This weekend my family and I will be celebrating Easter.
Easter is an important celebration and memorial time for Christians as we remember – as my family does every year – the events and circumstances surrounding Jesus Christ’s death and His resurrection back to life, and the purpose and accomplishments that were achieved for humanity as a result of these triumphant actions.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ separates and sets Him apart from all other great religious teachers like Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, etc. However a great many people still remain confused about Jesus Christ, considering Him to be just one of a number of good moral teachers in a long line of good moral teachers who have appeared on the world stage throughout the centuries.
As a case in point I recently came across a quote from the actress Jena Malone who said, “A lot of the powerful religious leaders, from Jesus to Buddha to Tibetan monks, they’re really talking about the same things: love and acceptance, and the value of friendship, and respecting yourself so you can respect others…”
Now Jena Malone has appeared in a number of movies and she will soon appear in ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ (Hunger Games 2). As a result I am sure that Jena knows a great deal more about acting and starring in movies than myself, as I have never starred in a movie. But in her quoted remark Ms Malone displays a great deal of ignorance about the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Applying her comment to her own profession of acting, to say that Jesus Christ essentially teaches the same things as ‘a lot of the (other) powerful religious teachers’ is like saying that – because they are both actors – three-time best actor academy award winner Daniel Day-Lewis produces the same kinds of movies as Pee-wee Herman.
I had in mind to outline my own exposition of the teachings of Christ when I realised that one of my favourite Christian authors, CS Lewis, has already done so, and because he speaks on this topic so eloquently I have decided to reproduce what he said about the teachings of Jesus Christ below.
“What are we to make of Jesus Christ? This is a question which has, in a sense, a frantically comic side. For the real question is not what are we to make of Jesus Christ, but what is He to make of us? The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is going to make of an elephant has comic elements about it. But perhaps the questioner meant what are we to make of Jesus in the sense of “How are we to solve the historical problem set before us by the recorded sayings and acts of this Man?”
This problem is to reconcile two things. On the one hand you have got the almost generally admitted depth and sanity of His moral teaching, which is not very seriously questioned, even by those who are opposed to Christianity. In fact, I find that when I am arguing with very anti-God people that they rather make a point of saying, “I am entirely in favour of the moral teaching of Christianity” – and there seems to be a general agreement that in the teaching of Jesus and of His immediate followers, moral truth is exhibited at its purest and best. It is not sloppy idealism; it is full of wisdom and shrewdness. The whole thing is realistic, fresh to the highest degree, the product of a sane mind. That is one phenomenon.
The other phenomenon is the quite appalling nature of Jesus Christ’s theological remarks. I want to stress the appalling claim this Man seems to be making is not merely made at one moment of His career. There is, of course, the one moment which led to His execution. The moment at which the High Priest said to Him, “Who are you?”, and Jesus replied, “I am the Anointed, the Son of the uncreated God, and you shall see Me appearing at the end of all history as the judge of the Universe”.
But that claim, in fact, does not rest on this one dramatic moment. When you look into His conversation, you will find this sort of claim running through the whole thing. For instance, He went about saying to people, “I forgive your sins.” Now it is quite natural for a man to forgive something you do to him. Thus if somebody cheats me out of £5, it is quite possible and reasonable for me to say, “Well, I forgive him, we will say no more about it.” But what on earth would you say if somebody had done you out of £5 and I said, “That’s all right, I forgive him”?
Then there is a curious thing which seems to slip out almost by accident. On one occasion Jesus is sitting looking down on Jerusalem from the hill above it and suddenly He makes an extraordinary remark – “I keep on sending you prophets and wise men.” Nobody comments on it, and yet, quite suddenly – almost incidentally – He is claiming to be the power that all through the centuries is sending wise men and leaders into the world.
Here is another curious remark: in almost every religion there are unpleasant observances such as giving alms, abstinence from food and fasting and the like. Yet this Man suddenly remarks one day, “No one need fast while I am here.” Who is this Man who remarks that His mere presence suspends all normal rules? Who is the person who can suddenly tell the School that they can have a half-holiday?
Sometimes the statements put forward the assumption that He, the Speaker, is completely without sin or fault. This is always His attitude. “You, to whom I am speaking, are all sinners,” and He never remotely suggests that this same reproach can be brought against Him. He says again, “I am begotten of the One God, before Abraham was, I am,” and remember what the words “I am” were in Hebrew. They were the name of God, which must not be spoken by any human being, the name which it was death to utter.
Well, that is the other side. On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other, claims which – if not true – are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men. There is no half-way house and there is no parallel in other religions.
If you had gone to Buddha and asked him, “Are you the son of Bramah?” he would have said, “My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.” If you had gone to Socrates and asked, “Are you Zeus?” he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, “Are you Allah?” he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius, “Are you heaven?” I think he would probably have replied, “Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.”
The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say what Jesus said is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg when you are looking for a piece of toast to suit you, you may be sane; but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you.
We may note in passing that Jesus was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects – Hatred – Terror -Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval…”
At this Easter season may we all clearly see who Jesus really is and take time to read what He really said about life and about Himself, in order that we may come to “know the truth, and the truth will set us free…”
Bryce – Fit 4 Life Staff