Was Jesus insane when He claimed to be the unique Son of God?
When was the last time one of your friends took you aside and whispered in your ear, “I am god.” You probably would have stepped back and shouted, “You’re nuts.” Hopefully, such a thing has never happened to you. When a person seriously believes he or she is God, we conclude there is a mental health issue. The only place that seems to have large quota of such individuals is a mental institution (with the possible exception of those who construe the initials M.D. to mean minor deity.)
We quip about people who act like God, who have an unrealistic sense of themselves or make unreasonable demands of others. We quiz them, “Who do you think you are? God”? We mean as a joke. We want them to know that their presumption is not appreciated. But we don’t expect them to answer in the affirmative. Why? Because no sane human being honestly thinks of himself as divine. If they do, then they are insane. Simple logic.
So when we read in the Gospels about Jesus calling himself the Son of God, we tend to get suspicious. Did Jesus really say that? Did he really mean it? If Jesus did say he was God, how can we be sure he wasn’t crazy?
We know from the Gospels that the people in Israel also wondered and murmured when they heard Jesus say unexpected things that normal people don’t say.
“My son, your sins are forgiven”, Jesus said to the paralytic. Of course the invalid got up but the teachers of the law balked. Only God can forgive sins, they claimed. Jesus actually agreed with them. The healing spoke for itself. (Mark 2:5)
The disciples were frightened during a vicious storm in the middle of Lake Galilee. Jesus rebuked the winds and the surging waves. Quickly, the waters became calm. Instead of comforting his frightened disciples, he asked them “where is your faith?” Amazed, they whispered to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him? (Luke 8:8)
“Who then is this?” The disciples got to the heart of the issue. They asked the necessary question we all must ask and answer: “Who was Jesus? What was his true identity? He may have had special powers, but was he the Son of God?
The apostle John records in his gospel how the crowd picked up stones to stone him. Jesus spoke to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” They replied, “We are not stoning you for any of these, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:31-33)
The Jewish crowd assumed Jesus was a mere man. If Jesus was a mere man, they were rightfully upset when they heard Jesus blaspheming. He deserved to be stoned according to Jewish law. If Jesus was a mere man, then he was either deranged or deceitful to claim divinity for himself.
But if Jesus was much more than a mere man, then Jesus was simply revealing his real identity. We must respond to His claim and receive the privileges and responsibilities which He bestows.
According to the Bible, Jesus is God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14, 18; Colossians 1:15-17). This is the most shocking, implausible and apparently unbelievable doctrine found anywhere. Yet amazingly enough, it is true.
Jesus backed up his claims. He did not expect us to believe him without some substantiation, some proof that he was speaking the truth. Here are some of those reasons:
A. The great miracles done in front of thousands confirmed that Jesus’ power came from God. The devil has power, but Jesus’ power fought against the demonic realm. His power came from the God the Father (Matthew 12: 26).
B. Jesus spoke and taught with authority correcting the legalistic interpretations of God’s law common among the religious leaders. He called himself the “Lord of the Sabbath”, a title reserved for God alone (Matthew 12:8).
C. Jesus showed concern for the down and out. So we know that he was a good “person” who was not attempting to deceive gullible people out of their money. Jesus was not a crook (Matthew 15:32ff).
D. Jesus did not act like a delusional, mentally-ill person. His words express great clarity of thought. He engaged in lucid dialogue, using well-chosen phrases of compassion and exhortation. Jesus was not insane (John 10:19-21).
D. Jesus understood his uniqueness. He called himself the “Son of Man”, a title of deity from Daniel 7:13-14. He knew who he was, yet laid down his life willingly in obedience to the Father’s plan (John 13:3).
Jesus did claim to be the Son of God. But he was not insane. He was just telling it like it was…the truth that was stranger than fiction.