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Two thousand years ago a man set foot on our planet who claimed to be from a place beyond space and time.
Although he had no credentials or political backing, his life and words changed our world. His name is Jesus Christ.
His life was so remarkable that nine non-Christian historians and writers mention Jesus within 150 years of his death, the same number who mention the contemporary Roman Emperor, Tiberius Caesar.
Over five thousand early New Testament manuscripts cite accounts of his life and words, far more documents than for anyone else in ancient history.
While most great people simply fade into history books, Jesus of Nazareth is still the focus of thousands of publications and documentaries.
So, who was this man, Jesus Christ, and why was so much written about him?
Was Jesus a Great Moral Teacher?
Jesus is considered the greatest example of moral perfection in both his character and his teaching.
Instead of giving us a list of rules, Jesus taught us to love God and others above ourselves. His Sermon on the Mount is regarded as the most profound moral teaching ever uttered.
Martin Luther King said of Jesus: “He did not seek to overcome evil with evil. He overcame evil with good. Although crucified by hate, he responded with aggressive love.”
Historian Philip Schaff summarizes his impact: “Jesus of Nazareth…shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since.…”
And renowned French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, wrote: “When Plato describes his imaginary righteous man . . . he describes exactly the character of Christ. . .. .”
Let’s consider just a few ways Jesus changed our world.
– Jesus’ words led to equal rights for women and minorities.
– His teaching helped abolish slavery in Europe and America.
– Major universities such as Harvard, Yale and Oxford—were founded to proclaim his teaching.
– Jesus’ teaching inspired countless charities and hospitals.
– When asked who has left the greatest legacy on history, non-Christian historian H. G. Wells replied, “By this test Jesus stands first.
Was Jesus the Promised Messiah?
The ancient prophet Isaiah wrote of a future Messiah who would suffer for mans’ sin. (Isaiah 53) Isaiah said mysteriously, the Messiah would be both man and God. (Isaiah 9:6)
Seven hundred years later Jesus stunned both his enemies and his followers by healing the deaf and blind, stopping powerful storms with a mere word, and claiming to speak for God. When Peter exclaimed, “You are the Christ (Messiah), Son of the Living God,” Jesus affirmed his statement as true.
While on earth, Jesus fulfilled nearly 300 messianic prophecies, including his lineage, city of birth and miracles.
But Jesus also revealed another mystery about his identity that was so shocking it eventually led to his trial and crucifixion.
So, what was that mystery?
Who did Jesus Say He Was?
Jesus taught that he was both the Son of man and the Son of God. As a man, Jesus depended totally on his Father, calling Him “the only true God.”
Yet, mysteriously, Jesus spoke of himself as one with God the Father (John 10:30), claiming, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’” (John 14:9, NCV).
Jesus also shocked his Jewish audience by calling himself, “I AM” (Yahweh), the sacred name for God that He had revealed to Moses centuries earlier.
But did Jesus demonstrate his deity by doing something only God could do?
Did Jesus Prove His Claims?
Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, he told his disciples that he would be condemned and killed in Jerusalem, but would rise again the third day.
As he predicted, Jesus was arrested, condemned to death and crucified.
After his death on the cross, Jesus was buried in a known tomb. Roman guards secured the tomb with a 24-hour watch.
Jesus’ disciples had gone into hiding, fearing they, too, would be arrested and possibly executed like Jesus.
But on the third day, eyewitnesses tell us that Jesus appeared alive to his disciples. They were suddenly transformed from cowards into courageous men and women willing to give their lives for Jesus.
Who Moved the Stone?
English skeptic, Frank Morison wanted to write a book proving that Jesus’ resurrection was a myth.
Morison wondered if the disciples had conspired a plot to make it appear Jesus had risen. However, there are three main problems with that theory:
First, the tomb was secured by a large stone and a 24-hour trained Roman guard. It would have been impossible for the disciples to roll the stone away and remove Jesus’ body without notice.
Second, the resurrection plot would have died out as soon as someone discovered Jesus’ body, yet that never happened.
Third, the disciples changed from being cowards into men who were willing to be tortured and martyred for proclaiming the risen Jesus.
It was the dramatic transformation in the disciples’ behavior that finally convinced Morison the resurrection really happened. In his book, Who Moved the Stone, Morison explains why he went from a skeptic to a believer.
Dr. Simon Greenleaf, founder of the Harvard Law School argues,
“It would have been impossible for the disciples to persist with their conviction that Jesus had risen if they hadn’t actually seen the risen Christ.”
So, what does Jesus’ resurrection mean to you and me today?
Why Is the Resurrection Important?
The apostle Paul, originally a skeptic of Jesus’ resurrection, explains its importance.
“For Christ has completely abolished death, and has now, through the Gospel, opened to us men the shining possibilities of the life that is eternal.” (2 Timothy 1:9, J. B. Phillips).
Although Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the door for us to have eternal life with Christ, there is an obstacle preventing us from going to heaven. Paul explains.
“You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions…” (Colossians 1:21b, NLT).
The obstacle is that our sins have separated us from a holy God. Although God loves us beyond our understanding, his perfect justice requires payment for our sins. The penalty is death.
Many wonder why an all-powerful, loving God can’t just forgive us without judging our sins. Why does he demand justice?
Imagine entering a courtroom and you are guilty of murder. As you approach the bench, you realize that the judge is your father. Knowing that he loves you, you immediately begin to plead, “Dad, just let me go!”
With tears in his eyes he responds, “I love you, son, but I’m a judge. I can’t simply let you go.”
Presenting the evidence against you, he bangs the gavel down and declares you guilty. Justice cannot be compromised, at least not by a judge. But because he loves you, he steps down from the bench, takes off the robe, and offers to pay the penalty for you. And in fact, he takes your place in the electric chair.
Jesus is not a third-party whipping boy being punished for our sins, but rather he is God himself. Instead of punishing us for our sin, God sent His Son to die for us.
Paul explains how Jesus’ death satisfies God’s perfect justice.
“…now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:22 TLB).
But wait a minute, you say, “Don’t I have to do good deeds to go to heaven?”
Aren’t Good Deeds Enough?
Since eternal life is a gift from God, you and I can’t do anything to earn our way into heaven. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, explains God’s amazing grace.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” —Ephesians 2:8-9
For a gift to be ours, we need to actually receive it. Like any gift, you can choose to accept or reject Jesus Christ’s pardon for the penalty for your sins.
To receive eternal life you must honestly admit you’re a sinner, place your faith (trust) in Jesus’ death for your sins on the cross, and in His resurrection for your eternal life. It is a choice that you alone must make.
The apostle John tells us that “all who receive him, to them he gives the power to become children of God.”
You can receive Jesus right now by asking him to come into your life and forgive your sins. If you haven’t ever invited Jesus into your life, simply pray the following words.
But remember, it’s not the words you say but the attitude of your heart that is important.
“Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for dying for all my sins and giving me eternal life. I receive you as my Savior by faith. I want to make you Lord of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.”
If you have made this commitment, Jesus actually entered your life. He will free you from the bondage of sin so you can experience a life of meaning, purpose and peace. And his indwelling presence will be with you forever, giving you the power to live for him.
And there’s even more. . .
Let us know your response below and discover how you can experience the amazing adventure of living with Jesus.
What is your response?