There are people and even religions in the world that regard Jesus as a great prophet and an example to follow, but they do not believe that He was the Son of God. These people and religions do not consider Jesus to be God as true Christians do. C.S. Lewis did a great job in his book Mere Christianity of refuting this position that Jesus was just a great moral teacher and example. As Lewis put it, the scriptures allow for one to believe that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or who He claimed to be. He did not leave open to us the option that He was just a good moral teacher.
If you have never read the Gospels and the words that Jesus said, then you might be able to hold onto the notion that Jesus was a great man and nothing more. You might be able to dismiss Lewis’ argument out of hand. But if you consider the things Jesus said and did, you will see the truth of Lewis’ argument quite easily. Because if Jesus is not who He claimed to be — which is God incarnate, the great “I AM” — then He was truly a liar or a lunatic, and no one in their right mind would follow the moral teaching of a man who was either of these things. At least, I know I would not.
The religious leaders of His day clearly understood Jesus to be claiming that He was God. When Jesus said that He was the Christ, the Anointed One, and that He and the Father were one, they were furious. “We are not stoning you for any of these [miracles],” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:33. But if Jesus was not actually God, as He claimed, and if He knew that He was not God, then He was a liar.
But what if He was not God and didn’t know it? What if He was delusional and mistakenly believed He was God? Well, then He was a lunatic. If a person does not believe in the existence of the supernatural and of the devil, then other things Jesus said would prove Him to be a lunatic as well.
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:17-19.
What’s that? Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven? Either He was the Almighty and really did see this heavenly event occur, or He was a delusional lunatic. If He was the latter, then how can He also be a great moral teacher?
Sure Jesus said to love your neighbors, and to love your enemies. He said to be peacemakers, to not commit adultery, to not murder and not be angry, to forgive as we are forgiven. He did teach some great moral truths that were already part of the Jewish law. But He said and did so much more that simply does not leave open the option of “just” a great moral teacher.
If you are still holding tight to this notion, I encourage you to read the Gospels, particularly the book of John, and then honestly ask yourself whether it is a valid option. The words recorded in John were written by the apostle John, who walked with Jesus on this earth, and then followed Him in faith for the rest of his life. What John wrote was only part of what he saw and heard.
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31.
So who do you believe Jesus is? Liar, lunatic, or the Son of God?