What is it about Jesus that fascinates so many people? He never commanded a vast army or sat on an earthly throne. He grew up in a middling town that was never mentioned in the Old Testament. Before his public ministry, people knew him as the carpenter’s son and little else. These aren’t exactly sterling credentials to apply for the job of Messiah.
Yet, here we are, 2000 years later, and Jesus still occupies a central role in history and in the lives of over 2 billion adherents. Even Albert Einstein, who did not believe in a personal God, said, “I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.” Could it be that Jesus Christ is simply beyond compare? I believe so. Consider:
HIS WORDS ARE BEYOND COMPARE
For a blue-collar worker, Jesus taught with incredible power. Mark 1:22 reports that “the people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” Yet Jesus was not simply a dazzling orator. His words actually imparted divine healing and restoration. Even a Roman centurion recognized this when he ran up to Jesus with an urgent need: his beloved servant was paralyzed in bed. But the commander knew that the Lord didn’t have to physically come to his house: “…just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Jesus, amazed at this gentile’s faith, replied, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would” (vs 13). The servant was healed at that very instant.
Jesus spoke God’s word because He was the Word — the eternal Logos wrapped in temporal flesh. His word was — and still is — beyond compare.
HIS LIFE IS BEYOND COMPARE
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, restlessly struggled for years to find enlightenment. Jesus was supremely confident of His identity and mission from the beginning, even instructing the learned rabbis in the temple at the tender age of 12 (Luke 2:47).
Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was a warlord. According to Richard A. Gabriel, a professor in the Department of History and War Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada, Mohammed fought eight major battles, led eighteen raids, planned 38 campaigns and was wounded twice. On the other hand, Jesus, the “Prince of Peace,” never picked up a sword or called for bloodshed. Indeed, He told His chief disciple to sheathe his weapon in the Garden of Gethsemane, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
Not even his enemies could find fault with Him. Herod dismissed Him, Pilate washed his hands of His blood, and the Jewish priests had to bring trumped-up charges against Him. Jesus asked His detractors, “Who among you can prove me guilty of any sin?” (John 8:46).
Would Gandhi ask such a question? How about Martin Luther King, Jr? Billy Graham or Joyce Meyer? No. Only one would dare, because He was the only one whose life was impeccable.
HIS DEATH IS BEYOND COMPARE
In the Roman Empire, crucifixion was the common way to execute criminals. After the rebel-slave Spartacus fell in 71 BC, about 6000 of his followers were crucified along the Appian Way, a 120-mile Roman road. In 61 AD, 400 slaves were hung on crosses in retaliation for the murder of Lucius Pedanius Secundus, a city prefect.
But only one crucifixion is etched in history — the death of the Nazarene. At the time, no one — not even His disciples — understood the cosmic significance of what was happening on that cross. Looking back, Peter was able to write that the suffering and death of Christ was God’s offer of reconciliation — “the just for the unjust” (I Peter 3:18). In his letter to Rome, Paul mentioned that not too many people would die for others, though someone might possibly die for a good person. “But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
No pope, prophet or preacher could die for the sins of the world. Only the Sinless Lamb of God was up for such a colossal task.
HIS RESURRECTION IS BEYOND COMPARE
It is the defeat of death that separates Jesus Christ from all other religious founders. Mohammed died from a fever, but was not raised. Socrates was forced to ingest poison, but he did not come back from the dead. A spiritual leader in New York named Father Divine claimed to be God, but he died in 1965 and has not returned.
Jesus of Nazareth not only prophesied that He would rise, He did that very thing on Easter morning. At its core, Christianity is not a religious system or a set of moral principles, but the Resurrection. If it is ever disproved, Jesus can jockey for position with all the other spiritual sages of history, preachers can start selling insurance and churches can merge with local civic clubs. As the Apostle Paul put it, “… if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (I Corinthians 15:14).
But Jesus did rise! His life was like no other. His death was like no other. And His resurrection was certainly like no other, seen by numerous women at His tomb, Peter and then the rest of the disciples, the apostle Paul and over 500 witnesses at the same time.
Jesus is simply beyond compare.