One of the classic arguments for the deity of Jesus Christ, and therefore, for the veracity of the Christian faith was made by C.S. Lewis quite a few decades ago. It has been repeated often. But the age of an argument and the frequency of its repetition do nothing to weaken that argument. In fact, if it is a logical argument, and if each of the premises of the argument is correct, then the argument should be repeated from time to time in order to remind the world of sound thinking.
C.S. Lewis famously noted that Jesus Christ had to be one of the following–a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. Either
(1) Jesus knew that he was not God, but he claimed to be God anyway (which would make him a liar), or
(2) he did not know that he was not God, but he claimed to be God (which would make him psychotic), or
(3) he knew that he was/is God, and he made claims in keeping with this reality/truth (in which case, he, in fact, is God).
So let’s examine this old argument once again factually.
Did Jesus of Nazareth ever claim to be God? Yes he did.
(a) Jesus claimed to do work that only God can do. For example, only God can forgive sins. In Mark 2:7 and in Luke 5:21, bystanders took offense that Jesus claimed to be able to forgive a paralyzed man of his sins. In both records, the bystanders accuse Jesus of blasphemy for saying, “Your sins are forgiven.”
So was Jesus lying when he told the paralytic “Your sins are forgiven?” Did he know that he couldn’t forgive sins, but he said he could, anyway? Or did Jesus believe that he could forgive sins, but he really could not? Or could Jesus, in reality, forgive sins–which only God can do?
The answer to those questions was given by Jesus himself on the occasion of the recorded event. In Mark 2:10-11, Jesus said, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” He told the people present that they could know (as he himself knew) that he could forgive sins. If the paralyzed man stood up and walked, then Jesus was telling the truth, and the people would know that he was telling the truth.
Mark 2:12 then states, “And immediately the man stood up, took his stretcher, and went out in front of them all. They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”
(b) Jesus of Nazareth claimed to have characteristics that only God can have. For example, being eternally self-existent is a characteristic that only God can have. In John 8:58, it is recorded that Jesus said, “Before Abraham came into existence, I AM.”
So was Jesus lying when he (around the year AD 30) said that he existed before Abraham had come in existence (around 2,000 BC)? Nobody then present could really say whether he had existed before Abraham or not, since they had not existed before 2,000 BC. But if Jesus did exist before Abraham, then he obviously was not human.
Those present when Jesus made that claim assumed Jesus was lying or insane. They, also, believed Jesus was claiming to be God. Just as in Mark 2 and in Luke 5, those present at the incident recorded in John 8:58-59 charged Jesus with blasphemy. They picked up stones with which to try to kill Jesus, but Jesus hid himself from them.
(c) Jesus claimed to have a relationship with God the Father that only God Himself can have. When speaking to his own disciples, as recorded in John 14:9, Jesus said, ” The person who has seen me has seen the Father!” In both John 10:30 and in John 17:11, one of Jesus’ apostles recorded that Jesus had claimed, “The Father [God] and I are one.”
Did Jesus know that he was not one with the Father? Did Jesus think that seeing him was the same as seeing God? It is very interesting that the same apostle who recorded Jesus’ claim that the Father God and he are one–that same apostle wrote, ”
Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so 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)
He also recorded that when a fellow apostle saw Jesus after Jesus’ resurrection, that apostle (Thomas) exclaimed to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
Jesus did not tell Thomas, “Stop worshiping me as God, Thomas. Worship God only, Thomas. It’s wrong to worship a mere human as God–even if the human is a ‘great teacher.'”
So to paraphrase C.S. Lewis again, don’t go offering that sugar-coating nonsense that Jesus was just a great moral teacher. Because Jesus definitely claimed to be God. And Jesus accepted the worship of men, which would be morally reprehensible for anyone to do if they knew they were not God.
You can’t even say that Jesus was great anything at all, if Jesus is not God. We’ve already eliminated “Liar.” This only leaves “Lunatic” and “Lord.” Lunatics are not “great” humans–they’re damaged humans.
So that only leaves us with one possible, logical conclusion. Jesus Christ is neither a liar, nor a lunatic. Jesus Christ is God Almighty, Creator and Savior.
I just thought it was time to reflect on that truth and that argument once again. And it’s time to give Jesus the glory he deserves as God.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Holman Publishing, 1999.