HAVE YOU WONDERED?: Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
In my last several articles, I have been exploring the following questions:
If God came down to Earth in the form of a human being, what would we expect this person to be like?
Did Jesus of Nazareth display the qualities and characteristics we would expect if he were really God?
Thus far we have discussed the fact that Jesus was completely without sin and his life has always been regarded as the purest in human history.
We have also seen that Jesus’ miracles demonstrated that he possessed power over nature, evil, demons, sickness, disease and even death.
In this article, I would like to address the following:
If God became a human we would expect this person to have a great and lasting influence on history.
The early historical documentation we have about Jesus is very impressive when compared to other important historical figures of the same time period. For example, within the first 150 years after Jesus’ death, we have existing evidence of more than 40 writers, including nine non-Christian sources, commenting on the life of Jesus. Compare this with the historical documentation we have about Tiberius Caesar, who was the Roman emperor during the time of Jesus. We only have 10 existing historical sources that mention Tiberius that date back to the first 150 years of his death. In other words, we have four times the amount of early historical documentation about Jesus than we do for the Roman emperor of that time period.
When Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) was exiled to the island of St. Helena, he expressed these thoughts about the historical impact of Jesus of Nazareth:
“I know men and I can 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 creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love: and at this hour, millions of men and women would die for him.”
The positive influence and impact Jesus has had on human history is immeasurable and undeniable. His life literally split history into two halves, as people all around the world measure the date on their calendars from the time of his birth. The fact of the matter is that Jesus has been the most influential, famous and important person in history for more than 20 centuries. Today, some 2,000 years after his life on earth, he is the center of the largest religion in the world. The church that he founded has become the largest institution in the history of the world. More than 2 billion people living on Earth today call themselves his followers. He is looked upon as a prophet or an “enlightened one” by nearly every major world religion. One unknown writer summarized Jesus’ life with these words:
“Born in an obscure village, he was the child of a peasant woman. Growing up in another out of the way and disdained village, he worked in a carpenter shop until he was about 30. Then for three years, he was a preacher who both talked and listened. He helped people whenever he could. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never went to college. He never had a family of his own or owned a home. He never traveled over 200 miles from the place where he was born. He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness and had no credentials but himself. While he was still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through a mockery of a trial, after which he was executed along with two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property he owned. Only because a generous friend offered his own cemetery plot was there a place for him to be buried.
"Two thousand years have now come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. The leader of the column of spiritual progress. The ultimate example of love. It is no exaggeration to say that all the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the kings who have ever reigned, all the congresses that have ever convened, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this Earth as that one solitary life.”
Russ Whitten is minister of Destin Church of Christ. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is an excerpt from his book, “Have You Ever Wondered? available on www.amazon.com.