Without question Jesus Christ was the most extraordinary, most influential and most revolutionary individual ever to walk across the stage of human history. More books have been written about Jesus than any other figure of the past. More music has been composed about Jesus than any other.
There is no leader in history that is even considered in the same breath as Jesus – not Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar or George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Napoleon or Ghandi. There is something about Jesus Christ that sets him apart from everyone else.
During a 1999 debate featuring Republican presidential candidates, George W. Bush was asked what political philosopher or thinker had influenced him most. His answer was Jesus Christ.
Talk-show host Larry King was once asked whom he would interview if he could choose one person from across human history. King said he would like to interview Jesus Christ.
Unlike all leaders of the past, Jesus remains as much, if not more, of a focus of our interest and influence in our society as contemporary leaders.
A television game show called “To Tell the Truth” that originated in the 1950s featured contestants who were asked to identify which of three people actually were whom they claimed to be. One would be the real person, while the other two were imposters. At the end, the real person would stand up and reveal himself or herself.
Imagine if there were three guests on “To Tell the Truth” who claimed to be Jesus Christ, and you were trying to determine who was telling the truth. The first contestant stands up and says, “I am Jesus.” Maybe he looks like all the depictions we see of Jesus and has a benign half-smile. He makes no demands. He requires nothing. You look at this Jesus and think, This Jesus could work in my life. Hopefully he will be there when I need him. At the same time, I hope that he will live the way that I really want to live. Is this the real Jesus?
Then another person stands up, and he, too, says, “I am Jesus.” In contrast to the first one, this Jesus seems unapproachable, as though he were surrounded by stained glass. He seems austere, cold, distant and disinterested. His demands seem impossible. A relationship with him seems implausible at best. Is this the real Jesus?
Finally a third “Jesus” stands up. He also says, “I am Jesus.” But this one does not fit your stereotype. He appears strong and masculine, yet there is a great tenderness about him and even a smile on his face. As you look closer, you notice something else. He seems pure, even holy. It seems as though he is seeing right through you. Is this the real Jesus?
Which one would you choose: the feel-good Jesus that requires nothing and, for all practical purposes, will do nothing; the religious Jesus of stained glass who seems unapproachable and unknowable; or the real Jesus?
Sometimes we want to make up our own version of Jesus, like the little boy who was trying to draw a picture of God.
His father said, “You can’t draw a picture of God. No one knows what God looks like.”
Undeterred, the little boy answered, “They will when I am done.”
Some of us are like that. We are drawing our own picture of Jesus. This is how I think Jesus is …
When I was a little boy, I went to a movie called “Ben-Hur,” the story of a Jewish prince named Judah Ben-Hur. He and a man known as Messala had been friends since his childhood. But when Messala began to serve Rome, a rift developed with Judah Ben-Hur. One day, Messala had Ben-Hur falsely charged with a crime, and Ben-Hur was sent off into exile to live as a slave. Ben-Hur was losing all hope of living, and in one of the first scenes of the movie, he encounters Jesus.
As a young boy, I was moved by this scene because I thought it would be great to know someone like Jesus. I found myself thinking, I wish that I could have known that Jesus. But I didn’t like the way they wrote his story. I thought, Why did they have him go and get crucified? It doesn’t make any sense.
A little while later, someone told me about the real, living Jesus – not just the historical figure or the cinematic Jesus, but the living Savior. And the fact is that Jesus Christ can be known today. We cannot passively stand back and simply say that Jesus was a good man and a great moral example. Jesus made radical claims and statements about himself.
And if Jesus was not who he claimed to be, if he was not the Son of God, then the disciples wouldn’t have stuck with him to the very end. Most certainly they would not have given their lives for him. When someone is on his deathbed, he will usually come clean. He wants to clear his conscience. Yet to the end, every one of these followers of Jesus said that he was the Son of God. They could not deny what they knew was true.
C. S. Lewis said, “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 for a demon; or, you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
We all must decide. We all must make our choice.