Most people have a strong dislike for those who act and talk like they and their opinions are the center of the universe. These are the people who have a solution to every problem, and they never seem to have the time or patience to listen to an alternate point of view. We try to tactfully avoid such people, or sometimes in sheer desperation we may find ourselves exclaiming, ‘Who in the world, do you think you are?’
The exception is God. By anyone’s criteria, except the atheist, God represents the highest, the noblest and the best, so we view God from a different perspective. While we wouldn’t tolerate statements like “serve me”, “worship me”, or “obey me” from even our closest loved ones, when attributed to God they seem appropriate. After all, God is God.
When we look at Jesus it gets a little trickier. On the one hand he is the ultimate example of humility, kindness and love. He embraced those who society rejected as misfits, he noticed the smallest gift as in the story of the widow’s mite, took time for little children, and he ate and drank with those who religion described as ‘sinners’. Jesus’ teaching contained stories that made heroes of those who were considered the last, the least and the lost. He washed the feet of his disciples, self-depreciating, humble, a ‘servant of all’. While Jesus attracts and compels many, others claim to be confused.
“How can the one who said, ‘do unto others as you wish them to do to you’, be so seemingly egotistical and self-centered?” Jesus notably claimed that no one knew God but himself, that he is “the way, the truth and the life”. He refers to himself as the ‘Bread of Life’ and the ‘Light of the world’, while claiming ‘if you have seen me you have seen God’. On at least two occasions he claimed that the totality of the Hebrew writings, the Prophets, Moses and the Psalms, were about Him. How can such self-importance be justified? A close review of Jesus’ teaching indicates that the most outstanding feature is that he constantly referred to himself, starting many sentences with “I am”, and claiming that eternal life was found in him. Under normal circumstances, we consider a person making such claims better suited for the psychiatric ward.
We might exclaim, “Jesus, who in the world do you think you are – God?”
He was human in every sense of the word—trimming his fingernails, combing his hair and brushing his teeth—and we wonder, “Could someone who became tired, hungry and thirsty, be God?” Untold numbers of modern religious scholars have tried to answer this question by researching the historical Jesus. Often the conclusion of their ‘studies’ is to discredit the statements by Jesus which defy logic, and replacing them with a sanitized, more acceptable version of Jesus. The premise seems to be that a person whose message was love and acceptance could not have made these intellectually indefensible statements. How could someone like Jesus also make ‘outlandish’ claims of being God?
Could Jesus really be God? Maybe we have looked at the question from the wrong end of the equation. Instead of wondering if a human could be God, we should ask, “Could God be Jesus?” Is it plausible that the unlimited God, who is a Spirit, and consequently without bodily form, could have come within the limitations of human form? If God is God it must be possible. In fact, it makes sense that God would limit himself to a human body for a 33 year period, in order to bring freedom to all humans. Of course God could do that, or God isn’t God.
One thing is sure, if Jesus was wrong on his identity, if indeed he wasn’t the Bread of Life who came down from heaven, why should we trust his teaching or example in any other area? What good is washing the disciples’ feet if Jesus is a mere egotistical religious teacher making outrageous claims?
Jesus leaves us little choice. Either we honour and embrace him, or we despise and reject him. I suggest the miracle for all of us is that God came in Jesus in order to free humanity, not from up above, but from within humanity. The Creator became totally identified with the creation, and by so doing he relegated all religions who claim to have a ‘path to God’ to the junk-heap of history. God made a path toward humans. Religion is redundant. Jesus is available to all.