Many great thinkers have influenced multitudes in their era and beyond, though none compare with Jesus of Nazareth. That is a strong claim, but it can easily be substantiated. He never authored a book though more books have been written about Him than any other person in history. The most widely read piece of literature in the world, the Bible, portrays Him as the central character. He only travelled in two countries, yet He is worshipped and honoured worldwide. His public teaching lasted only three years, yet He taught with real authority as no one else ever taught. Across many civilisations, every time we look at the calendar on the wall or the coin in our pocket, we acknowledge the date when He entered our world.
He performed a range of miracles, not the type that are apparently performed by the conjurers or even the great Harry Houdini. The blind were given sight, the deaf were able to hear, the lame walked, and the dead were raised to life. Unlike founders of other religions, He died and rose again, in accordance with the scriptures. Contrary to other sages, he never sinned, and He alone was able to forgive sins and was known as the friend of sinners. He upheld an altogether higher level or morality through His exemplary life and teachings. He fulfilled scores of prophecies including ones that cannot be deliberately orchestrated, such as His birthplace, lineage, and resurrection.
Some thinkers are credited with original ideas and others have breakthroughs leading to paradigm shifts, but Yeshua is far greater since He is the first and the last. When asked if He was greater than Abraham He responded, “Before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58).” Of course to the Jewish audience it was an unmistakeable claim of divinity since when God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush to deliver Israel from Egypt, “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the Children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you (Exodus 3:14).” He was the Prophet like Moses who arose from the midst of his brethren (Deuteronomy 18:15-22; John 1:45, 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:22; 7:37-38).
The Eternal Gospel
Rene Descartes the famous French philosopher proved his own existence with his famous line, “I think therefore I am” but Yeshua made profound statements about Himself as the great ‘I am.’ Each of the ‘I am’ statements are a claim of divinity revealing something of His heavenly identity.
When the feast of Pesach (Passover) was near, Jesus fed the five thousand from five loaves and two fish and recalled that their fathers ate bread from heaven and added that His Father gives them the true bread from heaven. “And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst (John 6:35).”
At the Feast of Succoth (Tabernacles), Jesus was in the courts of the temple that were lit by giant menorah that would have given light to Jerusalem. He said “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12).”
Jesus is the true shepherd, the good shepherd, and the shepherd of our souls. He said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9).”Also, “I am the good shepherd; and am known by my own (John 10:14).” It is possible to know Messiah personally and only He can provide salvation.
Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead and in that account, we read the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept (John 11:35).”That tells us something of His humanity, since He is fully Man and fully God and also something of His great compassion. He said to Martha the sister of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this (John 10:25-26)?”
Jesus gives direction, purpose, and salvation. His name means ‘Saviour’ and He claimed exactly that, and it is only through Him that someone can receive forgiveness and eternal life through Him. Thomas his disciple was not sure where Jesus was going or the way to go. ‘Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”
Lastly Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:2).” Yeshua made followers who would stay close to Him, learn from Him, and become more like Him. Trusting in God is more than verbal or intellectual assent but means that someone genuinely repents, asks for forgiveness, believes, and follows Him. If we love God, we will obey His commandments and do what He requires of us.
The Greatest Jewish Thinker that ever lived
Some people comment that we do not know what Jesus did between the age of twelve and thirty, although even at the age of twelve he astonished those in the temple with His understanding and answers. John at the end of his gospel wrote this, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:25).”