Jesus : Legend or Lord?

John 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. ESV

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ESV

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis presents us with a trilemma. Given the data about the life and self-understanding of Jesus one must conclude whether or not He is a Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. There is a fourth dilemma – Legend.

There are those who believe that the Scriptures and Christ are developed legend. They are embellished stories. They try to suggest that supernatural elements in the Bible are simply extensions of that myth that “developed between the death of Christ and the time the gospels were written in the second century.” [1]

Since the early 19th Century there has been an incredible attack on Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ. God has been removed from our culture and has nothing really to do with the daily lives of millions of people who have shelved Him until Science, philosophy, or modern opinion decides that Christ is indeed relevant again.

An early 19th Century philosopher, Friedrich Neitzche, stated, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” —Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125

For Nietzche the Will to Power was the ultimate reality. His concept of the will to power applies to all living things, suggesting that even the struggle to survive is a secondary drive and less important than the desire to expand one’s power. The power gained by human will. To Nietzche all the constructs of society were mere power grabs. Government, education, religion were all tools of the powerful simply hungry for more power.

Our Dilemma:

Our society has bought into such thinking. Culture has trained us to be skeptics, critics, and Gnostics. Society says that things are uncertain and that there is no real right or wrong way. Things such as trust or truth are now illusions to mankind and IF WE CANNOT TRUST WE CANNOT FIND TRUTH. This is our dilemma. These are our times. Depression, anxiety, or suicide are all by-products of hopelessness. A feeling of uncertainty. Yet, in this dilemma we can find hope.

The Choice:

Each of us are presented with a choice today. To live as though Jesus is a legend or Lord? To live as a practical atheist acting as though God does not exist or that He would have nothing to do with our daily lives. To live as though He is really just a good man, a fine prophet whose stories have only been embellished.

The Reality:

The reality is that the Scriptures, Jesus, and Christianity are rooted firmly in reality. This is what caused Peter to say, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16) KJV

The reality is that Christianity is rooted in reality. The Bible is not a story of fiction and myth and Jesus truly lived, died, and was raised on the third day. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that such characters as the High Priest Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate were real people during the times of Jesus. Tacitus, Seuetonius, and Josephus all refer to Jesus or Christianity in some way.

Cornelius Tacitus (ca. AD 55–120) was a Roman historian who lived through the reigns of over a half dozen Roman emperors. He has been called the ‘greatest historian’ of ancient Rome.

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas, another Roman historian made one reference to Jesus and one to Christians. Suetonius was the chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian (AD 117–138), this provided him access to the imperial records.

Jewish historian Flavius Josephus was born in AD 37 or 38 and died in AD 97. Josephus was a Pharisee by the age of 19. Early on Josephus was a soldier and even fought against the Romans. Later, however, he would become the court historian for Emperor Vespasian.

We also have P52 which is a fragment of the Gospel of John dating from the first century (John Rylands papyrus library). Here is a picture below.

The resurrection of Christ:

“The appearances of Jesus and His resurrection are as well authenticated as anything in ancient literature…there can be no doubt that they occurred, and that the main reason why Christians became sure of the resurrection in the earliest days was just this. They could say with assurance, “We have seen the Lord.” They knew it was he!” ~British theologian Michael Green

Here is a quick list of proofs for the Resurrection:

1. The empty tomb.
2. Sudden transformation of frightened and uncertain disciples into bold proponents of the Resurrection for which they would die.
3. The claim that the church was the Body of Christ.
4. The transformation of the Christ-hater Saul, to the Christ-lover Paul.
5. A hermeneutical conviction by the early church which correlated the death, burial and resurrection of Christ with Old Testament Messianic references.
6. The inability of the Jewish leaders to disprove the Resurrection event.
7. The use of Sunday or worship on the “first day” instead of the Sabbath.
8. The conversion of James, the brother of Christ, who originally opposed the teachings of his brother.
9. An A.D. 117 account by Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrneans:

For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, “Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.” And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, and were found its conquerors. And after his resurrection He did eat and drink with them, as being possessed of flesh, although spiritually He was united to the Father.” Ch. III

10. The theme of the Resurrection of Christ and the believer’s future resurrection are interwoven throughout the New Testament.
11. The Romans were very good at what they did. There are many appearances and eyewitness of Christ after the crucifixion being resurrected from the dead. (See Matthew 28:8-10, 16-20; Luke 24:13; John 20:11-29 and Acts 1:1-11).

The fact that Jesus was no mere mortal is what caused doubting Thomas to behold the nail prints in the hands of our risen Lord and confess, “My Lord, and My God!” (John 20:28)

Phil. 2:5-11 KJV 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The humility of Christ is what we are to take on. Christ, being the form of God, did not see equality with God a thing to be grasped because HE IS GOD! To become a man, God condescended to the form of a humble servant. God has given Him a name “highly exalted” that is “above every name” and the name by which every knee will one day bow. So, that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is “Lord”.

Lord, here signifies supremacy as Lord over every person and thing.[2] The name of God in the Old Testament is YHWH (Exodus 3:14-15) and Jesus is the continuing revelation of the name of YHWH. Indeed, Jesus or Yehshua means: YHWH is salvation. (See John 8:58, Hebrews 13:8)

The Problem with Jesus:

The problem with Jesus is that He cannot be simply a good man. He cannot be a mere prophet. No mere man forgives sin, heals the sick, raises the dead, uses the divine name of God for Himself, and challenges His skeptics to destroy His body which will be raised again after three days. As doubting Thomas noted a common Christian confession is that Jesus is "Lord" and "God". Jesus then presents us with a dilemma.

“You are driving down the highway when you encounter a sign that read, “Dangerous curve ahead.” Immediately you are confronted with making a choice. One, you can observe the warning and slow down. Two, you can ignore the warning and maintain your rate of speed. Or, three you can defy the warning and speed up. Whatever response you exercise, you will not change the truth of the sign. The curve remains dangerous, regardless of whether you acknowledge the fact or not.”

Faith in Jesus is more than mere mental assent. Faith in Christ is trust in Christ. Reliance in Christ. Confidence in Christ. Note Matthew 9:1-8:

1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. 2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee... Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

Here the man sick of the palsy shows us what it means to trust in Christ, to place our faith in Christ. He arose. He trusted the words of Jesus “Arise, take up thy bed…”. He arose. Jesus is alive and He is my Lord and my God. The message of Scripture and the person and life of Christ militates against our culture while simultaneously offering us hope. Trust. Showing us the way.


[1]Geisler, N. L., & Nix, W. E. (1996, c1986). A general introduction to the Bible. Includes indexes. Includes a short-title checklist of English translations of the Bible (chronologically arranged). (Rev. and expanded.) (159). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2]Greenlee, J. H. (1992). An exegetical summary of Philippians (Php 2:11). Dallas, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

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Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)