THE CLAIMS OF JESUS
by Wayne S. Walker
Jesus Christ cannot be ignored! His friends love Him, and His enemies hate Him, but all must acknowledge the fact of His existence. L. S. Keyser wrote, "The crucial question is, could mere human wisdom have conceived and depicted such a character?" (A System of Christian Evidences, p. 96). Christ demands an explanation. He also demands an attitude on our part. Every individual develops an attitude toward Him of one sort or another, upon which depends the eternal destiny of his soul. Modern critics are prone to ascribe to Him a place lower than that of deity.
Many will say of Jesus, "He is earth’s greatest moralist, teacher, and philosopher; He has revealed God to us as no one else has." However, beyond this they will not go. To them, He is "a good man," but no more. Yet, if He was not who He claimed to be, then He is not a good man but a liar, cheat, and deceiver. In Matthew 16:15 Jesus asked His apostles a question. "He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’" This is a question of supreme importance even for us today. Will we say that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, as Peter did in Matthew 16:16? Or will we say that He is an impostor? A consideration of the claims of Jesus will help us to answer this question.
He claimed to be sinlessly perfect. An impostor would have nothing to gain by this claim because a close examination of his life would easily reveal his flaws. However, Jesus made just such a claim, and lived it! His own words condemned self-righteousness in others, as in the story of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14). Yet, when He asked if anyone could convict Him of sin, no one could (John 8:46). This fact is confirmed by His disciples. They often confessed their own sinfulness, as Peter did in Luke 5:8. Yet, they many times affirmed the sinlessness of Christ (1 Peter 2:21). Even His enemies knew Him to be innocent of any wrongdoing (Matthew 27:4, 22-24). He claimed to be sinlessly perfect, and all the evidence points to the truthfulness of that claim.
He claimed religious authority. He said that one’s love to Him must be placed above any earthly love so that we keep His commandments (Matthew 10:37, John 14:15). His authority is so complete that He is not just a way, but the way, the truth, and the life and no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). In fact, He said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…" (Matthew 28:18-20). He has authority because He alone has the right to command us with regard to our relationship with God (Matthew 8:9, John 15:14). Anyone can claim religious authority, but His claim was validated by His teachings and His works.
He claimed equality with God, that He was deity, a divine being. Because He was divine, He accepted worship which could be given only to God (Matthew 4:10, 8:2). Also, because He was deity, He has the power on earth to forgive sin (Mark 2:5-11). He did these things because of who and what He was. Furthermore, He made the claim outright, calling God His Father in a special way (John 5:17-18). Indeed, the Jews understood that by saying that He and the Father were one He was making the claim of being equal with God (John 10:30-33). He did not correct their conclusion as a mistake but simply cited the evidence (His works) to prove His claim true. And the New Testament writers all agree, pointing out that "the Word [who became flesh] was God" (John 1:1, 14).
He claimed that He would be raised from the dead (Matthew 16:21). And that is exactly what happened (Matthew 28:1-8). Furthermore, this fact was attested to over and over again by those who knew Him best and gave their firsthand witness to have seen Him alive after His death (Acts 1:22, 2:32; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). No one ever claimed that he would rise from the dead and then did so! That is what is so unique about Jesus. Whatever claims He made, He had the evidence to back them up. Someday, when we stand before God in judgment, we too will be asked by Jesus, "Who do you say that I am?" And whether we are lost eternally or receive everlasting life will depend on how we have answered that question in this life. The evidence is available for us to believe the claims of Jesus. The decision is then up to us. (—taken from With All Boldness; August, 2000; Vol. 10, No. 8; p. 17)