A storm of controversy is raging today over Christmas. Nativity scenes have been ordered removed from the public square in many towns and cities. “Happy Holidays” has replaced the long-held traditional greeting of “Merry Christmas.” And children have been taught that, rather than Jesus, Santa Claus knows whether or not they have been bad or good. Somehow, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ has been gradually squeezed out of Christmas.
But the controversy over the identity of Jesus Christ is still the subject of media attention. After 2000 years, people are intrigued about this most famous person in history. CNN talk show host, Larry King, was asked to choose one person from all of history he would most like to interview. King instantly replied, “Jesus Christ.” He then stated, “The one question I would like to ask Jesus, is, ‘Are you indeed virgin born?’ The answer to that would explain history for me,” remarked King.
King’s intense interest in whether or not Jesus was virgin-born reveals something much more significant. It would reveal whether or not Jesus is divine. In other words, did God really visit our planet in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, as the eyewitness apostles wrote?
Before looking into who Jesus was, let’s briefly examine the historical impact of Jesus Christ, and why historians believe he really did exist.
Man or Myth?
The brilliant British journalist, G. K. Chesterton, researched history, looking for someone unique. As a skeptic, he had considered Jesus no different from Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, or perhaps a myth borrowed from ancient pagan religions. Yet after his investigation, Chesterton concluded that Jesus Christ rises above all others,and his historicity is, “a very striking fact.”
The “Jesus myth” argument was also debunked by the great secular historian H. G. Wells. When asked who has left the greatest legacy on history, the non-Christian Wells replied, “By this test Jesus stands first”
So what made this great world historian rank Jesus as the most significant person in human history? To find out, we need to examine Jesus’ unique character, claims and deeds (see “Was Jesus a Real Person?” for an in-depth analysis on Jesus’ historical impact).
More than Human?
If we could go back in time and meet the real Jesus, what would he be like? Would he be coolly religious, or warm and charismatic, igniting our passion for life?One author writes, “The Jesus of the gospels, unlike the Jesus of religious sentimentalism, is gentle and tough, witty and serious, stern and tenderhearted. The one thing the people who met him could not do was to stereotype him.”
When examining the life and words of Jesus, Chesterton concluded, “The Jesus of the New Testament seems to me to have in a great many ways the note of something superhuman; that is of something human and more than human.”
Those who knew him tell us that Jesus cared about each person regardless of what they looked like or what others thought of them. He took time to gather small children in his arms. He ministered to those who needed it the most, even to outcasts and criminals. Nobody, including his enemies, was unable to accuse him of a moral imperfection. Everything he did and said reflected a heart of love and compassion. Jesus’ selfless love sets him apart from all other great leaders.
While in exile on the rock of St. Helena, the great French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, called Count Montholon to his side and asked, “Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?” When the Count had no answer, Napoleon remarked, “I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”