Summary: To accept Jesus results in eternal life; to reject Jesus results in condemnation.
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Liar, Lunatic, or Lord
Everybody has an opinion about Jesus. Many see Him as a compassionate man. Some call Him a wise teacher. Others regard Him as a great prophet. But what did Jesus say about Himself? He claimed to be God.
Several years ago C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, wrote these words concerning the identity of Jesus:
I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish things that people often say about Him: “I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” 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—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—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 His being a great human teacher.—C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 41
If I claimed to be the Son of God, equal with the Father, and fully God, you would say I was either lying or a lunatic, and rightly so. But what about Jesus? Was He lying? Was He a lunatic? The only other option is that He is the Lord.
In John 5, Jesus healed a lame man. You would think that would be a reason for the Jewish authorities to celebrate. But instead they were angry that this healing took place on the Sabbath.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (vv. 16-18).
God in Three Persons: The Trinity
Deuteronomy 6:4 has become the Jewish confession of faith: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one.” The Jews were, and still are, unshakably monotheistic. God Himself declared, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is not God” (Isaiah 45:5a). When Jesus claimed to be equal with the Father, they thought He was claiming to be another God. To the Jews, this was the most serious crime a person could commit and was punishable by death.
The Jewish authorities didn’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity. Three statements summarize the this doctrine:
1. God is THREE persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is not the Father. They are distinct persons. “In the beginning was the Word [Christ], and the Word was with God…” (John 1:1). Jesus is God but distinct from the Father (“with God”).
2. Each person is FULLY God.
“…and the Word was God [no less than the Father].”
3. There is ONE God.
“…and the Word was God [not another God].”
A Common Error
Sometimes I act as a husband; sometimes I act as a father; and sometimes I act as a pastor. Some people believe that God is like that. Sometimes He acts as the Father; sometimes He acts as the Son; and sometimes He acts as the Holy Spirit. This belief (known as modalism) rejects the first statement: God is three persons. Its fatal shortcoming is the fact that it must deny the personal relationships within the Trinity that appear in so many places in Scripture (including today’s passage).
In John 5:19-30, we read of Jesus’ answer to those who accused Him of breaking the Sabbath by healing the lame man.
19Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things that these. 21For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.