Jesus Speaks: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

I’m trying to stay positive. But, like everyone else, I’m worried—it’s a subtle panic. There is a worldwide pandemic, a severe economic contraction, social-media extremism, protests, hatred, and divisiveness all around us. Unanswered questions abound. Is anyone in charge? How will schools function? Will my business make it? How long is this going to last? Death—coronavirus or otherwise, expected or unexpected—is coming sooner or later. The ground beneath us seems to be more like shifting sand than solid rock. Is anywhere safe?

I am a person of faith. I look to Jesus for answers and wisdom. He visited earth more than 2,000 years ago. What Jesus said was recorded by eyewitnesses in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible. But I often ask myself, “What would Jesus say to us today?”

Jesus’ biblical message is simple yet complex, forceful yet comforting, straightforward yet confusing. What Jesus said was so controversial that the religious leaders of His day had Him put to death, crucified by the Romans. His message remains as controversial today as it was then. The atheist-turned-Christian writer C.S. Lewis famously suggested that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God.

I have organized some of the words Jesus said into a condensed, speech-like format for 21st-century readers using two translations: The New Living Translation and The Message. Some words have been deleted, some added, and some tenses changed to help the flow of this project. A sincere effort has been made not to change any meaning.

Full disclosure: I’m somewhat uncomfortable with this approach. I object when preachers pick out specific verses from the Bible, take them out of context, and twist their meanings to serve their own purpose. My hope is that by collating some of the words and principles of Jesus into one cohesive piece, crafted in the light of present-day circumstances, I will harm no one and help some.

J. Davis Illingworth, Jr.

Read what Jesus said:

Jesus Speaks: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

Peace be with you.i My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me.ii No one has gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man*came down from heaven.iii I did not make this up. What I teach is from the One who sent me.iv Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent them speaks truth, not lies.v

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and wind beats against the house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds his house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the wind beats against the house, it will collapse in a mighty crash.vi

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out by religion? Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.vii Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?viii Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.ix God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.x If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me.xi I tell you all this, so that in trusting me, you will be unshakable, assured, and deeply at peace.xii Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.xiii I give you a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.xiv Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.xv

I’m after mercy, not religion. I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.xvi Change your life.xvii Repent of your sins and turn to God.xviii Seek the kingdom of God above all else and live righteously.xix Keep on seeking and you will find because everyone who asks receives and everyone who seeks finds.xx Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way.xxi Don’t bargain with God; be direct. Ask for what you need.xxii You’ll find that all your everyday concerns will be met.xxiii It’s urgent you listen very carefully to this. Anyone who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with God the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment real and everlasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living.xxiv

The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on two commandments. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is equally important. Love your neighbor as yourself.xxv

Let me tell you a story:

A Jewish man was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead by the road.By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed over to the others side of the road and passed him by. A temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed on the other side.

Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man suffering, he felt compassion for him. The Samaritan soothed the man’s wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his donkey and took him to an inn, where the Samaritan took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, “Take care of this man. If his bills run higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time.”

Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attached by the bandits.xxvi

I tell you: Love your enemies. Help and give without expecting anything in return. You’ll never regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way God lives towards you, generously and graciously, even when you are at your worst. God is kind; so should you be kind.xxvii

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.xxviii It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on you own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality, playing a holier than-thou part, instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.xxix Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.xxx Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier.xxxi

Spend your energy seeking eternal life that the Son of Man, can give you.xxxii What does it benefit you to gain the whole world and lose your soul?xxxiii A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.xxxiv If you only knew the generosity of God,xxxv the gift God has for you.xxxvi I tell you again, unless you repent and turn to God, you will perish.xxxvii

Suppose one of you had 100 sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When you found it, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over 99 good people in no need of rescue.xxxviii I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep, and they know me.xxxix The good shepherd puts his sheep before himself, sacrificing himself if necessary.xl The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve others and give his life to ransom many.xli

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his son, his one and only son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed. By believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. I came to help, to put the world right again.xlii It was God’s will that all who saw his son and believed in him would have eternal life.xliii Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.xliv

Everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms was fulfilled.xlv I was handed over to the Romans, mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day, I was raised from the dead.xlvi From here on the Son of Man has taken his place at God’s right hand, the place of power.xlvii

I have not abandoned you as orphans.xlviii I have asked God the Father to give you an Advocate who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth.xlix Humans can produce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.l When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can see and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see or touch—The Spirit—and becomes a living spirit. So, don’t be surprised when I tell you that you have to be “born from above”—out of this world, so to speak.li The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind, but you can’t tell where it comes from or where it’s going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.lii That’s the way it is with everyone “born from above” by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.liii The Holy Spirit, whom God will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of everything I have told you.liv

Stand up for me among the people you meet, and I will stand up for you before all God’s angels. But if you pretend you don’t know me, do you think I’ll defend you? If you bad-mouth me out of misunderstanding or ignorance, that can be overlooked. But if you knowingly attack God himself, taking aim at the Holy Spirit, that won’t be overlooked.lv

For the time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and everything that is secret will be known.lvi Don’t be intimidated. Everything is eventually going to come out in the open.lvii Those who have lived the right way will walk into a resurrection Life, and those who have lived the wrong way into a resurrection Judgement.lviii I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgement is just because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own.lix However, no one knows the day or hour these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only God knows.lx

There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.lxi Here on earth, you will have many troubles. But take heart! I have overcome the world.lxii I did not come to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after the stars burn out and the earths wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.lxiii

So, don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a flock of sparrows.lxiv What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not one single sparrow can fall to the ground without God, your Father, knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are numbered.lxv

You’re blessed when you are at the end of your rope.lxvi God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him.lxvii

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.lxviii For God blesses those who mourn.lxix

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.lxx For God blesses those who are humble.lxxi

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.lxxii For God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.lxxiii

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice.lxxiv

You’re blessed when you care.lxxv For God blesses the merciful.lxxvi

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of fight.lxxvii For God blesses those who work for peace.lxxviii

You’re the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your good deeds shine for all to see.lxxix This is how everyone will recognize you are one of my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.lxxx This is my command: Love each other.lxxxi

Now, go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all.lxxxii That God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.lxxxiii

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart—so don’t be troubled or afraid.lxxxiv This is my parting gift to you, peace.lxxxv

Footnotes:

i* Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man
John 20:26 NLT

ii
John 7:16 NLT

iii
John 3:13 NLT

iv
John 7:16 MSG

v
John 7:17-18 NLT

vi
Matthew 7:24-27 NLT

vii
Matthew 11:28 MSG

viii
Matthew 6:27 NLT

ix
John 14:1 NLT

x
John 4:24 MSG

xi
John 12:44 NLT

xii
John 16:33 MSG

xiii
John 16:33 NLT

xiv
John 14:27 NLT

xv
Matthew 11:30 MSG

xvi
Matthew 9:13 MSG

xvii
Matthew 4:17 MSG

xviii
Matthew 4:17 NLT

xix
Matthew 6:33 NLT

xx
Matthew 7:7-8 NLT

xxi
Mark 4:24-25 MSG

xxii
Matthew 7:7 MSG

xxiii
Matthew 6:33 MSG

xxiv
John 5:24 MSG

xxv
Matthew 22:37-40 NLT

xxvi
Luke 10:30-36 NLT

xxvii
Luke 6:35-36 MSG

xxviii
Luke 6:33 NLT

xxix
Luke 6:41-42 MSG

xxx
Luke 6:31 MSG

xxxi
Luke 6:38 MSG

xxxii
John 6:27 NLT

xxxiii
Mark 8:36-37 NLT

xxxiv
Luke 12:21 NLT

xxxv
John 4:10 MSG

xxxvi
John 4:10 NLT

xxxvii
Luke 13:5 NLT

xxxviii
Luke 15:4-7 MSG

xxxix
John 10:14 NLT

xl
John 10:11 MSG

xli
Matthew 20:28 NLT

xlii
John 3:16-18 MSG

xliii
John 6:40 NLT

xliv
John 20:29 MSG

xlv Luke 24:44 NLT

xlvi
Matthew 20:19 NLT

xlvii
Luke 22:69 NLT

xlviii
John 14:18 NLT

xlix
John 14:16-17 NLT

l
John 3:6 NLT

li
John 3:6-7 MSG

lii
John 3:8 NLT

liii
John 3:8 MSG

liv
John 14:26 MSG

lv
Luke 12:8-9 MSG

lvi
Matthew 10:26 NLT

lvii Matthew 10:26 MSG

lviii
John 5:29 MSG

lix
John 5:30 NLT

lx
Mark 13:32 NLT

lxi
John 16:12 NLT

lxii
John 16:33 NLT

lxiii
Matthew 5:17-18 MSG

lxiv
Matthew 10:31 NLT

lxv
Matthew 10:29-30 NLT

lxvi
Matthew 5:3 MSG

lxvii
Matthew 5:3 NLT

lxviii
Matthew 5:4 MSG

lxix
Matthew 5:4 NLT

lxx
Matthew 5:5 MSG

lxxi
Matthew 5:5 NLT

lxxii
Matthew 5:8 MSG

lxxiii
Matthew 5:8 NLT

lxxiv
Matthew 5:6 NLT

lxxv
Matthew 5:7 MSG

lxxvi
Matthew 5:7 NLT

lxxvii
Matthew 5:9 MSG

lxxviii
Matthew 5:9 NLT

lxxix
Matthew 5:14,16 NLT

lxxx
John 13:35 MSG

lxxxi
John 15:17 NLT

lxxxii
Mark 16:15 MSG

lxxxiii
John 3:16 NLT

lxxxiv
John 14:27 NLT

lxxxv
John 14:27 MSG

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