Why has the name “Jesus Christ” caused more division, agitation and controversy than any other name in history? If we bring up God in a coffee shop discussion, nobody is really offended. If we speak about Buddha or Brahman, Moses or Mohammed, we really don’t irritate the listener. However, the name Jesus Christ seems to cut right to the soul. Something makes Jesus more contentious and convicting than all the other religious leaders combined. Why?
Unlike any other widely followed religious leader in history, Jesus Christ made a unique claim. He declared himself God. Not a god, not god-like, but God incarnate — the Creator of the universe in human flesh. Intellectually, that’s very disturbing. Spiritually, that’s a direct attack on everything comfortable and coexisting in our safe little worlds.
When it comes to Jesus of Nazareth, many of us retreat and toss out common clichés: “Jesus was a great man” – “Jesus was a nice moral model” – “Jesus was an esteemed teacher” – “Jesus was a religious prophet.”
What does this all mean?
However, as Christian scholar Josh McDowell declares in his foundational book, More than a Carpenter, these types of statements raise a compelling “trilemma.” Once you examine the actual claims of Jesus and his eyewitness followers, there are only three alternatives for who he really is – Jesus Christ was a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord.
The issue with these three alternatives is not which is possible, for it is obvious that all three are possible. But rather, the question is ‘which is more probable?’ Who you decide Jesus Christ is must not be an idle intellectual exercise. You cannot put Him on the shelf as a great moral teacher. That is not a valid option. He is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God. You must make a choice. ‘But,’ as the Apostle John wrote, ‘these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and’ – more important – ‘that believing you might have life in His name’ (John 20:31).
(Josh McDowell, More than a Carpenter, Tyndale House Publishers, 1977, pp. 33-34.)
When looking at the question, “Is Jesus God?”, C.S. Lewis, a popular British theologian, stressed:
I am trying here to prevent anyone 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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.)