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Was Jesus A Lunatic?

April 16, 2009

Was Jesus A Lunatic?

 

By Perry P. Perkins

 

 

 

There’s a popular quote in the Christian world that goes something like this: “Jesus was either who he said he was, or he was a liar.”

 

You’ve probably heard this from the pulpit as many times as I have.

 

It’s the precedence to a great argument, and the foundation for some of the best sermons I’ve heard. Either Jesus was the son of God, or he was a deceiver….a deceiver of the disciples, of the people of his generation, and of all the generations that followed.

 

“Jesus was either who he said he was, or he was a liar.”

 

It’s a smart argument.

 

The only problem is…it’s wrong.

 

Truthfully, Jesus was either who he said he was…or he was a lunatic.

 

You see, I know liars. I’ve dealt with liars, and I’ve been a liar. A liar is someone who speaks untruths for his own benefit, to glorify himself, or to escape some form of punishment.

 

We’ve all been lied to, and we’ve all lied. We lie to get what we want, or to avoid what we don’t want.

 

When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To which Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:16-17)

 

Jesus said he was the son of the living God…and he believed it.

 

He believed it because he was crazy, or he believed it because it was true.

 

Let’s fast forward to the end of the Gospels:

 

Matthew 27:26 – “Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

 

Mark 15:15 – “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

 

Luke 22:63 – “The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him.”

 

John 19:1-3 – Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.”

 

A bit about “flogging”…

 

According to Jewish law, for the sake of “mercy” the victim would receive no more that forty lashes, the Romans, however, had no restriction on the number.

 

Traditionally, the Romans first stripped the victim, then lashed his hands to a post above his head. The whip was made of strips of leather with pieces of metal and bone embedded in them. Two soldiers would take turn flogging the victim from his right and left.

 

The following is a medical doctor’s description of the physical effects of flogging.

 

“The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus shoulders, back, and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper in the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue.”  (1)

 

Okay, I’ve lied. You’ve lied. At what point in the preceding description of flogging would a rational, sane human being like you or I confess their falsehood?

 

How many lashes would it take before we said, “Okay! You Win! I made it all up!”

 

To maintain allegiance to a claim that lead to such abuse, while “the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons,” one would either have to be truly innocent, or insane enough to believe they were innocent.

 

So, just for the sake of argument, let’s say that the historical man, Jesus of Nazareth, withstood this torture, all the while refusing to admit that he has anything less that God incarnate.

 

Back to the Gospels:

 

Matthew 27:31 – “After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

 

Mark 16:20 – “And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.”

 

Luke 23: 25 – He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

 

John 19:16 – Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

 

Those in power use fear to manipulate and control us. Fear makes us the instruments of Power. When we are afraid, we obey. When we are afraid, we will do anything to feel safer. (3a)

 

Following this horrific torture, Jesus knew that he was being led away to be crucified.

 

Crucifixion wasn’t merely a means of death, but also a study in inflicting as much pain as humanely possible, before the victim actually died. Jesus was required to carry the cross- beam to the site of his execution.

 

The cross piece weighed between seventy-five and one-hundred twenty five pounds. The upright timber (called a stipe) was already there, set into the ground. The stipe was built with a hole in the middle that, when raised to the top of the timber, would fit over the sharpened point at the top (the “cross” was actually more of a “T” shape.) Soldiers would use ladders and rope to haul the stipe, with the victim attached, to the top of the timber and drop it into place. At the point, the condemned shoulders were usually dislocated from their sockets.

 

Crucifixion was a common method of corporal punishment in the time of Jesus. If He were a liar, He would have known what was coming and had time accept that, whatever goal He’d sought by claiming to be the son of God, it was now out of reach, and could end only in a horrible death.

 

Any sane person would have taken the opportunity, during that long walk up the Via De La Rosa, to recant his claim in hopes of avoiding such an end.

 

Any sane person would have said, “Wait a minute…”

 

Jesus did not.

 

Back to the gospels:

 

Matthew 27:35 – “When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

 

Mark 15:24 – “And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.”

 

Luke 23:33 – “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.”

 

John 19:18 – “Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.”

 

In many paintings, we see that the criminals on either side of Jesus are tied to the cross, but this would not have been so. Egyptian’s crucified their victims like this, but the Roman’s, again seeking the most painful possible method, used squared spikes, usually six inches long and half an inch thick, tapering to a point. These they drove through the heel of the hand, near the wrist, where the spike would puncture the median nerve, creating excruciating pain that ran from wrist to shoulder.

 

The weight of the victims body would slowly cause them to sag from the ninety-degree angle they were affixed at, to about a sixty-degree angle, causing the pectoral muscles to

Spasm and making it nearly impossible to exhale unless they pushed themselves upward, placing their full weight on the spike that was driving through both feet.

 

The spike through the feet was placed there for just that reason, so that the victim would not quickly suffocate, but their death could be prolonged for hours, or even days.

 

This is how Jesus died…allowing himself to be beaten, tortured, and crucified.

 

Would you have undergone all of this pain and suffering for the sake of a lie? I know I wouldn’t have. I’ve told some whoppers in my time, but none I would die for, not like this.

 

By the time I felt a cold steel spike on my wrist, and watched as the hammer was raised in the air, I’d have said, “Wait a minute…”

 

Wouldn’t you?

 

So, if Jesus wasn’t a liar, we’re left with two options. Either he was a lunatic, who was being followed by lunatics, most of whom died similarly horrific deaths without saying, “Wait a minute…”

 

Or…

 

He was who he said he was. He was the Son of God, and suffered all of this to give you and I a chance to escape the consequences of our sin.

 

He was a lunatic, or he was your savior…what do you think?

 

XXX

 

 

RESOURCES:

 

1: DAVIS CT. (1965). THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS. THE PASSION OF CHRIST FROM A MEDICAL POINT OF VIEW. Arizona Medicine. 22, 183-7.

2: Passages are quoted from New International Version of The Holy Bible. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

 

Perry P. Perkins is a stay-at-home dad who lives with his wife Victoria and their year-old daughter Grace, in the Pacific Northwest. A student of Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild, his novels include Just Past Oysterville, Shoalwater Voices, and The Light at the End of the Tunnel.

 

Perry has written for numerous Christian magazines and anthologies, and his inspirational stories have been included in eleven Chicken Soup anthologies as well.

 

Examples of his published work can be found online at www.perryperkinsbooks.com, and on his SAHD blog: www.ricecereal.wordpress.com

 

 

 

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