...raises our hopes and fuels our aspirations like his.
Yet Jesus is not just a man for society. His impact is on individuals first. He challenges each of us to decide what we believe about him. Is he demented? Is he a demon? Is he divine? No individual is exempt from making the choice. In one of the early church writings he speaks, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me,” (Revelation 3:20). Here are some facts to help you decide to open the door to your heart.
Jesus was present at creation. Often forgotten in our rush to celebrate the birth of Jesus is the fact that he existed prior to his human birth and long before the universe was called into being. Colossians 1:16 says, “…all things were created through him and for him.” The human Jesus is significant precisely because he was present and active at the creation of all that exists. Jesus of Nazareth, the human who was born in an obscure stable in Bethlehem, is also responsible for the universe in which we live. His authority to dictate what is consistent with our nature and with the created order is the authority of a designer who fully comprehends the inner workings of that which he has designed.
Remarkable events surrounded his birth. His mother conceived him without the physical union with a man. Her husband Joseph was told in a dream to marry her rather than divorce her for what looked like infidelity. Angels appeared to shepherds and sang for joy on the night of his birth. Wise men from the east visited him before he was two years old and worshipped him as a king. Joseph was warned several times to flee in order to protect Jesus from harm. Any one of these occurrences might be enough to arouse our curiosity, but all of them together point to something considerably more than a series of mere coincidences.
Christ is not his last name. The word Christ designates his role as the anointed Messiah predicted in the Old Testament. That he was and is the anointed savior of not only the Jews but also the Gentiles became one of the centerpieces of early Christian preaching. Hence, Christ is a title meaning he is God’s chosen one to save the world. The Old Testament Scriptures convinced the apostles that his death and resurrection were consistent with the messianic mission (Luke 24:44-46).
The Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John—accurately portray his deeds. No other writings of antiquity describe his accomplishments with such vivid and striking detail. Not only do they inform us of his teachings and miracles, but they also describe his unjust trial, death on a cross, and resurrection from the dead. These four documents provide testimony of his righteous life, and the power of their witness to inspire faith has proven the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Jesus possessed remarkable powers. From walking on water to healing diseases to casting out demons to raising the dead—including himself—Jesus had remarkable powers. He demonstrated complete control over nature (Mark 4:35-41), and he demonstrated his claim to heal the soul by his ability to heal the body (Mark 2:2-12). His companions and the witnesses to his deeds had no legitimate option but to conclude that he was more than just an ordinary human being, even more than a great teacher.
His resurrection surprised even the twelve apostles. Despite the many times Jesus revealed that he would rise from the dead, the disciples were surprised when it happened. They grieved when he was crucified, and they needed convincing that he was alive afterward. Something changed dramatically when they discovered him to be alive. Because of the resurrection a surprised band of ordinary men found the drive and power to turn the world upside down. Only the resurrection can explain their enthusiasm for the message and its staying power for two-thousand years.
His shed blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. The Old Testament contained significant ideas about the atonement of sin through the shedding of blood. Jesus was the perfect Lamb needed to atone for human sin, and it was his divinity that gave his death such meaning. God visited the world as a human being, lived a perfect life, and shed his blood in order that we might be reunited with him (Col. 1:19-22).
One of his primary roles was to announce and establish the Kingdom of God. It is no wonder that kings and governments were intimidated by his presence. They recognized the inherent threat to their power structure. Even today when we confess, “Jesus is Lord,” it is because of an allegiance to authority that transcends world leaders. His rule extends to the ends of the earth, it crosses international borders, and it is present now. At this moment Christ sits at the right hand of God (1 Peter 3:22). All authority has been given to him (Mt. 28:18).
He is the only legitimate mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5, Acts 4:12). The first century disciples placed all their eggs in one basket. It was Jesus of Nazareth who won their full trust, who answered their prayers, and who was the object of their worship. He was their hope for eternal life. No angels or other heavenly beings rose to his status or could possibly replace him as mediator (Col. 2:18-20). No other religious leader has ever demonstrated the right to be on the same level with Jesus, and he made an exclusive claim to this role, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
He has opened the way into the presence of God. When man sinned and separated from God, the result was death, separation from the source and sustaining power of life. In the early church it was life in Christ’s name that appealed to many (John 3:16; 20:31). A later New Testament document described how he has opened a way into the very presence of God by his sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 9:24-26). Jesus of Nazareth satisfies our greatest need which is to be reunited with God, the creator and sustainer of life. (Listen to the sermon based on this article.)