Jesus is unique, exceptional, remarkable. He is unlike anyone who has ever lived. I base my case for his uniqueness on two fronts. One is his resurrection from death. Not resuscitation only to die again later. Not just becoming “spiritually” present to those who loved him and cherished his memory. He died, was buried, and rose again to a new kind of life – indestructible, liberated, eternal. About no one else can this be said.*
The second argument I first heard from Vinoth Ramachandra. In Jesus we see a unique combination of outrageous claims and spotless character. Lots of people gain fame by making grandiose claims about their central place in history – Muhammad, Hitler, Ron Hubbard. Lots of other people are famous for being or doing good – the Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Tim Tebow. But nowhere else do we see both claims and character to the degree that we see them in Jesus.
While some explanations of Jesus “claiming to be God” stretch the evidence, Jesus did present himself as Israel’s Messiah and the figurehead of a theopolitical revolution. Leaving the divinity question aside, the Messiah was central to the unfolding of God’s purposes for creation. This claim is enormous. And also leaving aside the theological question of “sinlessness,” Jesus was by almost all counts a good man.
You can certainly choose not to believe in him, but don’t dismiss him on account of being just like other religious leaders that we either detest or appreciate but don’t take seriously. Jesus is different.
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NOTE: In light of my 30th birthday and in honor of the guys who have all the fun, I’ll be offering thirty reflections in thirty days starting December 19th. Today’s post is #10 (see the so-far list here). The only rule is that I have 250 words to make my point. After that just stop reading. Thanks for making my blog part of your internet experience.
*This claim – along with various weak and strong objections raised against it – is rehearsed often enough, so I’ll let it be for now. My focus here is on the next point anyhow.