Jesus Why His Name Divides

Jesus, the Name above every name. Or is it? For those who recognize Jesus as Savior, His Name has special meaning. The name Jesus, derived from Joshua, meaning God is salvation, was a somewhat common name amongst first century Jews. Of course, the Jesus referred to here is Jesus of Nazareth, who is called Christ. This Jesus, is not always well received.

Some are highly offended by just the mention of His Name. The Name can certainly be divisive. This Easter season presents an opportunity to consider who He is. Who is Jesus of Nazareth to you? In a day and age when personal opinion is king, is there a correct answer to this question? Some common answers today seem to be, “He was an enlightened man”, “He was a moral teacher” or “He was a great prophet”. Yet, to the Christian, He is so much more.

The New Testament record indicates that Jesus had a lot to say about Himself. Furthermore, Jesus knew He would be divisive. The Gospel according to John records Jesus’ seven “I am” statements as follows: "I am the bread of life"(John 6:35, 48, 51);"I am the light of the world" (John 8:12); "I am the gate for the sheep" (John 10:7, 9); "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11, 14); "I am the resurrection, and the life" (John 11:25); "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6); "I am the true vine" (John 15:1, 5). His claims were exclusive and His teachings, miracles and Life made Him unquestionably unique. Jesus also stated, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other!” (Luke 12:51).

There’s a tendency to consider only some of Jesus’ saying forsaking the hard teachings such as in Luke 12 or even Mark 13:13 where Jesus states, “…you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” You may consider all these statements and scratch your head. Why is He making such a big deal of Himself? Why are people so divided and bothered over Him?

Perhaps the exchange in John 10:24-33 best explains these questions, “The people surrounded Him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe Me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe Me because you are not My sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me, for My Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” Once again the people picked up stones to kill him.

Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”” Jesus claimed to be equal with God and the only Way to God (John 14:6). These claims were cause for uproar during Jesus’ earthly Life and they continue to cause conflict today. When considering Jesus Christ in light of His claims, there is no middle ground. Interestingly, many seem to view Him on such ground. Roberta, who is non-religious with Jewish heritage, was asked who she believed Jesus was and she responded, “I think he was just an ordinary man who somehow became an icon.” Sandra, who grew up Catholic, but describes herself as on the fence, responded to the same question stating, “God’s Son,” but when probed further, said she did not believe He performed miracles or rose again.

In talking to people, it seems that many don’t really consider what Jesus claimed about Himself. C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, well said, “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 his 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.”

As another Easter season is here, believers everywhere consider the significance of what Christ claimed and what He did.  Over 2,000 years ago, He humbled Himself, wrapped Himself in flesh and dwelt among mankind.  He said some radical things, He healed, He performed miracles and He died a criminal’s death on a rugged cross.  He was sinless and didn’t deserve death, but He took the sin of everyone upon Himself, effectively and finally bridging the gap between sinful man and a holy God. The seal of who Jesus is was evidenced in the resurrection.  God raised Him from the dead.  People saw Him, touched Him and fellowshipped with Him after the fact.  A spiritual revolution began called Christianity.  Lives were transformed and those transformed lives began to touch and transform others.  Here we are, hundreds of years later, and His impact is undeniable.  If you believe in this Jesus, whose Name is above every other, remember and celebrate what He did. 

If you find yourself on middle ground, consider what He claimed, look to what He did on the cross, believe and find your life transformed today and in eternity with Him.

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