Roughly 2,000 years ago this week, something happened that literally changed the world. It’s remembered by billions of people globally through the holiday of Easter.
But the event itself was centered on just one person: Jesus of Nazareth, a 33-year-old carpenter’s son from a small town. A town famous, at the time, for never producing anyone famous. Yet this man became the most famous name in all of history. His life was so important that it reset the calendar; everyone else’s time is measured by how many years it is before or after His time. (B.C. = Before Christ; A.D. = Anno Domini, which is Latin for “Year of Our Lord.”)
Who is this man? It’s a question asked even then, by those who heard Him speak (Mark 6:2) and even by those closest to Him (Matthew 8:27). And it’s a question He even asked His best friends about Himself: “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
It’s a question that people have wrestled with ever since. Even today, it’s the question. The most important question you can answer. No matter who you are or what you claim to believe, at some point you have to make a decision about what His life really means.
You have to deal with the stumbling block that is Jesus.
“Who do you say I am?” Here’s what some people—both Christians and not—have had to say about Him:
I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.
– Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, conqueror of most of Europe
As the centuries pass, the evidence is accumulating that, measured by His effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet.
– Kenneth Scott Latourette, Historian, President of the American Historical Association
I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene, Jesus. No man can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
– Albert Einstein, physicist, genius
Why did Christ come into the world? To liberate people from sickness, troubles, from death.
– Vladimir Putin, President and Prime Minister of Russia
Lived serenely as an artist greater than all artists — disdaining marble and clay and paint — working in living flesh. This extraordinary artist, hardly conceivable with the obtuse instrument of our nervous and stupefied modern brains, made neither statues nor paintings nor even books..... he states it loud and clear.. he made.. living men, immortals. That’s serious, you know, especially because it’s the truth.
– Vincent van Gogh, painter, considered one of the greatest artists in history
Oh, eternal and everlasting God…frame me more and more in the likeness of thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thy son, Jesus Christ.
– George Washington, First President of the United States, presided over the drafting of the Constitution
For thirty-five years of my life I was, in the proper acceptation of the word, nihilist, a man who believed in nothing. Five years ago my faith came to me.I believed in the doctrine of Jesus Christ and my whole life underwent a sudden transformation. Life and death ceased to be evil. Instead of despair, I tasted joy and happiness that death could not take away.
– Leo Tolstoy, Russian author, considered one of the greatest novelists of all time
I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.
– H.G. Wells, English author, known as a father of science fiction
A man who was I believe there is no one deeper, lovelier, more sympathetic and more perfect than Jesus – not only is there no one else like him, there never could be anyone like him.
– Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russian novelist and philosopher
A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.
– Mahatma Gandhi, Hindu, described as the father of India
Jesus Christ is to me the outstanding personality of all time, all history, both as Son of God and as Son of Man. Everything he ever said or did has value for us today and that is something you can say of no other man, dead or alive. There is no easy middle ground to stroll upon. You either accept Jesus or reject him.
– Sholem Asch, Jewish author and dramatist
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
– C.S. Lewis, English author, professor, and former atheist
All of them recognized that Jesus was not just another figure in history. He’s unique; in a different category than anyone else who has ever lived. But not all of them took seriously what that means for their lives. As C.S. Lewis puts it in the quote above, Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher, or a prophet, or a leader of a movement. Jesus claimed to be God, the Creator of the universe. He didn’t just teach truth; He said He is the truth. He didn’t show people the way to heaven; He said He is the way (John 14:6). That means He’s either an outrageous liar, a raving lunatic…or the Lord of all creation and the rightful Lord of your life.
Those are your only options. And as you decide, remember that Jesus did more than just make claims. He told the weather what to do, and the weather obeyed Him. He healed incurable diseases, not with medicine but with a word or a touch. And not just illnesses; He cured dead people of death. And remember what Easter is about: that Jesus died on our behalf, to take the punishment for all we’ve done wrong—and then raised Himself from the dead, to show that He has final power over death. And that this was witnessed by many people, all of whom later chose either death or imprisonment rather than simply denying that it was true.
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
- Matthew 16:15-16
Who do you say Jesus is?