Could Jesus just have been a good moral teacher?

Jesus was not a good moral teacher. If you’re even remotely familiar with Western civilization, then you’ve probably heard of a man named Jesus. You may have heard him referred to as many things, a great man, a martyr, the Messiah, a good teacher, and such. Despite the varying range of beliefs as to who Jesus is, most would agree that, from what they know, Jesus was a good moral teacher.

But in the 19th century, a concept was introduced saying that Jesus couldn’t have possibly been only a good man, because he also claimed to be God. That’s right. God. God’s son, to be exact. Not only that, his closest followers and many of those around him, also claimed he was God.

So, forget all you’ve heard about him being a good teacher or just a really moral man, because he couldn’t possibly have been any of those. Let me explain.

One reasonable first reaction to someone claiming divinity, is to assume that Jesus is a crazy man. Out of his mind. Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. A lunatic. After all, that’s how most people tend to respond to someone who claims to be the most powerful being in the universe. That’s certainly an understandable conclusion, but then why is it that Jesus is generally thought of as a good moral teacher? That he has wise things to say about how to live? That doesn’t fit at all with the idea that he’s a lunatic because lunatics are the exact sort of people we don’t trust to have wise things to say about how to live.

So, if Jesus really is a lunatic and really is deluded about his identity as God, then cross him off the list of good moral teachers. If we really had to consider that Jesus is crazy, we would have to consider that everything that history knows about him doesn’t really seem like the life of a madman. All of his teachings actually made a lot of sense. His life example doesn’t really add up to the actions of a deluded individual. He even had followers who were killed because of their belief that what he said was true.

A second possibility also exists. Jesus flat-out lied. He’s not God. Here, Jesus not only knows he’s not God, he’s actively deceiving people about his true identity. This is even worse than option one. If Jesus is a lunatic, then at least we can call him well-meaning. But if Jesus lied, then this is the worst situation imaginable. Deceiving the masses with the promise of eternal life. So if Jesus lied about being God, then not only is he not God, but he’s also not a great moral teacher, lying is exactly what moral people don’t do. So if Jesus lied, we can’t trust him. Again, cross him off the list of good moral teachers. At the same time, the evidence doesn’t seem to point in this direction either, though. What would Jesus as a deceiver, have to gain? He constantly denied himself until he died a martyr’s death. And again, everything he spoke was pointing toward wisdom, selflessness and not deception. To quote author Josh McDowell, “if Jesus was a liar, con man, and therefore an evil, foolish man, then how can we explain the fact that he left us with the most profound moral instruction and powerful moral example that anyone has ever left?”

So if Jesus isn’t a lunatic who mistakenly thinks he’s God, and if he isn’t a liar, who’s intentionally misleading us about being God, what other options are there? It seems there would be only one option left. Jesus is really God. If that’s true, then everything he taught is completely true. But not only that, it means that he’s utterly unique among all our human leaders and teachers. If Jesus is God, then He alone has the right to be revered and followed. And every other leader and teacher now needs to be measured against Him. There you have it. Now you get to make a decision. Who do you believe Jesus is?