Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. . . . So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” – Mark 14:61-64; 15:39
There’s no such thing as benign blasphemy.
The high priest and the other religious leaders could have handled His claim to be the Christ or Messiah. Similar claims from other “messiahs” were fairly routine… and ended badly as the Roman authorities easily defeated the well-intentioned rebels, crushing all hope of liberation. But this man was different. He claimed to be the Son of God.
In his reply to the question, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?,” Jesus used the divine name “I AM.” Although the religious leaders were looking at a very ordinary looking “Son of Man,” Jesus declared that when the kingdom of God is finally ushered in, He would be seen by them again, sitting next to the One who is all Powerful.
This was blasphemy in the minds of the horrified priests. To insult, devalue, or malign God was unspeakably offensive and punishable by death. They had no doubts. They did not hesitate. Jesus was a blasphemer of the one and only true God!
In North America, it’s hard for us to understand how offensive blasphemy can be to a group of committed religionists. In our culture, we blaspheme deities and people with ease, then laugh about it, never giving it another thought. Whether we hear it in the news, on a late night talk show, in a political speech, or on the radio, it’s just not a big deal… it’s all just good fun.
However, the Incarnation–God becoming flesh– is a major hindrance to Christianity on the stage of world religions. Researchers report that more Christians have died for their faith in the last 100 years than in the past 2000 years — most died because of the ancient conviction that Jesus was God’s Son. The baby in the manger is sweet, but a grown man who claims to be God must be stopped!
You cannot affirm Jesus’ “message” and also abandon His claim to be God’s Son. His entire proclamation hinges on that fact. If it is untrue, everything He taught should be tossed. Popularizing an argument from the 19th century, C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity explains:
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. 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. 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 with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Lord, Liar, or Lunatic? It’s a “trilemma”! Among the religious leaders who heard Jesus, and in the courtroom of human hearts through the ages, there are no harmless liars or lunatics. The opponents were just being intellectually honest: Jesus was either telling the truth, or He was guilty of insulting and offending God. Rather than let God handle it (and believe me, He can), these men determined Jesus should die for His blasphemy. They got what they wanted.
But another man, a battle-hardened soldier who had seen hundreds of men die, watched the dying of Jesus against the backdrop of what he had been told about Jesus. The centurion was more thoughtful than the religious priests. He connected the dots. He saw what the priests and religious scholars couldn’t or wouldn’t see. Arising from the uncluttered observation of a centurion standing near the cross, he couldn’t help speaking his thoughts aloud, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”
Blasphemy? Or truth?
It’s the greatest barrier to belief for millions of people. But for others, like the centurion and me, it is the blessing that redefines all of life… and it’s the central, explosive truth of the Christmas Revolution.
Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.
Mark 9:50 Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”
What an odd passage! If you find it a bit of a challenge to understand — you are not alone. There are a couple dozen different scholarly interpretations. Nevertheless, Jesus said we are to “have peace with one another” — of that we are sure. Let’s see if we can figure out what He meant…
The day had been long and difficult as Jesus entered a house in Capernaum to rest. Being aware of intense conversation among His followers on the way in, he asks: “What were you arguing about on the road?”
The disciples had been arguing over who was greatest among the followers of Jesus… but they said nothing. So, sitting down, Jesus placed a small child among them and began to teach them that greatness lies in quiet service of others. We are to welcome and encourage the “little ones” who believe — even more than the highly gifted and popular ones who believe. Jesus issued a warning against offending and wounding such valued members of His family — the ones who were the true “greats”.
Then he talks about salt! Salt in the Old Testament was used to flavor food, season sacrifices and seal covenants. In Leviticus 2:13 salt is offered with a grain offering as a symbol of the promised, unbreakable relationship between God and His people. It was customary to exchange a measure of salt when making a legal agreement as a symbol of the incorruptibility of the deal. Salt was a preservative.
Disciples fighting over “greatness” are driven by a selfishness that works against the care and honor of the “little ones” in the family of God. We possess a oneness in Christ that he wants us to maintain and preserve — in much the way that salt preserves food and is a symbol of a binding agreement.
Selfish ambition renders us unfit as a living sacrifice for God’s use, so Jesus says “get salty”! Be at peace with your brothers and sisters — especially the “little ones” who seem less important and worthy. Recognize the family relationship and act like family.
Do we argue today about greatness among the brothers? Well, let’s see…
- Have you ever thought you were closer to God than another brother or sister?
- Have you ever rejected a brother or sister because they held an “inferior” understanding of the Bible? (e.g., Baptist, charismatic etc.)
- Have you ever felt your position in the church elevated you to a place of greater honor?
- Have you ever put down the ministry of another church that was being blessed by God? You know — a little bit of jealousy? (“There has to be something wrong with what they’re doing over there!”)
- When you took a class, read a book, or obtained a level of education/training that others did not have — did you feel a “bit ahead” of other believers?
- Did you ever feel like you didn’t need to listen to another believer because they were young or inexperienced?