Chaplain John Oas

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Chaplain John Oas

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FAQ#2: Why do Christians place such an emphasis on Jesus Christ? Wasn't he just one of many great religious leaders?

Certainly, Jesus was a great religious leader and teacher. But the key fact about Christ that separates him from Buddha, Mohammed, and other spiritual leaders is that Jesus claimed to be more than a teacher--indeed, more than a man. Jesus identified himself as equal with God and the only way to spiritual salvation. His contemporaries understood the radical nature of this claim, and it led directly to his death. John 5:18 says, "For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

Of course, this claim in itself is not enough. Anyone could claim to be divine, and in fact people have often done just that. However, we generally label such individuals as unstable and consign them to mental institutions. Did Jesus give evidence of having an unstable personality? No. Quite the opposite. His life and teachings evidenced tremendous depth, power, compassion, and wisdom. A group of men sent to arrest Jesus returned empty-handed and could only offer this reason: "No one ever spoke the way this man does" (John 7:46).

Millions of others have agreed since the time of Christ and have followed him as Savior and Lord. History itself is divided into the time before he arrived on the scene, and the time after. Even non-Christian religions revere Jesus as among the most spiritual and insightful person who has ever lived. Unstable? Deluded? No one familiar with his life could come away with such an impression.

And there is also evidence beyond Jesus' earthly life and ministry. His first followers were a small, motley band of first-century Jews. Like all members of their faith, they were fiercely monotheistic. Yet somehow they came to believe that this man Jesus was God, and they believed it with such certainty that they overcame their own preconceptions, fears, and internal squabbles to, in the words of one observer, "turn the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). There is no adequate explanation for the acceptance and spread of Christianity apart from the fact that Jesus was who he said he was, and that his divine power rested upon his followers.

So the Christian emphasis on Jesus is not false veneration of a great human teacher. It is not a narrow-minded swipe at other religious leaders. Rather, it is a willingness to take this unique man on his own terms. Those who have done this have found, like his first followers, that their lives are never the same again.

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