Liar, Lunatic, Lord – “Who Do You Say that I Am?”
Why Jesus left us no other choice.
He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
– Matthew 16:13–17
Observe & Consider
The people of Jesus’ day had varied opinions about who He was. Not much has changed in our day. If you asked a number of people on the street who Jesus is, you’d probably get a number of different answers. Some might say, as Peter did in the verse above, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But others would likely identify Him merely as a great teacher or a prophet, or perhaps a man who performed miracles.
The question Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” is the most important question a person will ever answer. Having considered the ministry and the claims of Jesus over the past several lessons, the time has come for us to deal with this question.
Some may argue otherwise, but Jesus did not leave us the option to say that He is merely a great teacher, or a prophet, or a man who performed miracles. The reason we do not have this option is summed up in an argument that was first made by C.S. Lewis,1 and later by Josh McDowell.2 This argument insists there are only three possible answers to the question “Who was Jesus?”
Jesus claimed to be God. Some deny that He really made this claim, but that is, in fact, the reason the religious leaders wanted Him dead. Jesus was clear about His claim and that claim leads to only one of three possibilities:
- Jesus sincerely believed that He was the Son of God, but He was Himself deceived, so much so that He was willing to die because of it. This would put Jesus in the category of a lunatic.
- Jesus knew that He was not the Son of God, but He was willing to lie about it. This would not only make Him a liar, it would make Him a very evil man because He was intentionally misleading people, many of whom would suffer and die because they believed Him.
- Jesus was who He claimed to be: the Son of the Living God.
Jesus left us no other options. We cannot call Him just a good man, because a good man would not mislead people by saying that He was something He was not. We cannot call Him just a good teacher because a good teacher would not teach something that was untrue. And if Jesus was deceiving people, either intentionally or because He was Himself deceived, then we cannot conclude that His power to perform miracles was from God. It would be more reasonable to assume that the power had come from Satan.
Here is how Lewis himself concluded his argument: “We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said, or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend; and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God has landed on this enemy–occupied world in human form.”3
Who do you say that Jesus is – liar, lunatic or Lord? That is the most important question you will ever answer.
Ask & Reflect
- What are your thoughts about the argument set forth by C.S. Lewis? Do you agree or disagree with his logic? Why or why not?
- Why do you think that some see Jesus simply as a great man, but nothing more?
Decide & Do
If you have never answered the question asked by Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?”, then don’t wait until it is too late. As this lesson has shown us, Jesus did not leave us with a multitude of options. Not to decide is to decide. Settle things once and for all by going to the Knowing God section at the end of this study. Ultimately, we must believe His claim to be the Son of God, or we must reject it. If we believe it, then we must bow down and worship Him. Deepen your walk by going to the Growing in God section of this study.
1C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. (© Macmillan Publishing Co, New York, NY, 1952, pp.55–56).
2Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter. (© Tyndale House, 1977). This classic by a Master Apologist is still consistently one of the top titles in apologetics! McDowell gives readers insights into the events surrounding Christ’s life, asking whether they could all be explained by coincidence. He asks the hard questions about the reliability of biblical records, psychological profiles of disciples and apostles (would they die for a lie if the stories are not true?), and whether or not Jesus can be considered simply a good man who spoke some wise words.
McDowell is also well–known for another quote from this book, one that is applicable to this lesson: “Why don’t the names of Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius offend people? The reason is that these others didn’t claim to be God, and Jesus did.”
3C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. (© Revised edition, New York, Macmillan/Collier, 1952, p.55 ff.).