Liar, Lunatic, or Lord

As we are in Holy Week, I share something that I believe God has given me to say specifically for this time. Normally I gauge my audience as those who are already in the faith and would consider themselves believers in Christ. But this week I especially want to write something that goes beyond just that particular audience and to a wider readership in general; believers and non-believers. You see, I believe there are certain points and seasons within the calendar year in which an unbelieving world looks in once again at the Church, at Christians, and at the truths we profess to believe. Christmas is significant in that we celebrate the coming of Christ; the incarnation and the miraculous virgin birth. It is a time surrounded with much joy, hope, and anticipation. It is a time the world cannot help but take note and respond either in likewise captivation or complete avoidance.
 
Easter is also one such time in which there is a sensitivity and perhaps a spiritual awakening as people are drawn to investigate this Jesus; this man who purportedly died a gruesome criminal’s death. This death and subsequent resurrection are everything upon which the Christian faith hinges. Take them away and there is nothing of substance to the claims we profess. But if it is true, then there are certainly profound implications for all of humanity.
 
There is a famous “trilemma” that was once advanced by author and theologian C.S. Lewis. He basically stated that the claims and life of Jesus have to be received in 1 of 3 ways: either He was a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord. At first glance, this might seem too simplistic and too basic for those who want scholarly debate and want to avoid “boxes”. It certainly draws a defined line around the character of Christ. But ever since I heard Lewis' quote frame the debate in this way, I have never been able to shake it. If Jesus really lived and really made the claims that He did, there must be a response on our part.
 
Think about it…
 
Was He a liar?
 
Certainly Jesus’ words have to be examined and held up to the light just as any other claim that is made. We can accept that there is a God or a divine-force of some nature. Most world religions point to the presence of a deity or numerous deities and although atheism is a significant worldview, the majority of people on Earth believe in some sort of God. So what is it about Jesus that makes Him so controversial?
 
He claimed to be the Son of God and the way of access to the Father: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
 
If Jesus were a liar, then He would know that His words were a means of deceiving many. It is interesting to read the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and see not only the words that Jesus said about Himself and the words His followers said about Him, but also the words that others said who would have no reason otherwise to profess Jesus as Lord:
 
A Roman centurion (a Gentile, “non-believer”): And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:39
 
A demon (certainly not a Jesus follower): In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Luke 4:33,34
 
A Canaanite woman (a Gentile): [She]…came to Him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Matthew 15:22
 
If Jesus was lying, His reputation deceived even those who were not looking to follow Him or believe. A liar is someone who eventually is undone by their lies as the truth finally comes out. No such evidence has ever been established that contradicts the words of Christ.
 
Was He a lunatic?
 
Lewis brings us to another option if “liar” or “Lord” are not possible. If Jesus was a lunatic, He would not have known who He was. He would simply have been a crazy person not in His right mind. I am no scholar nor expert theologian. But in my 40 years of life, I have read the Bible through several times and have certainly read the Gospel accounts more than any other part of the Bible. What has never occurred to me in the words, mannerisms, or actions of Jesus is that He could possibly have been someone insane. I know personal experience and testimony do not always hold up in scholarly debate but in this instance, I can see no reason to believe otherwise.
 
What has occurred since Jesus’ earthly life are the rise and fall of many false teachers and “false Christs” in whom a cult-following has developed which usually ends unceremoniously (i.e. Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.). These “leaders” have certainly portrayed a picture of what insanity and religion looks like. They couldn’t be further from the truth.
 
What I believe truly attests to the fact Jesus was not crazy are the actions His followers took after Jesus ascended back into Heaven. Of the 12 disciples, we know from Church history that 11 were martyred for the faith. In advancing the Gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the Earth, Christ followers experienced beatings, imprisonment, outright persecution and death (crucifixion, thrown off buildings, fed to lions, et al). It has been said why would the disciples die for a lie? Even further, why would they die for a lunatic? It seems if Jesus were crazy, all of His first followers were sadly confused as well. However, it appears men like Peter, Paul, James, John and others were completely aware of who Jesus was and it manifested clearly in their own testimony. (For further reading, Josh McDowell’s “More Than A Carpenter” is an excellent study).
 
Or is He Lord?
 
At the top I mentioned how powerful this type of reasoning has been for me. I’ve over-simplified my case here and haven’t even begun to really develop these points in detail as I would hope to (this is a weekly blog of light-reading after all!). But if you are still with me, here’s the deal: I cannot help but come to the conclusion time and again that Jesus is Lord. There is no other answer I can obtain with all the evidence. All that has been revealed about Jesus through the Bible, through the lives of other Christians (past and present), through my own prayer life and the working of the Holy Spirit all point to an ultimate truth this world cannot shake. Jesus is the Son of God. A fully-divine, yet fully-human being that lived a sinless, spotless life. He endured a cruel cross and took upon Himself the weight of our sin and shame. Death was not the end for Him however. He rose after 3 days being buried in the tomb. He appeared to many after His resurrection until He ascended back into Heaven. His ascension sparked the birth of the church as the Holy Spirit descended upon the early believers at Pentecost. From there, thousands of years and countless lives later, Jesus’ truth is as relevant and as real today as it was in the New Testament.
 
If Jesus is not Lord, my whole belief system is flawed and shattered.
 
But if He is Lord (and I believe He is), it is the only way in which to be saved and have eternal life.

What makes Easter powerful for me is that it is a time to once again reaffirm Christ is Lord in my life. It is a time to inwardly and outwardly say this is everything I hold to be real. If this blog has come across your inbox, Facebook feed, or if you somehow just stumbled upon this page, I believe it is no accident. If you are in Christ, you have already wrestled with the doubts that exist about Jesus and you have made peace in your heart with Him as you claim Him as Savior. If you are not a person who has taken that step, consider this an opportunity to dig further. I believe many reject Christ out of a refusal to examine the evidence and take a stance either way. If you are in that place, I would love to talk further with you. This is just a start to the conversation but there is so much more.

Praying God’s peace is with you and that you encounter His grace this week! Have a blessed Easter.
 
I can be reached at info@derekcharlesjohnson.com

Leave a comment

    Add comment