It is a tragic fact that millions of people across the world have rejected or ignored Jesus Christ. But have they really? Perhaps they have rejected the ‘Jesus’ portrayed by much of the modern Church and perhaps that image of Jesus falls short of the reality. I remember Tony Campolo many years ago saying that he understood why so many people rejected Jesus because the ‘Jesus’ they have been told about is not the real Jesus. Tony said he would reject that Jesus too! So let me try and do the impossible and tell you about the most amazing person ever to walk this planet.
Without question, the most influential person in history is Jesus Christ. Today, a third of all people on earth recognise the One who divided history and He is acknowledged every time we write the date. We should not make the mistake of putting Jesus in the same category as other spiritual leaders. They are as different as midday is from midnight. Search the Qur’an and you will not find the name of Mohammed. Search the ancient Buddhist writings and the name Buddha does not appear. But read the New Testament and you will find the name of Christ on nearly every page, and often more than once. That is why the Christian faith is unlike all the world’s religions. Christianity rests entirely on the Person Who founded it.
Consider this: Christ is the only person who ever lived who claimed to be God and yet was considered sane by the best of his generation. His influence was greater than all others. Socrates taught for forty years, Plato for fifty and Aristotle for forty – yet their combined impact is small compared with the influence of Christ’s three and a half years of teaching. No other teacher kept out of his teachings things that were unimportant, temporary, or false, and no other teacher selected just those matters that were eternal and universal and life-defining. What other teacher ever dared to forecast that His teachings would last forever? Jesus declared, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away’ (Matthew 24:35), and every day brings fresh proof of the truth of this. Each new generation finds in Jesus’ teaching what is new, fresh, and inspiring. As we look across the centuries, we see how His words have passed into laws, into Church doctrines, into proverbs, and into words of comfort and support, but they have never passed away. What human teacher ever dared to claim that his words would last for all eternity?
Christ uttered many other statements showing his complete awareness of what his impact on the world would be. No other teacher has ever done that. Consider the following: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). If this statement were made by anyone other than Christ, it would be considered to be highly presumptuous. That such a declaration should prove true after more than twenty centuries would have been impossible if Christ were only an ordinary man. From this Galilean carpenter have come unceasing streams of good for the benefit of mankind. No one else has been so universally beneficial. If we took from art galleries, from music, literature, history, works of charity, benevolence, and compassion, everything generated by or relating to Christ, what huge gaps there would be! Jesus said, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32). This claim shows that the inner life and the unifying factor of Christianity would be a person – not a philosophy – and that person is Jesus of Nazareth. Usually in institutions and religion, we find at the core a set of beliefs, not a person. How different with Christianity! The heart of Christianity is not a creed, but a person – Jesus Christ. The memory of the world’s great characters creates in us respect and reverence, but not an impassioned love. Consider the impact of Moses, David, Socrates, Plato, and the hundred greatest names of the last two millennia. None match the magnetism of Jesus Christ.
Think also of Christ’s assurance that He would have an everlasting Church despite the presence within it of ‘bad fish’ and ‘weeds’ (see Matthew 16:18; 13:37-40; and 47-50). And add to that His confidence in His commission to preach the gospel to the entire world, which would transform and empower men and women until the end of the world (see Matthew 28:19–20 and Acts 1:8). Again we stress that in all of literature and history, there are no parallels to such accurate long-range forecasts. Think now of the claims of this man from Nazareth, who was penniless and, by human standards, powerless. Yet this man claimed the following:
- That ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ had been given to Him. (Matt 28:18)
- That He had complete control over nature. (Mark 4:39, 41)
- That the angels of heaven belonged to Him. (Matthew 16:27)
- That people should love Him above their own families or their own life. (Matthew 10:37, 38; Luke 14:26)
- That He was the Saviour of all mankind. (Luke 19:10)
- That He could forgive sins. (Matthew 9:2)
- That He would be the final Judge of everyone. (Matthew 25:31-46)
- That He existed before Abraham and that He enjoyed glory with God before the world existed. (John 8:58; 17:5)
The claims of Christ even survived the test of apparent failure. On the Cross, He still behaved as the King of eternity, promising paradise to a thief and interceding calmly for His enemies. It can be said that the most natural explanation for Christ is that He was supernatural, for if He were good, then He must have been God, as He claimed to be, for a good man does not lie about himself (see John 14:8–9). In describing His earthly mission, Jesus said, the Lord “has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind and to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18).
That was His work. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by Satan. There were whole villages where there was not a moan of sickness in any house, for He had passed through them and healed all their sick. Love, mercy and compassion were revealed in every act of His life. The poorest and most humble were not afraid to approach Him. Even little children were attracted to Him. They loved to climb upon His knees and gaze into His face. Jesus was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word and never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not condemn weak people. He spoke the truth, but always in love. He denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity; but often with tears in His eyes. His life was one of self-denial and thoughtful care for others. Every soul was precious in His eyes. There truly is nobody like Jesus, nobody! As James Allen Francis said so well in his poem over 100 years ago, “All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned – put together – have not affected the life of mankind on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.”
That, my friends, is the real Jesus. There is no one like Him and there never will be. Do you know Him? Do you really know Him? He is always waiting for you to draw near to Him. He is always ready to receive you just as you are … but He loves you too much to leave you there … He will transform and redefine your entire life. He will reconcile you to God forever and empower you to join Him in His mission to bring all of God’s lost children home.
Are you in? I hope so!