What is the Meaning of Life
Was Jesus a Myth, Liar or Lunatic?
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 49 Was Jesus a Myth, Liar or Lunatic? by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Is there anybody who can tell us that? Is there anyone who has come from outer space who can give us any reliable information on that question of “Why are we here? Or, why are we alive? What is the point of it all?”
What we have been saying is that there is; there is an amazing human being that came on board this spaceship about 1900 years ago. He came from outer space, and he left and went into outer space and returned here again to show us that he had power to do that whenever he wished. That is the man that many of us have grown up with from Sunday School days as a kind of religious mythological figure. Of course he was far from that.
He is a very reliably established, historical figure called Jesus of Nazareth. The evidence that we have for his existence far outweighs any evidence that we have for the existence of Caesar or of Plato or Thucydides, or of any of the great figures of ancient times. This man Jesus is recorded, as far as the details of his life are concerned, in great detail in the last quarter of a book that we call the Bible.
That evidence that we have there is historical evidence. It’s reinforced by over 4,000 Greek manuscripts. The earliest of them is about 130 A.D., which is a bare 30 years after the original, historical record was written by the man called John, who was an eyewitness of this Jesus’ life. The kind of people that recorded that historical evidence were not people who benefited from it, but who actually suffered in order to record it.
They were not contradicted by people like Tacitus or Porphyry or Celsus or Josephus or Tertullian or other non-Biblical writers. They were in fact corroborated and confirmed by them. Nor were they contradicted by the men who were eyewitnesses or the crowds of people who saw this man Jesus crucified. They were, in fact, reinforced by them. So that, down through history, the details of this man’s life have been the most reliably established details of any life that we have of that time.
So, when we talk about the life of this man Jesus of Nazareth, we are talking about facts that are empirical and that have “touch-and-see” evidence, not only in the present make-up of the ancient world there in Palestine, not only in the historical records of the nations there, but also in the historical records that we have both within and outside the Bible itself.
But, why believe that this man did come from outer space, why believe that he is any different from Muhammad or any different from Zoroaster or any different from any of the other human leaders of religion that we have had in the history of mankind? Well, because he talked like the Son of God. He talked like the Son of God. There was just a naturalness about the way he referred to His Father.
I mean, he would say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He talked the way we would expect the Son of the Creator of the universe to talk. He actually made his identity the focal point of his teaching.
People like Muhammad and other religious leaders avoided claiming any unique kinship with God. They continued to say, “Look, I’m just a human being like all of you.” But this man made it the focal point of his teaching. He got his disciples together one day and said, “Now listen, who do men say that I am? Now, who do you say that I am?” So, he had no fear of the question. He had no fear of that claim. He talked like the Son of God.
Now, many of us will say, “Oh, well, anybody does that, you know. If you’re the Son of God, after all, everybody would give you all their money and they’ll regard you as very well worth their respect and so you’d gain a lot of popularity and fame for it.” But no! This man continued to claim that, even when he knew it would mean his death. That’s why they crucified him. They didn’t crucify him because of his teaching. They crucified him because he claimed to be the Son of God. That’s what the Jews said. They said, “This man’s blaspheming. He says he is the Son of God.” That’s exactly what happened.
It’s recorded in part of the New Testament known as the Gospel of Mark. It’s in Chapter 14 and verse 61. Here is the historical record: the presiding official who was questioning him said, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” That meant, of course, are you the Christ, the Son of God, the son of the Supreme Being behind the universe. He replied, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
A lot of people say he never claimed to be the Son of God. There it is, right there in black and white, in good reliable history that is reinforced by 4,000 Greek manuscripts. “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” “I am. And you shall see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” In other words, He said, “Yes, I am. And you will see me at the end of this world coming in the clouds of heaven.”
Now, of course you may say, “Big deal! I mean, lots of people claim lots of things. The psych wards, the asylums are full of people claiming to be Napoleon, claiming to be a God’s son, claiming to be an angel from heaven, claiming to be a great prophet. All kinds of people can claim great things. Talk is cheap. Sure, there are lots of maniacs who have claimed to be the Son of God.”
But was this man a maniac? Was he? Was he a lunatic? You see, he didn’t act like a lunatic. That’s one of the difficulties we have with trying to write him off as a lunatic. He didn’t act like a lunatic. I mean, you might be right. He might have claimed to be something that only lunatics claim to be, but if you look at his life, he didn’t act like a lunatic.
If you go to the psych wards, or you go to the asylums and you see somebody claiming to be Napoleon or Wellington or Bismarck, they’ll act funny. That’s why they are in psych wards. That’s why they’re in asylums. They’re unbalanced. They have other evidence of insanity in their lives. You can tell by their life that they’re insane. The insane people in psych wards not only make insane claims for themselves, but they act insanely. They produce other symptoms of their mental imbalance.
But this man Jesus does not behave as a deranged person. His character doesn’t have the abnormalities or extremes of a madman. Indeed, the opposite is true. When anyone in the world, whatever their religious or non-religious background, wishes to set forth an example of a perfectly balanced and integrated personality, Jesus of Nazareth is the one who is presented as the model to follow. That’s true, isn’t it? I mean, that’s why our Sunday School stories were all centered around Him. We were teaching the children all the time to be like this man Jesus.
It was because His personality, His character is the picture of the perfectly sane, balanced personality. He’s the picture of a model human being. One person has put it like this, “His zeal never degenerated into passion, nor his constancy into obstinacy, nor his benevolence into weakness, nor his tenderness into sentimentality. His unworldliness was free from indifference and unsociability or undue familiarity. His self-denial was free from moroseness, his temperance from austerity.”
Such are the opinions of most of the behavioral experts of our time. If this man was a lunatic, then all of us
are hopelessly insane. Here is the way C.S. Lewis put it, “No one has yet explained how such deep, moral teaching could come from the lips of a megalomaniac.” In other words, it’s hard to accuse this man of being a lunatic when you see the kind of life that He lived and you observe His character. There is no extreme in His character. There is no imbalance. His character is the one that we all look up to as the perfect example to follow.
So, yes, He claimed to be the Son of God, but you can’t write him off as a lunatic, because he didn’t act like a lunatic. Then maybe he was a liar? Let’s look at that tomorrow. Was this man a liar?