"Who Is Jesus?" part 10
The Alternative Views
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 13, 2010

5257. That’s how many emails I’ve received so far in 2010. That’s just in 5 months. That puts me on track to receive over 12,000 emails this year… most of which I don’t want to get. Oh, there are some emails I get from actual people I know, some that I subscribe to, but you know what most of them are, don’t you?

[AUDIO – Play Monty Python’s “Spam” song]

Spam. It’s that unsolicited email, usually trying to sell me some product that’s going to enrich my life or get me to invest in precious metals or get me to help some poor widow get her millions of dollars out of Nigeria with a tidy profit for me. I guess those emails are just a fact of life, and if you have an email account you just have to deal with those.

But do you know the emails that are the most annoying to me? They’re the ones that come from people I actually know, and they’re warning me about some virus that’s going around or some conspiracy that I need to be aware of… and when I actually check them out they’re completely false! I have friends and family that email me warnings about a these computer superviruses that are going to do incredible things… like they’re going erase my computer memory, order 200 pizzas on my credit card, shut off my power, and spoon-feed my children sugar.

Okay, maybe nothing that bad. But when I check out these warnings, I discover they’re nothing more than urban myths. They’re made up. Somebody sometime thought it’d be fun to warn people about a virus that doesn’t even exist, and that warning gets forwarded from person to person until it ends up in my inbox.

Do me a favour… before you forward me an email like that, check it out first. Chances are it’s not even true.

Or, and they’re not just limited to virus warnings. Have you gotten emails about the 9/11 Conspiracies? Apparently, the terrorist attack nine years ago was orchestrated by the U.S. Government. I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m sure there will be similar theories about the oil spill in the Gulf.

One of my personal favourites, other than the whole Roswell/Area 51 thing, is that the moon landing was all a hoax. It was all filmed in a studio someplace. In fact, there was a movie based on this hoax made back in 1978 called Capricorn One.

What’s the appeal of these kinds of theories? Well, I think we like to feel like we know something someone else doesn’t. I think we like to feel smarter than other people. I think we find the idea of a conspiracy intriguing. I think it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in the drama of it. They captivate our imagination, we end up believing them, and so we convince other people they’re true, too.

Well, Jesus has not been spared from these kinds of conspiracies. There are all kinds of theories and conspiracies and conflicting beliefs about Him that have been spread over the past century or two, they’ve been almost universally refuted, but they’ve found new life on the Internet.

Here at Sunrise, we’ve been going through this series on the identity of Jesus, trying to answer the question, “Who Is Jesus?” And so we’ve talked a lot about who He is. Today, we’re going to reverse that bit and talk a little bit about who He is not. We’re going to look at some of the popular but erroneous views of who Jesus is.

These are beliefs and opinions you may have heard other people express to you. You may have found them online, you may have read them in books, and some of them actually sound like they might be plausible. They sound appealing. They make you think, “well, maybe…”

I don’t know if these are the biggest myths about Jesus or not, but these are the ones that I’ve heard a lot. Staring with…

Popular (but wrong) Views of Jesus Today:

1.    The Christian Jesus is a copycat of other religious figures

And this is where we’re going to spend most of our time this morning. But have you heard anyone say that? It’s the idea that everything we believe about Jesus actually came from other pagan religions. And Christianity just kind of absorbed these other beliefs and created this person we call Jesus Christ.

If you remember back to The DaVinci Code, this was one of the ideas promoted in that book. In fact, it made the claim…

“Nothing in Christianity is original.”
~ Teabing, in The DaVinci Code p.232

This view of Jesus and of Christianity really emerged back in the 1800s. In 1875, there was a book published called “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours”. And it claimed that Jesus wasn’t a real person but was actually a compilation of stories of other “deities or god-men saviours who had been crucified, and descended to and ascended from the underworld.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World%27s_Sixteen_Crucified_Saviors)

The problem was, the author Kersey Graves was basically just a conspiracy theorist. He didn’t actually do his homework. In fact, number 16 on his list was Mohammed. But Mohammed did not die and rise again. And besides, he came centuries after Jesus. But somehow our beliefs about Jesus came from Mohammed? That’s obviously false. According to Wikipedia…

“[The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors]’s accuracy has been questioned by both Christian and atheist scholars, with the general consensus being that the book is unscholarly and unreliable.”
~ Wikipedia

And even the secular, naturalist, even atheistic website Infidels.org says this about the book…

“Readers should be extremely cautious in trusting anything in this book.”

But yet, this book gave rise to what is known today as the Jesus Myth Hypothesis, and there are a lot of people today who belief that the Christian concept of Jesus is drawn from pagan religions.

We’re not going to go through all of them this morning. But the most common comparison is drawn to the Persian sun god Mithras, which became popular in the Roman Empire particularly among the military. Mithras supposedly had a virgin birth on December 25. That’s what you’ll be told. But when you look into it, what you discover is that his virgin birth was that he emerged fully grown from a rock. And yes, I expect that rock was a virgin. Hey, I have olive oil that’s a virgin, so why can’t a rock be?

Besides, while the Mithras cult existed before the time of Jesus, many of the beliefs about Mithras weren’t developed until at least half way through the second century after Jesus. So it was actually Mithras who borrowed from Jesus, not the other way around.

Another pagan icon, Attis, was killed in a hunting accident. One of the people who was supposed to be protecting him threw a spear at a wild boar, and hit Attis instead. So Attis was impaled by a spear. Jesus was impaled by nails. And that’s about as close as you can get to a parallel crucifixion story.

There’s another pagan god named Osiris who supposedly had a resurrection. Actually, his story is that after he died he came to life in the Underworld in an almost perfect replica of earthly existence, and he rules over the dead not the living. He’s actually kind of an Egyptian mummy. Not anything like the resurrection of Jesus.

But do you see how far you have to go to draw the comparisons? But people make these allegations… they just give you the headlines like “Mithras had a virgin birth”, and other people believe them without really thinking about them or looking into them.

But to be fair, there are some comparisons that can be made. For example, Baptism was a pre-Christian concept. And Jesus took that practice that was already in existence and He infused it with new meaning… identifying it with His own death and resurrection.

Easter was once a pagan holiday and even a pagan term. But Christians now celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on that day. But so what? It coincided with the Passover, which was the weekend of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So today, this holiday that was once pagan, has been infused with new meaning and is now a celebration of the most significant event in history. It’s not the same pagan celebration; it’s a Christian celebration that happens to be on that same day.

Others suggest that Christians worship on Sunday because it was a day set aside to worship the sun-god. Actually, we worship on Sunday because Sunday was the day Jesus rose from the dead.

As for December 25, we have no idea what date Jesus was actually born. And yes, there was a pagan celebration on that day. So like Easter, Christians took a celebration that was already happening and infused it with new meaning.

“The issue is less about the church ‘borrowing’ pagan concepts and more about authentic Christianity’s magnificent capacity to adapt and adopt without losing the core of its Christocentric message.”
James Garlow
The DaVinci CodeBreaker, p. 48

So many of the alleged parallels between Christianity and pagan religions don’t really exist. And some of them do. But so what? What do the parallels really prove, anyway?

Parallels are really fascinating, aren’t they? And you can draw parallels between almost anything. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup this week, and a lot was made about how Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were the same ages as Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita the last time the Blackhawks won. And I’ll admit, that’s interesting. But did it have anything at all to do with them winning this year? I seriously doubt it. It’s trivia, but it’s trivial.

Let me show you something I came across this week about Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy…

1. Both Lincoln and Kennedy were concerned with civil rights.
2. Lincoln was elected President in 1860. Kennedy in 1960.
3. Both were slain on a Friday and in the presence of their wives.
4. Both were shot from behind and in the head.
5. Their successors were both named Johnson.
6. Andrew Johnson was born in 1808. Lyndon Johnson in 1908.
7. John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839. Lee Harvey Oswald in 1939.
8. Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy. Whereas Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln.
9. The names Lincoln and Kennedy both contain seven letters.
10. Lincoln was shot in the Ford’s Theatre.  Kennedy was shot in a Ford car (a Lincoln!).

Aren’t those amazing parallels? Almost hard to believe. Obviously, Kennedy borrowed from Lincoln. In fact, it’s quite possible Kennedy never even existed. Actually, this is a great example of how you can take examples of parallels and present them in a captivating powerful way. First of all…

The Power of Parallels:

• Some parallels do exist... 
Numbers 2 through 6 are actually true.

• Some are exaggerated in significance...
That’s number 10. It’s true, but so what? Fords were a pretty popular car. A lot of people drove Fords.
And number 7. My name “Gregory” has seven letters. So what?
Number 1? Kennedy was elected on a platform which included civil rights. But during his presidency, he did nothing and signed no legislation to that effect. His presidency was overshadowed by international conflicts, and then it was cut short. So was he concerned about civil rights? Yes. But it’d be an exaggeration to compare his impact on civil rights with Lincoln’s.

But the best way to use parallels to convince people of conspiracies and cover-ups is to use some real and exaggerated parallels and then throw in some that are just made up…

• Some are twisted or untrue!
John Wilkes Booth was actually born in 1838, not 1839. But it sounds much better if you say he was born in 1838. And there’s no record of their secretaries having each other’s names.

Okay, so there are people today who draw these parallels between Jesus and other pagan religious figures (like we just did between Lincoln and Kennedy). But many of the comparisons don’t really exist. And the ones that do, they don’t really matter. So we need to be careful when people try to use this kind of an argument and realize that they’re just twisting facts and using cleaver techniques to try to convince you of something that just isn’t true.

Ephesians 4:14 (NLT)
We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

And by the way, if you’re really concerned about the alleged parallels with other contemporary religions at the time of Jesus, remember that everything of significance that we know about Jesus was prophesied centuries earlier in the Jewish Scriptures. Christianity came out of Judaism. Jesus and His disciples were Jewish. Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies, not the co-opting of pagan beliefs. Parallels may exist, but that’s not where they came from.

And what really sets Christianity apart from all these other beliefs is that they are about how we can reach out toward God; Christianity is about how God has reached out toward us.

Okay, I told you we’d be spending a bit of time on that first one. Let’s move on to the rest… the second erroneous view of Jesus is this:

2.    There’s the vague historical Jesus, the abstract Jesus of theology, and then there’s the enlightened Jesus

And this is the kind of Jesus that is championed by people like Deepak Chopra. A couple years ago, Chopra wrote a book called “The Third Jesus” and then another book called “Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment”, and he promotes this Jesus as one who…

Deepak Chopra’s Description of “The Third Jesus”:
Jesus “taught his followers how to reach God-consciousness,” and “is not the saviour, not the one and only Son of God”.

This Jesus that is promoted by Chopra was something of a Buddhist… a man who achieve God-consciousness. There was nothing special about Jesus… he just achieved a level of enlightenment. Just like you and I can.

People who promote this kind of a view of Jesus are the same ones who claim that we’re all divine. That we look within ourselves to find God.

Let me ask you this: What is the oldest lie in the world? The lie that you can be God. You can trace it all the way back to the Garden of Eden. God had created the first two people, Adam and Eve, and placed them in the beautiful Garden of Eden and put them in charge of everything. There was just one tree that was off limits to them… the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

But then that serpent came along and tempted Eve. “Did God really say you can’t eat from any of the trees?” “No,” Eve said, “just this one tree. God told us we can’t even touch it or we will die.” How did that serpent respond?

Genesis 3:5 (NLT)
“You won’t die!... God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God…”

“You will be like God.” Eve liked the sounds of that. So she ate from that tree, and she gave some of the fruit to Adam to eat, too. But they didn’t become like God at all. Instead, they experienced sin for the very first time. And we’re still experiencing the results of that sin today. And we’re still hearing that same lie today. That we can become like God. We can achieve God-consciousness. And that we find it within ourselves.

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 (NLT)
But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

Listen, Jesus was not some man who somehow achieved God-consciousness. He was God in the flesh. And He didn’t show us how to achieve God-consciousness; He revealed how God was already conscious of us. How we can know Him, not by looking within, but by looking to Jesus. And what does the Bible say about Jesus?

Acts 4:11-12 (NLT)
“For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures… There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Way back in the letters of John that are included in our New Testament, John warned us about people like Chopra. Like when John wrote…

1 John 2:21-22, 26 (NLT)
So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies. And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ…. I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray.

3.    Jesus is right for some, and not for others

We’ve talked about this many times before. But it’s probably the most common, most politically correct, most wishy-washy thing that people say about Jesus. And you hear it from people on the street and you hear it from people as influential as Oprah.

“I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.”
~ Oprah Winfrey

Well, okay. But is that true? Are there more paths? Jesus says, “No.”

The books of the New Testament were written by people who hung around with Jesus and who heard Him teach and who worked alongside the disciples. We’ve talked in the past about how these books are a historically accurate account of the life of Jesus… what He did and what He said and what He taught. And what did Jesus Himself say?

John 8:23-24 (NLT)
“You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”

Basically, He said “Believe in Me or else…” There is no other option. You are going to die in your sins unless you believe that He is who he claimed to be. And who did He claim to be?

John 14:6 (NLT)
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

So He claimed to be the one and only way to God the Father. He says there are no other ways. There’s just Him. He claimed to be the only way. He claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be the Messiah. He claimed to be the Saviour of the World.

So when I say that Jesus is the one and only way to God the Father, it’s not really me saying it. I’m just repeating what Jesus Himself said. So if you choose to reject what He said, you’re basically calling Him a liar. Or at least a self-important lunatic. And you’re free to do that; just realize that’s what you’re saying.

1 John 5:11-12 (NLT)
And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

So again, we read that Jesus is the only way. If you have the Son… if you have Jesus… you have life. If you don’t have Jesus you don’t have life. You might have Muhammed or Buddha or Krishna or Bramah or Allah… you might have good deeds, you might have generosity, you might have religion, you might have perfect attendance at church… but if you don’t have the Son… if you don’t have Jesus… you do not have life.

You can accept what Jesus said or reject it. You can believe it or deny it. But you can’t just number Jesus as one way out of many ways. He doesn’t leave that option open.

1 John 5:10-11 (NLT)
All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.
And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

A lot of people today including me believe that Jesus is God. Other people believe he was just a man. They may even say, “you can believe He’s God if you want to and that’s right for you. But for me, he’s was just a good man.” But explain that to me. It can’t possibly be true. It defies the rules of logic. He cannot be God and be just a man at the same time. He is God of all or He’s God of nothing.

4.    Whatever else you believe about Jesus, it’s His teachings that matter

And there are a lot of people who would claim to be spiritual who believe this. You might not have any sort of belief in who Jesus was and is, but as long as you adhere to His teachings that’s all that really matters.

And yes, Jesus had a lot of good things to say. He did have a lot of teachings about how to love, how to be a good neighbour, how to be generous, how to live selflessly. All of that is good. And we should certainly pay attention to His teachings and apply them to our everyday lives.

But His teachings are not the most important thing about Jesus. They are important, but even more important is who Jesus is and what He’s done.

Because while following His teachings might make you a good person, they don’t earn you salvation. While they might keep you honest on your taxes, they don’t connect you with God. What’s most important is for us to accept that Jesus is God and that through His sacrifice on the cross He rescues us from the power of sin and death.

Should you do what He says in His teachings? Yes. But that obedience should flow out of your faith in Him.

Romans 3:22-23, 27 (NLT)
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard…
Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.

Being a good person and living the right way does not earn you forgiveness; it’s offered to you only when you place your faith in Jesus. Galatians 2:16 says the same thing…

Galatians 2:16 (NLT)
Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Okay, so those are some alternative views about Jesus. Four views that I think are wrong. But what do you believe? You’re free to choose what you believe. But understand, believing something doesn’t make it true. You can be sincere in your beliefs, and be sincerely wrong. So what do you believe, and why do you believe it? Have you examined your beliefs? If not, isn’t it about time you did?



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca