The other morning I was reading Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest" and came across this: "Are you loyal to Jesus or loyal to your notion of him?" Chambers challenges us to live our lives for and in the one true Jesus. He speaks of the possibility that we disobey Jesus for what seem like honourable motives; for example to avoid dishonour or shame coming to Jesus. But Chambers points out that Jesus endured shame for us. And he was misunderstood and reviled. The danger, Chambers says, is that we substitute a tame Jesus for the real one. We make an ideal Jesus; "ideal" from a human point of view. We need to remember that at times Jesus offended the sensibilities of the self-righteous and the self-sufficient and intended to do so. He is controversial. He said controversial and, to many, offensive things. He called people evil (Matthew 7:11) and he told the religious elite of his day that they were "full of greed and wickedness" (Luke 11:39). I guess nowadays they would say that Jesus "told it as it is!" It seems to me that Chambers is saying that we ought not to try and explain away his controversial statments. Jesus never did. He is controversial because his motives, actions and words clash against the stubborn, me-centred, lives that sinful men and women live.
So Chambers' question is an apt one. Which Jesus are you following?
Many today want to strip Jesus of the supernatural. He was just a good man, a great teacher. But good men, great teachers, don't go around saying the things that Jesus said unless they have a greater authority than a mere man. Jesus claimed to be not just a good man but God. He told the people of Israel that he and the Father were one. He claimed the authority to forgive sins. And, as sin is against God, only God can do that (as his original hearers realised). Nor will it do to suggest that Jesus was a man who was especially approved of by God. God says he will share his glory with no one but the New Testament says that glory will be given to Jesus. Jesus himself says so (John 17:1). He even says that he had this glory from "before the world began" (John 17:5). And he needs to be fully God if he is to show us the Father. Only the Father's true Son can do that. Further, he has to be fully God to be able to represent God to us and to reconcile us to God in what he does for us.
But he was also fully man. Paul reminds us in Romans 1:3 that Jesus, in his earthly nature, was descended from King David. If we was not fully man he could not be our representative. He could not take upon himself the sins of the world. He could not die to defeat death.
A Jesus who is not both fully God and fully man is no Saviour. And he is not the Jesus of history but a Jesus of modern invention one that suits us better and avoids the serious challenge to our lives that inevitably follow if he really is both God and man. The Jesus of history is the one who inspired his followers to risk their own lives (all but one of the 11 remaining disciples lost their lives for proclaiming the risen Lord Jesus) to tell of the good news of his death and resurrection. (By the way, anyone who thinks that Jesus is an invention to provide a comfort blanket has not read the New Testament. Jesus calls his followers to die to themselves and follow him. He says they will be persecuted if they follow him. He tells them that they must be prepared to take up their cross daily. Jesus, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightly said, bids those who want to follow him to come and die. But when they die to self-interest and live for Christ and others they find true life.)
The resurrection of Jesus, attested to by many witnesses, proves that Jesus is who he says he is. There are many evidences to show that the resurrection happened. Enough evidence that, were it in any other type of case, people would find conclusive. What is fascinating is that people will believe conspiracy theories that have little or no evidence to support them (often claiming the lack of evidence as proof of the cover up) but not believe the evidences for the resurrection. One man in the 1930's, a lawyer and an atheist, set out to disprove the resurrection using his forensic skills as a lawyer. His name was Frank Morrison. The first chapter of the book he wrote as a result of his efforts was called "The book that refused to be written." The more he looked at the evidence, the more he realised that he could not only not disprove the resurrection, but that all the evidence pointed to it actually happening. (The book is still in print and is called "Who Moved the Stone?").
And if Jesus is who he said he is, then we need to listen to him in all that he says and not just those things with which we are comfortable. And we should avoid explaining away things that Jesus is content to say without apology.