Summary: Questions and answers to the possibilities of who Jesus was.
This is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning celebration of Christ’s first coming and the anticipation of Christ’s second coming. We will break from our monthly message series to help us prepare for Christmas in a meaningful way. This is a tough task. I’m competing with the millions of dollars that are spent to commercialize Christmas.
Since Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, we will look at who Jesus was, why Jesus came, what Jesus left behind and what difference Jesus makes in our lives. In C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, he writes about a place “where it is always winter, and never Christmas.” The difference between celebrating winter and celebrating Christmas begins with knowing who Jesus was. So this morning, we’re going to look at who was Jesus?
A couple of weeks ago, during the break at the Bible study training session, one participant commented that even she received answers to questions she had about God, doubts still return. I can identify with that. As someone has said, “Doubts are the evidences of belief. Those who don’t believe don’t ever doubt.”
Earlier this week, I spent a few minutes before falling asleep asking myself what I believed about Jesus. I questioned whether I really did my homework and came to a rational conclusion that Jesus was the Son of God, who came to die on the cross for the forgiveness of mankind’s sins. Or did the Christian church manage to gradually brainwash me over the last 15 years?
So this week, I did some pondering, some research and some reading to sort through the question, “Who Was Jesus?” To answer the question, I asked three other questions. These questions are not original with me. Many people have asked these questions, and their findings have led them to the same conclusion about Jesus. Let me share with you what I found.
My first question was, “Was Jesus a created man?”
In other words, did someone create a character and named him “Jesus”? Did Jesus really exist at one time? Or was Jesus a character out of mythical writings like the Arabian Nights or the Monkey King?
Over the last two thousand years, Jesus appeared to have been recreated by the people to fit into a particular time and culture. I’ve seen pictures of Caucasian Jesus, of African Jesus, even of Asian Jesus. I’ve seen pictures of Jesus in tears and in laughter. We don’t see other historical characters, such as George Washington, being recreated this way. How can we be sure that Jesus really lived, and was not a figment of imagination?
Well, the one source most people point to is the Bible to testify to the existence of Jesus Christ. After all, the Bible is a credible book. Unlike the Book of Mormon, which contains people and locations that cannot be verified, the Bible contains characters, geographical locations and historical events which all can be verified.
There are also non-biblical testimonies. Tacitus of Rome, Suetonius, Pliny the Young, and at least a dozen other non-Christian historians referred to Jesus as an actual, historical person. Even the mostly highly respected Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote about Jesus being a wise man and a wonder worker (Skeptics Answered by D. James Kennedy).
Tacitus, one of the most famous Roman historian included the following accounts: “Christ, the founder of the Christian sect, was put to death as a malefactor by Pontius Pilate…. Christianity began in Judea and spread in spite of Christ’s ignominious death (p. 74, Skeptics Answered by D. James Kennedy).”
Jesus did live. The existence of Jesus Christ is not hard to prove. There is an abundance of historical evidence. But who was he?
The second question I asked was, “Was Jesus a con man?”
Someone wrote about Jesus with these words, “All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.”
As I thought about His great influence, I wondered if he was simply a charismatic conman. His life was so convincing that eleven of his twelve disciples willingly suffered death and exile to follow Jesus. And almost two thousand years later, Jesus holds the allegiance of one third of the people living today.
The hypothesis that Jesus was a conman doesn’t make sense. What conman would purposely get himself crucified? Con men deceive others for personal gain. Con men are hypocrites. Yet, all that Jesus taught and all that his life represented was self-sacrifice. Throughout his life and even on the cross, he lived his own teaching of love for others.
Napoleon Bonaparte once wrote, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded great empires; but upon what did the creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him.”