Who is Jesus Christ?”

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.

Christ’s Claims

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
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
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

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A woman praying

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