Everyone Wants a Piece of Jesus

Tonight I spoke at a college class on World Religions. I was the guest speaker and given two and a half hours to explain Christianity. The class is taught by a Muslim whom I have become friends with over the past few years. He teaches this class a couple of times a year and this is the fifth time I have been invited to present Christianity. My goal in the class is always to get the people in the class to consider who Jesus was and is and how they should respond to Him. Pointing out the claims of Jesus and his uniqueness is a big part of the presentation, as well as Christianity being all about trusting Jesus by faith for salvation.

Since it was a class on World Religions and they have already had presentations on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, with Islam yet to come, I asked the class this question, “Why does every religion want a piece of Jesus?”. Hinduism considers Jesus to be an Avatar, or incarnation of the God Vishnu. Buddhism honors Jesus as a Bodhisattva or enlightened guide who leads others to Nirvana before going himself. Some teachers within Judaism consider Jesus to be a moral Rabbi who pointed people to God. Islam honors Jesus as one of the five greatest prophets, even believing that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born.

No other religious figure is some revered by so many different religions. Buddhists don’t honor Mohamed as a Bodisattva. Jews don’t respect Vishnu as some sort of messenger from God. Jews don’t look to Buddha as a spiritual teacher. So what is it about Jesus that everyone wants a piece of Him? I think the answer is in some ways found in Romans chapter 1. In that chapter Paul makes it clear there God has made Himself known in creation. There is something about creation that points all people to God. We have this innate radar that sees the divine in creation. If that is true of creation in general, how much more so is it true of Jesus in particular, God made flesh. I am convinced that the reason so many religions want a piece of Jesus is because our built in God radar, as broken as it is by our sinful nature, detects the divine in Jesus and wants to know Him and lay some claim to Him.

Of course Romans also explains why we distort who Jesus really is. We can’t take Him as God in the flesh because our sinful nature is at war with God. So we twist Him into Vishnu or a prophet, or a good Buddhist, or a moral teacher and we feel good about that. We feel good about it because we have made our God manageble and twisted Him to fit our image. That fact that we go through all of that to keep something of Jesus, but make Him fit our image, tells me that Jesus really is who He claimed to be. He is the Lord God, come in the flesh, the Messiah, the Savior, the King of Kings. He is the one to whom we all know, we must bend the knee. The day will come when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Some will do so with joy because they love Him. Others will do so through gritting teeth and with anguished hearts because He will no longer be in the image the tried to force upon Him. But they will bend the knee and He will be honored.

Jesus is unique. He is the Lord. He will not be forced into our image of Him, not matter how hard we try take only the parts of Him we want. Bow down and worship Him. Honor Him. He is the Lord.

Provocative Bible Verses: Is Jesus God?

It seems that in the past few weeks I have come across a number of people who claim to be Christians but do not think Jesus was God. The real question I suppose is, “Did Jesus think that he was God?”. The short answer to that question is clearly yes. In fact, that is the reason why the religious leaders wanted to have him crucified. Consider this encounter with the religious leaders in John 8:54-58

54Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Jesus claimed that Abraham, who had died twenty centuries earlier had actually seen and been seen by Jesus. The religious leaders mock Jesus by pointing out that he is not even fifty years old so there is no way he and Abraham could have seen one another. They were convinced that Jesus was a demon possessed nut job. Jesus responds by saying, “Before Abraham was born, I AM”. What would have made sense from a word tense standpoint was for Jesus to say, before Abraham was born, I was. But he says, I AM. At that point they pick up stones in order to stone him to death. Why?

The reason they want to kill him right then and there is because in their minds, Jesus has just committed blasphemy. He has claimed an equality with God that in their eyes is as sinful a thing as there is. By using the term I AM, he is reminding them of the name God used for Himself when He spoke to Moses on Mt Sinai in Exodus 3

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

That story and the name I AM was ingrained in the mind of every first century Jew. It was God’s name for Himself. By using that phrase in the way he did, Jesus was saying as clearly as he possibly could, “I am divine”. I am the same one who spoke to Moses on the mountain. That is why they wanted to kill him.

There are numerous other places where he makes the case for his divinity in other ways. The Gospel of Mark, chapter 2, is nearly as blatant as John 8. In that event Jesus tells a paralytic that his sins are forgiven. The religious leaders are shocked and murmur among themselves that no one can forgive sins except God. Jesus then shows them that he is God, can forgive sins, and the proof that he has forgiven this particular mans sins is that he then heals the man of his paralytic condition.

In addition to Jesus own understanding found in the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament is crystal clear that he is God in the flesh as well. The second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians makes the case that Jesus who was equal with the Father and in fact divine. He did not let his divine status keep him from also becoming a man. He did that in order to secure salvation for everyone who would believe in him.

Okay, so what? Jesus claimed to be God. What difference does that make for you and me? The so what is that you have to do something with Jesus and who he claimed to be. C.S. Lewis popularized the dilemma and the choices with his Lord, Liar, Lunatic options. Jesus claimed to be God. His claim is either true or it is not. If is is not true, then he either knew it was not true and thus he was a liar, or he thought it was true and thus he was a lunatic nut job with a divinity complex. The other option is that it is true that he is God, the Lord, and as such, we must devote ourselves to following Him, where ever He leads and no matter what. The command that He gave his followers right before He left them in Matthew 28:18-19 is that they were to make disciples, followers of Jesus who would obey everything He commanded. That is the implication for us. Jesus claimed to be the Lord and demonstrated that He is. We are then called to follow, love, and obey Him with everything we have and everything we are.