If you had to name a person who most influenced the United States of America, who would that be? You might choose the first President, George Washington, the Revolutionary War, or you might choose Abraham Lincoln, who saw the country through the Civil War, which endangered to tear it apart.
As important as these records are, when you start talking about the most significant people in the history of the world, your possibility must get much greater. One person whose influence has been large enough to fit this bill is Jesus of Nazareth - the icon of today's largest religion, Christianity.
We know far more about Jesus as a man. Most gospels pick up the story of Jesus when he was about 30. By that point, Jesus was a traveling preacher, who traveled from settlement to settlement speaking about the importance of love and kindness, often inspiring the traditional Jewish law of the day. Authorities were often doubtful of any type of wandering preacher, and Jesus was often forced to do his preaching from hillsides several miles outside main settlements. There he supposedly drew large crowds and performed miracles for his followers as well, including turning water into wine and reviving a dead man.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago. For his first thirty years or so, he was an old-style Jewish life in Nazareth, working with his father as a tradesman. Throughout this period, all of Israel was under Roman controller.
Jesus became more and more of an seeming threat to the prepared religion of the day.
As a outcome, the Jewish leaders asked the Roman leaderswho were in control at the time ” to execute him. There were authorized trials, but the Romans determined that Jesus was innocent of any crime against Rome. The religious leaders continued with political arguments and finally convinced Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of the area, to approve the execution.
Jesus was ridiculed, tortured, and hung on a wooden cross just outside Jerusalem. His simple followers dispersed. Three hours later, he died.
We know that something happenedsomething caused his scattered followers to relinkreengage ” spread the word about Jesus again.
Within a couple months, there were thousands in and around Jerusalem that became his supporters. Within a couple eras, there were hundreds of thousands in the Mediterranean region that called themselves Christiansor followers of Jesus Christ. In 325 AD, Christianity became the authorized religion of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Within 500 years, Greek sanctuaries to pagan gods were being changed to Christian churches all over the Roman world. What could have happened to cause such a powerful movement in the name of one simple man?
Indeed, about one-third of the world is measured Christian today. That's a pretty astounding numberthat's a pretty powerful life after nearly 2,000 years. Yes, some religious organizations have confused and cluttered the original message of Jesus over the centuries, but his simple life and powerful words still speak for themselves.
That's why we spent over two years producing this series of Drive Thru History. We repaid to the original textsthe Gospelsand the original landscapeIsraeland take the time to discover the history, geography, and culture neighboring the life of Jesus. The question, Who is Jesus? obviously still matters. Against all odds, the historic influence of Jesus continues to enlarge throughout the world.
Throughout history, the effect Jesus had on the lives of people has never been beaten. No other great leader has encouraged so many positive changes in the lives of his followers. People who meet the risen Christ are totally altered. Their outlook on life is changed forever. Staying accurate to their faith, they do not waver to face hardship, harassment, and even death. Many sanctify their lives to serving others, lessening their own needs and desires.
The spirit of Jesus' mission was to save the specific life of every person who chooses to put his or her trust in him. He didn't just point the way to a set of principles or moral principles as many other teachers did. Rather, he assured when we were born again by his Spirit he would come to live inside of us, guiding and empowering us to live expressive and godly lives.
From the very beginning people experienced his company, power, leadership, alteration, and empowering, which changed everything in people's world. People was no longer the wretched man that I am! (Romans 7:24) but was set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). There was a new blast”a lively power”to live a productive life. Over the past two thousand years, it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ in millions, and now billions of people, that has altered the landscape of history through changing individual lives.
No one changed the role of women in society more than Christ. Before New Testament times, women labored in harsh, submissive roles, and were often nothing more than slaves to men and their families. Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton point out in their liberating book Why Not Women? that the Greek philosopher Cicero likened women to slaves, dogs, horses, and donkeys”all properties to be used and cast away.
Jesus' facts and example reconfirmed the truth that in every way, from the time of creation, women are of equal worth as men in God's sight, including their complimentary roles in the marriage relationship. ALL the women's rights we enjoy, especially in the past two hundred years, were fashioned by the Christian faith. Even in Muslim societies today, women are second-class citizens, not like in the Christian West where women have all the same rights as men. If you're a woman living in a Western nation, you can thank Jesus Christ for the freedoms you enjoy.
The love of Jesus Christ has made the utmost mark upon the world. God is love, and Jesus' horrific suffering on behalf of sinful people presented the world once and for all that God cares for each one of us and provided a way out of our fault and self-destruction. For two thousand years, followers of the loving Christ have supported his compassion and care to peoples everywhere. Nations have been won through his love. Most hospitals and other ministries of compassion around the globe have been launched in his name. Where there has been destruction through natural disasters, wars, or scarcity, people filled with God's love have run to ease human suffering via the Red Cross, World Vision, and thousands of other agencies. Where would our world be without the love of Christ as spoken through his people?
We end with our foundation Scripture. Christ changes individuals and nations by giving them a firm hope in a future he has protected through his death, revival, and mounting. There is life after death. There will be a resurrection of all people. Jesus is coming again to bring his redeemed people into an infinity of love and blessing in his heavenly attendance. Because of these truths, the follower of Christ lives in continuous and overwhelming hope in the future that Jesus Christ will provide.
Hope is not a wish or a dream”it's as real as the nail-scarred hands and the unfilled tomb. Hope gets us through the day, helps us handle misfortunes and death, and points our hearts skyward. Jesus Christ is the only hope of the world.
Did you know that we would have lost much of the countless works of Greece and Rome (and other civilizations of the ancient world) if it weren't for the Christian monks who conserved that information through finding, conserving, and repetition ancient writings during the Middle Ages? Are you aware that the primary universities in Paris and London were started by advocates who had a thirst for knowledge and wisdom?
Did you know that the production of the Gutenberg Bible was measured by TIMEmagazine the most important event of the past five hundred years because it made truth and information easily obtainable to the masses? Have you heard that the first 120 universities in America, opening with Harvard, were started by followers of Christ for the progression of the Christian faith? Most of the major indicators in human education flow from one fountain: faith in Jesus Christ.
What Jesus taught was so very different than anything else that in the end he was killed for it. Even so, that's still probably not enough to enormously impact humanity.
Thousands of people have had essential ideas, lived out their lives and died in insignificance without ever being noticed.
However, there is one very momentous difference with Jesus that sets him separately from every other teacher, preacher or religious figure throughout history: Jesus didn't stay dead.
The authorities of his day knew Jesus spoke regularly of his resurrection, so they took some life-threatening steps to make sure his followers couldn't steal his dead body and commit a hoax. Of course, because they took all those measures it made it much more difficult, nearly impossible really, to successfully markdown the claims of Jesus being revived when it did happen.
So much so that today there are 2 billion plus people on the planet who believe Jesus was elevated from the dead. If you look at other major world religious groups, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and such, only Christians follow a leader who is still living.
The tomb of Jesus is empty.
And that is why Jesus totally changed history.
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