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October 1, 2015 / BTM

Did You Know? Jesus Features in Most Religions

who was jesusYou’ve probably heard the phrase: “All religions are basically the same”. Regardless of what your answer to this statement is, there is one very interesting aspect that is common across the majority of religions, and that is Jesus. Most religions have something positive to say about Jesus because he is universally highly regarded.  They include him in their religious framework.

Its seems that everybody wants Jesus.

I was fascinated to discover this. It became part of what I covered with our kids this summer as we learned a bit about other religions. Here are some examples of how various religions make a claim on Jesus.

Islam

Jesus is considered one of the major prophets sent by God to tell people that there is only one God (i.e. Allah). Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and performed miracles; two miraculous signs that Mohammad did not have. Jesus will appear before Mohammad’s second coming to announce Mohammad’s arrival. Jesus did not die on the cross (that would be unthinkable to a Muslim), but ascended into heaven untouched and Judas died in His place.

Buddhism

Jesus is considered to have been a spiritual master similar to the Buddha, or to have been a bodhisattva (someone who attained enlightenment but was compassionate enough toward humanity that he refused to enter nirvana in order to help others toward it).

Hinduism

Jesus is considered a great moral teacher. Gandhi’s teachings, which carry a lot of weight with most Hindus, included the following statement: “I shall say to the Hindus that your lives will be incomplete unless you reverently study the teachings of Jesus.” (Hingorani, 23)

New Age

Jesus was a good moral teacher. New Age adherents particularly point to Jesus’ teachings on tolerance (not judging others) and love.

Judaism

Many Jewish people would claim that Jesus was a good moral teacher, even though the name of Jesus became sullied along with Christianity in the eyes of many Jewish people.

Secularism/Atheism

If he actually existed, Jesus was a good moral teacher.  (Atheists tend to believe that the authors of the New Testament embellished the accounts of Jesus so that we have very little certainty about the actual historical details of his life.)

Shintoism

Jesus is included as one of many deities to be worshiped.

Where do these ideas about Jesus come from?

This list isn’t exhaustive, but isn’t it interesting? There is some sort of agreement that Jesus was an exceptional spiritual leader who should be taken seriously. Clearly many people believe in some way that Jesus represented God or an ‘ultimate reality’ and that his teachings deserve recognition.

Note how all of the ‘versions’ of Jesus in each of the religions cited above reference him as a ‘Good Moral Teacher’ or ‘Miscellaneous Deity’.

What evidence do these religious adherents base their conclusions about Jesus on?

The New Testament has the fullest record about the life and purpose of Jesus.  If you are trying to figure out who Jesus was, doesn’t it make sense to at least start that search with the largest collection of historically sound documentation that describes what he said about himself? If everyone regards Jesus so highly, shouldn’t we look to him first to see who he said he was and what the purpose was behind his coming?

What did Jesus say about Himself?

The New Testament quotes Jesus as claiming to be both God and the Messiah (Mark 14:61-63, Matthew 17:5). He claimed that the only way to God was through Him (John 14:6) and that His death was paying the ransom for many (John 8:24, Matthew 20:27-29). These can’t easily be reconciled with the ‘downgraded’ labels of ‘Good Moral Teacher’ or ‘Miscellaneous Deity’.

When it comes to Jesus, your source matters – and so do you labels. He can’t just be whomever you decide him to be.  He is who he says he was, or he is nothing.

C.S. Lewis provided the best summary to date on this problem:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher [because he claimed to be God]. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg ‑ or else he would be the Devil of Hell [because he would be a liar who is trying to deceive people]. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse. […] You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity (1952) Fount Paperbacks, p.52)

What do you think?  Are you surprised at how many religions make a claim on Jesus?  Could he still be only a ‘good moral teacher’ and make the claims that he did about himself?

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