Napoleon Bonaparte, the well-known French statesman and military leader, reportedly said:
“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.”
Jesus Christ was certainly not like any other man. Among scholars there is no dispute that Jesus existed. Even the radical skeptic, Bart Ehrman, wrote:
“[Jesus] certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees.”
William Lecky (another non-Christian historian) discovered that Jesus was:
“…an ideal character which through all the changes of 18 centuries has inspired the heart of men with an impassioned love … The simple record of these three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.”
Jesus stands out. His followers have always recognised this, and the passing of time has done nothing to diminish that impression. No one has come along whose life can favourably be compared to His. On one occasion Jesus asked his disciples, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16).
Peter and his fellow disciples — those who spent the most time with Jesus — were certainly convinced He was no ordinary person.
But how was He different? In my next few blogposts I want to consider four facts that mark out Jesus’ distinctiveness for us. The first of these is that:
Jesus fulfilled Prophecy
Facial recognition software is now used by law enforcement to identify criminals. A photograph provided to the police is scanned and biometrics map out the criminal’s facial features. Photographic databases are then searched for a match. If a 100% match is found the identity of the criminal is discovered.
In a similar way God has made possible the identification of His promised Saviour. The Old Testament part of the Bible was completed approximately 400 years prior to the birth of Jesus. It prophesied the arrival in this world of a very special person. He would be virgin-born, God’s Son given to us. His life would be pure and powerful. He would suffer rejection and crucifixion. He would rise again. This was the ‘photograph’ provided of God’s promised Saviour. When we scan through every person who has ever lived, only one match can be found — a 100% match — the Lord Jesus Christ.
One part of the picture is found in Psalm 22. Written 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, it reads as if it was written by an eyewitness of His crucifixion. Consider a couple of verses:
“The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:16-18)
I have often asked people: “Who is this Psalm speaking about?” Without fail, they respond: “Jesus.” These words were written 1000 years before Jesus came, and approximately 600 years before crucifixion was invented, yet only Jesus fits the profile.
So Jesus’ death by crucifixion was prophesied long before he was born. The meaning of His death was also predicted. The prophet Isaiah wrote of a day when people would recognise that:
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
God’s promised Saviour would die for the sins of others. He would endure punishment so that others may have peace; and His wounding would provide healing for others.
These are not vague predictions, they are clear prophecies, and they paint a vivid portrait. There is only one match in history, and it is Jesus.