I’ve noticed that it’s tricky to persuade some to take the man, Jesus of Nazareth, seriously. Some couldn’t care less about the guy. Now, by ‘seriously,’ I don’t mean automatically believing he was the cosmic-god-incarnate. I just mean having a serious interest in learning about the man, especially since he’s arguably the most influential person to have ever lived. But he’s been hyped up as God by so many of his followers that those who don’t believe he’s divine sometimes don’t even bother to inquire about him as an historical figure. He’s placed in some special religious category, along with other irrelevant religious figures that are widely ignored.
Getting him out of that category is what’s tricky. Persuading people to at least modestly view him as an interesting man who said and did some interesting things can be challenging. Seriously considering his teachings alongside those of influential thinkers like Confucius, Plato, and the Buddha strikes some as an odd, or even novel idea. But this is place to start at, especially if you find it unbelievable to think of Jesus as divine. What’s more, I don’t think it’s even possible to appreciate the full significance of Jesus’ alleged divinity without appreciating the fullness of his humanity.
Now let me be upfront about my own opinions: through my own seeking, studying, and questioning, I’ve come to believe that Jesus is both divine and human; that he is the God-man. So I am comfortable talking about either aspect of his identity. And in my reflections and writings, you may notice that I’ll oscillate between exploring the significance of his divinity and his humanity. But I don’t front-end load most conversations by strictly discussing his claims and acts of divinity, unless someone is specifically interested in delving into that. It seems more sensible to me to begin with discussing his teachings and actions in his historical setting. I like Francis Spufford’s approach to Jesus for this reason. This is from his book Unapologetic:
‘He has no halo. He does not glow in the dark. Special lighting effects do not announce his presence. If you cut him he bleeds. His name is Yeshua, later to be Latinised as ‘Jesus.’ And what has he come for? To say some things; to do some things.’
Simple, right? As far as I’m concerned, this is a sensible, modest place to start if you’re interested in learning about the man and his message.