Have you ever heard anyone talk bad about Jesus? Even those who have not put their faith in Jesus are likely to say he was a good person and teacher, someone to model and respect, even while rejecting that He is God. There are also those who identify as Christians and believe Jesus’ wisdom, love and gentleness are to be modeled, but deny His deity, exclusivity, and strictness. But how does this line up with what Jesus says about Himself? Let us look at the words of Jesus and come to terms with who Jesus really is.
The Sermon on the Mount
Many who look at Jesus as just a moral teacher point to the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5-7 as a great moral lesson all should follow. Jesus certainly taught high moral standards such as loving your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), giving to the needy (Matthew 6:1-4), and the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12-14). But what else did Jesus teach in the Sermon on the Mount?
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:22). The part about not being angry with your brother sounds like a good moralistic teaching, but what about being liable to hell of fire? Jesus spoke harsh judgment if what He taught is not followed.
He then said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). Loving our enemies is one of Jesus’ teachings that people admire most about Him, and it often is given as an example of nonviolent resistance.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote that, “Jesus was the most active resister known perhaps to history. His was nonviolence par excellence.” As admirable as non-violent opposition might be, Jesus did not have world peace in mind when He said to love our enemies. He commanded us as His followers to love our enemies so that we may be sons of our Father who is in heaven.
It is clear from just a small sample that while Jesus does teach high moral standards in the Sermon on the Mount, He does far more by pointing to absolute standards and specific behaviors that honor God.
Your Sins are Forgiven
Jesus Himself knew that He was more than a good moralistic teacher, and even more than a miraculous healer. Luke 5:17-26 is a telling of one of the many miraculous healings Jesus performed while He was on the earth. This shows His love and kindness; however, Jesus went a step further in this healing by telling the man who was paralyzed, “Man, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).
What is Jesus doing here? Imagine that someone purposely crashed into your car and totaled it, and a bystander came running over and said, “I saw the whole thing!” You would probably feel some relief that someone could defend you. But what if that bystander turned to the person who just totaled your car and said, “It’s okay, I forgive you for what you did.” Among other emotions, you would think this bystander was crazy. What right would he have to forgive the person who just ruined your vehicle?
That is exactly what Jesus did in this verse. The Pharisees and scribes who were there said in Luke 5:21, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus rebuked them for not believing in Him, but he did not rebuke them for making the claim that only God could forgive sins. Jesus clearly believed He was more than just a wise teacher who could do miraculous healing.
I Am the Way
The last verse we will look at is John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is one of Jesus’s strongest statements about Himself and it cannot be ignored when discussing who Jesus is.
First Jesus says, “I am the way.” This is perhaps the strongest case of the exclusivity of Jesus. He does not say, “I am A way”, but “I am THE way.” If there are many ways to God the Father, why did Jesus have to experience the pain, humiliation, suffering, and death that He did? Was it a selfless act? If it was not necessary, then no, it was not. Someone who drowns jumping into a lake to save someone who was not drowning has not done something noble and to be modelled, but they have done something foolish because the person in the lake was getting along just fine. If there are many paths to God, then Jesus sacrificial death was misguided and sad, but not noble or an example of selfless love.
Second, He said, “the truth”, meaning there are absolutes in this world. When Jesus taught that something is good, then it is good. When He taught that something is bad, then it is bad. When Jesus says He is the truth, He leaves no room for something to be true for one person but not another.
Next, He says He is “the life”. This statement echoes His own words in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.” When Jesus says that He is the life He is speaking about eternal life, the resurrection. In John 14:6, Jesus says the same, but He makes it clear that He is the only source of eternal life, not just a way to it.
Finally, Jesus says that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” In case there were any doubts about the exclusivity of Jesus’ claims, He makes it absolutely clear with this last phrase. The claim he is making is a universal negative meaning it is true no matter where in the world you are or when in history you are, whether today in the USA, 100 years ago in England, 500 years ago in Germany or 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Jesus is the only way to the Father. There is no wiggle room.
Coming to Terms
Are you someone who does not believe that Jesus is God’s Son and our Savior, but that He is a good moral teacher and someone whose actions are to be followed? What if you had a college professor who made the same claims Jesus made? Would you believe the things he taught? Would you recommend your friends to take his class? What if you had a child in elementary school whose teacher made the same claims that Jesus made? Would you keep your child in the class and hope they would follow the teacher’s directions?
C.S. Lewis wrote, “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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
If you respect, like and admire Jesus, but do not worship, love and put your trust in Him for your salvation it is time to come to terms with who Jesus really is. Put your trust in Him today.