Who was Jesus Christ of Nazareth? Was he a lunatic, as many people claim, or is he who he claimed to be—the Son of God?
Why has the name “Jesus Christ” caused more controversy, more agitation, and more debate than any other name in history? If we discuss Buddha or Brahman, Moses or Muhammad, we really don’t irritate anyone. However, the name “Jesus Christ” seems to cut right to the heart—right to the soul. There’s something about that name. What is it?
Unlike other widely followed religious leaders in history, Jesus Christ made a unique claim. He declared that he was God! Not a god, not god-like, but God incarnate—the creator of the universe in human flesh! Intellectually, that’s unsettling. Spiritually, that’s a direct attack on everything we believe to be comfortable and safe.
When it comes to Jesus, many throw out statements such as “Jesus was a great man”, “Jesus was a nice moral model”, “Jesus was an esteemed teacher”, or “Jesus was an insightful prophet.”
However, as Christian scholar Josh McDowell declares in his foundational book, More Than a Carpenter, these types of statements raise a compelling “trilemma”.
Once you examine the actual claims of Jesus and his eyewitness followers, there are only three options—either Jesus Christ was a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.
“The issue with these three alternatives is not which is possible, for it is obvious that all three are possible. But rather, the question is ‘which is more probable?’ Who you decide Jesus Christ is must not be an idle intellectual exercise. You cannot put Him on the shelf as a great moral teacher. That is not a valid option. He is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God. You must make a choice. ‘But,’ as the Apostle John wrote, ‘these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and’—more important—’that believing you might have life in His name'”(John 20:31).1
C. S. Lewis states:
“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 the 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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.“2
Please understand that we’re not selling “religion” here. If anything, “organized religion” has probably kept more people from God than anything in history!
Actually, true biblical Christianity isn’t a religion at all—it’s discovering and establishing a relationship with God. It’s trusting in Jesus and what He did on the cross for you and me3, not on what we can do for ourselves.4
Following Jesus is not about hierarchical structures, ornate buildings, flamboyant preachers, or traditional rules and rituals. It’s about pursuing the answers to three basic questions:
- Does God exist? If so, what am I going to do about it?
- Is the Bible true? If so, what does that really mean for me?
- Who is Jesus? If he is who he claims to be, how will this reality change my life?
- Josh McDowell, More than a Carpenter, Tyndale House Publishers, 1977, pp. 33–34.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40–41.
- 1 Corinthians 15:1–4 “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
- Ephesians 2:8–9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”