Monday, September 06, 2010
Book Excerpt: Avoiding Jesus by Michael Green
His claims were different
If you have read the Gospels, you may well have been struck by a remarkable contrast. On the one hand, Jesus is a humble, self-forgetful figure, healing the sick, teaching the people, befriending the outcast. He is no academic theologian but a carpenter with calloused hands, whose words are full of hardheaded wisdom and and earthly illustrations. He has no money, no settled home, no vote, no rights. On the other hand, he makes the most fantastic claims, and many of them are almost casual, offhand remarks. For example, he takes it for granted that he is entitled to man's worship, the worship due to God alone. When Peter falls at his feet in adoration after a fishing expedition and says, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8), Jesus does nothing to stop him. When Thomas falls at his feet after the resurrection and exclaims, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), Jesus does not rebuke him-except for needing the evidence of his eyes to come to that conclusion. No good person would do that. Indeed, we have examples in the New Testament of two good men, Peter and Paul, who found themselves being worshiped by ignorant pagans, and they reacted violently against it, telling them to worship God alone. Jesus seems to have accepted such worship as his due.
Watch him deal with a woman accused of adultery (see John 8:1-11) or a man sick with paralysis (see Mark 2:1-12). In both instances, Jesus forgave their sins, and in the case of the paralytic, he gave a visual demonstration of the fact- the man got up at Jesus' command and walked! Not what are we to make of a claim like that? The Pharisees knew very well what to make of it. "Who is this that forgives sins?" they asked. "There is one who forgives sins, God." That is precisely the point. Jesus was laying implicit claim to do what God does, to forgive people their sins. Indeed, when Mary is told that her baby must be called Jesus, the explanation of the name is brought out like this: "for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). In the Old Testament (Ps. 130:8, the authority to forgive sins is solely, and naturally, said to belong to God alone. Here, right at the start of his life, Jesus takes on the job. The implication is obvious. In Jesus we meet someone who is different.
What are we to make of this? C.S. Lewis puts the challenge with his customary force.
"There is no hallway house, and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him: "Are you the son of Bramah?" he would have said, "My son, you are still in the vale of illusion." If you had gone to Socrates and asked, "Are you Zeus?" he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, "Are you Allah?" he would first have rent his clothes and then cut off your head. If you had asked Confucius, "Are you heaven?" I think he would probably have replied, "Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste."
This man was different. He was not merely a great teacher.
Listen to Lewis once again:
"The things he says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, "This is the truth about the universe. This is the way you ought to go." But he says, "I am the Truth and the Way and the Life." He says, "No man can reach absolute reality, except through me. Try to retain your own life and you will inevitably be ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved." He says, "If you are ashamed of me, if, when you hear my call, you turn the other way, I will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from me, whatever it is, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to me, everyone who is carrying a heavy load, and I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out. I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat me, drink me, I am your food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole universe." That is the issue."
Yes, that is the issue. What are you going to make of it?
Courage and Godspeed,
Note to Readers- I was impressed with the broad scope of popular objections this book addressed from a philosophical and theological perspective. This would be a great resource to give someone who is beginning to ask questions about the validity of the Christian Worldview. I would highly recommend this book as an evangelism tool!