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 the 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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
–CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
Something I think about periodically is just how outlandish Jesus must’ve seemed. For instance: What if someone you’d gone to church with for years stood up and said they were the fulfillment of Isaiah 61? You’d probably be relieved when the ushers and pastor escorted him out of the church. As you waited for the service to resume, you’d probably think about this or that memory of the person–who their family is, their cliche words at graduation, the time you went out for ice cream…etcetera, etcetera.
The very mundaneness of those memories would only accentuate the horror of the current scene in church. I mean, you *know* this guy. There’s no way he could be anything other than you know him to be, let alone the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The most natural reactions to such a claim would be confusion, grief, anger, or fear for the person’s soul (since he just crossed into the heresy/blasphemy zone). You might wonder if he’s demon possessed. You would definitely be offended.
I imagine some or all of these reactions happened when Jesus claimed to fulfill Isaiah 61 in synagogue one Saturday (Luke 4:16-30). We are oblivious to the full shock of it. Jesus is more of a mythical figure to us. He has 2000 years of wow-factor. We never have, and never will, know Him as the guy who sat a couple pews ahead of us for 20 years; the guy that has now, officially, gone nutty truman.
Lewis is right. Faced with accepting or rejecting Jesus, some of us will try to slip-slide into a third way. If we’re too cowardly to follow or blaspheme, patronizing Jesus and dispatching Him with a pat on the head seems a tolerant, even beneficient, alternative. How big of us.