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What are we to make of this man? The joys and hardships of two thousand years of western history have been pinned on him. Controversy has constantly surrounded his claims. Religious life in the West has been dominated by allusions to his teachings. No self- aware, intelligent person dare avoid this intriguing individual and his impace on society.

No one doubts any more that Jesus actually existed. Most people also believe that he was a great moral teacher. Religious and political leaders throughout the world, including many of the great opponents of Christianity, hail the moral superiority of his life. Mohandas Ghandi aspired to the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. The philosopher John Stuart Mill thought Jesus a genius and probably the greatest moral reformer who ever existed. Even Napolean Bonaparte considered him a superior leader of men.

The New Testament documents record the radical servant-like attitude which lent power and credibility to Jesus' teachings. He has truly led humanity in the expression of compassion and humility, as well as in anger against evil and hypocrisy. Jesus combined a realistic understanding of human nature and idealism for what human beings could become. His words have tesed and challenged the minds and hearts of millions for centuries.

Of course this is not the whole story. When we begin to consider Jesus' claims about his identitiy, the controversy begins. This is where people (including the world's religious leaders) have problems. This is where the label "moral teacher" is put to the test. It begins to seem inadequate, if not naive.

A thirty year old peasant carpenter turned itinerant teacher, Jesus laid claim both by word and action to be more than a mere man. He operated on the assumption that he was God himself.

How do we know this? From his explicit statements and the very way he lived. His self-disclosures are interwoven in the very fabric of the New Testament. he claimed equality with God. He said he had lived before Abraham. He assumed the right to forgive sins. He accepted worship. There seems to be no escaping it.

Jesus of Nazareth could not be simply a harmless moral teacher. He cuts too deep and steps out too far from the crowd of moral teachers and philosophers. We can call him a liar. We might even discuss his mental imbalance. But the tag of "only a great moral teacher" doesnt stick.

It was neer an option in his day. Some of his contemporaries thought him mad, others loved him. he was regarded with disdain and sometimes even hatred, or alternately with amazement and adoration. But he never received mild approval.

Neither is it an option for today. We have to shut him up or hear him out. What are we to make of this man? What of his moral integrity? His fulfillment of centuries of aspirations? His prediction of death and resurrection. What are we to make of his claims to be the one and only God-man of history? What are we to do with this great moral teacher who makes such impossible claims?

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