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Check it out… Why does Jesus matter today?
The most straightforward answer to this question is to say that it depends on who Jesus is. People have very different opinions about Jesus. Even atheists, agnostics and the adherents of other world religions, recognise and admire his unique character. They recognise that he was someone very special whose teaching is amongst the most profound the world has ever known, and that he lived a life that embodied his teaching in a way that few others could claim.
So to begin with, most thinking people, whether they have no faith or a different faith, recognise that Jesus the man, was one of the greatest men to have ever lived and that he remains a great example for all people today both by his teaching and by the life he lived and the love he showed. I don’t sense that many people would contest this.
What of course is contested, is the Christian belief that Jesus Christ, is also the Son of God – fully divine, and that through his life, death and resurrection, God has entered into human history in a truly unique way, in order that mankind can be reconciled to him and be freed from the corrupting and enduring power of sin.
This is where some people get a bit hot under the collar. Why is this? Well, if Jesus was merely a man, albeit one of the greatest men who ever lived, then we have no basis for claiming that God was in him and at work through him in order to bring humankind back into a relationship with himself. What we are left with, is some great moral teaching – the parables of Jesus for example speak powerfully to every age – but we really have little else. We could say that we have a philosophy for life built on Jesus’ teaching and example, but we have no word from God in all of this.
Christians see this entirely differently, of course. They remain convinced that Jesus is truly God and truly man…. ‘God with us.’ They believe that his teaching comes from God himself. They believe that through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, God was at work in a unique way in dealing with the age old problem of human sin and alienation from God. Difficult though it is to the modern mind, Jesus was bearing our sins for us so that we might be pardoned and receive new life with God. Now that bit is hard to explain unless you understand the Old Testament part of the Bible. That is why the Bible is central in our understanding of how God is working in and through human history and how that work comes to complete fulfilment in Jesus Christ. But the teaching of the Bible is another topic for another day.
So, where does this leave us? Well, the essence of it is this - if Jesus is truly the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, as Christians believe, then there is no other means available to us by which we can receive God’s pardon and enter into a new life and a new relationship with the God who made us. In short, Jesus is the only way to God. Now inevitably some people object to that claim. Some find it offensive, some find it ridiculous… depending upon their own beliefs and presuppositions. The real question, however, is whether this Christian claim is true or not. In the end, the truth is not determined by what we like or by what we wish was true. Truth ultimately can only be defined by God himself. Every other definition of truth will fall woefully short of the mark, however erudite it might be.
Doing some more research
There are dozens if not hundreds of books that could be recommended. But to keep things simple, I would recommend one in particular if you want to investigate the Christian claims for Jesus. Of course, the very best place to start, is with the gospels themselves. Read them all and Acts of the Apostles.
But if you want to read a book which investigates claim and counter claim in a fair and even handed way, then this is the one I recommend:
Lee Strobel ‘ The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus.’ Published in 1998 by Zondervan Publishing House, USA.