Avoiding a difficult choice

In the end political expediency won out. The stage was set to both indict all mankind of guilt and make provision for their forgiveness. Pilate gave the order for Jesus to be crucified. The reality was denied, left for all to confront at a later time.

Most of us tend to ignore unpleasant realities and make choices that we think are beneficial to us. Confronted with evidence as to who Jesus really was, would you face a reality that is too difficult for you to accept? Deep down, maybe we intuitively realize it would change life as we know it. So perhaps it's better, we reason, not to look into this matter too deeply to leave ourselves an out. That's the route Pilate took.

But this is where we have to begin. Who, really, was Jesus of Nazareth? Where did He really come from? If we understand that, it explains everything He did and said.

Most see Jesus as a teacher, a wise man, a Jewish sage who died an unjust and horrible death and founded a great religion.

Is there more to it than that? One of the most controversial topics is the true identity of Jesus Christ—and at the same time it is perhaps the most crucial. It lies at the heart of the Christian faith. What this entails is the understanding that Jesus was not simply an extraordinary human being, but that Jesus was actually God in human flesh.

But if He was God in the flesh, how was He God? This is the part that is often neglected in many explanations—and, as a result, many have difficulty grasping how this could be.

Jesus certainly regarded Himself as much more than only a man, prophet or teacher.

Some say that Jesus made no claims to be God. Some scholars even insist that, years later, leaders of the Christian Church concocted and edited into the record the titles Jesus used, the miracles and His claims and actions that showed He believed He was God. In other words, the argument is that the record has been fabricated and the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament is a legend, a theological product of the early Church.

However, this is historically impossible for several reasons—not the least of which is that immediately after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Church grew explosively based on the conviction that He was God. There was no time for a legend to develop around exaggerated claims of who Jesus might be.

Peter immediately preached that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead and that He was indeed the Christ and Lord and equated Him with God (Acts 2:27, 34-35). The disciples and the Church knew who Jesus was, as the powerful growth of the Church shows.

The fact of the matter, staggering though it is, is that Jesus of Nazareth was God in the flesh. This fact, which we will further explore, is what makes Christianity unique and authoritative. If Jesus was not God, then the Christian faith doesn't differ in kind from other religions. If Jesus was not God, those in the early Christian Church would have had no basis for their beliefs—beliefs that, in the words of their enemies, "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6).

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