The Journey to Life Love and Freedom Part 4
JESUS CHRIST: GOD IN THE FLESH
Was Jesus sincere but sincerely mistaken?
Christianity is based on a real historical person who claims to be God. But is that assertion true or false? If this assertion were false there are only two possible conclusions:
1) Jesus was a deceiver or
2) he was a sincere person but sincerely mistaken.
People who mistakenly believe that they are a famous historical figure or God himself are usually to be found in some psychiatric hospital, plagued by mental illness and are immediately recognizable as unbalanced.
The Word of God has been subjected to careful critical scrutiny for two millennia and no one has ever been able to show the slightest inconsistency in the behaviour of Jesus to support the idea that he was clinically mad. In fact every page of Scripture shows that he was the most balanced person that has ever set foot on this earth:
- He was endowed with great psychological ability and could penetrate into the depths of the people with whom he spoke. He possessed a remarkable knowledge of the Scriptures and taught with an authority that surprised everyone: "coming to his home town, he taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, 'Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" (Matthew 13: 54).
- He was able to hold his own in discussions with religious leaders and he often left them speechless (Matthew 22: 15-22, John 8: 3-11).
- He was able to adapt to different social situations.
- He was patient with his disciples, even when they failed to understand what he said (John 14: 5-11).
- He was patient, even when approaching his death and when he predicted that one of his friends sitting at table with him would betray him (Matthew 26: 20-25).
- He was always patient and gentle at his trial, refusing to testify in his own favour and he faced death heroically.
His short life was marked by sincerity and balance. These are not signs of someone who is clinically mad
Was Jesus a deceiver and a hypocrite?
Was he then a deceiver, a liar and a hypocrite?
He was the first to condemn the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23: 13-36) and they certainly would have accused him of being a hypocrite if he had been a deceiver.
His teaching and his manner of living, have been under the scrutiny of everyone for over two millennia and the consistency of Jesus is considered beyond reproach, perfect. His behaviour is in perfect agreement with what he taught. These are not the hallmarks of a deceiver or hypocrite.
He often exposed the hypocrisy practiced by the Pharisees. That hypocrisy, of which there is a little in all men, was not to be found in him.
He was a loyal son (Luke 2: 51), a loyal friend even when his friends abandoned him (John 20: 19-23), he was always ready to forgive (Luke 23: 34). He felt at home with sinners (Matthew 9: 10-13), with the poor and the needy (Matthew 11: 4-6).
If he had been someone who wanted to deceive others he would certainly have frequented other classes of people and certainly would have retracted his assertion of being one with God to avoid the death penalty because this was the penalty for blasphemy. It cost him his life. If he had been a deceiver he would certainly not have said he was God because he knew that he was risking the death penalty.
He had been repeatedly threatened with death by stoning (John 8: 59, John 10: 31) and always for the same claims of being equal to God.
This would certainly have not brought him any personal gain. The trial against him was not because of his actions "Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no case against this man." (Luke 23: 4) but because of what he was, his identity, who he claimed to be. If he had wished to deceive then he certainly would have said something in his own defence. Since Jesus told the truth and his whole life conformed to what he said he had no defence.
At his trial, to avoid death, all he had to do was to deny his equality with God. Someone who wanted to deceive others would have admitted his error to save his own skin, because at this point there was nothing to be gained.
In the end he was abandoned by everyone including his friends; he had no reason to deceive.
Therefore, if Jesus had wanted to deceive, he was something of a fool because he knew it would cost him his life. He was aware of having to die as he so often predicted this, for example in John 12: 23-27 and John 13: 1).
These were not words of someone who was out to deceive but of someone who knew that he was about to die. It was the lucidity, the clarity of mind of someone who knew why he had come to the world, someone who knew in advance what he had to face, what his end would be.
He was crucified for what he was: God
We are in the One who is true as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and this is eternal life. (1 John 5: 20).
Everything in his teaching and in his behaviour bears witness to his perfect sanity and his perfect sincerity.
Jesus was an innocent man without sin
His total innocence was vigorously asserted by his friends: "He had done nothing wrong, and had spoken no deceit. " (1 Peter 2: 22) and also by the one whose job it was to judging objectively: Pilate (Luke 23: 4, 14).
Was Jesus just a good man?
The least sustainable argument of all is that Jesus was just a good or even a perfect man, a fine teacher, a good moralist, a man who set moral standards.
If his claim to be God was false he would have been anything but good!
Those who knew him, be they friends or enemies, could not come to this conclusion. He could either be considered blasphemous as his enemies thought (Matthew 26: 59-68) and deserving of death or as God, as his friends considered him. For example Thomas said of him: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20: 28).
If we accept him as God, as did Thomas, then we must follow him, imitate him and if necessary die for him, as many have done throughout the centuries. Accepting him as God means allowing him to take control of our lives in order to achieve in us the wonderful plan he has for each one of us, a plan of Life, Love and Freedom. Do you want to give him the chance to achieve his plan for you?
Friends and enemies alike considered him to be much more than a man; they could not explain those events that they had actually experienced, witnessed and that are part of that accurate account that Luke gives us in his Gospel. (Luke 1: 1-4)
God has revealed himself in Jesus
If God exists it is only logical to think that somehow he has revealed himself and continues to reveal himself to us. In fact, he has done so in his Word (the Bible) and in a full and final way in the person of Jesus Christ.
In the Bible we read these words: "He is the image of the unseen God" (Colossians 1: 15). The first followers of Christ knew that "In him, in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness" (Colossians 2: 9). This is and always has been the faith of Christians.
What convinced the early Christians that Jesus was God? First they had a deep and long-lasting personal relationship with him. They were eyewitnesses to his every gesture, action and word. They were able to observe him in his human relationships, his behaviour in every circumstance of his life. Moreover, they saw with their own eyes what Christ had accomplished in and for persons in need.
This is how Jesus lived
He was a very sociable person who very much liked to spend time in the company of people. He was someone who was concerned about others, who was always on the side of the needy and opposed those who dominated others.
Jesus was born in a village of no importance and grew up in another place (Nazareth) which did not enjoy a great reputation either. (John 1: 46).He worked as a carpenter. He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a single book. He who, as he was God, had all power, the power of God himself had never used it to dominate or exploit others or even to save himself (Matthew 27:42). He never held any public office or power or authority. On the contrary he said that if anyone want to be great he must serve others, not dominate or exploit them. He never had a family. He did not attend school or study in a seminary. He did nothing that we would normally expect from a great historical figure. He had nothing to recommend him: people had to accept him or reject him for what he was.
When he worked miracles it was never for himself but for the benefit of others or to reveal his true identity as God. When, in order to feed the people who had been following him, he multiplied the loaves and fishes (John 6: 1-15), it was to lead them to a deeper truth. That deeper truth was that the real bread is not something material but the bread of life, namely his very person (John 6: 34, 35). He was the bread that we cannot do without if we really want to live. If we want to live we must accept the bread of Life. That is the bread that Christians take when they meet to relive the memory of Christ just before his death: "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22: 19).
The crowd wanted to make him king, but he quickly left as that was not part of the divine plan (John 6: 15). He said later that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18: 36) and that it was open to all. He was betrayed by one of his followers and the others fled out of fear of dying too.
He had to suffer the injustice of a rigged trial and was nailed on the cross between two thieves. While he was dying his executors played dice to see who should have his clothes, the only thing that he possessed. When he died his body was placed in the tomb of another.
This is the person that has transformed human history! But this is not the end of his life as we will see in another session.
Jesus was a man of company, a sociable person
He was a cheerful person, a man who enjoyed being with other people. He was a man who enjoyed feasts and banquets, a man who showed solidarity with everyone, without exception. He saw that the people were without leadership, without a shepherd, without direction to their lives. He saw that the religious leaders only increased the burden of the people. But Christ said: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11: 28). He is also saying this to you today as you read these words. As at that time, so also today, many will not accept him: "and yet you refuse to come to me to receive life!" (John 5: 40). He is also asking you if you want to accept him. What will be your decision?
He was a man who took part in festivities, he compared his kingdom to a banquet (Matthew 22: 1-14). He felt so at ease with sinners of all sorts and went so much out of his way to seek them out that he was falsely accused of being a glutton and a drunkard "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners." (Luke 7: 34). Although he taught with authority and although he was God himself, he chose to be with those who most needed him. He did not associate with those who thought themselves good or morally superior, the so called "socially respectable" people.
On the contrary he loved those who considered themselves sinners and who wanted to change the direction of their lives. He was a friend to all those who were aware that they needed him and who were willing to walk with him, learn from him and let him transform their lives.
He is also asking you
to recognize this need. He is also asking you
if you want to be part of his circle of friends, if you want to participate in his banquet, if you want to receive the Life he has in store for you. He is also inviting you to join and enjoy the company of others who have made that same choice so that you can find support and solidarity and enjoy the same Life, Love and Freedom that they enjoy.
Who is Jesus for you?
It is not possible in a brief session to give a complete account of all that is Jesus Christ. These are just some scraps of information that will become life experience as soon as you accept him as your friend, as the only person that can give you that Life, Love and Freedom that you need. Personal knowledge is very different from the mere information contained in these words. You are invited to enter into a personal relationship.
Are you willing to accept Jesus as a friend who will control and guide your life to achieve the marvellous plan of Life Love and Freedom that he has in mind for you or do you not want anything to do with him? Only you can decide.
Here's another promise from Jesus: "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself." (John 12: 32). You
are already among those that Jesus is drawing to himself. The proof of this is that you are reading these words. As in his earthly life Jesus welcomed sinners in need he now wants to welcome you
, he is drawing you
to himself. Will you resist him or let yourself be drawn towards him? The choice is yours.
Spend a week thinking hard about what you have read before continuing on to the next step. Ponder especially these words from God who is inviting you personally to be with him:
When you remember this verse you'll also remember that God wants to be close to you. The important question is: "do you want to be close to him?"
If you are undertaking this journey with us please let us know and we can be with you spiritually and sustain you with our thoughts and prayers. Our email: email@example.com.