Why Jesus is Unique
Is Jesus God or a Fraud?
You have been called for jury duty for a significant and unusual trial. Your assignment is to determine Jesus’ identity. Your verdict will influence every human being’s belief in Him until the end.
First, you need to determine if Jesus lived. If He did, was He just an unusually gifted human being or something more?
The first expert to take the stand is Dr. Fred Jones, a philosophy professor. The second is Dr. Mary Smith. She is a biology professor. They both doubt that Jesus even lived.
They believe He was probably the invention of someone’s vivid imagination. If He lived, He certainly didn’t perform the miracles credited to Him.
Natural laws govern life on earth. Miracles can’t happen. People can’t walk on water or raise the dead.
Do you agree that miracles can’t happen? Do natural laws, like gravity, explain what usually happens or what must happen? Why?
The third expert, Dr. John Freemont, is a seminary professor. He quotes Philip Schaff, a church historian. Schaff wrote, “A character so original, so complete, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction.”
He reminds the jury that a poet is more significant than his poem. A writer than his characters. He insists that the one who thought up Jesus would be greater than Jesus. Does John’s argument make sense to you? Why?
Dr. Freemont next quotes Otto Betz, who wrote, “No serious students of history believe that Jesus was a made-up character.”
Freemont refers to Professor F.F. Bruce. He was a biblical scholar and historian. Bruce said that unbiased historians agree. Jesus is as historical as Julius Caesar.
He cites ancient writers outside of the Bible who referred to Jesus, including Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian, Flavius Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Tertullian, Thallus, and Justin Martyr. He quotes the passages in their writings that mention Jesus. Dr. Freemont’s expert testimony stacks the evidence heavily in favor of Jesus’ existence.
You wonder why Drs. Jones and Smith spoke confidently despite so much evidence that Jesus existed. How could they benefit from believing that Jesus never lived or that He has no authority over them?
The next exhibit includes the New Testament documents. This case is important. You’re given three days to read carefully from Matthew through the Gospel of John.
The four Gospels paint a consistent, coherent picture of Jesus. A few minor details don’t seem to agree, such as the resurrection accounts.
You ask yourself, “Did Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John get together and ‘invent’ a Jesus who never really lived? If they didn’t invent him, did they greatly exaggerate His accomplishments? If so, why would all four suffer death or persecution for a make-believe story?”
Do you believe the story of Jesus was made up or exaggerated? Why?
How did Jesus relate to:
1. Children (Matthew 19:13-15 NLT)
13 One day, some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.
2. The Bereaved (Luke 7:11-17 NLT)
11 Soon, Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. 12 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her.
13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.”
15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” 17 And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.
3. Society’s Outcasts (Matthew 9:10-13 NLT)
10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 Still, when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
4. The Sick (Mark 1:40-45 NLT)
40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.
41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly, leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.
43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
45 But the man spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.
Jesus was humble before God (John 6:38) and man— He washed his disciples’ dirty feet (John 13: 1-17). He was morally pure to the core—neither His friends nor His enemies could disprove His claim to be sinless (John 8:46).
He taught people to love their enemies and did it Himself. He said the most loving thing anyone could do was lay down his life for a friend. Then, He sacrificed His life. He always did what He told others to do.
Do you see that same consistency between word and deed in your life or with anyone you know? If so, who shows perfect consistency? If not, why is inconsistency the rule instead of the exception?
You discover that Jesus left people awestruck. He taught with great authority (Mark 1:21-22; John 7:46). He stilled a storm (Mark 4:35-41), fed 5,000 with a boy’s lunch (Mark 6:30-44), and walked on water (Mark 6:45-52).
He healed people oppressed with fever, leprosy, blindness, and demons. He raised a boy (Luke 7:11-17) and Lazarus (John 11:1-53) from the dead. How do you account for His apparent power over nature, disease, demons, and death?
In the four Gospels, Jesus asserted that He was more than just a man. Some of His claims are direct, and others are indirect. The issue at His trial was who He was, not what He’d done.
At the trial, the high priest asked if He was the Messiah, the Son of the glorious God. Let’s read Mark 14:61-64 NLT and Matthew 27:41-43 NLT:
61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? 64 You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!”
41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him!
43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
What did the high priest and the Jewish council understand that Jesus was claiming?
Consider Jesus’ claims and the Jews’ responses in the following three passages:
John 5:17-18 NLT
17 But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. He not only broke the Sabbath, but he also called God his Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
John 8:58-59 NLT
58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth before Abraham was even born, I am!” 59 At that point, they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.
John 10:30-33 NLT
30 The Father and I are one.”
31 Once again, the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction, I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”
33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Because the Jews believed in only one God, how did they react?
Jesus made many indirect claims to deity. Welcoming Him means welcoming the Father (Mark 9:37). Honoring Jesus means honoring the Father (John 5:23). Knowing Him means knowing the Father (John 8:19).
Believing in Him means believing in the Father (John 12:44). Seeing Him means seeing the Father (John 14:9). Hating Him means hating the Father (John 15:23).
Jesus received and accepted worship as God. Let’s read about a man Jesus healed who fell and worshipped Him (John 9:35-39 NLT).
35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”
37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”
38 “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.
39 Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”
When Jesus got into the boat after walking on water, His disciples worshipped Him (Matthew 14:33). In John 20:27-29, Thomas addressed Jesus as “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus never said, “Don’t worship me; worship God instead.” If Jesus was a mere man and received worship reserved for God alone, was He even a good man? Why?
After you’ve read the four Gospels, Dr. Freemont asks you to base your determination of Jesus’ identity on whom He claimed to be. He refers to the words of C. S. Lewis, one of the twentieth century's greatest writers.
Lewis states that, although many try, one can’t logically accept Jesus as a great moral teacher while rejecting His claims to be God. Why is that so? An ordinary person who claimed to be God would either be insane or a world-class liar. You roll Lewis’ logic over and over in your mind.
When you base Jesus’ identity on his claim to be God, what options exist besides Lord, liar, or lunatic?
The time has come for the jury to make a decision. Which of the three options do you choose? --
Is Jesus the Lord? Is he one of history's biggest liars? Was he out of touch with reality?
On what do you base your conclusion? If He is Lord, have you found life in Him?
Now that you know that Jesus is Lord, learn about how to grow your faith, share your testimony, and grow your church.
Spiritual Health Assessment helps you become spiritually in shape.
ABC of Evangelism helps you know how to tell others about Jesus Christ, who is one of a kind.
Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. 8 vols. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1910, p. 109.
Betz, Otto. What Do We Know About Jesus? SCM Press, 1968. p. 9.
Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Downers Grove, Ill. InterVarsity Press, 1972. p. 119.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1952. p. 40-41
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