What Do You Think?
Who do you think Jesus is?
Maybe you’ve never really given it much thought. In a way, that’s entirely understandable. After all, we’re talking about a man who was born in the first century into an obscure Jewish carpenter’s family. He never held any political office, never ruled any nation, never commanded any armies. He never even met a Roman emperor. Instead, for three-and-a-half years this man Jesus simply taught people about ethics and spirituality, he read and explained the Jewish Scriptures to Jewish people, and if the eyewitness accounts of his life are to be believed at all, he also did some pretty out-of-the-ordinary things.
But then again, Jesus also ran bitterly afoul of the authorities of his day, and not long after he started his public ministry, he wound up being executed on a cross by one of Rome’s many provincial governors—a kind of imperial middle manager for “the people who had the real power.
On top of that, all this happened some two thousand years ago. So why are we still talking about him? Why is this man Jesus so . . . inescapable?
Give Jesus a Chance
Regardless of what you personally think about him, surely we can agree that Jesus is a towering figure in the history of the world. One respected historian put Jesus’s influence like this: “If it were possible, with some sort of super-magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?” That’s a good question, and the answer is probably, “Not much!”
“But it’s not just that Jesus is inescapable in some distant, historical kind of way. He’s also inescapable in a much closer way than that. Think about it: You probably have at least one or two acquaintances who would say that they are Christians. Maybe they even go to church regularly and sing songs about—or even to—Jesus. If you press them on it, they might even say that they have a relationship with him, and that their lives in one way or another are organized around him.
Not only that, but your city is likely dotted with “church buildings of various kinds. Some of those buildings probably have thriving communities of Christians who gather in them on Sundays. Others probably aren’t even churches at all anymore. But the point is that everywhere you look, if you’re paying attention, you’ll see reminders of this one particular man who lived about two millennia ago. And all of it presses the question on us: who is he?
It’s not an easy question to answer, mainly because we haven’t managed to come to any society-wide consensus about who Jesus really was . . . or is. True, very few people doubt his existence anymore. The basic facts of his life—where and when he lived, how he died—are all pretty well agreed upon. But there’s still massive disagreement, even among people who call themselves Christians, about the significance of his life and death. Was he a prophet? A teacher? Something entirely different? Was he the Son of God, or just an unusually gifted man? And for that matter, who did he think he was? His death at the hands of the Romans—was that part of the plan all along, or did he just get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time? And then there’s the biggest question of all: After he was executed, did Jesus stay dead like the rest of us do, or did he . . . not?
For all the disagreement, though, everyone seems to agree on one thing: Jesus was an extraordinary person. He did things and said things that ordinary people simply don’t do and say. Even more, the things Jesus said weren’t just witty proverbs or ethical gems. They weren’t pieces of advice on how to live better in the world. No, Jesus said things like, “I and the Father [by which he meant God] are one,” and, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” And, maybe most shocking of all, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
You see what I mean? Ordinary people don’t say those sorts of things! God and I are one? No one comes to God except by me? Those aren’t ethical teachings that you can decide to incorporate into your life or not. They are claims. They are Jesus saying what he thinks is the truth.
Now of course you may not accept what he says. You may reject it outright. But think about it: Wouldn’t it make sense not to do that too quickly? Wouldn’t it make sense to get to know this man a bit before you completely toss off what he says about you? Let me be bold and make a request: Give Jesus a chance. It may be that as you learn more about him, you’ll realize that there are actually some very good reasons for believing what he said—about himself, about God, and about you.
The Most Important Question You’ll Ever Consider
So, who is Jesus? That’s always been the question. From the moment the shepherds showed up claiming that angels had told them about his birth, to the day he astonished the disciples by calming the sea, to the moment the sun itself stopped shining on the day that he died, everyone was always left asking, “Who is this man?”
Maybe you don’t know much about Jesus at all. Maybe you already know quite a bit about Jesus. Either way, I hope that as you explore his life, you’ll begin to get to know Jesus better—not so much as an academic subject or a religious figure, but as the man the earliest Christians knew personally and as a friend. I hope you’ll see what amazed them about him, and I hope you’ll come away understanding better why millions say, “That is the man I’m trusting with my eternity.”
Beyond that, I also hope you take Jesus’s claims seriously. When someone claims to be your God, you really only have two choices, right? You can reject the claim or you can accept it. What you can’t do, at least for very long, is suspend judgment and just see how it plays out.
Jesus claimed some amazing things about himself, and also about you. Like it or not, that has radical implications for your life. So I hope you think hard about Jesus, understand his claims and their implications more clearly, and come to a firm answer to the question, who is Jesus?
Really, it’s the most important question you’ll ever consider.