We have considered the controversial claims of Jesus, claims that have caused the critics of Christianity to label those who take His claims seriously “intolerant bigots” or “religious fanatics”—because no other religious leader has ever made such extraordinary and exclusive claims.
It was not primarily His teachings, such as the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes, or His interpretations of the Law and the prophets, but His claims that raised so many questions during His ministry of teaching; not only among the scribes and Pharisees, but also among the common people who “heard Him gladly,” and wondered who this man was. He was obviously so much more than a carpenter, but He was not an educated man. He had not attended any of the rabbinical schools of His day. But He knew the scriptures so well, as if He had memorized the sacred writings. How could they account for His intellectual superiority? He also spoke with power and authority. It is not surprising that people asked, “Where does this man get His authority?” He claimed His teachings were greater than the words of Moses.
His claims also still raise such questions in the minds of those today who really want to know who the historical Jesus really is, whether He is possibly all He claimed to be. But those claims also raise eyebrows, they raise tempers, they raise all kinds of religious issues that have caused controversies and conflicts from the first century to the twenty-first century. It is His claims that continue to make Jesus Christ such a controversial figure, for those claims are unparalleled, equating Himself with God, and therefore have always made Him such a compelling figure. Those who choose to do so can reject Him, but there is one thing they cannot do—they cannot ignore Him!
There is more that must be said. We must go beyond His claims and examine His character and His conduct, which confirmed His claims. Jesus asked His hearers, “Who among you convicts me of sin?” There were no flaws in His character, no immoral acts in His conduct. He lived out His claims. Many people have trouble believing Jesus was sinless, just as many find it difficult to believe in His virgin birth; so also with His virgin life. However, how can anyone who reads the gospels miss the very obvious fact that while He called others to repentance, when they were confronted and convicted of their sins, Jesus Himself never repented, for He was without sin, without guilt, without shame.
Therefore, His cheeks were never wet with the tears of repentance, as yours and mine have been, or at least should have been, for we have all sinned because of our sin nature, because the flesh is weak (Romans 3:23; Matthew 26:41). The author of the letter to the Hebrews wanted his readers to understand that Jesus was never immune to the wiles of Satan, the Tempter. His temptations were just as real as ours are, but He never yielded to those temptations: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tempted, as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Temptation is not a sin. All human beings are tempted. We only sin when we yield to temptation. There is an old hymn that makes this truth plain in this plea: “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin.”
G. K. Chesterton referred to Jesus as “The One Enormous Exception,” and this applies to Him in so many ways:
- In His coming—the Eternal Christ, the Son of God becoming the Son of Man, the Word of God made flesh in His virgin birth;
- In His character—His virgin life, for He had to be what He was—sinless—in order to do what He does—save;
- In His conduct—He lived what He taught, He practiced what He had been proclaiming;
- In His cross—His atoning death, as the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of all humankind;
- In His conquest—His victory over sin and death;
- In His coming again—“In the fullness of time,” His identity will be made known to all the earth and His glory will be seen. When He returns to this planet, which He visited in His first advent, He will descend from heaven in His second advent, just as He promised. He will return as the One “…who was, who is, and who comes as ‘the Almighty,'” the mighty Savior; the One who was dead and is alive forevermore; the One who is the object of heaven’s worship; the One who “…is worthy to receive all glory and honor;” the Lamb that was slain, yet standing, by whose blood all the redeemed in heaven and on earth have been “ransomed for God, saints from every tribe and language and people and nation,” who will reign with Him forever in His kingdom, which will never pass away. (Acts1:9-11; Revelation 1:8, 4:2 and 11; 5:6 and 13; 7:9-12 and 11:15)
Think about these things. Open yourself to the Holy Spirit, who was sent following the death and resurrection of Jesus to lead us into all the truth concerning Him. Listen for His voice and then respond if you feel led. Perhaps you will feel led to pray…
Come, O Holy Spirit, come as a wind and blow away all of my unbelief. Come as a fire and burn. Come as a light and direct. Convict, convert, and consecrate until I am wholly Christ’s, who gave Himself for me. I now give myself to Him. I do believe Jesus is who He said He is and I bow down before Him. Bow my heart beneath my knees, as I claim Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Give me the assurance of sins forgiven, and grant me the confidence that I am a child of God, by grace through faith in Christ, now and forever. I offer this prayer in faith and hope, in Jesus; name, with great thanksgiving. AMEN.