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It is my opinion that anyone who believes Jesus was a good man or a
great teacher and denies his deity, is adhering to the most illogical
and irrational belief ever dreamed up by humanity. Anyone who makes
such a statement immediately reveals an ignorance of what Jesus said
and taught about himself.
Everything I belive about Jesus hinges on who he said he was according to his desciples. The gospels were written by eyewittnesses of the ministry of Jesus and there is no other record of his deeds and sayings. If I were to disregard the testimony of those who saw and heard the actual events, then I would have to disregard Jesus as well, because there would be nothing on which to base my belief.
Jesus made some startling claims about himself. In many places in the gospels, Jesus refers to God as "my Father", but since he also refers to God as our "Heavenly Father", one could argue that he was using the term figuratively. However, many times he makes a more definate claim to diety. For example, in John, chapter eight, Jesus is in a heated discussion with the Pharisees (the Jewish religious leaders) in which he claims that if anyone keeps his word, he will never die. The Pharisees ask, "'Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. who do you think you are?' Jesus replied, 'If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim to be your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. ...Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.' 'You are not yet fifty years old,' the Jews said to him, 'and you have seen Abraham!' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'" (53-58)
In this passage, to the uniformed reader, Jesus seems merely to say that he pre-existed Abraham. But the Pharisees, (who had picked up stones to throw at Jesus), understood that he was equating himself with the "I AM" who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
On another occasion, Jesus makes the statement, "I and the Father are one." The Pharisees were ready to stone him again, "but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' 'We are not stoning you for any of these,' replied the Jews, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'" (John 10:30-33)
On yet another occasion, speaking to his disciples, Jesus says, "'I am the way and the truth and the life. Noone comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him.' Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.' Jesus answered, 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. how can you say 'show us the Father'?'" (John 14:6-10)
From these examples, it is easy to see that Jesus considered himdelf equal with, one with, and the same as God Almighty. This is no small claim and is the reason behind the Pharisees' plot to have Jesus crucified.
If Jesus is not who he claims to be, then he must either have been sincerely deluded, or a very stubborn, pathological liar, because he faced an agonizing death as a direct result of his claims. At any time during the course of his trial, he could have retracted his claim to deity, but he did not. Mark writes, "The cheif priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, 'Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.' But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed." (15:2)
The idea that he might be crazy, a sincere, but utterly deluded man, has been around since the beginning of his ministry. John records the comments of some: "Many of them said, 'He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?' But others said, 'These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?'" (10:20-21) The miacles he performed lent credibility to his claims and teachings.
It seems extremely unlikely that he was a liar, based on his actions, especially when faced with his imminent death. What liar wouldn't change his story to avoid such agonizing pain and mockery, which Jesus patiently endured?
Because he claimed to be God, he left little room for compromise. His claims demand an extreme conclusion, either he was who he said he was, or he only thought so, in which case, he may have been very wrong about everything else he taught. To believe Jesus to have been a good man or a great teacher, but only a man, is illogical when his words are carefully considered. I believe him to be exactly who he claimed to be, and say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"
All scripture references are from The New International Version.
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