Liar, Lunatic, Legend, or Lord


In defense of the deity of Jesus, CS Lewis made famous the Liar, Lunatic, or Lord argument.  Jesus is a liar – he said things he knew were untrue.  Or Jesus is a lunatic – he said things he thought were true but were not.  Or Jesus is Lord – he said things he thought to be true and they were indeed true.  CS Lewis personally argued that Jesus was neither a liar or a lunatic but Lord and Savior.

The Gospel of John is comprised of seven “I Am” Statements, eight if you include John 8:58.  These statements give a glimpse into the character, ministry, and identity of Jesus.

I am the bread of life (John 6:35)

I am light of the world (John 8:12)

I am the gate (John 10:9)

I am the good shepherd (John 10:11)

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 vine (John 15:1)


Jesus directly claimed to be God.

In John 8:58 Jesus says, “before Abraham was born, I Am.”  The crowd’s reaction?  They picked up stones in order to put him to death.

According to the Law of Moses, stoning was the penalty for blasphemy.  At first glance, you might see this as an overblown reaction to the statement.  Jesus was claiming he lived before Abraham.  Yet, he is also claiming he lived eternally before Abraham.  But it goes even further.  “I Am” implies a claim not only to eternity but also to deity.  “I Am” is the divine name by which God revealed himself to Moses during the encounter with the burning bush.

In John 8:58 we see Jesus directly claim to be God and it puts his death sentence into motion.  Yet, those with ears to hear understand every single “I Am” statement as a claim to be God.

When Jesus said “I am the bread of life,” “I am light of the world,” “I am the gate,” I am the good shepherd,” “I am the resurrection and the life,”  “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and “I am the vine” – he claimed he was the very God that showed up to Moses in the burning bush.

Is Jesus a liar, lunatic, or Lord?

Jesus indirectly claimed to be God.

Jesus also made a large number of indirect claims to be God.  In these instances, he indirectly claimed to be God by saying things only God could say.  I’ll give a few examples.

In Mark 2 four men bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  Prior to healing the man’s legs, Jesus says, “Son your sins are forgiven.”  That’s an indirect claim to be God for only God can forgive sins.

In Luke 7 a woman anoints Jesus’ feet with an alabaster jar of perfume.  While the crowd is outraged Jesus tells her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  That’s an indirect claim to be God for only God can forgive sins.

In John 4 Jesus meets a broken woman at the well.  She was looking for water to quench her thirst, but Jesus offers her living water that springs to eternal life.  That’s an indirect claim to be God for only God can offer eternal life.

Is Jesus liar, lunatic, or Lord?

Jesus demonstrated he was God.

The Gospel of John can be studied through a look at the “I Am” statements.   Yet, the Gospel  is also built around seven signs and wonders of Jesus:

  • In John 2:1-11 Jesus changes water into wine at the wedding at Cana
  • In John 4:46-54 Jesus heals the royal official’s son
  • In John 5:1-15 Jesus heals the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda
  • In John 6:5-14 Jesus feeds the 5,000
  • In John 6:16-21 Jesus walks on water
  • In John 9:1-7 Jesus heals the man born blind
  • In John 11:1-45 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead

Jesus backs his direct and indirect claims with action.  As we are so fond of saying, Jesus “talked the talk and walked the walk.”

Is Jesus liar, lunatic, or Lord?

Jesus’s ultimate demonstration was the resurrection.

Some have discounted the Liar, Lunatic, Lord argument by saying, “Well, there’s another option.  Perhaps Jesus is merely a legend.  Perhaps he was a real person who said real things but the stories grew over time.”  Jesus’ ultimate demonstration was the resurrection and it was seen as such immediately after it happened.  The resurrection accounts are not legend but historical accounts.  I want to present to you six minimal facts about the resurrection of Jesus that believers and non-believers agree are true:

One: Jesus died by crucifixion;

Two: Soon afterwards, his followers had experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus;

Three: People were transformed as a result of the resurrection, even to the point of being willing to die specifically for their faith in the resurrection message;

Four: These things were taught very early, soon after the crucifixion;

Five:  James, Jesus’ unbelieving brother, became a Christian due to the resurrection

Six: Christian persecutor Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) also became a believer after an experience with who he believed to be the resurrected Jesus.

What’s the best, most logical explanation for these facts?  Many answers are out there.  I argue that the best, most logical explanation is the Easter story which proclaims that Jesus indeed rose from the dead.

The church stands upon:

  • The promises and prophecy of the Old Testament fulfilled in the New Testament
  • The life and ministry of Jesus backed by word and demonstration
  • The eyewitness accounts of Jesus ministry and resurrection
  • The historicity of the gospels and entire the New Testament
  • The long history and witness of the church that was born on the day of Pentecost and lives to this very day.

 Is Jesus liar, lunatic, legend, or Lord?


One of my favorite questions in all of the Bible is found in John 6.  Jesus finished difficult teaching that included the wholehearted nature of discipleship.  John 6:66 tells that at this time many of Jesus disciples turned back and no longer followed.  In response, Jesus looked to the twelve and asked “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” 

In this life, whom or what will you follow? I pray you follow Lord Jesus.

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