The Weight of Jesus’ Identity and My Response to Him

IMG_2515In the comment section, a reader wrote, “Jesus was one of the greatest ever born. I am fascinated by the improvements and additions he made to the already existing ideals, but he created complications by claiming to be incarnation or son of God …” (Do You Need to Drop “the Weight of Christianity”?)

“He created complications” is both true and an immense understatement. His words alone challenge us.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

“If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15).

Serve others …

… and you will be great.

Die …

… and you will live.

Our centered-in-us natures wrestle with these statements because they push us beyond self-interest and even the basic human desire for self-preservation.

No easy task (and, yes, I realize that’s both trite and obvious).

But Jesus complicates things further, especially if you didn’t grow up in a Christian community, by adding the weight of his identity—“… the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Peter’s statement, Matthew 16:16). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 where the Apostle John identifies Jesus as “the Word”).

“Before Abraham was born, I AM.”

Jesus said that to a group of religious leaders after their lengthy interrogation concerning his identity. They understood the reference and picked up stones to kill him (see John 8:48-59).

The complication comes when Jesus’ teachings are put up against his claims. Few argue with what he taught. His sayings get repeated in today’s world by Christians and non-Christians alike. They’re brilliant.

But how could someone so brilliant make such outlandish claims about his identity as eternal God?

In other words, how could a crazy man speak such philosophical gems as the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? How could a mere man claiming God as Father—that’s exceptional self-delusion—do so much good?

Jesus’ claim boogers up all the good he taught and did.

Unless …

He told the truth.

In general, people accept Jesus’ teaching on seeking spiritual blessings over material ones and living sacrificially for the benefit of others.

But when the topic is “Jesus is God,” we respond in one of three ways.

Indifference. We simply don’t consider who he claims to be. A nice man who did lots of good and said some interesting things is sufficient. We don’t need to go any deeper. Let other people argue about that religious mumbo jumbo. Yawn!

Despite growing up in a Christian home, I would have fit into this category for my first 17 years of life. I didn’t understand Jesus’ claims and didn’t care one way or another who he was.

Anger. We understand his claims, or at least the claims of others about him, and get pretty riled up about such an intolerant position.

If we’re here, we’re closer to the truth than when we’re indifferent. We understand the implications. We just don’t like them. (I write about hot and cold responses to Jesus in A Tale of Two Flight Attendants)

Excitement. We understand his claims and accept them. We realize the difference between living a life of religious rules without him and an authentic life of relationship in him.

I came to hold this position in January of 1972 (yes, that is a long time ago). An encounter with a living Jesus Christ has a way of doing that to a person.

I’m curious. What is your response to Jesus’ identity? If you grew up in a Christian home, what did you hear about Jesus? If you didn’t, what do you think about Jesus?

Recommended links:

Jeff Goins has an interview worth listening to: The Importance of Numbering Your Days (if you listen and disagree, I’ll send Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes for free)

Jon Stolpe’s Les Miserables–Unmerited Divine Assistance

J. M. Njoroge’s Beyond the Words

Jon Acuff’s The Simple Things

IMG_3322Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

Tarver’s storytelling technique as he takes us along with Nick and Wayne’s journeys through opposite eternal pathways is nothing short of genius. … A must read.–Linda Rondeau, best-selling author of It Really IS A Wonderful Life

Come along with T. Neal Tarver on a roller coaster journey to the afterlife, from the bliss of heaven to the despair of hell.–Dawn Kiefer, Editor, Richland Observer

For more of what People Are Saying follow link.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Barnes & Noble

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About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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6 Responses to The Weight of Jesus’ Identity and My Response to Him

  1. Mary McCauley says:

    Jesus said not only that HE is God’s Son, but that only HE is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I grew up believing Jesus was and is God’s Son, a part of the trio of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we use Him as a model and believe His words we will have eternal life, for He came to save those who are lost, and at some point that is ALL of us. Praise God for His gracious gift of Jesus our Savior. Thanks for the thought provoking read Tom.

  2. Jon Stolpe says:

    Thanks for the mention!

  3. Kari Scare says:

    Liar, lunatic or Lord. Those are the options. Growing up, I am not sure how I would classify my perspective. I didn’t put Him in any category, I guess. Just there. Yet, always a drawing for more. I did grow up in a home where we faithfully attended church, but we never really got to know Jesus. Didn’t know until I was almost 30 that He was all about relationship and not so much about rules. Still hard to shake the rules orientation at times. Progressive sanctification. I am a work in progress.

    • tnealtarver says:

      C. S. Lewis was the first to describe the three logical choices concerning Jesus’ identity–liar, lunatic, or Lord. We can’t leave Him in the “great man” or “good teacher” category. Those options aren’t available to us based on the Gospel records.

      As for progressive sanctification, I think Peter’s statement, “God is patient, desiring that none should perish,” assures us God is in no hurry for us to be “perfect.” If He was willing to wander in the Wilderness for 40 years teaching the Israelites about redemption, renewal, and a Kingdom mindset, I’m sure He’s willing to wander along with us as we wonder about Him.

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