Saviour? Swear word? Who did He say He was? And does it matter?
JUST ABOUT everyone's heard of Jesus. But that's no guarantee that they know much about Him. A primary school pupil recently heard the story of Jesus' birth for the first time. His question: "Why did they give the baby a swear word for a name?"
So just for the record, here are some Jesus facts.
He was a Middle-Eastern Jew, born about 2000 years ago at the time of the Roman Emperor Augustus.
Various Roman and Jewish historians of the day mention Him
The four main historical records of His life are today called the Gospels (meaning "good news").
Unlike many ancient books, there are a large number of very old copies of the Gospels, dating almost back to the time they were originally written. They are historically reliable.
Jesus made an astonishing claim. He claimed to be the Son of God (Mark 14:61-62), God Himself in human form come to save and rescue the human race, to bring them back to the God He called "Father".
This was all too much for the religious bosses who connived with the occupying Roman authorities to have Jesus arrested and killed. Jesus could have got Himself off the hook at any moment by renouncing His claim to be God, but He didn't. He was executed: nailed to a wooden cross - the Roman's grizzly way of dealing with criminals.
Bad, mad, God?
"No-one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word.” Albert Einstein, physicist
"2000 years ago one man got nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be if everyone was nice to each other for a change.” Douglas Adams, comic author
“Jesus Christ was an extremist for love, truth and goodness.” Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader
“A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” Mahatma Gandhi, political leader
What can we make of Jesus? Was he lying when He claimed to be God? If so, why did He die for a lie? (And can we really believe that such a great moral teacher could base His life and death lies?)
Was He barking mad, having delusions of grandeur on a cosmic scale? If He was, why are His wise sayings famous across the world?
Or was He who He said He was – God?
And there's more. Unlike most biographies, Jesus' life didn't end with His death. Three days later His terrified followers found that He had vanished from His tomb. At first this made them more terrified than ever, but then they met Jesus, back from the dead, shining with God-glory.
In the next six weeks more than 500 people saw Him on several occasions before He returned to heaven (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). The terrified little bunch of outlaws were transformed into the Christian Church and fearlessly announced that Jesus was exactly who He had said He was - the Son of God, risen from the dead. Many of them died for this testimony in the confidant belief that they too, like Jesus, would have a life beyond death.
Since then, two millennia have passed. Now, Jesus is the subject of more books, songs, poems, articles, films, (and so on and on) than any other person who has ever lived. And countless millions claim to have experienced life-changing encounters with Him.
He means everything to us. How about you?
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