Mad, Bad or God?
Updated: Mar 22
Was Jesus crazy to claim that He was God? Some argue that Jesus was a sufferer of the Messiah Complex, which is a state of mind that causes someone to believe they are destined to become a saviour. It is most often reported in patients suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Interestingly, the Messiah Complex is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), as it is not a clinical term nor diagnosable disorder. Is this an adequate explanation for Jesus’ controversial claims?
From the Gospels we see a very unique Messiah. The Jews who studied the Old Testament prophecies were waiting for a strong military leader to arrive, who would liberate them from Roman oppression. What they got was a 'Servant King' who washed His disciples’ feet; rode upon a humble donkey; was placed in a manger (animal feeding trough) when He was born; was a refugee in Egypt for a time and “had no place to rest His head” during His three-year travelling ministry. If the Messiah Complex is common in humans who suffer from delusions of grandeur, then Jesus’ version must have been an anomaly! Paul tells us in Philippians 2:7-9 that Jesus: “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” As the Messiah Complex is anecdotal at best, and does not fit the descriptions of Jesus’ actions, I am not convinced by the 'lunatic' assessment that some wish to subscribe to Him.
Was Jesus bad? Was He a liar when he spoke the seven I AM statements, which the unconvinced Jews in the crowd interpreted as blasphemy? It is all well and good claiming to be God but what evidence is there to back up these claims? Should we expect a lying Messiah to do good or evil? For example, Hitler exhibited the Messiah Complex according to the academic Joseph McCurdy; yet when you look at the life of Adolf Hitler you find he was responsible for death and destruction on an unimaginable scale. It is not difficult to make a case that he was suffering from evil delusions or was a manipulative con-man rather than the saviour of the world. More like murderer of the world!
Stalin is another historical figure that fancied himself as a Messiah and yet was responsible for 20-60 million deaths in the Soviet Union. What of Jesus? During His trial, the Roman Governor Pilate concluded that “I find nothing wrong with this man” (Luke 23:4). He was only put to death because Pilate cowardly submitted to the crowds’ demands. Jesus preached a message of love, forgiveness of sins and doing good to one’s enemies; He welcomed children into His arms; and saved a guilty woman from being stoned to death. Then there are the miracle accounts – how should they be interpreted? John in His Gospel calls them “signs”, but signs of what?
There is one curious account where Jesus heals a man who was demon inflicted and some of the watching Jews were displeased. They declared that Jesus must work for the devil in order to cast out demons – how else did He have power over them?! Jesus pointed out that “a house divided against itself will fall” – how can the devil cast out himself? What would be the point? Jesus said that this proved one greater than the devil was here, one with real authority. The miracles attest to the claims Jesus made about Himself; He was God and proved it, again and again and again. However, does this avoid the liar accusation levelled at Jesus? Was He just a conjuror of magic tricks?
The people He raised from the dead could have been clinging to life when He revived them (although Lazarus had been dead four days!). The demon-possessed healings could have represented mental illnesses, which Jesus 'healed' through attention and compassion, in a culture that exiled them. Walking on water could have been a clever trick of the light. The blind, deaf, mute and lame healings could have been mere fabricated conspiracies in order to increase Jesus’ fame. But if any of those explanations were accurate, why would the disciples rather be executed than admit to the lies and deception? Crowds of over 5000 people, both educated and uneducated, saw the miracles in many towns over three years. I struggle to accept it is a reasonable explanation that one individual, lacking in the technology we have nowadays, could have pulled off so many tricks that thousands concluded were genuine. At the end of His life, He was still viewed as an innocent man as Pilate declared. This truly would be the greatest deception the world has ever known – an innocent man who cured the sick, loved the outcasts, fed hungry people, taught wise moral principles and healed a soldier who arrested him, was actually responsible for the biggest con in history, which 2.5 billion people believe today!
So, what do the miracles prove if genuine? If Jesus was mad or bad, why could He perform such remarkable miracles? Miracle accounts are nothing new – Buddha was supposedly walking and talking moments after being born with golden skin; Muslims tell of Allah saving Muhammad from capture by instructing a spider to weave a web over the entrance of the cave where he hid (this made it look like no one had been there for months); and Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak spent three full days underwater in a river during a spiritual experience. But there is nothing quite like Christianity for the sheer amount of miracle stories attested to one individual and of a quality that supersede natural laws.
Jesus' miracles are even documented in secular historical documents and by his opponents who would have desired to discredit the claims if they were false or exaggerated. Dr Blomberg states "in later Jewish writings [Jesus' opponents] call Jesus a sorcerer who led Israel astray - which acknowledges that He really did work marvellous wonders, although the writers dispute the source of His power"[9a].
I will dedicate a future post (no.38) to analysing miracle accounts from other religions and whether they have the same level of historical corroboration from a variety of unbiased sources as Christianity does. But for now, let me summarise the evidence that has been iterated so far from previous posts:
the Gospel accounts were formulated using eye-witness testimony
many eye-witnesses were martyred for their faith in Jesus, which they refused to recant even under torture and executions
the Gospels documented Jesus’ many claims to be God and provided “signs” to accept this belief through the multiple miracles performed
the Old Testament contains 351 prophecies which were fulfilled through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection
Maybe the disciples really saw these miracles performed by Jesus and wanted to tell others. They didn’t think He was a charlatan or a lunatic and were willing to give their lives rather than deny what they had seen. They concluded Jesus was God and only He had the words of eternal life. The Old Testament prophesied “in that day [of the Messiah] the deaf will hear…the eyes of the blind will see.” Can a mere human raise the dead, calm a storm, multiply food, and heal the blind, mute and deaf? C S Lewis said Jesus must be a liar, a lunatic or Lord; it is clear what conclusion I have reached, what about you?
References  John 13:1-17  Zech 9:9, Matt 21:7  Luke 1:7  Matt 2:13-14  Luke 9:58  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tyrannical-minds/201905/the-saviors-their-peoples  Luke 11:14-20  Luke 11:17  Luke 22:49-51