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HE WAS MORE THAN A MAN (published in The Tribune 12/7/13)

posted Dec 9, 2013, 9:18 AM by Fccea Webmaster
Two women were looking at a nativity scene in a department store window display. “Can you believe that?” said one friend. “Now the church is horning in on Christmas!”

She spoke for many for whom it’s not Christmas anymore; it’s just a holiday.

Others still celebrate the birth of Jesus, but consider him merely a great example of how we should love each other, do good. But is that all Jesus’ life was about – do good? Does goodness even matter?

H. G. Wells observed, “If there is no God, nothing matters. If there is a God, nothing else matter.” That is what Jesus was about. The point of Jesus’ life is not goodness for goodness sake, but goodness for God’s sake – a God who is, and who has revealed Himself in Creation, in His Word, in our moral natures, and most emphatically in the person of Jesus.

Though Jesus never wrote anything himself, his life is the most chronicled in ancient history. On the basis of that record, many believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a good man and a great prophet. That’s because they have never actually read the record! It shows something different.

Historian Huston Smith in The World’s Great Religions argues that in all of world history, two lives stand out above all others. These lives were so influential and so inexplicable that people around them did not just ask, “Who are you?” but “What are you?” Those two people are Jesus and Buddha.

But Smith goes on to point out that when people wanted to worship Buddha he absolutely refused saying in essence, “Absolutely do not worship me. I am not God. Look to my dharma, my teaching, but do not worship me.”

With Jesus it was just the opposite. He consistently and persistently urged people to “believe in me.” “He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). He claimed to forgive sins, and he accepted worship as his due (John 20:28). The people of his own hometown of Nazareth tried to throw him off a cliff to kill him when they realized what he was claiming (Luke 4:29-30).

Would we consider anyone a “good man” or “great prophet” who acted like he was God when he wasn’t? Of course, not. Jesus purposely slammed the door on any such misrepresentation.

C.S. Lewis said it forcefully in Mere Christianity: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

“You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

Christmas is about loving one another – but for the reason that God first loved us! “If there is no God, nothing matters. If there is a God, nothing else matters.”  Jesus’ life was the ultimate revelation: there is a God! And by his birth, life, death, burial and resurrection that God is saying, “I love you. Come to me and I will forgive your guilt and give you rest.” That is what makes Christmas so special.

Merry Christmas!

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton