Who is Jesus?
The most important question in human history is the one Jesus asked his followers 20 centuries ago: “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, ascended to heaven and will return to our planet at the end of history–but they do not believe that he was divine. Many Buddhists and Hindus view him as an enlightened teacher. Many Jews see him as a brilliant rabbi.
How did Jesus see himself?
In recent years many people have claimed that Jesus saw himself only as a religious teacher, and that the Church deified him over the centuries. Not according to the eyewitnesses. When Jesus stood on trial for his life, the high priest challenged him: “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). His answer sealed his fate: “Yes, it is as you say” (v. 64). Earlier he told his opponents, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). He clearly claimed to be God.
Jesus told his enemies, “‘My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:17-18). Later he taught his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
C. S. Lewis was one of the most brilliant men of the 20th century. A converted atheist, he later wrote these words about Jesus:
“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 a 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.” // (Mere Christianity [New York: Macmillan, 1943] 55-6).
Jesus’ first followers accepted his claim to be God. Peter and the other apostles refused to stop preaching that Jesus is Lord, even when threatened with their lives (cf. Acts 5:29-32). Each disciple except John was martyred for his faith in Christ, and John was exiled to the prison island of Patmos for preaching that Jesus is God. Billions of people across twenty centuries have believed that Jesus is the only way to heaven, for he is our Savior and Lord.