“Jesus Christ stands alone, unique and supreme, self-validating, and the Holy Ghost declares Him to be God’s eternal Son. Let all the presidents and all the kings and queens, the senators and the lords and ladies of the world, along with the great athletes and great actors–let them kneel at His feet and cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!'”
- A. W. Tozer
The first installment of this post (found here: https://worldviewsworshipwineskins.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/jesus-and-the-book-of-eli-part-1/) discussed the Post-Apocalyptic film, “The Book of Eli” and explored the implied meaning of the film. My argument is that the interpretation of the film is left to the viewer, to an extent. However, the final scene shows a newly copied King James Bible placed on a shelf alongside the Q’uran and the Torah, which strongly suggests religious pluralism: the idea that every religion is valid. The goal of this post is to demonstrate the uniqueness of Jesus, and more. Not only is Jesus unique (aren’t we all, really?) he is superior to every person who ever lived and makes curious truth claims with serious implications. If Jesus is who he claimed to be, what then? How should we approach other religions with contrasting truth claims?
In what sense is Jesus unique? Many people throughout history have laid claim to profound wisdom, insights which might lead us to the fulfillment of our ultimate spiritual purposes. These include eastern mystics such as Gautama the Buddha, Muhammed the founder of Islam and more recently Joseph Smith, who claimed to add on to the Christian faith. In one sense, we can learn all that we need to know about a religion, philosophy or worldview by examining the lives and values of it’s founder or founders. Without going into detail on anyone else, I believe we can learn all we need to know about true religion by learning the Person of Jesus.
Jesus is unique. One-of-a-kind. A human singularity. There was never anyone like him before, and no one will ever be like him again. Here are four specific reasons why: 1. Jesus is sinless. 2. Jesus is Divine. 3. Jesus embodied fulfiflled prophecy. 4. Jesus is alive.
(1) Jesus is sinless. Not only does scripture tell us that Jesus never broke the moral law, (Hebrews 4.15), but the illegal court that convicted him and sentenced him to death had a contrived charge because none of the witnesses against him could describe a time when he transgressed! Can you imagine anyone else on trial for their life, against whom no charge could be brought? Joseph Smith? No. Gautama? No. Muhammed? No. Mother Theresa? No. Jesus is the only person that ever lived who never violated the timeless moral code.
(2) Jesus is Divine. The New Testament indicates Jesus’ divine nature many times over. Here are three compelling passages that show us not only that the eyewitness authors believed he was divine, but Jesus himself believed he was divine. In Mark 2.1-12, Jesus meets a paralyzed man in a crowded room. Before the crowd, Jesus forgave the man’s sins. Verses 6 through 12 speak for themselves:
But some of the scribes were sitting there thinking to themselves: “Why does He speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.” Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone.
In John 8.58, Jesus reveals two important pieces of his identity: he existed before Abraham, and he applied the title that God used of Himself with Moses at the burning bush: I AM.
After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared many times to his disciples, giving them a deep conviction that he had literally defeated death. On one occasion (recorded in John 20.28), he appeared to Thomas, who had previously doubted. When Jesus showed Thomas the scars in His hands and side, Thomas responded in worship: “My Lord and my God!” For any self-respecting Jew to utter these words to a mere human would have been blasphemy! Yet Jesus did not correct Thomas, but accepted his worship as though it were appropriate.
Very few people in history have claimed to be God: a handful of kings and emporers, and a handful of crackpots. None of them had the power to prove their deity and none have made the impact on history that Jesus has, in spite of their enormous political power.
(3) Jesus miraculously fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. The following is a short list of prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah that were written hundreds of years before his birth. Jesus fits the bill for all of them, and more!
From the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49.10, Luke 3.23, 33.
From the family line of David: 2 Samuel 7.12, Matthew 1.1.
Born in Bethlehem: Micah 5.2, Matthew 2.1.
Preceded by a messenger: Isaiah 40.3, Matthew 3.1-2.
Rejected by His people: Psalm 118.22, 1 Peter 2.7.
His death would be roughly 483 years after 444 B.C: Daniel 9.24.
Specific details of his crucifixion predicted in Psalm 22, His resurrection predicted in Psalm 16.10.
All told, there are over 200 Messianic prophecies in the Jewish Old Testament, all of which are fulfilled in the person of Jesus! What are the odds? Beyond the realm of possibility.
(4) Jesus is alive! The resurrection of Jesus is the fulcrum of all history. He provided the most convincing proof of his unique, divine and perfect nature by doing what none had ever done: coming back from the dead. The resurrection made such an impact, that the people who were best suited to evaluate its implications immediately changed the course of their entire lives to follow this man-God. For the next century, the message of Jesus and his work at the cross, followed by his resurrection spread across the known world like wildfire. Not only is the resurrection well attested (Biblically and extra-Biblically), it is the only logical explanation for the existence of the church. Without the resurrection, the church is an effect without a cause.
Think about it for a moment: if you were one of the disciples who had followed Jesus and seen him crucified, what possible incentive would you have for spreading a fabricated story about his resurrection? The early Christians (and many still today) faced persecution and death for their witness to Jesus’ resurrection. They had every reason in the world to NOT embrace Christianity, and no reason in the world to follow a dead Jesus. Which leaves the early church with no motive whatsoever to fake the resurrection. A crime with no motive? I don’t think they exist.
Which brings us back to the newly printed King James Bible on the shelf at Alcatraz. Perfect. Divine. His life prophesied for generations preceding with stunning accuracy. Resurrected from the dead. And we didn’t even get into the fact that he could control the weather…Could Jesus have been simply another sage with good, moral advice, to be shelved next to the works of other great religious thinkers? Could he have been simply an itinerant preacher with commanding presence who stole the attention of the 1st Century Mediterranian world? Was he a crackpot whose life has been obscured and embellished? C. S. Lewis is credited with claiming that there are only three real options for what to think of Jesus: either he was a liar, a lunatic or He is Lord. All things considered, we can rule out the first two options. And if Jesus is who He said He is, the idea that he is one among a variety of competing options is false.
Of course, all of this is contingent on whether the documents that comprise the Bible can be taken at face value! Which is a topic for another day.
*Among others, I found Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino’s “Unshakable Foundations” a useful resource for this post, especially their list of Old Testament messianic prophecies.