This time of year, many television specials and news articles speculate about the real Jesus. Interestingly, most credible historians agree that Jesus lived. Most religions believe that Jesus was a great teacher. And even secularists concede that Jesus was a moral person.
But Jesus claimed to be more than those things. If Jesus was really who He claimed to be—not just a man, not a myth, but the Messiah—then that has tremendous implications for us today.
Jesus: His Unique Claims
Jesus is different than any other religious leader who has ever lived, because He made unique claims that no other religious leader made.
Jesus is different than any other religious leader who has ever lived, because he made unique claims that no other religious leader made.
First, Jesus claimed to be God. No other founder of a major religion claimed to be God. Muhammad said, “Surely I am no more than a human apostle.” Moses, Confucius, and Buddha said they were pointing people to God. But Jesus said He was God. In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”
Second, Jesus claimed to forgive sins. No other religious leader claimed the ability to forgive sins. Buddha said, “There are no living beings to whom the Lord Buddha can bring salvation.” But in Mark 2, Jesus said to a paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (2:5). The religious leaders were astounded. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (2:7). To prove He had the power to forgive sins, Jesus performed a miracle. “He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’ And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out” (2:10–12).
Third, Jesus claimed to conquer death. Matthew 16:21 says, “Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” No other religious leader has an empty tomb. Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad—none of them rose from the dead. Only Jesus claimed He would conquer death. And because He did conquer death, those who believe in Him will as well.
Fourth, Jesus claimed He would return to judge the world. No other religious leader claimed that. But in Matthew 25:31–34, Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and . . . He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”
Jesus: His Unique Teachings
If Jesus Christ is in fact the Messiah, then everything He said is true—and we had better pay attention. What did Jesus teach that is unique?
First, Jesus taught there are two possible eternal destinations. Jesus said some will go to Heaven, and some will go to Hell. In Matthew 25:46, Jesus said that the unrighteous “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Second, and more disturbingly, Jesus taught that most people will spend eternity in Hell. In Matthew 7:13–14, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Jesus said there are two roads that lead to two destinations, and the majority of people are on the way to Hell.
Third, Jesus offers an exclusive way to Heaven. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” No matter how sincerely people follow other religions, Jesus said there is only one way to go to Heaven, and that is through faith in Him.
Jesus: His Unique Solution
What makes Jesus different than every other religious leader? He offers a unique solution to our deepest dilemma.
Almost all major world religions say that man is flawed. But most religions say the problem is selfishness and the solution begins with man. Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism say that meditation is the answer. And though Judaism and Islam are different, they both say the way to get right with God is by keeping rules to earn God’s forgiveness.
No other religious leader has an empty tomb. Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad—none of them rose from the dead. Only Jesus claimed He would conquer death.
But Christianity says our dilemma is much more serious than selfishness. Our problem is sin. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Not only that, Romans 6:23 says we deserve eternal separation from God.
Some people want to earn God’s forgiveness, but God requires 100% obedience. James said, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). One mistake, and you fail. You have to be perfect.
You say, “That’s impossible!” Exactly. None of us can earn God’s forgiveness. That is why Jesus came to live a perfect life and to die on a cross and suffer the separation from God that we deserve.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Several years ago, there was a conference in Great Britain about world religions. One afternoon, some leading scholars were in a heated debate when C. S. Lewis walked into the room. He asked, “What’s the rumpus about?” His colleagues said they were discussing what made Christianity unique among world religions. He said, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”1
What can we do to be right with God? Every other religion answers that question: Work. But Jesus answers that question: Grace.
1. Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 45.