No one is more hated and loved than Jesus Christ.
In an age of Love Island, The Voice, The Greatest Dancer, The X Factor and Strictly, everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to be known. Everyone wants stardom.
Nonetheless, Jesus pips them all. Jesus is the most famous and influential person in all of history. That is an uncontroversial statement.
More songs have been sung to him, artwork created of him, and books written about him than anyone who has ever lived. In fact, Jesus looms so large over human history that we actually measure time by him; our calendar is divided into years before and after his birth (BC and AD). The biggest selling book year in, year out, The Bible, is exclusively about him. No army, nation or person has changed human history to the degree that Jesus has.
And the big question has to be WHY?
You see, when you first look at the life of Jesus he wasn't particularly eye-catching. Born in a back-of-beyond town in Palestine to a poor teenage, unmarried mum. A man who never travelled more than a few hundred miles from his home, never held a political office, never wrote a book, never married, never had sex, never attended university or college, never visited a big city. A man who eventually was executed shamefully by being nailed to a cross as a fraud and criminal, just like tens of thousands of other people before him and after him.
But whether you acknowledge it or not, Jesus has rocked into your world and shaped it more than you could ever imagine. Why? Who is He? What is the deal with Jesus Christ?
He isn’t a figment of our imagination. He isn’t a legend. He was a real dude! Fact.
The evidence both in the New Testament bible as a historical book and in other non-bible historical writings is overwhelming. Muslims revere him around the world as a real historical figure who was renowned for His wisdom and miracles. Jesus really did exist.
The Jewish 1st century historian Flavius Josephus wrote,
‘Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man....he was a doer of wonderful works. He drew over to him many of the Jews. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate [the Roman governor]....condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not [give up] on him, for he appeared to them alive again on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold [in the past]...and the tribe of Christians so named after him, are not extinct at this day.’
The Roman historian, who had no interest in publicizing Jesus at all, Publius Cornelius Tacitus wrote this in the 1st century too.
‘Christ suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of Pilate’
Jesus really existed.
Jesus’ teaching was second to none. All around the world Jesus’ wise sayings have changed the face of history. Mahatma Ghandi, who was a Hindu, described Jesus as, ‘One of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.’
According to Harvard Professor Harvey Cox,
‘The words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are the most luminous, most quoted, most analysed, most contested, most influential moral and religious discourse in all of human history. This may sound like an overstatement, but it is not.’
Jesus’ character demanded an explanation. Throughout the bible we see that Jesus never sinned. For three years of his life He had religious Jewish leaders, Roman officials and lots of onlookers scrutinizing his every word and challenging him, trying to trip him up. Jesus never fell short. Nobody followed him more closely than Peter one of his disciples who in his bible writings on Jesus said,
‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ 1
In short, He was perfect. Who else do you know like that?
Jesus' miracles were prolific. A quarter of the stories about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are about miraculous healing. One of the most fascinating things is that when you read about the opposition that Jesus faced during his time on earth, never once did anyone attempt to deny that his miracles were real. Never once did anyone attempt to deny that he turned water into wine, healed lepers, walked on water, raised the dead and fed five thousand with a kid’s lunch box.
Professor Graham Twelftree renowned historian writes,
‘However reluctantly, the vast majority of students of the historical Jesus confirm that Jesus performed mighty works. The single most time-consuming aspect of Jesus’ public mission was the performing of miracles. Any critical reconstruction of the historical Jesus must not only include but also, indeed, emphasise that he was a most powerful and prolific miracle worker.’
Jesus healed lots of people….and he was unique in doing so.
Jesus rose from the dead. A former Chief Justice of England, Lord Darling, who was an expert in weighing up facts and evidence, summarized it all with this:
‘In its favour as living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true’
Jesus rose from the dead and many people saw him alive. The clues for this are overwhelming. In fact, one historian, John Rodgers, writes ‘This is the sort of data that historians….drool over!’
Jesus is building his church. When he was crucified, his 120 faithful followers abandoned him, hid behind locked doors and acted as if the Christian dream was over. A few days later, however, they reappeared, convinced that they had seen the risen Jesus, and were willing to die rather than deny it. Now there are an estimated 37 million churches in the world today with 50,000 new ones added every year.
Cambridge professor C.F.D Moule points out that the growth and triumph of the church from this handful of pitiful Galilean peasants ‘rips a great hole in history, a hole the size and shape of the resurrection,….What does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?’
Jesus really existed.
Jesus was amazing!
This is the most amazing and the most offensive thing about Jesus!
Jesus made all these claims:
I am the only way to a relationship with God.…there is no other way 2
I am the only one who can satisfy your needs forever.….nothing else will work 3
I am God 4
One day I’ll come and judge the heavens and the earth, the living and the dead…all of you! 5
Mahatma Ghandi acknowledged true Jesus’ claims:
‘I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher. His death on the cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept.’
As Ghandi realized, Jesus’ claims were radical.
It would be completely understandable if you, at first, thought Jesus was a lying lunatic or an evil fool. But it would also pose a big problem. If you claim that Jesus is a lunatic or a liar essentially you are saying that this Jesus completely fooled all of his followers, hundreds and thousands of them. And once again if you study the facts, that just doesn't hang true either!
Look at the quality of his teaching. Take a look at his life. Was that the life of a fraudster or a loser or a liar or a crazy guy? Of course it’s not! Jesus’ compassion and love for justice and the poor and outcasts, women and children, his grace, his mercy, and his tender-heartedness, was awe inspiring. Unlike anyone else. Jesus wasn’t a crazy guy!
Someone put it this way,
‘No one has ever discovered the words Jesus ought to have said or the deed he ought to have done. Nothing he does falls short, in fact he is always surprising you...always taking your breath away. Cause he’s better than you could imagine.’
Do you see it? Do you see at least something of what the people of Jesus’ time saw?
The very reason many of them got down and worshipped him. They felt they knew that they were looking through the substance of human flesh at the very being of God.
In Jesus’ time, the last people that would believe he was God were first-century Jews. They had a view of God unmatched by anyone in the world in their time. Yet against all the odds, surprisingly, they did. After seeing the risen Jesus news spread like wildfire. Suddenly, the Christian faith exploded overnight. A whole new Christian worldview and belief sprang up immediately after Jesus’ resurrection. This isn’t normal. When you look at history, worldviews and beliefs don’t grow and spread so quickly. Usually faiths and world views and beliefs develop over time after years of discussion and argument. Not so with the Christian faith. It began to explode immediately. Why? Because of the facts. Because of the truth. Because they had witnessed in the person of Jesus, something that they had never seen before.
G.K. Chesterton summarised the wonder of Jesus like this:
‘If I found a key on the road and discovered it fit and opened a particular lock with it, I would assume most likely that the key was made by the lock maker.
And so if I find a set of teaching set out in premodern oriental society that has proven itself with such universal validity, that it has fascinated and satisfied millions of people around the globe in every century including the best minds in history and the simplest hearts, that it has made its home in every culture, inspired masterpieces of beauty in every field of art, continues to grow rapidly and assert itself in lands where a century ago the name of Jesus Christ was not even heard. If such teaching so obviously fits the locks of so many people’s hearts in so many times and in so many places are they likely to be the work of a deceiver or a fool? In fact it is more likely that they were designed by the heart maker Himself.’
Jesus Christ. He is like no other! Fact.
- 1 Peter 2:22
- John 14:6
- John 6:35
- John 14:9
- Matthew 25:31
Watching my children sing and dance along to their favourite worship song taught me a couple of lessons about joy and faith. Jesus also had a lot of say about having childlike fath when teaching his disciples in Luke 18.
This will be the first Easter in three years that we’re able in Jubilee to gather together to celebrate, and the Easter message is still as powerful as it was 2,000 years ago!
Starting on Tuesday 15th March we are committing a whole month to prayer. Prayer has always been the bedrock of a Christian life with God. Prayer is what unites us to God in the here and now. Through prayer we experience the friendship and lordship of God through His Word and Spirit. In prayer we come to all three persons of our One Majestic God.