I suppose that most people would agree that Jesus Christ is the most famous and influential person in history. He lived on our planet for only 33 years, yet countless millions of people have been and are fascinated by him. The faith he founded - Christianity - has spread throughout the earth and is still changing people’s lives today.
But who is this man, who was born about 2000 years ago? He has been the subject of whole libraries full of books, yet his mysterious glory defies human analysis. Artists have been moved to honour him, but his greatness cannot be captured on canvas. Composers have written some of their greatest masterpieces in homage to Jesus but his majesty demands music the like of which we can never imagine. Poets have ransacked the whole range of human language yet their words have failed to fully express the elusive splendour of Jesus of Nazareth.
So, who is this Jesus? What can we know of a man who lived so long ago? Records of Jesus and his early followers exist in ancient Jewish and Roman texts. But the fullest and most accurate depiction of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus is found in the Bible.
Unto us a Child is Born
The origins of Jesus’ human life are supernatural. He was born of a virgin. Mary, his mother was told by an angel:
The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
But Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of his mother was not the beginning of his existence.
As the Son of God, he eternally existed with God. John opens his gospel with these thought provoking words about Jesus as the Word of God:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
The Bible teaches that the Son of God, equal to God in power and glory became man.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
That is why, when he was born people came to worship him. Wise men from the East sought him out and offered him their costly gifts. Poor shepherds visited the Babe "and returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20).
Jesus entered fully into our humanity. He became a real flesh and blood human being. As the old Christmas Carol put it "tears and smiles like us he knew”. In Jesus, God knows what it is to be human.
He went about doing good
Jesus’ life was summarised in these words by one of his followers, the apostle Peter (Acts 10:38). Jesus always had time for people. He had dealings with people who were regarded as the dregs of their society. He told them good news of forgiveness and hope. He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the bind, made the lame walk, caused the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. Jesus cleansed lepers with a touch of his hand and even raised the dead. He released people from the destructive power of the devil.
Jesus’ life, as recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament bustles with supernatural activity and shines brightly with deep compassion for broken and battered people.
Never has a life so full of mercy, truth and purity been lived. There is something awe-inspiring about the life of Jesus. In him we find a tough love that could denounce sin and expose hypocrisy. He called people to repent from their sins and walk the narrow road that leads to life. In Jesus we find a tender love that reassured those who believed in him that they were accepted by God however sinful and unclean they felt.
Jesus was subjected to "life in the raw”. His closest friends misunderstood and disappointed him. One of his followers even betrayed him to death. He knew what it was to be acclaimed by the masses and plotted against by his enemies. He was subjected to the most subtle temptations. But he maintained his integrity. He resolutely determined to obey God whatever the cost. He is the only human being of whom it can rightly be said that he committed no sin.
Jesus sinless, holy character exposes us for the sinners we are. That is why the life of Jesus presented in the Gospels makes for such uncomfortable reading. We stand condemned by his peerless example of goodness and truth.
Never man spoke like this man
Jesus was the greatest preacher and teacher that ever lived. Even his detractors had to admit, "No man has ever spoken like this man!" (John 7:46.)
When Jesus finished preaching his famous Sermon on the Mount this was the reaction:
The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority (Matthew 7:28 & 29)
Jesus preached of God and man, of sin and goodness, of heaven and hell like no one else. His words carried such authority because he was God’s Son.
God who at various times and in various ways spoke inn time past to the fathers by the prophets has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. (Hebrews 1:1 & 2)
Jesus’ message can be summed up in these words: "Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15.) Jesus proclaimed that God’s kingdom had come, a kingdom of mercy and hope, power and deliverance. To experience the blessings of this kingdom we must turn from our own ways trust in the message of Jesus. He calls to a world weary and restless with sin and sorrow, "Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28.)
Read through the Gospel According to Matthew and listen to Jesus speaking to you.
They Crucified him
Jesus came into our world not primarily to identify with suffering humanity, or give us an example of a good life, or even to teach us. He came to deal with the sin that separates us from God. That meant that Jesus had to die in the place of sinners.
According to the Bible, death is the penalty for sin, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Sin deserves such a weighty penalty because sin is rebellion against the God who gave us life. Sin affects every one of us, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23.) Death is not the end of human existence, "it is appointed to me to die once, but after this the judgement.” (Hebrews 9:27.)
God so loved this world of rebellious sinners that he sent his Son rescue us from judgement and condemnation.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)
The cross of Jesus is the greatest exhibition of God’s love. God is not cruel, harsh and uncaring. God is love and we see that love in the cross.
God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)
Jesus expressed his love for God the Father by dying for the world in accordance with God’s rescue plan. Jesus expressed the depth of his love for human beings by dying in our place. He said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends". (John 15:13.)
In the cross of Christ, God offers us forgiveness of all our sin. Because Jesus has died for sinners, we can be reconciled to God.
He is risen!
Jesus was written off by men and condemned to death. But death was not the end of the story for Jesus. He was crucified on a Friday - the first "Good Friday”. But he rose from the dead on Sunday - the first "Easter Sunday”. Death that conquers us all and refuses to release its prey could not hold Jesus down.
Jesus’ followers thought that all was lost when he died. But Christ defied death’s power. He appeared to his disciples and showed them that he was alive from the dead. Seeing the risen Jesus transformed his disciples from hopelessness and despair. The message that they preached from then on was that God had raised Jesus from the dead. This is the message that gives Christianity its vital power. Christians are not devotees of some long dead preacher and teacher, but disciples of the living Lord Jesus.
God raised Jesus from the dead. He overturned man’s verdict and demonstrated that he accepted Jesus death and a sacrifice for sin. In the resurrection of Jesus, God says, "This is my Son” (Acts 13:33).
The resurrection of Jesus is one of the great facts of history. Have you read the Biblical accounts of this great event? Read Luke chapter 24 thoughtfully with an open mind and ask God to give you understanding of his word.
Thomas, of Jesus’ early followers would not believe that Jesus had been risen from the dead until he saw him with his own eyes. When he did, the effect was dramatic. He came out with one of the great confessions of the Christian faith. "Doubting Thomas” now believed. He said of the risen Jesus, "My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28.)
Thomas, because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. (John 20:29)
Will you believe in the risen Lord Jesus Christ?
Jesus is Lord!
This is the essence of early Christian preaching:
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
God has exalted Jesus and given him a name that is above every name. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus is seated upon the throne of the Universe. One day he will return to our planet in power and glory. God has appointed him as the Judge of all people. When he comes he will raise his people from the dead and glorify them. He will defeat all evil and sin and put down rebellion against God once and for all.
Are you on the Lord’s side? Have you confessed him as your Lord and Saviour.? Are you trusting in him for sins forgiven and reconciliation to God? Is Jesus Christ inexpressibly great and glorious to you? Do you offer him your life and your worship? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.