In some respects the question is easy to answer. Jesus was a real historical figure who was born some time in the years 7 – 2 BC and died around the 26 – 36 AD mark. He was considered a teacher and healer and he was crucified on the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate on the charge of encouraging insurrection. These facts are accepted by historians as being true.
But that’s not the half of it. For this one man, Jesus, had a greater effect on human history than any other person, war, army or leader. His one short solitary life had an influence far beyond what could be considered normal. For in most cases when a man dies his followers fade away but with Jesus his death was just the start of it.
For Jesus never wrote a book, never composed a song, never owned a home, never got married, never held any official position, never went to university and never travelled more than about 200 miles from his place of birth.
We can go further, he was born to a peasant woman, trained as a carpenter until he was thirty and then he taught for only three years. By all accounts he humanly failed in his life’s task being crucified so soon after he started teaching. He was virtually unknown outside of Israel during his life. His exact date of birth is unknown. His only ever set foot in two countries.
And now, fast forward two thousand years and what do we see? Human history is divided, BC and AD, by his birth. Thousands of books have been written about him and the Bible (containing a biography of Jesus) is the best selling book worldwide. His name is one of the top Google searches with 845 million results generated. He has inspired paintings, poetry, plays, songs and films in their thousands. Purpose built satellites and radio networks beam his teaching across the globe. Thousands of universities, colleges and schools have been founded in his name. Jesus started off with just 12 followers and today it is estimated that 2.1 billion people believe that he was the Son of God. The current edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica has an entry for Jesus that is over 30,000 words long.
Again, we can go further. Despite only teaching in one country his teachings are proclaimed world wide to ever nation, tongue and people. Everyday Christians across the globe seek to spread the good news Jesus brought. Everyday people accept him as their Lord and Saviour. Last year it is estimated that 900,000 Chinese people became Christians, followers of Jesus. In the last year alone hundreds if not thousands of people have laid now their lives in his name.
Is it any wonder that H.G Wells once said that nobody could write a history of humanity without giving Jesus first and foremost place? You can well believe it when someone once wrote that “all the armies that have ever marched, all the navies ever built, all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the human race as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”
Such greatness coupled with such seeming failure begs the question: just who was this man? Who was Jesus?
The question is even more important considering the extravagant, insane, mind boggling incredible claims Jesus made.
“Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14 v 6
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, literally fully God and fully man. He came not just as a ‘good moral teacher’ but he asserted he came to save the world from their sins! Such bold claims need to be taken seriously. For when we look at the life of Jesus we see the life of a sane and sensible man, a man of humility and compassion. And yet he said in plain terms that he was Jesus Christ, God and man!
So then, it is my greatest pleasure to seek to answer these questions in my holiday series on the life, teachings and purpose of Jesus. So whether you're Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic or just ‘spiritual’ I encourage you to join with me as we investigate the single most influential force on human history.
For if what he said was true, if what he taught was right, if his claims had the merest scrap of truth in them then the question: who was Jesus? becomes more than just an idle curiosity it becomes the single most important question the world.