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10 Questions That Skeptics Ask

Part 6: Who is Jesus, Really?

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

Part 5: Would a Loving God Really Send Anyone to Hell?

(2/15) I hope that you are finding our study profitable; 10 Questions that Skeptics Ask. Thus far we have tried to answer:

We are at the halfway point in this series with what is, in my opinion, the most important question of all. The answer to this question will impact your life for the rest of time and eternity. For those of you that have been followers of the Christ, this may seem like a no-brainer, but for those of you that are seeking to know the truth this is an honest question and one that there are a lot of different opinions about. One thing is for certain, Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ, or the Messiah, or the Anointed One, is one of, if not the most significant persons that have ever walked this earth. That fact is reflected in this writing called; One Solitary Life, by Dr. James Allen Francis from 1926:

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth Ė His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life. I think we all could say, Amen. Time as we know it is divided into two eras based on His life. We either say B.C. or A.D. Even our Jewish friends that donít want to use that terminology refer to the Common Era or Before the Common Era. But who was this Jesus? If asked that question today, how would you answer? You may be surprised to know that Jesus wanted to know what men have concluded about Himself.

I. The First Question.

Matthew records for us that He, Himself, asked this very question. Letís look at Matthew 16:13; "When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" For a couple of years Jesus has been healing people of all kinds of diseases and problems. Some said this, "When Messiah comes will He do more signs than this man?" (John 7:31). When He fed thousands of people with a few fish sandwiches, the people wanted to force Him to be their king (John 6:15)

They had heard Him teach and preach great things like the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6. People who heard Him said that "No one ever spoke like this man," (John 7:46), and, "He spoke like one having authority and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:29). Yet, He was brave enough to say things that were true even when it meant that people would turn away from Him (John 6:60-66). Some of the things that He said and did clearly implied or outright stated that He is God who has come to be live men. He said, "Before Abraham was, I Am," (John 8:58) which was understood that He was claiming to be the God who appeared to Moses and said that His name is, "I Am," (Exodus 3:14).

He didnít fit the mold of the religious teachers of His day because He hung out with irreligious people and did good things on the Sabbath Day and the religious leaders wanted to kill Him. His disciples had watched Him minister to Jews, Samaritans, soldiers, tax collectors, Gentiles, women, children and lepers and other hurting people, when they themselves didnít want to be bothered. They have heard the people talk in the streets and so He asks them, "What are people saying? Who do they think I am?

Notice their answer. So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." (Matt. 16:14) Basically they said, "they are saying that you are someone great, but they are not saying what you are saying or implying about yourself?"

Perhaps it was Herod that started the John the Baptist Rumor in Matthew 14:1 ff. Elijah did awesome stuff and Malachi says that Elijah who did not die would come back before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Mal. 4). And there was a legend that said that Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant and would comeback to reveal it when Messiah comes. They think you are a great teacher, a great prophet, a man of God, but not, the God Ė Man. This is what many people in the world are saying about Him today. Consider that:

  • Jehovahís Witnesses say He is a created god also called Michael the Archangel who came as a perfect man.
  • Mormonís say He is Godís spirit child and brother of Lucifer by procreation
  • Christian Scientist say that He is a human being that showed the Christ ideal more than any other person.
  • Scientologists say He is a great teacher who realized His personal divinity as a "Clear" (?)
  • The Unification Church (Moonies) say He is a perfect man who attained deity but was not the God and He failed in His mission.
  • Basic Judaism says He was a Good teacher but not the Messiah
  • Islam says He was a major prophet with the spirit of Allah, but not god or divine, did not die on the cross, and was not as great as Mohammed.
  • Bahaíi says He was the son of God but not divine, just one of the many manifestations of God along with Krishna, Buddha, Abraham, Moses, Mohammed, and Bahaíuíllah.
  • New Age people from the end of the 20th century said He is one of the many appearances of God throughout the ages; one of many people who were fully aware of their true divinity.
  • Secular Humanists (basically atheist) say He was a good moral teacher but not God
  • Even many Theologians such as those of the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar and others, ĎIn search for the historical Jesus,í believe that He was a great moral leader but question His divinity.
  • Andrew Lloyd Weber asked the question in His Rock Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar: "Jesus Christ Superstar, Do you believe you are who you say you are?" These all are like what the people were saying, You are a great man, a great teacher, a man capable of wondrous things, a man of God, but no one is saying that you are God with us.

II. The Second Question.

Matthew 16:15 "He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Without hesitation Simon Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." To say that he was the Christ meant that Peter was convinced Jesus was the Messiah, the promised Savior of God. But to say that He is the Son of the Living God also meant that Peter believed that Jesus was neither an ordinary man, nor even an extraordinary man, but rather the very personification of God; that is, He is God with us. Remember that on at least 3-4 other occasions the religious leaders of Israel wanted to kill Jesus because He said that He was the Son of God and they understood that as implying that He was claiming to be God incarnate (check these out, John 5:18; 8:58-58; 10:30-33; 19:7).

Peter wasnít alone in His convictions. Throughout history many people have come to the same conclusion. One such person was Napoleon Bonaparte. Listen to what he said, "I Know man and I tell you that Jesus is not a man! The religion of Christ is a mystery which subsists by its own force and proceeds from a mind which is not a human mind. We find in it a marked individuality, which originated a train of words and maxims unknown before. Jesus borrowed nothing from our knowledge. He exhibited in Himself the perfect example of His precepts. Jesus is not a philosopher; for His proofs are miracles, and from the first His disciples adored Him. In fact, learning and philosophy are of no use for salvation; and Jesus came into the world to reveal the mysteries of heaven and the laws of the Spirit.

Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded His Empire upon love; and at this hour, millions of His followers would die for Him."(quoted in Behold the Man: an Anthology of Jesus Christ, ed. Ralph L. Woods, New York, Macmillan, 1944; pp. 123-124).

Who do you say that Jesus is? Consider, before you answer, that the Book that spoke of His coming from thousands of years to hundreds of years before His birth spoke not only of His extraordinary abilities, such as being a King like David, a Prophet like Moses, and a Priest like Melchizedak, and one who would do miraculous things and then die as a substitute for the sins of the people and rise again, but that He would be the presence of God with His people (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2; Zech. 12:10).

Consider that Jesus, Himself, claimed to be God. (Mark 2:5-10; John 5:16-18; 8:56-59; 10:29-33; 14:6-11; Luke 22:67-71)

He claimed to be what only God could be when He said, "I Am:

  • The Bread of Life (John 6)
  • The Light of The World (John 8)
  • The Door of Salvation (John 10)
  • The Good Shepherd (John 10)
  • The Resurrection and the Life (John 11)
  • The Way the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)
  • The True Vine (John 15)

John and Peter also remind us that the wondrous things that Jesus did was to show people that He is who He claimed to be and if we would believe He could save us and give us life (John 20:30-31; Acts 2:22). Jesus Himself said on more than one occasion that if we have a hard time believing what He said, we should look at what He did (Mark 2:5-10; Matthew 11:1-6; John 5:36; 14:11). The greatest of all is that He rose again from the dead. The Bible affirms this fact and we will look at it this Easter. His resurrection is so well evidenced that it can not be truthfully denied. Jesus is alive and living today. He is God who has come in the flesh.

The New Testament writers declared that He was God (John 1:1-18; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13).

But what do you say?

You have but 4 choices. Everyone must believe one of these four things:

  1. That Jesus was a Legend. That He was a real person there is no doubt. We have documentation aside from the Bible about His life but certainly the Bible is the greatest documentation of His life. But even so, many believe that the historical Jesus was not what the Bible has portrayed Him to be; that we have concocted legends and stories and fables about Him like Robin Hood; or Davy Crocket. Lee Strobel and C.S. Lewis are examples of those that once held to such a belief but upon investigation discovered that Jesus is exactly who He says He is and thus, have become tremendous advocates for Christ. You can read C.S. Lewisí, Mere Christianity and Lee Strobelís, The Case for Christ.
  2. That Jesus was a Lunatic. If I went about claiming to be God, would you not think I was a lunatic? Jesus said that He is God. He was either telling the truth or he was crazy. Yet, He displayed no signs of mental derangement but on the contrary was the epitome of saneness.
  3. That He was a Liar. He must have been a liar, because he claimed to be God. If He wasnít God, He was a Liar. It is here that I want to affirm a statement by C.S. Lewis from his book, Mere Christianity. (pp. 40-41). "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ĎI am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I donít accept His claim to be God.í 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 Ė on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg Ė 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 Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
  4. He is Lord; that is, He is who He claimed to be. He is the very God who created us, and then came as one of us, to die to redeem us, and rose again to assure us of His grace if we would repent and follow Him.

I want to close this out by thinking of the implications of your answer to this greatest of all questions. If Jesus is the Lord; God the Son:

  1. Your sins have been paid for. You are or can be forgiven by your repentance and faith in Him. If He is not the Lord, you are still responsible for all your sins and will have to pay the penalty.
  2. His Word is truth and absolute, and therefore, the best way to live life. Who knows best how to use an IPOD, the CEO of Apple, or me? Who knows best what morals and ethics should be followed, Jesus or the Supreme Court? Therefore, you should trust and obey and follow His ways for the good of society and your own best interest (Deut. 6:24;10:13). His word is a foundation that you can build your life on. If He is not Lord, then man is the top dog and we able to make up our own ethics and morals and do what we want. We can destroy infants, and euthanize our elderly, and establish what sexual mores we deem to be acceptable and what are not.
  3. He is alive and able to help you through any of lifeís difficulties. If He is not, then you have to face lifeís difficulties alone.
  4. If He is Lord, you have an eternal hope to look forward to with certainty. If He is not the Lord, the best you have is wishful thinking or no hope at all.
  5. If He is Lord, He will judge the unrepentant and unrighteous from the Great White Judgment Throne (John 5:22-30, Acts 17:31; Rev. 20:11). But the righteous have already been pardoned (John 5:24)
  6. If He is Lord, He deserves your allegiance because you are His. That includes all you have and all you are. If He is not the Lord, you can live your life entirely for yourself. A line from the old hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross says, "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." Amen!
  7. If He is Lord, He is able to change your life and give you a new start. He truly does have a good plan and purpose for your life. If He is not, you just have to do the best you can.

So what is your answer? Who do you say Jesus is? Be careful what you say. He may well ask you a follow up question. "Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not the things I say?" (Luke 6:46)

Christian will you affirm that He is Lord? Not just the Lord, but your Lord. Like Joshua, I have my decision, what is yours?

Will you pledge total allegiance to Him, Your Body, Your Time, you possessions, and all relationships? Can you say, "I pledge them to you Lord and I will follow you in whatever you say for me to do.?" Letís pray to the Lord.

Read Part 7: Doesnít Science Prove Evolution, and Not Divine Creation?

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman