Wasn't Jesus Just a Good Moral Teacher?
Sermon Series: God, the Fairytale | Passage: Luke 24:13-35
A very common perspective on Jesus is that he lived his life as a good, moral teacher. The perspective goes that Jesus wasn’t a god or even divine, but he was a good man who taught profound truths, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa. In modern society, Jesus often gets looped in with great moral teachers of the day. Regardless of the religious perspective, most people agree Jesus was a moral teacher, but was that all he was?
Christianity holds the perspective that an honest look at the Bible will portray Jesus not just as a moral teacher, but as a diving being who demonstrated his divinity in many ways. The Christian position is that there is no way to read the Bible honestly and only receive Jesus as a moral teacher; the Bible never attempts to portray him that way. We can accept Jesus as he is portrayed: God in the flesh, reject him as a liar, but we cannot receive him as only a good moral teacher. The scriptures do not give us that option. Here are 4 observations in the Bible that do not allow us to receive Jesus as just a teacher:
Jesus performed Miracles
A common heresy in ancient times was the denial of Jesus’ many miracles as fable, allegory or lies. We currently live in an age of scientific rationalism; anything that happens outside of scientific rational thought cannot be true. This would rule out Jesus’ miracles from being real. But just because our thought doesn’t account for miracles doesn’t mean they cannot take place. Is it possible scientific rationalism doesn’t account for something outside of it’s scope?
While the Bible claims to historically account for more than 40 unique miracles of Jesus, other non-christian sources admitted that Jesus did something that riled up people in the first century. Ancient non-christian historian Celsus believed Jesus practiced the dark arts he received while staying in Egypt. And Jewish historian Josephus noted that Jesus performed many works to the Jews. The Jewish Talmud even claims that Jesus “practiced magic”. None of these sources claim Jesus’ works, whether miracle or magic, were falsified.
Many have said that Jesus miracles (and resurrection) aren’t even that important. What’s most important is that we take his teachings and use them to make ourselves and others better people. This sounds nice, but Jesus disagrees. He claims his miracles were literal signs to prove his divinity to the world so people would follow him (john 10:36-38). If Jesus claims to perform these miracles, and then states their necessity in believing in him, then we must conclude that Jesus is right, a liar or crazy, but we cannot conclude he is somehow a good, moral teacher.
2. There is a claim that Jesus rose from the dead
Something happened 2000 years ago in the middle east that sparked the birth of a messianic jewish religion that turned into several billion people. We cannot deny that. The question is, what could have caused this sort of stirring? How did Jesus’ well-documented enemies become his most devoted followers (Paul)? How did Jesus friends who deserted him in death decide to die for his cause after his death (Peter)? Christianity would say that Jesus’ resurrection is the sole cause for this growth and change.
We cannot look at this evidence and say, “no, Jesus was just a good teacher”. The central point of the Bible and the ministry of Jesus was his resurrection. If the Bible is lying about it’s main point, what else is it lying about? Why believe anything at all?
3. The Old Testament predicted the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
Jesus fulfills over 300 old testament prophecies with his life, death and resurrection. An honest study of these prophecies will demonstrate the impossibility of fulfilling these with your life. One professor, with 600 of his students, determined the probability of fulfilling even 8 prophecies in one person. The odds of doing so? 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 or 1 in 10 to the 17th power. A better question might be: What are the odds that Jesus is not the God of the old testament?
Perhaps there is no better place to begin our investigation of christianity altogether. If Jesus fulfills these prophecies then this would validate Jesus as God and it would validate Christianity If he did not fulfill them, then Christianity is a farce (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Either way, after exploring the old testament prophecies of Jesus, it is extremely difficult to simply look at Jesus as a “good teacher”.
4. Jesus confirms his divinity with spiritual encounters with people
In Luke 24:30-34, we see that the spiritual presence of Jesus revealed his divinity to the people he was with. It wasn’t until Jesus spiritually encountered them that they began to truly see Jesus for who he is.
We often search for God intellectually and may even claim truths about God. But it isn’t until Jesus encounters us with his Holy Spirit that we can claim that he is God in the flesh. Don’t only intellectually engage God. Engage him spiritually. Ask to commune with him so he might reveal his true self to you.
What is the argument from you (or others) that Jesus is only a good moral teacher? What is your response to the other side of the argument?
2. The Bible says Jesus is God. If Jesus is not God, why listen to anything the Bible has to say?
3. How do Jesus’ miracles validate his divine nature? Why do we have a hard time believing his miracles happened?
4. If Jesus didn’t rise from he dead, how do we explain the explosion of christian growth and persecution? What is your response to those explanations?
5. Why is it important to say that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, that Christianity is futile and a waste of time? (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
6. How does Jesus’ fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies give you a deeper confidence in your faith? Why are people skeptical of the prophecies?
7. Why is a spiritual encounter with Jesus necessary to become a believer? Why can’t we simply intellectually believe in him without a spiritual encounter?