Jesus: Liar, Lunatic or Lord?

by Sigmund Brouwer

Jesus-Before-Pontius-PilateWho hung from the cross: liar, lunatic or Lord?

Many are the modern scholars, historians and humanists who present us with the arguments that Jesus was simply a man — a great teacher, mind you, a sound moralist willing to die for his convictions, but still just a man.

But the fact that the shadow of the cross stretches into the 21st century shows how Jesus directly confronts us with the question that does not answer as easily as that. Someone who was merely a great teacher, as C.S. Lewis pointed out with his usual succinct clarity, does not show lunacy by claiming to be divine. Nor does it make sense that a liar peasant in the backwater of the Roman Empire would affect human history with a magnitude that no skeptical historian can ignore or deny.

There can be only one answer to this question: Was He a liar, a lunatic or Lord?

It’s an unsettling question, first to believers, for as Paul wrote, if the Resurrection did not occur, we have no hope. Yet it is a far more disturbing question to those on the other side who would prefer to believe Jesus was merely a man.

In that sense, the danger and threat that Jesus poses today has not changed since His final days in Jerusalem.

During the previous few years to that point, Jesus’ teaching ministry had been a direct and ongoing challenge to the religious establishment. He had consistently delivered a simple but profoundly radical message: God loves you. You do not have to earn your way into His presence. He will not turn away from you, no matter what your past. All you need do is call out to God, through Jesus. Your past will be forgiven, and you will be accepted. Eternally. Then go live your life according to this newfound grace.

Time and again, Jesus clashed with pompous, judgmental, self-righteous religious experts who had no compassion or love or sense of God’s presence. These experts had centuries of tradition behind them. They had standing in the community. They had education. They had the power to force nonconformists out of the synagogue and social life. They had force in numbers. In essence, they ruled the Jewish culture without question, even under Roman occupation.

It was not uncommon in that time for self-styled prophets to roam the land, speaking to crowds and seeking followers. None of these men, before and after Jesus , managed to become such a threat that the religious establishment needed to silence them through death — especially a death sentence handed down after a hasty, illegal and secretive trial in the middle of the night before a religious holiday.

What made Jesus different from all the other self-proclaimed messiahs? How could one man turn the world upside down after a succession of world military powers had failed to do so? Why was this man such a threat?

There can only be one answer: Jesus performed miracles.

For a Jesus without miracles or healings — a Jesus who was merely a great teacher or merely a moral man — would not have had the power, authority and popularity that made such Him a threat to their religious system.

The gospel accounts are filled with stories of the miracles of Jesus and the people He healed. According to the eyewitnesses who tell us His story, Jesus gave sight to the blind, restored hearing to the deaf. He cured lepers. Healed by touch or merely by His word. Jesus raised the dead.

And His most important miracle is why the world still talks about Jesus to this day: the Resurrection. Because it was the events that followed the death of Jesus that gave His message the power to change the world, a message that survived, then spread as it did, like the mustard plant of His teachings grows from such a tiny seed.

Who would have guessed such an outcome from merely a great teacher or moral man? After all, on the night He was arrested, Judas betrayed Him, Peter publicly denied knowing Him, and the rest fled, fearful that they, too, would be arrested. It meant that after the trial, as He faced death, Jesus essentially had no followers to pass on His message and teachings. Within hours, He had breathed his last breath, publicly humiliated and tortured.

Yet from that point — ground zero — His gift of hope rapidly spread into the entire known world. Then, like fire touched to dry grass, despite persecutions to the point of death for those who believed, it leapt from one generation to the next so that the life of Jesus had more impact on this world than any person in history…

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Jesus: Liar, Lunatic or Lord?

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Recommended Resources: Mere Christianity | The Case for the Real Jesus | The Jesus I Never Knew | Dethroning Jesus