What is it about Jesus?
Why is it that a Jewish rabbi who lived 2,000 years ago has become one of the central figures of human history?Perhaps one of the things that is not talked about very much in regard to Jesus is the challenge that his life presents. As the four gospels (authorized biographies) tell the story of Jesus time on earth he challenges everything.
He challenges the status quo.
He challenges the existing power structure.
He challenges the religious leaders.
He challenges the poor.
He challenges deeply held assumptions about the human heart.
But, perhaps most importantly, he challenges everyone he meets to respond to himself. As he performs miracles to demonstrate his power over nature, disease, and even death, he challenges people to think through: “If I can do all of this, who do you think that I am?” He says things like, “You will see the Son of Man (his way of referring to himself) coming on the clouds of heaven.” He is claiming to be God! And people respond by having him executed.
In the end we’re left with three possibilities:
1) He was completely insane claiming to be God.
2) He was maliciously claiming to be God when he knew he wasn’t.
3) He was who he claimed to be.
You don’t hear about it very much, but after his crucifixion even his closest disciples couldn’t decide who he was. He had claimed to be God, and they had seen with their own eyes the miracles to back up that claim. The cross was incomprehensible. But when Jesus rose from the dead, something in his closest disciples changed. The most likely outcome, they concluded, was that Jesus was actually who he claimed to be: God. And he had risen, not only to “have a personal relationship” with his followers. He had risen to begin ruling over the entire creation that he had made and to call into being for himself a people all his own: the church. And this church would be just a taste of Jesus’ new rule, his new kingdom.
Jesus never demands that anyone come to him. He points back to the cross, as the place where he took the punishment for your sin upon himself. So that you don’t have to. And he points to the empty tomb and all the witnesses, as the place where God proved him right. The question is, how do you respond to Jesus’ challenge?