. Carson wrote, “Moreover, the strong linguistic connections with Isaiah 40-55 are supported by obvious conceptual links: cf. ‘I, the Lord’, – with the first of them and with the last- I am he (Is. 41:4); “Yes, and from ancient days I am he’ (Is. 43:13). Cf. Ps. 90:2. That the Jews take up stones to kill him presupposes that they understand these words as some kind of blasphemous claim to deity.” (P. 358, The Gospel According to John, D.A. Carson. Cf. Also Ex. 3:14-15; Jn. 8:59 w/Lev. 24:16; Jn. 3:13; 17:5; Mic. 5:2 w.Mt. 2:1-6; Lk. 1:30-35)
2. Claimed the right to forgive sins?
See: Mark 2:5-10- This is especially instructive because it would have been a suitable opportunity for Jesus to correct the scribes if they misunderstood His words (see v. 7; also Jn. 19:7; Mt. 26:63-66)
3. Claimed that He would be the judge of all people? (John 5:22)
4. Claimed eternal duration for His words? (Matthew 24:35)
(see also, Mt. 5:21-22, 27-28; Mk. 2:27-28 w/Ex. 20:8-11, Jesus does not use the common Old Testament prophetic formula “Thus says the Lord.” Nor does he exclusively use the common introductory phrases used by teachers in Israel, “Moses said, Scripture says.” Jesus spoke with authority the words: “I say unto you” or “I tell you” synonymous with “Thus says the Lord.”
5. Claimed equality with God? (John 10:30; 14:7-9).
In Creation: (Gen. 1:1 w/Jn. 1:1-3, 10; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:1-3). In Judgment: (Rom. 14:10, 12; Jn. 5:22; II Tim. 4:1). In Sovereign rule: (Mt. 28:19-20; Eph. 1:20-22; I Pet. 3:22; Heb. 2:8)
6. Claimed the ability to give eternal life to those who believe on Him? (John 5:24-25)
7. Claimed that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him? (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus shatters our categories and demands our worship
Jesus claimed all these and more! These are claims so extraordinarily unprecedented that they shatter our categories and demand our worship (see: Phil. 2:10-11w/ Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Mt. 2:11; 8:2; 23:9; Jn. 5:23, 20:28-29).
We do not possess a fully comprehensible category for Jesus. Pre-existence? Virgin birth? Incarnation? Resurrection? Ascension? Promised return? It’s too much for us to wrap our minds around. It demands a God who “breaks in” on the natural order.
Yet worship is more than many are willing to offer. On Christmas, they prefer domesticated co-modifications like jolly bearded men in red suits. Such distractions are more accessible and frankly less threatening. I am not surprised that people hide behind them. I am not surprised that people mock belief in Jesus by comparing it to belief in Santa. To accept Jesus as he revealed himself to humanity is just too scary for some people.
The atheists and all other Christ-rejecting people miss the wonders and majestic realities of a God who breaks into our lives and into our reality. The God who shatters the normal, the mundane, the expected; A God who must be worshipped as above and beyond—yet as real and near.
What should we do with Jesus?
Judas betrayed and sold Him and He is still being sold. Books, movies, new gospels, Davinci codes and Jesus seminars market him often trying desperately to change and domesticate him. They want to make him like us or less than us, or, at least as bad as us.
What did they do with Jesus?
- Pilate’s wife said, “Have nothing to do with this righteous man” (Matthew 27:19-20).
- Pilate said, “I find no fault in Him” (John 18:38; 19:4).
- Judas said, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4).
- The criminal crucified next to Jesus said, “We are getting what we deserve but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:39-42).
- The Roman centurion said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).
- The apostle Paul wrote, “God made the One who knew no sin to be sin…” (2 Cor. 5:21).
- The apostle John said of Jesus, “…in Him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5).
- The apostle Peter said, “Jesus did no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).
This was the overwhelming testimony about Jesus (Hebrews 4:15; 7:25-27). But what do we do with one like Jesus?
There are only 3 reasonable options:
- Reject Him as a liar
- Renounce Him as a lunatic
- Worship Him as the Lord and Savior He claims to be
Hide and Remain neutral?
You could try to remain neutral and hide behind domesticated co-modifications –like Easter bunnies and jolly Saint Nicks. But how sad to hide from the only Savior who offers Himself for us and for our sins. Our reality is so desperate that hiding is foolish. We need nothing less than a God who breaks in. And this is what Jesus has done for us.
How will you respond to Jesus Christ?
If Jesus had stayed dead:
Suppose that Jesus, having died on the cross, had stayed dead. Suppose that, like Socrates or Confucius, he was now no more than a beautiful memory. Would it matter? We should still have his example and teaching; wouldn’t they be enough? Enough for what? Not for Christianity.
Without the resurrection of Jesus: Four things would change
Had Jesus not risen, but stayed dead, the bottom would drop out of Christianity, for four things would then be true.
- First, to quote Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:17: ‘if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.’
- Second, there is then no hope of our rising either; we must expect to stay dead, too.
- Third, if Jesus Christ is not risen, then he is not reigning and will not return, and every single item in the Creed after ‘suffered and was buried’ will have to be struck out.
- Fourth, Christianity cannot be what the first Christians thought it was— fellowship with a living Lord who is identical with the Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus of the Gospels can still be your hero, but he cannot be your Savior.” (The Third Day)
Let C. S. Lewis explain it:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic –on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. 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 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.”
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
(see: The Truth about Jesus)