On the Uniqueness of Jesus

Quoting Bill Bright’s Who is Jesus? article, “many people do not believe the Bible, yet it miraculously foretells hundreds of events, sometimes in minute detail, and usually hundreds – sometimes thousands – of years ahead. Some prophecies concern cities and countries, such as Tyre, Jericho, Samaria, Jerusalem, Palestine, Moab, and Babylon. Others relate to specific individuals. Many have already been fulfilled, but some are still in the future.

Jesus Christ is the subject of more than 300 Old Testament prophecies. His birth nearly 2,000 years ago, and events of His life had been foretold by many prophets during a period of 1,500 years. History confirms that even the smallest detail happened just as predicted.”

The following chart lists some of the amazing predictions concerning Jesus Christ, together with the record of their fulfillment:


His Birth
Old Testament Prophecy: Isaiah 7:14
Fullfillment in Jesus: Matthew 1:18,22,23

His Birthplace
Old Testament Prophecy: Micah 5:2
Fullfillment in Jesus: Luke 2:4,6,7

His Childhood in Egypt
Old Testament Prophecy: Hosea 11:1
Fullfillment in Jesus: Matthew 2:14-15

The Purpose for His Death
Old Testament Prophecy: Isaiah 53:4-6
Fullfillment in Jesus: 1 Corinthians 15:21; 1 Peter 2:24

His Betrayal
Old Testament Prophecy: Zechariah 11:12-13; 13:6
Fullfillment in Jesus: Matthew 26:14-16; 27:3-10

His Crucifixion
Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 22
Fullfillment in Jesus: Matthew 27

His Resurrection
Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 16:9-10
Fullfillment in Jesus: Acts 2:31

More here and here.

You would expect nothing less from a person who claimed to be God, and who actually interacted with history. A quick sample of the biggest religions in history shows that Jesus is the only one who claimed to be God himself. The rest either claimed to be representatives of a “way” or god or group of gods. And none of those other religions had prophecies like the ones Jesus had by a large margin.

God amond sages Kenneth Richard

Teri Dugan states articulately in his post Defending Your Faith 101: Christianity’s Exclusive Claims:

“Christianity is exclusive among all others because Jesus is the only one who came to solve the problem of human suffering and sin, and only He brought hope for the future.

  • Jesus is the only one who claimed to be the Son of God and proved it through his ministry, miracles and resurrection
  • Jesus is the only one who fulfilled all of the prophecies given hundreds of years before his time
  • Jesus is the only one who brought not just mercy (forgiveness of debt), but grace (a gift of eternal life)
  • Jesus is the only one who said it is done so that we do not have to do anything to earn salvation and entrance into Heaven

Christianity is inclusive because all are welcomed into the family of God through His Son Jesus and there is nothing we can do to earn it. Jesus said to the thief on the cross: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The thief did not have time to do anything except to cry out (with a sincere heart) to be taken into His Kingdom.”

Furthermore, Christianity is the only religion whose adherents would dare to tell people it’s own self-destruct button. Paul states emphatically, that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Cor 15:14). The gospel that the early disciples were spreading were not sermons of virtue, but that they were witnesses of Christ’s death and resurrection that proved Christ as divine. Which fake prophet would dare to base his authenticity on a historical event that can be verified? Most other “prophets” claim special knowledge from heaven that you either accept or don’t. Today, Christianity provides the most historical investigation into this event.

Many people (including myself 20 years ago) do not realize that there is a concensus by the majority of historians, skeptical and Christian in the following historical facts:

Taken from the article Minimal Facts on the Resurrection that Even Skeptics Accept by Gary Habermas:

So why do even critical scholars admit or allow these individual historical facts? The answer is that each one is virtually undeniable. Most of the half-dozen Minimal Facts typically used are confirmed by ten or more historical considerations each. That is simply an amazing foundation, especially for events that occurred in the First Century AD!…

The half-dozen facts we usually use are these: 1) that Jesus died by crucifixion; 2) that very soon afterwards, his followers had real experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus; 3) that their lives were transformed as a result, even to the point of being willing to die specifically for their faith in the resurrection message; 4) that these things were taught very early, soon after the crucifixion; 5) that James, Jesus’ unbelieving brother, became a Christian due to his own experience that he thought was the resurrected Christ; and 6) that the Christian persecutor Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) also became a believer after a similar experience.

One “secret” not readily known is that these skeptical scholars are quite willing to cite New Testament texts in order to buttress the historical nature of these six events. While not believing that these passages are inspired or even generally reliable, they still employ the individual texts that meet their standards of evidence. It is largely from these passages, plus occasionally from extra-New Testament writings, that they find plenty of data to accept these half-dozen events.

For myself, the other naturalistic explanations made little sense. How could the disciples have stolen the body when they were weak, frightened and the tomb had a large boulder with a Roman guard posted on it. The Roman guard was a sixteen-man unit that was governed by very strict rules. Rome would have executed the guard for failing, and even the disciples for their attempt that would cause political unrest. Why would disciples who were initially understandably despondent and frightened all of a sudden all be willing to boldly preach to the death?

Fulfillment of prophecy and having the most historical evidence of the empty tomb aside, the person of Jesus is simply so remarkable that you simply cannot make Him up.

Jesus is also not like other any gods. No one on earth dared to claim themselves as God, Jesus did. None of the other gods loved you enough to die for you. Jesus died for your sins and says that no human method can get you in right standing with the one creator of the universe – God. And the Grace He brings is so much more.

The Gospel calls on you to see Grace as a person. That Person is Christ Jesus. Other religions try to lionize their god and make him powerful, fearful to be worshipped. Some try to make you sacrifice things, money, blood, effort, even humans to get some sort of favor. But Jesus said He came on earth, “to serve and not to be served.” Jesus had the harshest words for the Pharisees who appears to be picture perfect in their conduct but gave forgiveness and grace, to those you wouldn’t want to allow your sons and daughters to hang around with – prostitutes and dishonest tax collectors. Then He allows himself to die a gruesome death on the cross, with all his followers watching in shock, only to rise up from the grave 3 days later? He was equal with God and had the power to destroy his enemies, yet he loved his lowly creation enough to allow himself to die to pay the penalty for our sins. He chose to suffer and die, no one forced him. What sort of God is this? He hinted at His heavenly might, but died as a suffering servant. This God was as “ridiculous” as the senseless suffering I was enduring. None of the myths or other gods I was accustomed with even come close to this.

As I got acquainted with other forms of religions, I remarked to myself how I could have “made up” those gods myself. To me, they were predictable creations of a human imagination framed by our sinful nature. The gods were either too powerful and distant or had too many flaws and desires that humans had.

Not only that, but how exactly did Christianity beat out all the official Roman religions that were strongly integrated into the state and politics as well as the outside religions like Zoroastrianism that had far more supporters at the time?

In his book The Triumph of Christianity, Rodney Stark summarizes the major religions that would have easily crowded out any burgeoning new religion due to politically supported religions by a government that was persecuting Christians, and their pandering to the status quo and our carnal desires.

“ON CHRISTMAS EVE, ALMOST EVERYWHERE on earth the gods were thought to be many and undependable. Aside from having some magical powers, and perhaps the gift of immortality, the gods had normal human concerns and shortcomings. They ate, drank, loved, envied, fornicated, cheated, lied, and otherwise set morally “unedifying examples.” They took offense if humans failed to properly propitiate them, but otherwise took little interest in human affairs. The Jews in the West and the Zoroastrians in the East rejected these ideas about the gods, opting instead for a morally demanding monotheism. But aside from these two marginal faiths, it was a pagan world… And what of the gods? For all their faults they were very appealing because they were so human! Compared with the distant, mysterious, awesome, demanding, and difficult to comprehend God presented by monotheists, people often seemed more comfortable with gods that were less awe-inspiring and more human, less demanding and more permissive—gods who were easily propitiated with sacrifices. These preferences help explain the very frequent “backsliding” from monotheism and into “idolatry” that took place repeatedly in both ancient Israel and Persia. There is something reassuring and attractive about nearby, tangible, very “human” gods.”  – Stark, Rodney. The Triumph of Christianity (p. 9). HarperOne. Kindle Edition. 

Stark continues to talk about how the Roman religions were integrated into the state and politics in real ways:

THE ROMANS WERE FAR more religious than the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, or other pagans of their era. “Every public act began with a religious ceremony, just as the agenda of every meeting of the senate was headed by religious business.” Nothing of any significance was done in Rome without the performance of the proper rituals. The senate did not meet, armies did not march, and decisions, both major and minor, were postponed if the signs and portents were not favorable. -Stark, Rodney. The Triumph of Christianity (pp. 12-13). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

How would the tiny cult of Christianity that featured a leader that was labeled a criminal who died a scandalous death whose original disciples were not from the political elite compete in a mature system of organized religions? If it were monotheism with morals that the people under the Roman Empire were secretly longing for, why didn’t Zoroastrianism which was much larger at the time be the one that made it out? Perhaps the “rumors” are true, that if something is from God, it cannot be stopped. That the originator of the faith wasn’t a man, he was more than a man. Perhaps the empty tomb that is agreed on by virtually all historians is the smoking gun to a resurrected Christ.

Perhaps the reason why Christianity beat out politically favored religions, religions with longer histories, and even persecutions against the nascent “cult” of Christianity is because of a historical truth that no one could deny – that Christ had risen again proving that He was God among the many counterfeits around? It is the most likely evidence if one is an honest student of history. Disciples who knew the truth about Jesus was willing to go to their graves to share this truth. If they made up the story about Christ’s divinity, you wouldn’t see ALL of them be willing to lose everything for it. The “cult” of Christianity had no statistical reason to succeed. It was too small, too persecuted, too crowded by politically and historically favored religions, initially promoted by people who were the least in society, with no army or political clout.

 

Other religious prophets’ teachings were either inconsistent, incongruent with history or made divine laws that only seem to benefit themselves. (Examples here and here.) I remembered my reaction as I was understanding who Jesus was … it was … this is so counterintuitive that I could never have made him up.

Other religious leaders set themselves up for fame or leadership. Jesus set Himself up to… die? Other leaders want to be served, but Jesus came “to serve and not to be served”? (Mattew 20:28).

A man who first audaciously claimed He was God then audaciously contrary to human nature claimed He came to serve and not to be served?

If I were a God, deep inside I imagine that I would want others to recognize me, admire me, love me and worship me. This is human nature. Even when we are not God, we fight for these things. We want recognition from loved others and society. We live for the applause, Lady Gaga might say. This is one of the reasons how Christianity distinguishes itself from other religions or worldviews. The Creator of the universe did create creation solely so that creation would worship Him, He created creation so that He could serve it, love it, and so win over creation through grace and not through force or power.

Jesus was a beautiful superposition of characteristics that you don’t find together based on worldly experience. I found that when He is tough, he doesn’t hurt his children when He is kind, He is not soft like Sesame Street; He forgives the adulterer, absorbing the judgment and vitriol of the mob and then charges her to sin no more. He is steel and velvet; Jesus can make human authorities like Pontius Pilate shudder inside of Pilate’s own courts even when Jesus was already beaten to a pulp. He is a Servant and King; He willingly died for the sins of people who were unworthy, even when He commanded the winds, the waves, and the heavenly angels and could easily defeat the Roman army.

I realized that He was everything inside of me that I needed I could be but could never be. Then I realized that Him making me feel this way is what the Bible means when it says that Christ is not only “lovely” but “altogether lovely.”

He is altogether lovely. (Song of Solomon 5:16)

I find him impossibly lovely, or lovely in that in Him holds together what seems impossible to man.

Louise T. Coleman describes the wonderful paradoxes in this one person in his book “Who Is This Man Jesus” that we see in history:-

Jesus was the greatest that ever lived; He had no servants, yet they called Him Master. He had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher. He had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer. He had no army, yet Kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world. He had no crime, yet they crucified Him. He had no need, yet He forgave them as they mocked. He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.

The long senseless suffering of the Abyss twisted my mind into fatalism, like a chess player that has an unwinnable position but is forced to find a winning move (that doesn’t exist). But the altogether lovely person of Jesus freed my mind to become more like an artist whose mind was free to create and explore possibilities, possibly daring to believe that my life was like a canvas, and even ugly individual strokes could eventually be made into a masterpiece. After all, if the impossible is already held together by the person of Christ, then God can do something lovely with my impossibles as well.

The award-winning journalist Phillip Yancey sums up the uniqueness of Jesus in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Jesus is radically unlike anyone else who has ever lived. The difference, in Charles WIlliams’ phrase, is the difference between “one who is an example of living and one who is the life itself.” (5)

As radically unlike Jesus is to anyone else that lived, so is His grace that He brings.

wonders-of-gods-grace-serie

 

3 thoughts on “On the Uniqueness of Jesus

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