Jesus Was Not A Great Teacher ~ An Easter Reflection
Every Easter, every Christmas, every chance they get, the world tries to rediscover (read 'reinvent') the 'true' Jesus. Television schedules and magazine covers are littered with the 'search for the historic Jesus'.
And throughout the year many people who do not identify themselves as 'Christian' are inclined to scorn any manner of organized Christianity while they assert their appreciation for, even connection with, Jesus as a great spiritual teacher. Well, of course, Jesus was in fact a great teacher - but he was a great teacher in much the same way that George Washington was a good soldier.
George Washington was indeed a good soldier, but to identify him, to label him, to refer to him as 'George Washington the good soldier' falls so far short of the whole story as to be so misleading that it simply does not tell the truth. George Washington was a soldier, who became a general, who became the Commander of The Continental Army, who as commander led his ragtag troops of farmers and shopkeepers to victory against the most well equipped and most battle experienced army in the world, who then became not only the president of the new nation he won for his fellow citizens but became the only president unanimously elected and then unanimously re-elected to that office. All of these historic facts along with Washington's own philosophy of the freedom of man, and his list of precedents that shaped the tone and character of our country to this day, make it absurd to count him and/or refer to him as 'a soldier'.
George Washington was certainly, factually, a soldier, but to identify him exclusively with such a label is so misleading as to be a lie. In like manner, Jesus was a great teacher . . . because He is God everything Jesus said and did is worthy of study and we are obliged to learn all we can from such study - but, because He is God it is ludicrous to identify Jesus first, foremost, or exclusively as a 'spiritual teacher'. Jesus did not come to earth to teach, He did not take upon Himself human form to show us how to behave, the point and purpose of His incarnation was not to show us a better way - Jesus came to earth to unite men to God, He took upon Himself human form so that He could die, the point and purpose of His incarnation was to accomplish the atonement.
The True Historic Jesus
The ongoing search for the historic Jesus seems to start with the premise that the Bible is all fairy stories and undecipherable spiritual puzzles, but that there may be something real, something from history that is behind the fairy stories and undecipherable spiritual puzzles - yet when (or if) you in fact read the actual text of Scripture it reads far more like history, a record of observed events, than like fairy stories or undecipherable spiritual puzzles. Perhaps the part of the story of Jesus' earthly life that is most questioned and discounted is His resurrection from the dead - does it read like a magical account of mystical bemusement, or does it read like history, like the record of an actual event that the writers, having observed, are giving a report of?
The Biblical account of Jesus' resurrection, His returning to life after His execution, is not written in ornate poetic allusions to a mysterious aspiration - it is written as an eyewitness record of a personally experienced event. The Bible tells who was the first (Mary) to discover Jesus' tomb was empty, and how His disciples could not believe her story and ran to see for themselves. It tells how Jesus then later appeared to His twelve, but specifies that one, Thomas, was absent and did not believe the story of his brethren when told. The Bible reports that Jesus spent 40 days between His death and ascension visiting with His apostles and other believers, specifically asserting that James saw and interacted with Jesus, believers on their way to a small village just outside of Jerusalem saw and interacted with Jesus, and states that on one occasion 500 people all saw and interacted with Jesus at the same time, etc.
When the Bible offers the account of Jesus' resurrection it doesn't read like a magic book of superstitious invention, it doesn't read like the fabrication of a legend, it doesn't read like a mysterious morality play, etc - it reads like an eyewitness argument for the historic reality of an event unlike any common event easily believed, it reveals the difficulty of His most trusted followers to believe, it identifies times and places and presents a case for those who were not there to witness it personally of it's validity. Read about Hercules and Siddhartha and Arthur, etc, the Biblical account of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection simply does not read like the constructing of a legend or the creation of a fable, etc - it reads like the reporting of an historic record, establishing dates and places and corresponding history, identifying eyewitnesses who were putting their lives at risk to report what they saw, etc.
An Actual Historic Event
John ended his record of the life of Jesus saying ~
"This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true"
And Luke began his account of the life of Jesus, written to his friend Theophilus, saying ~
"Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. In the days of Herod, king of Judea . . . "
These men are not men following some elaborate scheme, they are not individually interested to fool others, these are men who are writing down for posterity, for the historic record, a report of what happened. And the consequences of the event they report are a staggering evidence of the truth of their accounts - Jesus of Nazareth, who never traveled more than 200 miles from where He was born, never ruled a kingdom, never wrote a book, etc, overcame Caesar and the mighty Roman Empire and continues on to this day to change lives centuries and continents away from His own earthly life.
Jesus wasn't merely a teacher - He is the God of all creation and the giver of all life. He didn't come to teach us the way to God - He came as the God/man, the only mediator between God and man. God took upon Himself human nature and gives to us His own divine Spirit, that we might be united to Him eternally. Jesus came, not to teach us about life, but to give us life, new life, spiritual life . . . that is why He is announced to be the only way to God. It's not that the Christian religion is better than all other religions - it's that the one true God who created and sustains all that exists has prepared and provided a way for us to be united to Him, He Himself accomplished this, He Himself is the way. Jesus came, not to teach, but to accomplish the atonement, to provide us new, spiritual life that we might be fit to fellowship with God in His eternity.
It is the resurrection, the fact that Jesus of Nazareth conquered death, the truth that Jesus has eternal life and gives it freely to all who come to Him that evidences the reality of the historic record presented in Scripture. Christianity is not a religion, it is the telling of an event, it is pointing to something that happened 2,000 years ago. A man was executed, died, and was buried - and He came back to life and was seen by hundreds of people! Easter is not a superstitious celebration for fools who imagine going to the right church makes them better than their neighbor - Easter is the remembrance of a historic event and the celebration of Jesus overcoming death and giving new, eternal life to all who come to Him believing.