In the gospel accounts of Jesus in the Bible, the reader can see a portrait of Jesus as he saw and portrayed himself in his life and teaching: as the awaited Jewish messiah and son of God. Some critics of Christianity believe that he was only a good moral teacher, but disregard his claims to divinity. Christianity is based on and reliant on the truth of the claims of Christ in its entirety and belief that Jesus was the son of God and messiah. Looking at the claims of Christ, it can be seen that the choice of “good moral teacher only” cannot be arrived at; Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or the divine Lord that he claimed to be.
Jesus’ years of public ministry was frequently marked by signs that he considered himself to be the prophesied messiah to the Jewish nation. He frequently admonished people to repent and would claim to forgive their sins. This was an audacious thing which implicitly elevated himself to the level of God, since only God could forgive sins.
At several points, he also made statements which explicitly equated himself with God the father; for example his statement to Phillip in John 14:8-9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” There was no ambiguity about his claims either, for the Pharisees in John 10:30-33 were preparing to stone him “because you [Jesus], a mere man, claim to be God.”
His claims to divinity also included his speaking of and to God the Father as “Abba,” a very personal and familial way of addressing God, and encouraging his followers to do so as well. This was considered completely inappropriate in the Jewish culture, as it was considered blasphemous to even utter the name of God (Yahweh).
So Jesus clearly believed that he was the son of God and messiah. Could he have been attempting to deceive the world? It seems unlikely. One fact about Jesus that nearly no one disputes is that he was a moral teacher of the highest standards. The life he led and taught would be completely at odds with living and teaching a lie of the most diabolical claims as would be so if he were not who he claimed to be. He would certainly not be a “good moral teacher.”
Also, the life of Jesus we see in the Gospel does not show a man who claimed divinity to great personal gain. The lifestyle he led was characterized by a lack of possessions, money, political power, or respect among the established community of religious leaders, and led to his public torture and execution. Through all this, he maintained his claims.
Similarly, Jesus would have had no reason to think that his claims to divinity and messianic mission would be generally accepted in the Jewish culture into which he was inserted. The religious teachers of the day were looking for a political leader who would overthrow the foreign rulers of Israel and be king of a reformed earthly kingdom. Jesus’ ministry and teachings had more the effect of rejection and condemnation to death as blasphemy. So it is not logical that Jesus was lying about who he was.
Could he have been insane, then? The historical accounts of Jesus given in the Gospels do not give the picture of an unstable, deranged, or otherwise psychotic man. At several points in his ministry, learned teachers challenged him with questions of Jewish law and ethics, and his quick and clever responses amazed and silenced them. He seems a mentally balanced, compassionate, creative and unselfish person. People reacted to him not as one who is mad, but who taught rationally and powerfully; even if not all were convinced, all took him seriously as a sane person.
So if it is not likely that Jesus was insane either, could he have been what he claimed? Or could he have been sincerely, and sanely, mistaken? If he were who he claimed to be, there might be certain evidences that would lend credibility to this claim beyond his or his followers’ assertions. In fact, we do see recorded in the Bible these evidences.
For one thing, Jesus performed many miracles. This served to confirm the power of God that worked through him and was intrinsic within him as God’s son. Only God, or someone through whom God was working, could do the things Jesus did, and since it is illogical that God would confirm through miracles someone who was incorrectly making the claims that Jesus did, it is clear that the miracles confirmed Jesus identity as the son of God.
Also, the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus confirms that he was someone special, endorsed and supported by God the father. This miracle was not one he could have worked through himself, but that God worked directly. His subsequent appearance to his followers and ascension to heaven without death further strengthened this evidence.
Finally and not least, Jesus’ life fulfilled many messianic prophecies, most of which he could not have orchestrated himself. For example, he was predicted to be of the line of David (2 Samuel 7:12), born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), die with thieves and be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53). These and many more prophecies were fulfilled by Christ and further confirm that he was whom he claimed to be.
The claims of Christ present him as the redeemer and savior of man, and must be taken seriously with the body of evidence that supports these claims. The most likely option when evaluating the claims of Jesus is that he is exactly whom he claimed, and the repercussions of this truth can provide hope and security for those who believe and accept the redemptive work of Christ through his death and resurrection.