Like anyone else, Yeshua the Nazarene, known to us as Jesus, had his good points and his bad points. As with anyone else, we have to take the bad with the good.
Traditionalist Christians assert that Jesus claimed to be maschiach — the messiah, the christ, the anointed one, understood at that time to mean the warrior-king who would vanquish Israel's oppressors and usher in God's reign. If he did make that claim, he didn't deliver on it.
Some traditionalists assert that Jesus claimed to be God incarnate. There's essentially no credible evidence to support that assertion. Only the Fourth Gospel says so, and it has all the earmarks of a late, imaginative revisionism. And even if Jesus did make such a claim, there's no reason to take his word for it.
C.S. Lewis facilely says that anyone saying the things Jesus did had to be either liar, lunatic, or Lord. That's a false trichotomy. There’s no reason to think Jesus couldn’t have been a singularly gifted prophet and, at the same time, a little bit nuts (as his family seemed to have thought).
Still, Jesus is worth emulating. The things he stressed have proved to be solid guides for leading a fulfilled, useful life (not to mention pillars of the human race's evolutionary success). Jesus stressed, for example:
- the Great Commandment — putting Ultimate Reality first, loving "him" with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength;
- the Summary of the Law — seeking the best for our neighbor as we would for ourselves (and our neighbor is anyone who crosses our path);
- facing the facts and adapting accordingly, instead of insisting on living in a fantasy world that exists only in our imaginations;
- trusting that, no matter how bad things may seem, in the end all will be well.
And Jesus is also worth emulating because he was faithful to his duty to God as his saw it, even unto death.
(Harvested from a pretty-intense discussion this past weekend at TitusOneNine.)