What Makes Jesus So Unique?
It is impossible for us to know with certainty whether God exists and what He is like unless He takes the initiative and reveals Himself to us. We must know what He is like and how He works with us. Suppose we know that He exists, but He looks like Adolf Hitler – fickle, depraved, prejudiced and evil. What a terrible reality it would be!
We must search the horizon of history to see if there is any evidence of God’s revelation. There is clear evidence: in a remote village in Palestine, almost 2,000 years ago, a child was born in a stable. Even today the whole world is celebrating the birth of Jesus.
He lived discreetly until he was 30 years old, when he began his three-year public ministry. It was destined to change the course of history. He was a kind person and we are told that “the crowds were delighted with his teaching, because He taught them as one who has authority, and not as the teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:29)
Examine Jesus’ Identity – He Said to Be the Son of God
However, it soon became apparent that He was making surprising and frightening statements about himself. He began to identify himself as much more than an extraordinary teacher or prophet. He began to say clearly that it was God. He made his identity the main point of His teachings. The most important question he asked his followers was “Who do you say I am?” To which Peter responded by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 15-16). Jesus was not surprised, nor did he rebuke Peter. On the contrary, He praised you!
He stated this explicitly and His listeners felt the full impact of his words. The Bible tells us: “The Jews even more wanted to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also even saying that God was his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
On another occasion He said, “My Father and I are one.” The Jews immediately wanted to stone Him and He asked what good work they wanted to do that for. They replied, “We are not going to stone him for any good work, but for blasphemy, because being a simple man he presents himself as God” (John 10:33).
Jesus clearly claimed to have attributes that only God has.
When a paralyzed man was introduced through the roof wanting to be healed by Jesus, He said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This caused quite a stir among religious leaders, who reasoned inwardly: “Why does this man speak like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God? ” (Matthew 2: 5-6).
At a critical moment, when his life was at risk, the high priest asked Him directly: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed God?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One coming with the clouds of heaven”.
The high priest tore his own robes. “Why do we need more witnesses?” he asked. “You heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” (Mark 14: 61-64)
So close was their connection with God that He equated a person’s attitude towards Him as being made towards God Himself. For this reason, anyone who knows Him knows God (John 8:19; 14: 7). Whoever sees Him sees God (12:45; 14: 9). Whoever believes in Him, believes in God (12:44; 14: 1). Whoever receives Him receives God (Mark 9:37). Whoever hates Him hates God (John 15:23). And whoever honors Him honors God (5:23).
Blind Faith? – Observe The Four Possibilities
When facing Christ’s statements, there are four possibilities: Either He was a liar, a lunatic, a myth, or the Truth. If we say that He is not the Truth, we are automatically affirming one of the other three alternatives, whether we realize it or not.
(1) One possibility is that Jesus lied when he said he was God – He knew he was not God, but he deliberately deceived his listeners to give authority to His teachings. Few, if anyone, seriously hold that opinion. Even those who deny His divinity claim that He was a great moral teacher. But those who also believe in this last possibility fail to realize that two statements are contradictory: Jesus could not be a great moral teacher if, at the crucial point of His teaching – His identity – he was a great liar.
(2) A more pleasant, though no less surprising possibility, is that He was really sincere, but was deceived by his own illusions. We have a name today for a person who thinks he is God, we call him a lunatic, and he would certainly apply to Christ if he were mistaken in this very important matter. But when we look at the life of Christ, we see no evidence of the abnormality and imbalance that we find in insane people. On the contrary, we find the best composure of someone who lived under pressure.
(3) The third alternative is that all that talk about declaring yourself to be God is a myth – what happened was that His enthusiastic followers, in the 3rd and 4th centuries, put words in His mouth that would shock you if you heard them; words that, once again, would be the target of immediate repudiation.
The myth theory has been significantly refuted by many discoverers of modern archeology, who have, once and for all, shown that the four biographies of Christ were written during the lifetime of the generation of Christ. Some time ago Dr. William F. Albright, now retired world famous archaeologist at John Hopkins University, says there is no reason to believe that none of the gospels were written after AD 70. It would be admirable that a mere myth about Christ, in the form of the gospel, to have gained circulation and to have had the impact it had, without any basis in facts.
It would be as absurd as someone in our own time to write a biography of John H. Kennedy and say that he claimed to be God, forgave people’s sins, and had risen from the dead. Such a story is so crazy and would never have credibility, as there are still many people out there who know who Kennedy really was. Thus, the myth theory does not stand up in light of the recent date of the gospel manuscripts.
(4) The alternative that remains is that Jesus spoke the truth. But, statements just don’t mean much. Words are wind. Anyone can make statements. There were other people who claimed to be God. I would declare to be God; you could claim to be God, but the question we have to answer is, “What evidence do we bring to support that statement?” In my case, it wouldn’t take you five minutes to prove that my statement is false. And it probably wouldn’t take me long to prove the falsehood of yours either. But when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth it is not so simple. He had the evidence to validate His statement. He said: “Even if they do not believe in me, they believe in works, so that they may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38).
Examine The Evidence Of Jesus
First, his moral character coincided with His statements. Many people in nursing homes say they are celebrities or deities. But their character proves that their statements are not true. The same is not true of Christ. He is unique – as unique as God.
Jesus Christ had no sin. The quality of His life was such that He was able to challenge His enemies with a question: “Can any of you accuse me of any sin?” (John 8:46). He only heard silence in response, although He addressed those who would love to point out a defect in His character.
We read about Jesus’ temptations, but we hear no confession of sin on His part. He never asked for forgiveness, even though He told His followers to ask.
This lack of any sense of moral failure on the part of Jesus is impressive, given the fact that it is completely contrary to what we know from the experiences of the saints and mystics of all time. The closer people are to God, the more disappointed they feel about their own failings, corruption and deficiencies. The closer you get to a bright light, the more you realize that you need to take a shower. This is also true, in the moral sphere, for mere mortals.
It is also surprising that John, Paul and Peter, trained from childhood to believe in the universality of sin, spoke of Christ’s innocence: “He committed no sin, and no deception was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22) .
Pilate, who was not even a friend of Jesus, said: “What crime did He commit?” (Matthew 27:23). He implicitly recognized Christ’s innocence. And the Roman centurion who witnessed Christ’s death said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).
Second, Christ demonstrated a supernatural power that could only belong to God, the Author of those forces. It calmed a violent storm of wind and waves in the Sea of Galilee. In doing so, he aroused the following question in those on the boat: “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). He turned water into wine; fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish; he returned his son to a disconsolate widow, raising him from the dead and brought back to life the dead daughter of a desolate father. Most significant, His enemies did not deny miracles, but chose to try to kill Him: “If we leave Him like this, everyone will believe in Him” (John 11:48).
Third: Jesus demonstrated the Creator’s power over sickness and disease. He made the paralytic walk, the dumb speak and the blind see. Some of His cures reached birth problems that would not be cured by natural means. The most surprising was the healing of a blind man whose case is reported in John 9. Although the man was unable to answer his insistent interrogators, his experience was sufficient to convince himself: “One thing I know: I was blind and now I see!” he declared. He was impressed that his friends did not recognize the One who healed him as the Son of God . “No one has ever heard that the eyes of a man born blind have been opened” (John 9: 25,32). For him the evidence was obvious.
Fourth, Jesus’ supreme proof for authenticating the proclamation of His divinity was His resurrection from the dead. Five times in the course of His life He predicted that He would die. He also predicted how he would die and that three days later he would rise from the dead and appear to His disciples.
That was certainly the big test. It was a statement that would be easy to verify. It would happen or not.
Friends and enemies of Christianity recognized the resurrection of Christ as the foundation stone of the Christian faith. Paul, the great apostle, wrote: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is empty, just as your faith is empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Paul put all his faith in the resurrection of the body of Christ, whether or not He rose from the dead. And if He was resurrected, it was the most sensational event in history.
Observe the deductions
If Christ is risen, we know with certainty that God exists, as He is and how we can know Him through personal experience. Thus, the universe acquires meaning and purpose, and it is possible to experience a living God in today’s world.
On the other hand, if Christ did not rise from the dead, Christianity is an interesting museum piece – nothing more – has no validity or objective reality. Although it is a nice idea, it certainly is not worth getting very excited about. The martyrs who were thrown to the lions singing and contemporary missionaries who lost their lives in Ecuador and Congo carrying the message to others, were poor deluded fools.
The attack on Christianity by its enemies has more often been concentrated on the resurrection because it is clear that this event is the “x” of the issue. A notable attack took place in the early 1930s by a young British lawyer. He was convinced that the resurrection was mere fable and fantasy. Realizing that it was the foundation stone of the Christian faith, he decided to do the world a favor and once and for all to expose this fraud and superstition.
As a lawyer, he felt that he had the critical qualities to rigidly test each piece of evidence and not to admit as evidence everything that did not fit the strict admission criteria of a court today.
However, while Frank Morrison was doing his research, something extraordinary happened. The case was not as easy as he thought. As a result of this event, the first chapter of his book, “Who moved the stone?” (Who Moved the Stone?) Is entitled “ The Book That Refused to Be Written”. In it, he describes how, while examining the evidence, he was persuaded against what he himself believed, the fact of Christ’s physical resurrection.
See what happened at the time of his death
Jesus’ death was by public execution on a cross. The government said the conviction was for blasphemy. Jesus said it was to pay for our sins. After being severely tortured, Jesus’ feet and fists were nailed to the cross where He was suspended, and later died slowly suffocated. A spear was pierced through His body to confirm His death.
The body of Christ was wrapped in linen covered with approximately 38 kg of wet and sticky herbs. His body was placed inside a tomb on a rock. A stone of almost two tons was rolled with levers to guard the entrance. Because Jesus had publicly said that he would rise from the dead in three days, a guard of trained Roman soldiers was stationed at the tomb. And an official Roman seal was affixed to the tomb’s entrance stating that it was government property. Despite all that, three days later the body was gone. Only the linen cloths remained in the tomb, in the shape of the body, but empty. The rock that formally sealed the tomb was found out of place, a long distance away from the tomb.
Notice what happened at the Tomb
The explanation that soon began to circulate was that the disciples stole the body! In Matthew 28: 11-15, we have a record of the reaction of priests and religious leaders when the guards gave the unpleasant and mysterious news that the body was gone. They gave money to the soldiers and sent word that the disciples had gone during the night and stolen the body while they were asleep. That story was so false that Mateus didn’t even bother to refute it! What judge would hear you if he said that while you were sleeping you knew it was your neighbor who came into your house and stole your TV set? Who knows what’s going on while sleeping? Testimony like that would be ridiculed in court.
Furthermore, we are dealing with a psychological and ethical impossibility. To steal the body of Christ would be something completely contrary to the character of the disciples and everything we know about them. It would mean that they were guilty of a deliberate lie that was responsible for the deception and death of thousands of people. It is inconceivable that, even if some disciples had conspired and managed to do this theft, they would never have told others.
Each of the disciples faced the test of torture and martyrdom for their claims and beliefs. Men and women will die for what they believe to be true, although it may be a lie. If at any time the man speaks the truth, it is on his deathbed. And if the disciples had stolen the body, and Christ was still dead, we would still have the problem of explaining all His declared appearances.
A second hypothesis is that the authorities, Jewish and Roman, removed the body! But why? They put guards at the grave, what would be the reason for removing the body? What about the authorities ‘silence in the face of the apostles’ bold preaching about the Resurrection in Jerusalem? Church leaders were seething with anger, and did everything possible to prevent the message of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead from spreading. They arrested Pedro and João, beat and threatened them in an attempt to shut their mouths. But there was a very simple solution to their problem. If they had the body of Christ, they could parade with him through the streets of Jerusalem.
At once they would have successfully smothered Christianity still in its cradle. The fact that they did not do so supports the eloquent testimony that they did not have the body.
Another popular theory was that women, troubled by devastating sadness, wandered in the low morning light and went to the wrong grave. In their distraction they imagined that Christ had risen because they found the tomb empty. This theory, however, was overturned by the same fact that destroyed the previous theory.
If women went to the wrong tomb, why didn’t the high priests and other enemies of the faith go to the right tomb and reveal the body? Furthermore, it is inconceivable that Pedro and João would be subject to the same error, and certainly José de Arimatéia, owner of the tomb, would have solved the problem. What is more, we must remember that this was a private place for graves, it was not a public cemetery. There was no other grave nearby that would allow them to make such a mistake.
The fainting theory was also raised to explain the empty tomb. In this view, Christ did not actually die. He was presumed dead by mistake, but passed out from exhaustion, pain and blood loss. When it was placed in the icy tomb, He revived. He left the tomb and appeared to His disciples, who mistakenly thought that He had risen from the dead.
This is a theory of modern construction. It first appeared in the late 18th century. It is important to note that no such suggestion has arisen in antiquity, amid the violent attacks that have been made on Christianity.
All the oldest records are emphatic about Jesus’ death. But let’s assume for a moment that Christ was buried alive and passed out. Is it possible to believe that He would have survived three days in a damp tomb, without food or water or attention of any kind? Did He have the strength to let go of the cloths that surrounded him, to push the heavy rock from the mouth of the cave, to pass by the soldiers, and to walk kilometers on the feet that were drilled with nails? Such a belief is more fantastic than the simple fact of the resurrection.
Even the German critic David Strauss, who in no way supports the theory of the resurrection, rejected this incredible idea. He said:
It is impossible that a man who has just come out of a grave, half-dead, and who wandered from side to side weak and sick, in need of medical care, bandages, encouragement, and other care, and who had just been succumbed to suffering, he could never give the disciples the impression that he had conquered death and the tomb; that he was the Prince of Life.
Anyway, if this theory is correct, Christ himself was involved in heavy lies. His disciples believed and preached that He was dead, but that He was alive again. Jesus did nothing to dispel that belief, but, on the contrary, encouraged it.
The only theory that adequately explains the empty tomb is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
See What Jesus Christ Offers You
If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, proving to be God, He is alive today. His will is more than being worshiped. His desire is to be known and to be part of his life. Jesus said: “Behold, I am at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me ” (Revelation 3:20).
Carl Gustav Jung said: “The main neurosis of our time is emptiness.” We all have a deep yearning for our lives to make sense. Jesus offers us a more meaningful, abundant life, which results from a relationship with Him. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it fully” (John 10:10).
Because Jesus died on the cross, taking with Him all the sins of humanity, He now offers us forgiveness, acceptance and a genuine relationship with Him.
Right now you can invite Jesus Christ to be part of your life. You can say to Him something like this: “Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I ask You to forgive me and to be a part of my life now. Thank you for offering me a relationship with You. ”