Have you ever asked yourself “Who is Jesus?”, and not just in passing or in general but with the intent of really determining what it is you believe about him one way or another?
If you’re a Christian reading this article then I can only assume that you have and that you have come to the same conclusion about him that I have. If you’re not a Christian on the other hand, perhaps you have genuinely asked the question and you came away with a different answer, that’s fine too. However, if by chance you either have never asked yourself this question or have come to a conclusion without really looking deeply into it I want to take this time to encourage you to look again.
Now you might say, it doesn’t matter it has no real effect on me, and I can understand why you might think that. The thing is if Jesus was who he said he was, then asking yourself “Who is Jesus?”, is one of the most important things you can do, it is a question that not only matters, but it is something that can have the greatest impact on your life.
Over the years I have heard a number of reasons why people don’t bother to consider this question. Some of the most common is that; it doesn’t affect me, all religions are the same, Jesus was just a cool guy whose message was taken way out of proportion he taught some nice things but that’s all he was, a good teacher. Some people even say he didn’t exist, he was just a myth so thinking about him is pointless. Now obviously I can’t go into too much detail for the sake of keeping this article short, and to be honest it’s not my goal to try and convince you with all the evidence either. What I do hope to do is give you enough information to maybe encourage you to ask yourself ‘Who is Jesus?” and (possibly more importantly) “why it does matter?”
So, was Jesus a real person? While it’s very easy to understand how in today’s secular age people might think all the miracles and events (not least the resurrection) that occur in the New Testament gospels are works of fiction or myth, there is plenty of evidence for Jesus being a real person. So much so that leaving the resurrection aside (we’ll address that in its own article) there are very few, and I really mean few, scholars and historians both ancient and modern who disagree with a historical Jesus. There are references to Jesus in the writings of Jewish historian Josephus and his Roman contemporary Tacitus. Neither of these men talk about Jesus in a positive sense so it’s unlikely that he is mentioned in their writings to help promote Christianity, or that Jesus is only mentioned here as the result of some kind of Christian forgery. Many modern historians actually agree that two of the events depicted in the gospels are historical fact, these being the baptism of Jesus and his crucifixion. I’d encourage you not to take my word for it and to do some more research on the historical Jesus, even with just a simple google I’m sure you’ll see there is quite a bit of evidence for Jesus being a real person who lived 2000 years ago.
So cool, Jesus was a real person, but that doesn’t mean I have to believe in Him, right? Well before we can really answer that, now that we’ve established there is strong historical evidence that Jesus actually lived, we need to ask ourselves “Who was Jesus?” and perhaps the best way we can do that is to have a look at what Jesus said about himself. Many people who agree that Jesus existed but dispute the importance of believing in him, like to say that he is a good moral teacher like many others before and after him. However, Jesus himself never claimed to be a ‘moral teacher’, in fact, He made a number of claims that are entirely unique to him and his ministry.
One of the most common things you may have heard was that Jesus is called the Son of God. How did he get this title? It’s what he called himself. (Matt 11:27) There are also numerous times that Jesus makes the claim that he and God are one person, thereby making the claim that not only is he the Son of God, but that he is God. (Matt 14) To top that off, the gospels make it clear that Jesus was tried before the Jewish priesthood and the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (which Tacitus mentions specifically in his writings) on charges of blasphemy and inciting rebellion against Rome, this was the reason for his crucifixion.
Now if Jesus claimed to be God, the Son of God and the Messiah, surely some of his other claims have to be important? Well in the Gospel of John, as Jesus is sitting with his disciples at the last supper He makes a claim that really sets not only Him but Christianity apart from every other religion or worldview. In John 14:6 Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life, nobody can come to the Father except by me.” In this single sentence, Jesus is saying that not only is his message true, but that he is the only way anyone can get to God, and along with many other new testament writings, forms the basis for the Christian claim that salvation is found in no other person than Jesus, that believing in his death and resurrection and accepting Him as saviour and Lord, we can be restored to relationship with the Father.
So, with all that said we’re now left with one final and very important question, why does any of this matter? When I have spoken to people about my faith this is probably the question that I get asked most often because as far as I can tell, people really don’t think it matters at all. I can’t speak to the exact reason why people despite finding it easy to believe Jesus was a real person are apathetic towards the importance of the claims Christianity makes about Him. Perhaps it’s because they don’t really know the historical evidence for Christ, or don’t know the exact claims surrounding Him. Maybe the church hasn’t done a good job of sharing Jesus and our faith so people are put off by our actions. Whatever the reason, the gospel accounts are clear that Jesus asked for people to follow Him, meaning that with all he said about himself He was giving an invitation that requires from us a response.
Now again I encourage you not to take my word for it, but to look for the evidence yourself, because if we take all of this into account and assume Jesus was real, was who He said He was and did, in fact, rise from the dead, then there is a claim that Christianity makes that must be explored, because if true it has eternal, life and world-changing consequences. What’s more, Jesus asked people to follow Him, inviting all of us to respond to his message, to accept Him or not to. In this case, it is so important for us to actively try and respond because a quick poorly formed response or even apathy towards these claims is just as good as a well informed No.
If there is a personal encouragement for me to leave you with, it’s this. Asking myself these questions about who Jesus is has been truly life changing for me and many other people I know. The reality of God in my life has been so profound that I could barely begin to describe all He has done for me in this small article without turning it into a novel. There has been such a great amount of real and tangible evidence to convince me of the nature and person of Christ that now for me His existence is really unquestionable. Above all that, the God I believe in is so so amazing that he would die in our place just so we could spend eternity with Him. I know Christians in the past and still in the present haven’t always displayed God’s love so well, but finding answers to these questions is so important, and they are out there.
If you’d just take the time to genuinely search for them your life will change and trust me, you won’t regret it!