I often I find myself in conversation with people who are a bit dubious about the idea of worshipping Jesus as God. People tend to tell me they like Jesus’ teaching, but he’s not much more to them than a good teacher. This often makes me rethink, “Why do I worship Jesus as God? Do I have a good reason?”
I think I do, and I’ll tell you why. I don’t have any new and interesting thoughts that haven’t already been thought and written about. People have been worshipping Jesus for 2,000 years, it’d be pretty impressive for me to think of something new. So here are some of my totally unoriginal reasons why Jesus isn’t just a good guy, but God come to earth as a man.
Jesus Rose from the Dead
As far as I know, there is very little disagreement among historians about the basics of Jesus’ life up until his death. They agree that Jesus was a Jewish teacher who lived about 2,000 years ago in Roman-occupied Israel, and who was executed by the Romans in his early 30s. Everyone seems generally happy with that. The question is, what happened next?
For me, the best explanation of the historical facts is that Jesus rose from the dead. I understand that seems like a pretty insane thing to think because as I noted last week, dead people generally stay dead. But without the resurrection attested to in the Gospels, there is a whole lot stuff to explain.
The fact that Christianity exploded across the known world within a lifetime of Jesus’ death is difficult to explain if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. No one would have bothered worshipping another dead wanna-be Messiah. People could easily have checked with the eyewitnesses and debunked the stories travelling around. Christianity would have stopped dead in its tracks. The Roman or Jewish authorities could easily have produced Jesus’ body and dealt with those pesky Christians, but they couldn’t and didn’t.
What’s more, Jesus was worshipped as God within about 20 years of his death. That’s a pretty big deal. It would be like if we today worshipped Mother Teresa as God who rose from the dead. We would have to seriously mess with her legacy and ignore the testimony of the people who knew her to worship her as God.
The Apostles went on to be tortured and killed for their belief in Jesus. It would be insane to die for a lie. Paul wrote of hundreds of eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus during the time that the eyewitnesses were still alive. His claims could be checked.
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then we need some other explanation for the appearance and rapid rise of Christianity. I have none. I worship Jesus as God because the historic facts lead me to believe he’s the only one who has defeated death, just as he promised (Matthew 6:21).
Jesus’ Statements about himself
My next reason for worshipping Jesus are his claims about himself. When you read the Gospels it’s clear that Jesus saw himself as God. He doesn’t just give good moral teaching, he claimed that he had the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12), that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him (Matthew 28:18-20), that at the end of time he would be seated on a throne to judge the earth (Matthew 25:31-33). Jesus was not just a person who taught good things, but who made outrageous claims.
C.S. Lewis’ famous trichotomy is true. Jesus cannot be just a good man. His claims about himself make him either insane, a liar, or God. And we cannot take the good teachings of Jesus and divorce them from the stuff we find uncomfortable or confronting. The very moral authority that he claims in giving those teachings is wrapped up in his self-identity as divine.
What’s more, you cannot dismiss Jesus’ divine claims but still hold to his moral teaching as a true record of what he said. Either he taught the things he did and he claimed divine status, or he didn’t do either. We don’t get to hold on to some things Jesus said and dismiss others as the fabrications of over excited gospel writers.
If Jesus claimed to be God and he rose from the dead, then I have to believe that he is who he said he is.
Jesus’ moral authority
Jesus’ teachings are, at very least, some of the most impressive teachings of any person in history. However, my trust in Jesus as a result of his teaching stems not just from the impressiveness of his teaching, but from my experience of living his teaching. I am not a perfect, or perhaps even good, disciple of Jesus, but I have found that when I obey his teaching I see its truth and power in my life. He knew the best way for us to live in this world.
What’s more, the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life show a man who didn’t just say good things, but truly lived what he said. This man who taught love lived love. He does not just have words to be heeded but a life to be emulated.
Jesus’ miraculous deeds
The Bible is full of stories about Jesus’ miracles. I can see how these can be easily dismissed as myths that have grown up around the person of Jesus. However, when you hold these in light of the evidence of his resurrection, his claims to divinity and his powerful moral authority, there is good reason to believe that he did the things the Bible claims he did.
Where else do I have to go?
There is a moment in the story of Jesus, in John 6, where Jesus has just said some particularly difficult things and a bunch of people who were following Jesus leave him. Jesus turns to his twelve disciples and asks “Are you going to leave too?”
Peter speaks up for the group and says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
This is how I feel. Who else would I go to? I have not found anyone else in all of history like Jesus. I have not found any other faith that offers what Jesus offers. I have not found anything else that explains the world, humanity, and the divine like Christianity does. I have not found a love as perfect as the love that Jesus showed at the cross when he died so that he might win me forgiveness for sins. I have not found a vision of human life well lived more compelling than the life of Jesus.
The point of all this for me is, because of these things, I have to worship Jesus as God. I have to trust him to deal with my sin. I have to seek to obey him. I have no choice. The reality of his person compels me to offer him my life. I choose Jesus because there is no-one like him. Because I’m sure he is who he says he is. Because he is God who rose from the dead. This reality has to affect everything about how I see myself, God and the world, and how I choose to live in it.
There is a God. His name is Jesus. I choose him.
I don’t often do this on my blog, but this time I will, just in case anyone is keen. If you are thinking about who Jesus is and what that might mean for you, I’d love to chat to you. Or if in fact you have anything else about Christianity you want to talk about, please get in touch. You can contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or chances are we’re Facebook friends, so you know how to find me there.