More books have been written about him than any other individual who has ever lived. Entire libraries have been devoted to understanding his life and his teaching. He changed the course of western civilization and, today, two thousand years since he was born, millions are turning to him in Africa and Asia. Who is Jesus?
Leo Tolstoy, arguably the greatest Russian novelist spent much of his life wrestling with the teachings of Jesus. In his later years he wrote The Kingdom of God is Within You, an attempt to implement the teachings of Jesus.
When Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home was bombed in 1956, he stepped out on the front porch to quiet an angry crowd that threatened to do battle with the police. He said, “"We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: 'Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.' This is what we must live by.”
Jesus remains popular in the United States. A Barna Group survey concluded that two out of three Americans claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus "that is currently active and influences their life." But who is the Jesus whom two thirds of Americans claim to know?
In his book, Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos creates a fictional story in which Jesus is seen according to the image of the beholder. In so doing, he introduces “King James Jesus,” “Magic 8-ball Jesus,” “Testosterone Jesus,” “Free Will Jesus,” “New Age Jesus,” and “Meticulous Jesus.” All of this leaves us asking the question again, “Who is Jesus?”
Jesus was the first person to pose this question. When Jesus’ popularity was growing so that thousands thronged to see and hear him, he took his twelve disciples aside and asked them the question, “Whom do men say that I am?” The disciples looked at one another and began repeating what they had heard others say. “Some say you are John the Baptist,” they said. “Others say you are Elijah. And still others say you are one of the prophets.” After hearing their response Jesus put the question to them more personally. “Who do you say I am?” In both accounts, Peter was the one who spoke first. “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Peter’s confession was confirmed when Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to His followers for more than forty days with many convincing proofs. (Acts 1:3).
When Jesus asked the question, He was looking for more than a confession, a creed or mental assent from his followers. If they believed in Him, Jesus expected them to put their faith into action. Elsewhere he said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not the things that I say.” “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Perhaps the most important questions any of us will face in this life are, “Who is Jesus?” and, “Am I doing what He said?”