Dec 28 2015
Even if you’re not a believer its worth celebrating the birth of Jesus. Why? Well consider the following:
1) Jesus is the most influential person ever
Recently I was looking at a Time Magazine article called ‘The world’s 100 most significant people.’ The top five in the list read: (1) JESUS, (2) Napoleon, (3) Muhammad, (4) William Shakespeare, (5) Abraham Lincoln. Wikipedia has a similar list but swaps positions 3 and 4. A number of lists on the internet disagree on positions 2-5, but nearly every list puts Jesus in the first position. Why?
Firstly, Jesus has the world’s biggest following. One third of the world claims to be Christian. The second third is made up of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. The last third is made up of all small religions and the non-religious. But the followers of Christ even extend beyond the Christian third. Muslims consider him a prophet, and Hindus and Buddhists consider him a great teacher while Christians show no allegiance to the founders of these religions.
Secondly, Jesus has the world’s most popular book. The Bible outsells every book every year. The only reason it is not in best seller lists is because it makes no sense for a book that always wins to be there. And the reason the Bible sells so well is because of the New Testament and the accounts of Jesus. When Old and New Testaments are sold separately, the New Testament always outsells the Old.
Thirdly, Jesus’ teachings are foundational to western thinking. The west’s legal and educational systems are heavily influenced by the things that he said and did. Yes, its true that large portions of Europe are now secular but many of their most treasured values are Christian. It’s easy for a European to say he is non-religious, but’s its almost impossible for him to reject the teachings of Christ. Which leads me to my next claim.
2) Jesus is the most quoted person ever
Believers and unbelievers around the world quote Jesus on a daily basis. Think of it; if two communities are fighting someone will say, ‘hey, you are supposed to love your neighbour as yourself’ If someone feels wrongly accused they say ‘Hey, don’t judge or you’ll be judged.’ If a child speaks the hidden truth they say ‘Ah, out of the mouth of babes.’ And how often do we say ‘seek and you shall find’, ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’, ‘give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’, ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘no man can have two masters’, ‘what God has joined together let man not separate’, or ‘its like separating the sheep from the goats’, or ‘like moving mountains’?
Is this important? Does the fact that we all quote a specific person so often mean anything? Yes, the words we speak have a way of shaping our thinking. The more we speak the words of Jesus the more we see life the way he saw it, and most would say he had a pretty good understanding of things. But here is another interesting thing about Jesus …
3) Jesus was and is the most expected person ever
For centuries the Jews expected the coming of the Messiah and now right around the world Christians and Muslims are expecting the second coming of Jesus.
The predictions of the first coming of the Messiah are all over the Old Testament. Jesus said ‘Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’ (Luke 24: 44). If you think of it, he is the only person in history to have an entire book written about him before his birth!
Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament. Many of these prophecies are profoundly detailed. Think of the fact that ‘The virgin will be with child’, that he would be born in Bethelhem, ride into Jerusalem on the ‘foal of a donkey’, be betrayed for ’30 pieces of silver’, be ‘pierced for our transgressions’, and have ‘lots cast for his clothing.’ How many people have all had those things happen to them? And that’s just six of the 300!
Even if you are not a believer you have to admit that such a high degree of detailed prediction is somewhat mind blowing. In fact many people are so amazed at how accurate the prophecies are that they suspect that either the Old Testament has been altered to fit the life of Jesus or Jesus must have purposely gone around trying to fulfill all the prophecies. However, we can prove that neither of these things happened. We have copies of the Old Testament (The Dead Sea scrolls) predating the times of Jesus which show that the Old Testament he was using is exactly the same as the one we have today. No one has tampered with it. Secondly it would have been impossible for Jesus to try to purposely fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament without supernatural intervention. Think of it; if a prophecy says you must be born in Bethlehem and you were not, its too late to change that. And how do you control how your persecutors will kill you? How can you be sure you’ll be pierced? Neither text tampering nor contrived fulfillment is not an option here.
Should we make a big issue of someone who fulfilled over 300 prophecies? I think so, but I will let you decide. Yet there is one more point to consider…
4) Jesus is the most miraculous person ever
His miracles are well known. He turned water into wine, he walked on water, he fed 5000 people with 5 loaves, he healed leprosy, blindness, lameness, and raised people from the dead. But I would like to focus on his most impacting miracle; a miracle that continues to transform lives to this very day….
Jesus’ resurrection is the most impacting and documented miracle of all time. Just try disproving the resurrection! Many have tried and failed. Take Frank Morison for example. As a journalist he set out to write a book disproving the resurrection. As he sifted the evidence supporting the resurrection he found it so overwhelming that he ended up writing a book called ‘Who Moved the Stone’ that declared the resurrection to be true. He is not the only one that this has happened to.
After Jesus resurrected from the dead he was seen by over 500 people on eleven occasions in a period of 40 days. In that time people touched him, ate with him, talked with him, and listened to his teachings. The resurrection of Jesus transformed his disciples from ordinary fishermen into passionate preachers and willing martyrs. This convinced group changed the religion of the Roman empire and eventually all of Europe. Such a transformation in his disciples would be unexplainable if they had not seen the resurrected Christ.
Now if you are an unbeliever you have to admit that it does seem somewhat strange that one man just happens to be the most influential, most quoted, most expected and most miraculous person of all time. Surely you have to wonder if Jesus was not kind of special in some way. So its worth, enquiring what Jesus said about himself.
What Jesus said about himself
Many people think Jesus was a great moral teacher or a great prophet. But he said things about himself that a great moral teacher or prophet would never say. He said “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father (God),” he said “I and the Father are one (thing),” he said “I am the truth and the life” (not ‘this is the truth’ and ‘this is the life’), he said “I am the resurrection,” he said “He who believes in me will never die,” he said “Before Abraham was born, I am (claiming to have existed eternally),” he said he would return to judge the world and that people would be judged based on what they believed about him.
In a nutshell, Jesus claimed to be God incarnate. But this is not what a good moral teacher or prophet would do. A madman would do it, a deceiver would do it, and God incarnate would do it. But these are our only viable choices. Either Jesus was God, or a madman, or a deceiver. But is it likely that the most influential and most quoted man in history was a madman or a deceiver? No, its more likely that Jesus was what he claimed: God incarnate; the Word become flesh.
What do you believe about the man you celebrate at Christmas? Was he mad, a deceiver, or God? If you have not decided, I dare you to do so. Christmas should not be a practice of a blind tradition, it should be the celebration of an extraordinary person. The most influential, most quoted, most expected, and most miraculous person ever.
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