Jesus of Galilee was a historic figure. He caused a ruckus. Flavius Josephus, Jewish historian to the Roman Ceasar in the first century, mentioned him by name as a teacher and healer, whose posse continued in his footsteps after he was gone, claiming he had risen from the dead.
This Jesus character is often equated with other teachers in history - Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi, Confucius - but that’s because some people have no idea what he taught. When you read his teachings (check out John 8:23-24), there’s only 3 conclusions you can come to:
1. He was a lunatic, who actually thought he was God
2. He was a lying con-artist, fooling people into thinking he was special
3. He was the Messiah, the promised God-With-Us
If either of the first two are correct, how can anyone say he was a “good teacher”? He led people to their deaths! If you recall, David Koresh was labelled a madman for the same thing; he was a lunatic con-artist that abused people’s trust while he was alive, and led them to their deaths in a compound in Waco, Texas. Was he a “good teacher”?
Let us examine the message that Jesus preached consistently for 3 years, and determine whether it’s even a “good” teaching.
|Hanging out on Mt. Rainier|
From Day One of his ministry, Jesus commanded people to “repent” (Matt 4:17). The word “repent” means “to change your mind.” This implies there was something he wanted people to repent from, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” To the man who had been crippled 38 years, whom Jesus had just healed, he said “sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14). To the woman caught in adultery (an offence punishable by death), he said “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
This concept of sin is everywhere in the Bible, starting in Genesis 3. To “sin” is to depart from the way of God. God is perfect, and perfectly holy. This means he can have nothing to do with our sin - whether or not we think it’s a big deal. You haven’t murdered anyone, you say, so God shouldn’t have anything against you. Don’t miss the concept of “holy”: sacred, set-apart, separate. God is set apart in His perfection. He cannot, by His very nature, have anything to do with sin.
Because of this, we who are not perfect fall short of God’s standard (Rom 3:23). And because of this, we can’t hope to have a relationship with God. In fact, we’re condemned to being separate from God, both now and after we die. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t murdered - that’s not the standard. Perfection is.
Jesus talked about Hell as if it were real. He talked about those who would be cast into outer darkness. He talked about the lake of fire. He talked about judgment and torture. He knew what awaits us, and for this reason he preached “Hell and Damnation” over and over again. Interestingly, he preached it most to those who thought they were okay with God (Matt 23:13). If you are thinking you’re doing alright, think again.
Believe in what? Believe that if we are good enough, we’ll make it to Heaven? By whose scale of justice is that supposed to work? Believe that there are many ways to Heaven, and a loving God wouldn’t condemn anyone to something as awful as Hell? This loving God died so you wouldn’t have to go to Hell, but you assume you can come up with a better way?
Here’s where Jesus got really wonky. He said you have to believe in him, and only him (John 3:16, John 3:18 ). He said that believing in him involved laying down your own life (ie, your desires, your philosophies, your way of living) and submit wholly to him (Matt 16:25), truly putting your hope and trust in him as your only way back to God’s good graces (John 3:17-18, John 14:6).
As if that weren’t enough, Jesus tells you that you need believe one more thing. That he is God (John 10:25-39, John 14:7-9). This is, in fact, why he was put to death. The Pharisees, who had put Judas up to bringing them Jesus, blatantly asked him if he was the Promised One, the Messiah. Jesus answered in such a fashion that the Pharisees tore their clothing, the sign that God had been blasphemed: He said I AM (Mark 14:60-64). This wasn’t a simple statement of identity as the prophet that Moses told the Israelites to expect. If that were so, the Pharisees would not have torn their clothing. Jesus said he was the I AM, which is how God identified Himself to Moses and the Israelites when He spoke through the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). This was how Jesus got himself condemned to death. To blaspheme God (try to smear Him by, for instance, saying He is less than He is) carried a death sentence by Mosaic law (Leviticus 24:16). And Jesus knew it (Luke 2:46-47).
And so he died. In his final moments, Jesus took on himself the sins of the world, and his perfectly holy Father in Heaven couldn’t have anything to do with him. In anguish, he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Just before he breathed his last, he said “It is finished” (John 19:30). He had finally finished the work that began immediately after Adam and Eve had separated themselves from God through sin (Genesis 3:14-15). He had bridged the gap between God and humanity.
Three days later, he began showing up to people all over Jerusalem, proving that he had conquered the death that we had earned through our sin (Acts 1:2-3). Those people then went on to torture and death themselves, writing that they considered it a blessing to be counted worthy to suffer as Jesus had!
This is what Jesus said you have to believe, with your whole self, if you want to be united with the perfect God who made you. If you want to find the answer to the riddle of life. If you want to spend eternity enjoying the unspeakable wonders God has prepared for you in Heaven (1 Cor 2:9).
Can you still call him “good teacher”?
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It is for this, the Good News (referring to the announcement that through Jesus, man can be reconciled to God), that we laid aside our lives and are seeking to add to God’s global fame. We think everyone should know Who God is and what God did to bring man back to Himself.
We are not becoming missionaries to “help people.” Humanitarian aide is a only a part of spreading God’s fame. It’s your soul and theirs that we’re concerned with, that you and they might know and be reconciled to God, and thereby bring Him more glory.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” -2 Corinthians 4:7