By Richard Simmons III, Op-ed Contributor| Friday, June 04, 2021
What evidence is there for the person of Jesus? Who did He claim to be? This article is the final piece in my 3-part series on the existence of God.
I chose to write this series in response to a recent CP article covering the American Worldview Inventory 2021, a survey of the philosophy of life of four generations. CP Reporter Leah MarieAnn Klett reports, “Researchers found that among other recent generations, millennials have gone farther in cutting ties with traditional Christian views and normative biblical teaching.” The article includes a hopeful response by Jacob Bland, the new president and CEO of Youth for Christ, where he told The Christian Post that:
“despite the challenges facing today’s young people, he looks toward the future with optimism. ‘Teens today are facing crises like never before, but it’s often in the darkness that light shines the brightest,’ he said. ‘To enter into a disciple-making relationship where you’re introducing a kid to an unconditional love that maybe they’ve never even considered, showing them the goodness and love modeled in Jesus — there’s a lot of hope in that.’”
I agree with Bland. In the person of Christ, God has chosen not to overwhelm us or enslave us by His awesome power. If we were forced to love Him, it would not be love.
At the end of the day, the big question remains: Was Jesus God incarnate?
The Bible indicates in John 1:14 that God became flesh and dwelt among us and we were able to behold His glory. In Hebrews 1:3 we learn:
“He is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of God’s nature.”
While being tried for blasphemy, Jesus stood before the High Priest and was asked, “Are you the Christ? Are you the son of the most blessed one?” He replied, matter-of-factly, in Mark 14:62:
“I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”
As incredible as it may sound, that statement is either true, or it’s false. There’s really no other position you can take when somebody makes a claim like that.
If it’s not true, if Jesus is not God in the flesh, then what are we to make of Him? What are we to make of this historical person who led such an extraordinary life? History clearly indicates He was not a mythological figure. Was He just a great moral teacher? Was He a magician? Was He an illusionist?
On the other hand, if He was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, what would that mean? It would mean quite literally everything. It would mean His entrance into the world would be the turning point in history. It would mean His teaching about life, death, and eternity would be true.
French journalist Michka Assayas had a series of fascinating interviews with rock superstar Bono of the rock group U2. Bono is quite a popular figure and frequently is in the news. Furthermore, he is a Christian, which seems to baffle the media. In this interview, Assayas asks Bono this question:
“Christ has His rank among the world’s great thinkers. But ‘Son of God’—isn’t that a little far-fetched?”
“No, it’s not far-fetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this. He was a prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Mohammed, Buddha, or Confucius, but actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off the hook.”
Christ says, ‘No, I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying I am the Messiah. I am saying I am God incarnate.’
And people say, ‘No, no, please just be a prophet. A prophet we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey; we can handle that. Please don’t admit to the ‘M’ word, the Messiah. Because, you know, we’re going to have to crucify you.’
And he goes, ‘No, no, I know you’re expecting Me to come back with an army and set you free from these creeps, but actually, I am the Messiah.’
At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes and says, ‘Oh My God, he’s going to keep saying this.’
So, what you’re left with in this is Christ was either Who He said He was, the Messiah, or a complete nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. I’m not joking here.
The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside down by a nutcase…”
And then Bono looked at the interviewer, and said,
“For me, that’s far-fetched.”
C.S. Lewis expressed something similar.
“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 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. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
In another essay, Lewis says:
“We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any people who actually met Him.”
In other words, no one in Jesus’ time would have thought to themselves, “Wow, what a wonderful teacher.”
“He produced mainly three effects. Hatred, terror, or adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.”
Either they hated him, they were terrorized by Him because of the unbelievable things He did, or they adored Him. They recognized Him to be God.
And then Lewis says, in conclusion, you have two choices.
“You either have to accept or reject the story.”
In making decisions in life, a wise person will look at all the factors and evidence that relates to the issue and will then make a decision. Often, it is a faith decision, particularly if there is no scientific certainty to back up the choice you make.
To make a decision about Jesus and His message, one must consider the historical evidence and make a determination based on the strength of the evidence. If I were to go into a court of law, I would lay out four vital points to make the case that Christ is the Son of God.
To learn more about the evidence for Christ that I’m referring to, I invite you to read my book Reflections on the Existence of God. The book lays out, in short essays, much of the evidence for the existence of God that is available. We should seek to take the evidence offered and use it to make reasonable conclusions. What you will find is, as the evidence accumulates, it enables us to come to confident conclusions about God. Who He is. And, that He truly is.
Richard E. Simmons III is a Christian author, speaker, and the Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership, a non-profit, faith-based ministry in Birmingham, Alabama. His best-selling titles include The True Measure of a Man, The Power of a Humble Life, Wisdom: Life’s Great Treasure, and his newest book, Reflections on the Existence of God. Follow Richard on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @thecenterbham. Tune in to Richard’s Reliable Truth Podcast on your favorite podcast app.