Who was Jesus?
The argument gets its starting point from the claims that Jesus made about himself. Jesus clearly equated himself with God, the Creator of the universe. Jesus said that to know him was to know God (John 17:3), to see him was to see God (John 14:9), to accept him was to accept God (John 13:20), to reject him was to reject God (Luke 10:16), and to believe in him was to believe in God (John 12:44).
Jesus further pointed out that anything God did, he did (John 5:19), that just as God can give life, he can give life (John 5:21), that he and the Father would come to indwell those who believe in him (John 14:23), and that he and the Father are one (John 10:30).
Jesus also made stupendous claims. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” And, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.”
Jesus even spoke of his own eternality as God. To a group of religious leaders he stated, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). By saying this, he was implying that he, unlike other human beings (such as Abraham), existed eternally. Those present knew exactly what he was claiming. Their response: “At this, they picked up stones to stone him.”
So, was Jesus God or a bad man?
Jesus clearly claimed to be God. A truly good man would not lie about such a thing. A mere man who claimed to be God would be a bad man. He would be bad either morally (an evil man) or mentally (a crazy person).
Therefore, the possibilities for who Jesus was are as follows. He was either lying about being God, in which case he was either:
- a mentally bad man (insane)
- a morally bad man, deliberately deceiving people (evil)
…or he was telling the truth about being God, in which case he was:
In our culture of political correctness and tolerance, we might feel uncomfortable saying that Jesus was a bad man. But if he wasn’t God, then he really was just that. And, considering his claims, it would not make sense to follow any of his teachings if he were actually insane or intentionally lying.
So, where do you land? Was Jesus a bad man, or was he who he claimed to be? Investigate the matter for yourself by reading the section called “John” in the Bible.
Essay adapted from the book, Between Heaven & Hell, by Peter Kreeft.