Jesus is too important to be fuzzy-headed about. Around a billion people claim to follow him (Christians) and for that matter, another billion people claim that he was at the very least a great prophet (Muslims). There’s probably an additional billion or more people who claim to at least have heard about him and show some kind of respect for him.
But perhaps the earliest sources known to record the life of Jesus, the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John found in the New Testament of the Bible, report that Jesus made some incredible claims. He said he was
- God’s only begotten son (John 3:16)
- One who was also God (John 5:18, John 8:58, John 10:30-33, John 12:44-46, John 14:6-9, Mark 14:61-62, John 20:28)
- The only way to God (John 14:6)
- One who could forgive sins
- That he would save anyone who believed in him — and that everyone else was condemned (john 3:16-18)
We all have heard of people who claimed to be God. And we treat those people as not being mentally competent. But if someone ever seemed to be mentally competent and made that claim, then we would probably ask ourselves, “What’s the gimmick? Why are they staging such a scam?”
So, was Jesus a scam artist — a big, fat liar? He seemed to be selfless, not getting anything out of proclaiming his message. I mean, he was killed at a young age because of his message. And his followers, instead of shutting up, proclaimed Jesus as God and Savior — and all but one lost their lives for proclaiming this! Certainly if it was all a scam, at least one of them would have told the truth to save his own life.
So, then, was Jesus just plain crazy? If he was, he was able to pull the wool over the lives of his followers, because they were killed for not only believing him, but for perpetuating the madness.
And then, in addition to his message, there were the miracles: people getting healed (the blind seeing, the deaf hearing), people being brought back to life, food being multiplied. Not the work of your typical crazy person.
Finally, and I hate to even bring it up, but apparently this has become a thing lately: some people believe that the stories of Jesus are just myth. I find this to be highly implausible myself, but don’t want to deal with the arguments against it here. Instead, let me refer the interested reader to Lee Stroebel, who was an atheist and an investigative reporter, and who did his own investigation, and came up with some answers in a number of books (e.g., “The Case for Christ“). He also presents his findings on video.
Soooo… If Jesus wasn’t lying or crazy (or mythological), and he claimed to be God and the only way to find God, then maybe we should listen more carefully to what he said to us. And what, exactly, is that?
He told us that God loves each of us very much (John 3:16). BUT, perhaps unknown to us, we were in a state of condemnation (John 3:18,36; Mark 16:16). By choosing sin we had become enslaved to sin (John 8:33-35) and separated from God — it created a relational distance that had consequences for us both on this earth and after we die.
God did not want that distance, nor did he want us to be condemned or for us to be held as slaves. So Jesus came into the world to create a way out of the conundrum. Jesus shed his blood, giving up his life on the cross, and then rising from the dead, so that we could have a way of being set free from sin and be reconciled to God — simply by putting our faith in Jesus, and by choosing to follow him (John 3:16-18; John 10:10).
Jesus said that if we loved him, he would come and live in us (John 14:15-17,23). When he lives in us, he comforts us, teaches us, and helps us grow and become wise.
Of course, there are other practical steps to be taken to build and strengthen one’s faith. To begin with, I have only provided limited information about Jesus, God, and faith here — so adding some more information to improve one’s understanding would be important. A good start would be to read John (since I quoted from John more than any other book in the Bible), and then read Matthew, Mark, and Luke. After that, perhaps the rest of the New Testament of the Bible.
But it is always helpful to find people to help you, which generally means getting connected with a church congregation. Not all congregations are the same, and it is probably easiest if you can find someone you know, trust, and respect who follows Jesus, and ask them for guidance in finding a church. But if you don’t have anyone like this in your life, pray (talking to God, either out loud or silently), asking God to help you find one.
Finally, try talking to God (he’s always listening), and also try listening to God speak. It can be a challenge to hear God speak (he speaks in your heart, so it is not always clear that it is God speaking), and you may make many mistakes, but it is well worth the effort. God is relational, and he loves it when people actually try to connect with him. That’s why Jesus died in the first place!
The main idea of this message is not new. It was one of the main themes in a book by C. S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity”, in which he wrote, “It seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”