Napoleon Syndrome? The Claims Jesus Made

Reposted from a The Cripplegate.

Napoleon Bonaparte delusion is a real thing. When the diminutive Emperor of France was in the heyday of his popularity, people would dress like him and act like him, and some were even institutionalized for their delusion. But what would happen if the real Napoleon ended up in an institution with deluded people who were also claiming to be Napoleon. This is the plot of a novel by Simon Leys, called The Death of Napoleon. 

In the story, Napoleon escapes his exile on the island of Elba by switching places with a look-alike named Eugene. Napoleon leaves the island aboard a ship, disguised as the deckhand “Eugene,” while Eugene, in costume as “Napoleon,” stays behind.

The plot goes awry when Napoleon arrives in France, but no one believes he is who he claims to be. Eugene on the other hand, has grown to enjoy the luxurious life of an exiled emperor, and continues to pretend to be the real Napoleon. When Eugene dies on the island, the guards realize he is not Napoleon and fear for their lives if they confess they enabled Napoleon’s escape, so they decide to keep the mistake a secret, and simply announce to the world that Napoleon has died. The news is believed and so the real Napoleon, back in Paris, has no one to verify that he is who he says he is. He lives out the rest of his days in obscurity, where only the new friends he has made say they believe his claims, though they don’t treat him as an Emperor, but rather as someone who simply thinks he is an Emperor.

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the King of the Jews, and the Savior of all mankind. Many dismissed him as deluded or thought that he was lying. Some said they believed his claims. And yet only those closest to Jesus treated him as if his claims of deity were true.

5 Claims of Equality with Good that Demand a Verdict

1. Identification with the Father

John 5:17-18 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

It is a common notion among unbelievers that Jesus was a wise teacher, a compassionate leader, a godly prophet of God. Muslims believe this, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and even some atheists believe this. For millennia skeptics have theorized about who the “historical Jesus” really was. In such debates confusion reigns supreme.

But there was no confusion when Jesus was on his live tour of earth.

His claims were so unmistakable that his enemies put a death sentence on his head. He was identifying with the Father, and the Jews understood this fully.

John 10:30-31 “I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

Jesus clearly identified himself as the Son of God throughout his ministry. This is not a later development of his disciples, as some aver.

What, specifically, made his hearers realize he was saying he was equal with God?

It was that he said he was a co-worker, a colleague of the Father…

2.  Cooperation with the Father

John 5: 19-20  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.

When Jesus claimed to be doing the work of his Father with his Father, as opposed to the work the Jewish leaders were doing… he was pulling rank on them. He was saying “the Father and I are partners in the venture, colleagues. And it’s because he loves me.”

That’s what Jesus is claiming here. And the Jews understood that.

What are the types of works the Father and Son cooperate in? For one…resurrection.

3. Resurrection prerogative

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

This is the family the business. Saving the lost, raising the dead, accomplishing eternal life—this is the mission of the family business.

Raising a person from dead is an extremely rare miracle, but there are people who had done it. Elijah (1 Kings 17), Elisha (2 Kings 4) and Paul (Acts 20) had all done it. But all those who were raised, died again eventually.

But Jesus has a whole different level of authority when it comes to resurrection. Jesus gives not only biological life, but eternal life. He can raise you up …forever.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Jesus claimed to be involved in the election, salvation, eternal security, and resurrection of believers.

He was not kidding around here. He was not claiming to be the best instrument in the Redeemer’s hands—he was claiming to be the Redeemer.

4. Delegation of authority

John 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son…

There is one prerogative that is given only to God: he is the Judge. It is our task to observe fruit of a person’s life, and to call their behavior to be in line with the standards of God’s word—but it is not our place ever to judge motives, or to proclaim who goes to heaven or hell.

Only the judge makes that call. But guess who the Judge is?  Jesus. That is quite a claim.

But there is one more claim, that is audacious beyond belief.

5. Magnification of honor

John 5: 23-24 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Jesus claims to be worthy of the same honor and magnification as the Father himself. In fact, if you don’t honor Jesus as God, then you are not honoring God.

This is a claim that you have to do business with. You can’t say that Jesus was a good and godly prophet.

Unless your religion worships Jesus Christ as God in human flesh, you have the wrong religion! You are not honoring God at all.  You’ve heard people say ‘we all worship God and just call him different names,’ right?

Jesus said NO, you either worship me or you are worshipping in vain.

What will you do with these claims?

Do you see why we sing to Jesus? Do you see why we give our finances to his work of teaching, ministering, and evangelizing the world? Do you see why you need to give up your sexual sin and your gossip and your grumbling and your greed and anxiety and discontent, when Jesus tells you to?

Do you see how the belief in the claims of Jesus changes everything?

If Jesus is who he says he is, and you say you believe in him, then your whole life must show that. You will be all in, all Christian, all the time.

If Jesus was lying or deluded, then stop wasting your Sundays, stop toying with ancient teachings. Declare yourself independent and get out of here.

But if you believe Jesus is God, then worship him. Live for him. Die for him.

Clint Archer bio


Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.

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Andrew K's picture

Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans),a now-deceased, world-class Sinologist, is definitely worth reading, for many reasons.

If you want to understand China, try giving his Hall of Uselessness a read. It's a collection of essays with penetrating insights.

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