Summary: Part 1 of the series, The Truth About Jesus Christ.
[Much of the material in this sermon was taken from a sermon by Brian Mavis of SermonCentral.com.]
Who was Jesus Christ?
“Almost everyone who has heard of Jesus has developed an opinion about Him. This is to be expected, for He is not only the most famous person in world history, but also the most controversial” (Tim LaHaye, best-selling author, JWH, 59).
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”
At Jesus’ trial the leaders of the Jews were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put Him to death. Two thousand years later people still are making false claims about Him.
1. FALSE—Jesus was just a good moral teacher.
The first false claim is Jesus was a good moral teacher. Have you ever heard someone say that Jesus never claimed to be God—that He was just a good moral teacher? It’s a common belief. For example, Gandhi believed this. He writes in his book called The Message of Jesus Christ:
“It is more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate son of God, and that only he who believed in him would have everlasting life. If God could have sons, all of us were his sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself…. I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept” (p. 12).
But listen to what C. S. Lewis said:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m 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 the 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 Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity, pp. 55-56).
Liar? Lunatic? Lord?
2. FALSE—Jesus is a myth.
a. Some people think Jesus never existed.
“The memory of any stretch of years eventually resolves to a list of names, and one of the useful ways of recalling the past two millenniums is by listing the people who acquired great power. Muhammad, Catherine the Great, Marx, Gandhi, Hitler, Roosevelt, Stalin and Mao come quickly to mind. There’s no question that each of those figures changed the lives of millions and evoked responses from worship through hatred. It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure—not merely in these two millenniums but in all human history—has been Jesus of Nazareth. Not only is the prevalent system of denoting the years based on an erroneous 6th century calculation of the date of his birth, but a serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus” (Time Magazine, “Man of the Millenium,” Dec. 6, 1999).
“I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history” (H. G. Wells).
b. Some people think Jesus’ followers made Him out to be more than He really was.
They say Jesus said many good things, but His disciples said He was God. They say Jesus did many good things, but His disciples said He did miracles. They say Jesus died on a cross, but His disciples said He resurrected. He wasn’t a liar, Lord, or lunatic—He was legend.