From HAVEN NEWS Easter 2018
England is no longer a Christian country, if ever it was. We now live in a multicultural, multi-faith society where Christianity is only one option amongst many. We live in a consumer culture and in this supermarket of beliefs, people object if you claim to have the one and only truth. This world of political correctness considers it impolite and offensive to claim that you are right and everybody else is wrong. But at the heart of the Christian faith is the recognition that Jesus Christ is Lord. Not just “one Lord among many”. Not just “Lord if you choose him to be your Lord”. But Jesus is Lord. The One and only Son of God. The one and only Saviour. Here are five ways in which Jesus stands apart from all other religious leaders.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was different from any other human being who has ever lived. Because He was much more than a man. He was truly God, born as a human being. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
Jesus Christ was not just another holy man, not just another prophet. From his birth, Jesus was God the Son, revealing God to us. This is the message of Christmas.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. …
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14).
The comedian Billy Connolly once said, “I don’t believe in Christianity but I think Jesus was a wonderful man.” Very many people who would not call themselves Christians recognise that Jesus was the greatest moral teacher who ever lived. Many people claim to try to live their lives by the Sermon on the Mount. The teaching of Jesus Christ has shaped two thousand years of Western civilisation. Think about the stories Jesus told – the parables. The extraordinary forgiveness of the father who welcomes home the rebellious prodigal son. The Good Samaritan who unexpectedly helps a stranger in distress. And so many of Jesus’s sayings have become part of everyday speech: the exhortations to love your neighbour as yourself; love your enemies; turn the other cheek; go the extra mile.
Then look at some of the amazing claims Jesus made about Himself. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) “I am the bread of life. (John 6:35). “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Perhaps the most important claim Jesus made about Himself is found in John 10:30. “I and the Father are one.” Not, I am teaching you about God, but “I am God!”
Jesus’s ministry was unique in history. The proof that everything Jesus claimed about Himself is true is found in every one of His actions. Everything Jesus did showed us God’s love. He forgave people’s sins, like that woman caught in the very act of adultery. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Jesus demonstrated his authority by driving out evil spirits. Jesus calmed the storm – even the wind and the waves obeyed Him. He walked on the water and fed the 5000 with just five loaves and two fishes. Jesus healed the sick, set people free from evil spirits and even raised the dead back to life. Jesus’s miracles were God’s love in action: concrete expressions of the Good News he was bringing. Napoleon Bonaparte wrote this about Jesus:
“I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity…. Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth which he announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things…. The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me — everything remains grand, of a grandeur which overpowers. His religion is a revelation from an intelligence which certainly is not that of man…. One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life…. I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.”
All great religious leaders have died. The death of Jesus is different from the deaths of every other human being because his death itself had a significance which places it at the heart of the Christian faith. Jesus’s death was not a tragic regrettable accident. Jesus Himself understood His death to be the lynchpin of God’s plan of salvation! “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
The Early Church also recognised the vital importance of Jesus’s death. The apostle Peter wrote, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” Peter continued, ”Christ Himself carried our sins in his body to the cross so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:22 and 24)
Every great religious leader died as a consequence of their own sins. But the Bible tells us Jesus was completely innocent – without sin. Different from every other person, Jesus died for our sins, in our place. By paying the penalty for our sin on the cross, Jesus made a way for our sins to be forgiven. Jesus’s death made the way for God to welcome us back as his beloved children. On the cross Jesus’s last words were, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) This was not a cry of despair but of triumph. It is accomplished – the price is paid. Every other religion can be summed up in just two letters but the Christian faith needs four. Every other religion says “DO,” do this, do that, do the other and you will find salvation. But Christianity says, “It is DONE, it is accomplished, it is finished!” The death of Jesus is unique – it is the only way to salvation.
Here is the heart of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the supreme difference between Jesus and every other human being who has ever lived. All great religious leaders have died. But Jesus is different from everybody else. Jesus is didn’t stay dead! Mohammed and Buddha and every other founder of religions large and small – dead and buried. But Jesus Christ rose from the dead, never more to die! The tomb was empty and many people saw Jesus alive again – back from the dead. This is the message of Easter we thought about on the front page. Didn’t he used to be dead?
So Jesus Christ is unique And Jesus said this about himself. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
Our world has lost its way and thinks that all ways lead to God. But Jesus Christ says, “I am the way”, the one and only way. We live in a world which has abandoned the idea of absolute truth, where people say, “We each have our own truth, it’s all relative and one person’s truth is as good as any other.” But Jesus says, “I am the truth”, the one and only ultimate truth. People are looking for the meaning of life in all the wrong places. And Jesus says, “I am the life”, the one and only way to find life in all its fullness. Jesus is unique. He is the only way to God. And it is Jesus himself who declares to people of every faith and no faith, “No-one comes to the Father except through me.”