Thursday, September 11, 2014

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

I told Pop one time that my favorite sermon of his was, "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?" and was a bit surprised by his response. "Thanks," he said, "but I can't take credit for that. If I remember right, I borrowed that from C.S. Lewis."

Not a bad guy to borrow a sermon topic from, if you ask me.

I was trying to decide what to write on here a while back and Nathan told me I should write about that sermon. He hadn't heard it and I can't remember anything more than the main points, so I put it off. For one thing, I haven't been real anxious to tackle a topic C.S. Lewis wrote about--or one Pop spoke about. Both sets of those shoes are pretty big to try to fill, to be honest.

The other day, though, I gave in. I decided I would look into it and make an attempt to write something. I looked up the sermon and found something interesting:
         It looks like C.S. Lewis borrowed the idea, too. From what I can tell, the "trilemma" can be traced back to the mid 1800s and a couple of men named Mark Hopkins and John Duncan.

Who knew--even C.S. Lewis borrowed ideas from time to time!

So, I guess I said all that to say this: I am absolutely scared to death to dive into this subject. I hope, though, that I can do so without muddying up the waters for you too much... and I guess I should stop procrastinating and get on with things :)


Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
It seems like an odd question, doesn't it? Those labels don't really go together, and you wouldn't think there would ever be a situation where you would be asked to make a choice between the three.

The thing is, I think that question is one everyone needs to ask themselves. To me, you can't truly be confident in your faith until you understand just what it is that you believe--and why you believe it. Contrary to what some people have been taught, that means asking the hard questions and working through the answers. Here's one of those hard questions: Who was Jesus?

The question of whether or not Jesus was a real person have finally started to quiet. There is too much historical evidence of the man named Jesus, born in Bethlehem to Mary and her husband Joseph, who then spent His childhood in Nazareth and went on to become a great teacher. The Jewish historian Josephus mentioned Jesus, and the Roman historian Tacitus wrote of His execution by Pilate. So if we don't need to question whether or not the man Jesus lived, the only question left is who is He?

Here you have a man who claims time and time again to be the Son of God. In Matthew 16 He asks Peter, "Who do you say I am?" Verses 16 and 17 go on,

"Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'
Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah,
for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven."

When He was being questioned by the high priest Caiaphas, here was the exchange:
"The high priest said to Him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God:
Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'
'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied."
Matthew 26: 63-64 (partial verses)

Jesus told the people to follow Him. He told His disciples that they would be persecuted for doing so. He talked about being raised from the dead and about feasting with His disciples in heaven. He said many would come in His name, claiming to be the Messiah, the Christ.

Listening to everything He said, we have three options:
1. He was a Liar
-The first option is pretty simple: Jesus could have been a liar. He could have known full well that all He was saying was false, and He could have been saying all that crazy stuff solely to deceive people. If so, nothing He ever said should be taken as good. If He was a liar, He shouldn't be held up by other religions as being a prophet, a moral leader, or a great teacher. If He was simply lying, He was nothing more than evil.

If He was simply lying, though, He would have to be one of the most devious, conniving men to have ever lived. He would have had to work out elaborate plans to be able to fake healings like those experienced by the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the bleeding woman (Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8: 43-48), the blind man (Mark 10: 46-52), and the soldier whose ear was cut off (Luke 22: 49-51). He would have had to figure out a way to get a herd of pigs to drown themselves in the lake (Mark 5: 1-20). He would have had to convince multiple people that their kids had died and been restored to life (Matthew 9: 18-26 and Luke 7: 11-16).

Sounds like a lot of work to me, especially when the end reward was a Roman execution.

2. He was a Lunatic
-Here's the next option. Maybe Jesus really wasn't who He claimed to be, but maybe He fully believed it Himself. Perhaps He was simply crazy. That could explain a lot of the stuff He was saying, like talking about being the Son of God. We've seen people follow crazy people before, right? Hitler and Mussolini come to mind for starters, along with quite a few cult leaders who have convinced people to do crazy things. As was the case if He was a liar, though, if Jesus was a lunatic we shouldn't pay any attention to His teachings. He shouldn't be seen as a good man or a wonderful example of morality we should try to emulate. If He was crazy, we should steer clear of Him and His claims to be the Son of God, the Messiah Israel had been waiting for since the birth of the nation and the time of Abraham.

3. He was--and is--Lord
-So, if Jesus wasn't a liar and He wasn't a lunatic, we are only left with one option.
He was who He said He was, the Son of God sent to earth to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He was a moral leader, sure, but He was and is so much more than that.
He is the bridge that spans the chasm between imperfect man and a perfect God.
He is the sacrificial Lamb, His life laid down to justify us--people who could never justify ourselves.
He is the Rock upon which we can build the only foundation that will stand the test of time.
He is the Word used to speak all of creation into existence and then sent to us as a love letter from a merciful Father in heaven.

So, there are the options. Who do you say Jesus is?

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