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Maniac or Messiah?

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 9:51–56; John 7:2–52

Who is Jesus? Is He Israel’s Messiah and God in the flesh? Or is He simply a man, not God but one who taught wonderful truths and provided the greatest of all examples to follow? This is the most important question a person can answer: Who is Jesus?


At this point in our Wisdom Journey, it is early October; the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) is at hand. This is a festival celebrating both the fall harvest and God’s guidance of Israel through the wilderness following their miraculous escape from the land of Egypt. During this festival season, the city of Jerusalem would swell to overflowing with men, women, and children camping out in palm-branch booths for seven days.

In John 7 we find Jesus in Galilee, and His half-brothers giving Him some advice:  

“Go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (verses 3-4)

Then John adds this comment in verse 5: “For not even his brothers believed in him.”

These are Jesus’ half-brothers, born to Mary and Joseph sometime after the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus. Keep in mind that Jesus is often referred to as Mary’s firstborn son, not her only son. She and Joseph built a family. Matthew’s Gospel even gives us the names of Jesus’ half-brothers. In fact, two of them will later believe in Jesus and end up writing two books of the New Testament—the book of James and the book of Jude.

At this point, his half-brothers think Jesus is out of His mind, claiming to be the Messiah. So, they tell Him, “If You really want the spotlight, stop hanging around little, insignificant Galilee, and head for the big city of Jerusalem. Show your works to the world!” They actually doubt the credibility of Jesus’ miracles, however, for they say here, “If You do these things.”

What do you do when your family and friends think you are a fanatic—that you are mentally weak and you need Jesus as a crutch because you cannot handle life? Well, do what Jesus does here. He does not retaliate; He is just going to trust His Father’s plan and timing for His vindication. And eventually, Jesus is going to let an empty tomb do all the talking.

Jesus does in fact go to the feast in Jerusalem, but not like His half-brothers wanted Him to; instead, He goes privately, somewhat quietly. So, Luke 9:51, says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

Verse 52 tells us that Jesus sent some of His disciples on ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for His arrival. But this Samaritan village, Luke writes, “did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem” (verse 53). Even though Jesus had performed miracles among the Samaritan people, lovingly healing them, their hatred for the Jews splashed over onto Jesus.

James and John were so angered that this village was turning them away that they asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (verse 54). Let’s just burn this place to the ground! How is that for an evangelistic strategy? The Lord rebukes their attitude and then verse 56 says, “They went on to another village.”

Let me tell you, hatred for Christianity and the persecution of believers has not slowed down at all in these modern times. In fact, the history of the church is a history of persecution. It is easy to adopt the attitude of James and John and retaliate. But we need to remember that Jesus died on the cross for His enemies. And we need to see them as He did—not as enemies, but as our mission field.

Now, back to John 7, we find Jesus and His disciples quietly arriving in Jerusalem. But the city is not at all quiet about Jesus. In fact, the Jewish leaders are looking for Him (verses 10-11). They want to kill Him.

Midway through the festival Jesus enters the temple and begins teaching. He declares that His words are from God and that anyone who desires to do the will of God will recognize this. He says He has been sent from God and soon will be going to God.

Now each day of this festival, water was drawn from the pool of Siloam and taken to the temple and poured out on the altar. This symbolized God’s provision of water for Israel in the wilderness. On the last day of the feast, water was not drawn—this little ceremony was omitted. It is on this day that Jesus stands up and speaks these words:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (verses 37-38)

Jesus declares Himself to be the one who satisfies spiritual thirst. The author John explains in verse 39 that this living water will come in the Person of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus will provide.

By the time He finishes His teaching, the leaders and crowd are divided. We see the various reactions in verses 40-41:

Some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee?”

The same reactions are being verbalized today. Was Jesus just a good man? A great moral example? A gifted teacher? Was He a deceiver, a paranoid lunatic, or was He truly the Messiah—God in the flesh? Well, I don’t really care about all those opinions out there, beloved; my concern is for you. What’s your opinion of Jesus today?

One of the most common opinions about Jesus that I continue to hear from many people is that Jesus was a good man but not God in the flesh—God incarnate. That opinion is quite popular, but it is also impossible. Either Jesus is God, or He was a very bad man and an even bigger liar. Let me explain.

If Jesus is not God the Son, then He was an imposter. Why? Well, because He claimed the ability to forgive sins! Back in Luke 7:48, He said to a woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” In Mark 2, when He said the same thing to a man, the onlookers said, in verse 7, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

That is precisely the point! If Jesus can forgive sin, He is God; but if He cannot forgive sin, He is an impostor trying to play God, and therefore He is not a good man at all. In fact, He would be an incredible egotist.

In John 10:9 Jesus said, “I am the door.” In John 14:6, He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” and stated that no one can get into heaven without going through Him. Jesus even made the claim that the Old Testament was written about Him (John 5:39)! These statements are true only if Jesus is God.

C. S. Lewis wrote these insightful words:

“You can spit at Jesus and kill Him . . . 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. You must make your choice. . . . Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman.[1]

So, who is Jesus to you, today? Are you like the half-brothers of Jesus, who thought He was deluded? Are you like the Samaritans, who refused to host Him in their homes? Or will you accept Him as God the Son, the one who gave Himself as the sacrifice for your sins? The choice is yours. Let me encourage you right now to believe in Him as your Messiah, the Son of God, the coming King of Kings.

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Macmillan, 1952), 56.

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