God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. … All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. —1 John 4:9,15, NLT
The Christians say that the Messiah is the Son of God. That is but a saying with their mouth. They only imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God’s curse be upon them! How they are deluded away from the truth! —Surah 9.30, The Qur’an
Jews believe Jesus himself would have been shocked to know that many people today view him as the Messiah. According to Judaism, Jesus was a Jewish man who was executed and later given divine status by the Christian church. —Lisa Katz, The Jewish View of Jesus
The million-dollar question is: Who was Jesus Christ? Was he a revolutionary rabble-rouser or an obscure Jewish rabbi from an insignificant little town? Was he a prophet sent by Allah to prepare the way for Mohammed? Or was Jesus Christ God in human disguise, working undercover to rescue us from judgment and free us from the bondage of sin?
Spider-Man has his own share of identity problems. He swoops through the city on a gossamer thread, fighting crime, rescuing the public from calamity, restoring peace and justice, thwarting the plans of evil villains, and still the scandal-sheets scream out their warnings: Who is Spider-Man: Friend or Foe? Why doesn’t Peter Parker just call a press conference and settle the thing once and for all?
Like Peter Parker, Jesus chose the way of anonymity and ambiguity. The apostle Paul puts it this way:
Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. —Philippians 2:6-11, NLT
Impressive words, those. But here it is, 2000 years later. The witnesses to the life of Jesus are long dead; their bones have turned to dust. We live in an age of doubt and uncertainty. We do not believe in Spider-Man—he is just a heroic myth, and to our post-modern ears the stories of Jesus—the astounding miracles, the haunting words, the purity of his life, his humility, his authority, his horrific death and the remarkable claim of his resurrection—all of these things sound to us like the work of a fevered imagination. How are we to judge between truth and myth, between fact and fiction?
Jesus himself seems to have anticipated the problem.
After his resurrection, he appeared to the disciples and convinced them that it was really him, not some ghost or mass hallucination. But the apostle Thomas had been absent from these gatherings, and he thought they were all off their collective rockers. Dead is dead. Thomas (often called “doubting Thomas”) said he would not believe until he had put his fingers into the nail holes in Jesus’ hands.
And the fateful day came when Jesus appeared once again, this time with Thomas present. Jesus invited him to put his fingers into the wounds in his hands and his side. Thomas did so, and fell to his knees in worship, calling Jesus “my Lord and my God.”
Then Jesus told [Thomas], “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.” —John 20:29, NLT
To believe Christianity is to believe some very strange things. Jesus was a man born to a virgin who had been impregnated by the Lord God of the universe. Jesus was both fully human and fully God. Jesus was a visitor in time and history from outside of time and history. Jesus is God’s solution to the problem of our sin, a problem that has always been fully our responsibility, but that God, in love, made his own. Jesus lived a perfect life, but was crucified as a common criminal. And in that death, he took upon himself all of the punishment and judgment that was coming to us.
And here is the surprise ending: by admitting our sin and putting our faith and hope in Jesus, God grants us a full and unconditional pardon, and adopts us into his own family.
It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of—all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain—and, of course, you find that what we call “seeing a table” lands you in mysteries and complications…
Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one reason I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that weird twist about it that real things have. —CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
Who is Jesus Christ? The New Testament is a short book. Read the accounts of the life and words of Jesus for yourself, then ask yourself: Does the New Testament sound like a comic book adventure, or does it have the ring of truth and the weirdness of real life?
If Jesus the carpenter really is Jesus the Son of God, that might be a mystery worth unraveling, don’t you think?