There is overwhelming evidence that Jesus Christ has had a marked influence in the history of our world. His existence has impacted our calendar, our culture, our judicial system, our social structures, our educational systems and our belief systems. No one individual has made such a mark on the story of humanity. So the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” is a question of great significance.
To discover facts concerning the life of an historical figure it is customary to research the historical documents that are most closely connected chronologically to the time period he/she lived. From the first century, the time of Jesus’ ministry, there is no shortage of writings about Him. The Bible, particularly the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, is a primary source of information about Him. But for those who question the Bible’s reliability we can look to ancient non-Christian sources to verify, no only Christ’s existence, but specific facts about His life. Ancient writers such as Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger, all first century writers, make direct reference to different aspects of His life. They reveal, for example, that He was a Jewish teacher, that He performed healings, that he was rejected by the Jewish leaders, that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate and that many believed in His return to life. The details in those writings relating to the life of Christ establish that the “biblical Jesus” and the “historical Jesus” are one and the same.
The Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the poetic and prophetic books, wrote of Christ’s coming centuries before His birth. Psalm 22, for instance, gives remarkable detail about His death: “. . . a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” Isaiah, the prophet, though pre-dating Christ by about seven centuries, writes such statements as, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” The prophet Micah gave the specific location of His birth: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
This is just a sampling of the predictions found throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. There are many other references to the One who was to come. On the strength of an abundance of such reliable, documented evidence about the Christ who lived over 2000 years ago we can study His story and look into His unique claims with confidence.
John the Baptist, the God-appointed forerunner of Christ, introduces Christ to his followers as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Implied in that statement was, not only His purpose, but the manner in which He would achieve that purpose. Up to that time the manner of dealing with sin was the biblical tradition of sacrificing a lamb so that its blood would act as a covering for the sins of the people. Christ, as the Lamb of God, would shed His blood so that all who would call on Him for forgiveness would be saved.
One day Jesus put the question to His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” One of the disciples, Peter, answered with these words: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” (Matthew 16: 13) Jesus immediately affirmed Peter’s response. On another occasion Jesus was speaking to a group of Jewish leaders to whom he made the claim, “Before Abraham was, I am.” This was a clear claim to deity. Yet another bold claim of Christ occurs in the Gospel of John, chapter 14 and verse 6, when He says “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
One of the most familiar quotations from the Bible is John 3:16 which says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus Christ came to be that One who would bring salvation to all who would believe.
During His time on earth Jesus demonstrated His divine attributes by what he claimed, how He taught, how He related to people, how He conducted Himself in the public arena and through the many miracles he performed. His final act of ultimate authority was the demonstration of His power over death, an event that is repeatedly documented in the gospels.
These assertive claims, pointing to His deity and His purpose in coming to earth, leave us with an obligation to give Him a hearing-to seek to understand the implications of those claims for us personally. In the booklet, Finding the Hope, here is how the life of Christ is summarized:
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born in the hay bin of a Bethlehem stable, ancient prophets wrote of His coming. They correctly predicted scores of things about him-things that came true without a single exception. Every prophecy converged in him. He was the perfect fulfillment of God’s promise. He was-and is-The Hope given to the people of the world.
For 30 years Jesus lived an obscure life in a place called Nazareth. Then, he left his village and for three years traveled through Palestine, communicating remarkable truths about God, performing supernatural acts, healing the sick with but a word or a touch. He never spoke an untrue word, never acted in malice, never rejected anyone who came to him. He was the long-promised Saviour. He was God.
Rejected by those he came to rescue, Jesus was betrayed, falsely accused, unjustly arrested and tried as a common criminal. The ones to whom he could give life condemned him to death. They beat him mercilessly and mocked his suffering. Then they nailed his hands and feet to a roughly hewn cross. With hateful intensity, they dropped that cross in the ground, hoisted it upward and celebrated their victory.
Jesus died that day and was buried in a rich men’s tomb-another detail predicted centuries beforehand. Three days later, his own prophetic words became reality when he came back to life and walked out of that cold crypt, exactly as he told his followers he would. “Destroy this temple,” he had said, referring to his physical body, “and in three days I will raise it up again. That is what Jesus told his followers and that is what he did.
Jesus is not a dead figure from ancient history. He is alive! He is there for anyone who turns to him and he offers the gift of eternal life to everyone who believes in him. He said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
What Others Have Said About Christ
We have cited Christ’s claims as found in the Scriptures. Here is a sampling of what others have said of Him throughout history:
- I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” – St Augustine
- The Lord ate from a common bowl, and asked the disciples to sit on the grass. He washed their feet, with a towel wrapped around His waist – He, who is the Lord of the universe!- Clement of Alexandria
- Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair. – Blaise Pascal
- I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.- Napoleon Bonaparte
- As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene….No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. – Albert Einstein
- Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – J. Sidlow Baxter
- C.S. Lewis, a popular British theologian, continues, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.
- Jesus Christ was an extremist for love, truth and goodness. – Martin Luther King Jr.
- We can persevere, through good times or bad, because we’re not alone. Jesus went through it too. He will never leave us, and will never set anything in our path we can’t handle. – Trot Nixon, MLB Player
- I think everybody realizes there is a Lord Jesus Christ. Whether they’re committed to Him or not, it’s gonna be important to them before they die to make that decision. We’re talking eternal life – we’re talking forever. – Randy Johnson, MLB Pitcher, 4-time Cy Young Award Winner
- I started to read the Bible and look into Jesus. Jesus claimed to be God, and He said He loved me and wanted to give me eternal life. After a two-year search, I became convinced He loved me and wanted me to get to know Him. – Paul Henderson, Former NHLer
- Belief in God is really the only thing that lasts. Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ. – Mike “Pinball” Clemons