What Do You Think Of Jesus?
In our world of independent thought, we are constantly tempted to place our own spin on everything. We want to have our two cents, our say, or our opinion involved in every discussion. What do we think about politics? Society? Taxes? Our jobs? Our homes? New trends? New neighbors? And, is it not safe to say, religion too? What do you think about the Christ? Is He the son of God, or is He a scam artist, a genuinely good man, a proponent of syncretism or “unity in diversity,” or just Satan incarnate?
No matter how one approaches the subject, though, with every shade of difference between them, there are only two views of Jesus that make a difference. The first view maintains that He was just a man, whether that be impostor, fool, or powerful leader in the history of religious-philosophical giants. “He was a great man, truly wonderful, but only a man, a bright and shining light like John the Baptist, a sensitive tender-hearted patriot and martyr like Jeremiah, an intrepid messenger from the courts of Heaven like Elijah, a beautiful Heraclitus or Socrates, a noble Seneca or Epictetus, a Palestinian Confucius or Buddha, very great, very wonderful, but still a man” (The Fundamentals, Jefferson).
The second view “is that He was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. It was only by coming and dwelling in flesh among men that God could demonstrate love to them, and by the demonstration of that love win them unto His own heart” (The Deity of Jesus, Kellems, 15).
Just a good man?
“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: ‘What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?’ they said to Him, ‘The son of David’” (Matthew 22:41-42). Notice that Jesus is not afraid of confronting the Pharisees. Rather than always letting them come to Him with questions, He decides that it is time to go to them with a question. Of course, the answer that Jesus was looking for would have forced them to admit that He was the Christ, so it is no wonder that they responded by dismissing the Christ as the son of David, and therefore inferior to him.
What we see here in the answer of the Pharisees is the typical mentality of the person who believes that Jesus was a good man and nothing else. Essentially, when the Pharisees call Jesus the son of David, they are elevating him to a certain extent – good enough to be just below David, the greatest king in Israelite history, and a man after God’s own heart. Surely that is good enough, is it not? Surely Jesus should have been satisfied with this response! How many people get to be just a step below one of the greatest men in history? Yet that is what we do to Jesus when we call Him just a good man. Some will admit that His character was unquestionably pure, His morals right, and His work on earth substantial. They relate Jesus to Mother Theresa or the general of the Salvation Army, or a humanitarian. He was, of all men, one of the best, but nothing else. And people respond this way to Jesus because they hope it will release them from obligation to Him. “If I compromise and admit that Jesus was very good, but not the Son of God, then maybe that will be fine with Him.” But that does not work, for Jesus requires much more of us!
“Then how does David, in the Spirit, call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” (22:43-45). We see Jesus using a hermeneutical method of approaching the scriptures called necessary inference. The assumption is based on only one word in the verse, but even on the basis of a single word Jesus believed in the authority of the scriptures. Some people argue that Christians are Bible worshipers, and that we take too much stock in the written Word. But even Jesus Himself considered the Bible carefully and made arguments from seemingly minute details. The point that He is trying to make is that even King David called the Christ “Lord,” so why did the Pharisees refuse to believe in Him? In the same way, when we try to equate Jesus with some of the “good” people throughout history, we undeniably come across some examples who would be mortified to find out they are coupled with Jesus on equal terms. Some say that Jesus was a great man just like one of our country’s Founding Fathers, but most of those men would be appalled at the debasement of the Savior. Some say that Jesus is like Mother Theresa, but she too would have wept at such a pronouncement. So too would David weep if he knew that the Pharisees placed him above the Mighty King!
In any case, the claim that Jesus was just a good man is self-defeating. If He is not the Son of God, and He is a man with no more deity than you or me, then that makes Him a liar – and a very tremendous one at that!
A scam artist?
Those who argue that Jesus was a con artist are basing their arguments on ignorance and nothing else, for there is never any indication in the Bible that Jesus had a desire for money or power. Not to mention that none of Jesus’ detractors were ever able to deride Him based on His moral character. They claimed that He was insane, that He was possessed, and that His disciples were drunk, but they could never question His genuine belief in the message He was preaching. He always answered His enemies with intelligence, eloquence, and honesty. He never stole from anybody, abused anybody, took advantage of anybody. He was a man of high moral character and it was only because they hated His message that they denied and crucified Him.
If Jesus was just a scam artist, then He displayed none of the qualities of it. First, Jesus was completely devoid of worldly ambition. Compared to other men, He had no intention of conquering the world (for it is His to begin with [Colossians 1:16]) or becoming any kind of earthly king. He was no Napoleon, Caesar, or Mussolini. “When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:14-15). Even when a crown was offered to Him, He rejected it strongly. Alexander the Great could never say the same about himself. The wealthiest men of the industrial age could not, either. In the same way, worldly ambition has motivated countless individuals – some to be sure are ambitious for good ends, while others diligently seek evil ends. He never owned vast tracts of land, or held public office, or campaigned for any political changes. The only crown He ever wore was that cursed strand of thorns placed on His head in shame.
If Jesus was a swindler, then He would have promoted Himself better. But because He was nothing of the sort, He avoided worldly fame and attention to the point that He often commanded the recipients of His miracles to “tell no one.” He does this with the leper of Mark 1:43-44, sternly warning him to tell nobody but the priest at the synagogue.
Is He the Savior and the Son of God?
So what do you think about the Christ? When compromise is not an option, you must either follow Christ or ignore Him. “He who is not for Me is against Me” (Luke 11:23). If you choose to ride the fence, you are as good as an unbeliever entirely. But if you are convicted, and have considered wisely the evidence of Jesus, then why not confess your belief and take all the steps necessary to be right with God? Why not be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins?
When asked about what he thinks of the Christ in Matthew 16:15, Peter boldly responds, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”