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THE UNIQUENESS OF JESUS

Hank Pharis 1-8-12 www.calvarychurchvg.com

In 1997 Jeanne Calment of France died at the ripe old age of 122 She had the unique distinction of having the longest documented human life (wikipedia) But as unique as the length of her life was, her uniqueness is infinitely less than that of Jesus

Six weeks ago we began a series on the gospel of John We have spent the last 5 weeks focusing on the prologue to John’s gospel Today we want to conclude our study of John’s prologue by focusing on just one phrase Twice, in verses 14 and 18 Jesus is described as God’s “one and only Son” The Greek word here, monogenesis, comes from the Greek words mono or one and genus which means species or kind Thus this word means that Jesus is one of a kind He is absolutely unique

Now before I attempt to summarize some of how unique Jesus is we need to remember how unique our culture is Through most of human history virtually every culture has assumed the existence of truth Every culture has sought and fought for what they believed to be true

There have certainly been innumerable proposals as to what exactly truth is but we live in day when many have at least claimed to give up on the search for truth A day in which many, if not most, believe that there is no truth out there to be had Everything is simply a matter of personal preference Whether its history or science ... or religion, all beliefs or values are proclaimed to be only culturally relative, only culturally determined For example, to quote Oprah Winfrey: “There are many paths to what you call ‘God’ ... There couldn’t possibly be just one way.” (2-15-07 show) [cf. Rosemary Radford Ruether: “The idea that Christianity, or even biblical faiths, have a monopoly on religious truth is an outrageous and absurd religious chauvinism.” (in John Hick & Paul Knitter’s The Myth of Christian Uniqueness, p. 141)] But let me suggest some problems with cultural relativism

One of the primary driving forces behind cultural relativism is the desire to protect pluralism But it is one thing to respect all viewpoints and another to claim that they are all equally valid And in fact (1) it is impossible to be a consistent cultural relativist Supposedly cultural relativists tolerate all viewpoints but in reality they are extremely intolerant of anyone who dares to question cultural relativism Cultural relativism is in fact just another form of absolutist fundamentalism It dogmatically proclaims that it alone has the truth Cultural relativists say that the only certain truth is that there are no certain truths but it proclaims this “truth” with absolute certainty This is the height of hypocrisy This undermines their most fundamental claim Cultural relativism claims to promote pluralism but in fact destroys it It is just as intolerant as any other ideology towards those who dare to question it What cultural relativists really want is to undermine anyone’s ideas who are different from their own The second problem with cultural relativism is that (2) it idolizes agnosticism It idolizes indecision It worships the idea that truth cannot be discovered It sounds humble in its emphasis on the fallibility of human knowledge but in fact it sets itself up as the only absolute truth There is nothing we can know EXCEPT that we can know that we can’t know But how can we know that we can’t know if we can’t know? The primary problem with cultural relativism is that (3) it flattens out all ideas as equally valid If we apply cultural relativism to for example our current political debates we would have to say there are no differences between Barack Obama and Ron Paul All politicians want a better America so whether you are for Obama or Romney or Paul it doesn’t make any difference They are all just seeking a better America in their own way If we apply cultural relativism to the environmental debates of our day we would have to say that it doesn’t matter whether we believe that global warming is a devestating problem or the greatest hoax of our time .

Everyone just wants our world to be a good place to live so what anyone believes about the environment is just their own personal preference Now I could go on and on but the point is that a square can not be circle a triangle can’t be a rectangle The most fundamental principle of logic is called the law of non-contradiction Two different things cannot be the same thing There are differences between Obama and Paul There are differences between affirming or denying global warming And there are differences between so called religions Jews. Christians and Muslims believe that there is one God Atheists and many Buddhists believe that there is no God Hindus believe that there are hundreds of thousands of gods Now how can it be simultaneously true that there are many gods. Hitler liked to kill people. one God or no God? Truth by definition excludes opposites There is either one God or no God or many gods but the three basic possibilities cannot possibly be simultaneously true Today it is not religion that is the opiate of the masses but relativism The movie “The Quarrel” tells the story of two Jewish men who are lifelong friends who finally end their friendship because of their disputes about God and evil One of them goes on to become a rabbi and the other a skeptical journalist They lose all contact and don’t see each other for years and in the meantime the holocaust occurs Neither one of them had any idea if the other one had survived the holocaust until one day they run into each other And then they begin dialoguing and debating again At one point the Rabbi says: “If there’s nothing in the universe that’s higher than human beings. I like to save them. then what is morality? It’s just a matter of opinion. Who’s to say which is better?” . you like meat. I like milk.

” (James Bales. If he had done this. 2:1-11/Jer. 22:43-44/Ps. orations. he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since and produced effects which like beyond the reach of orator or poet. 11:25. conquered more millions than Alexander.T. The Originality of Christ. 7. Mk. without science and learning. 110:1. learned volumes. without the eloquence of schools. 10:30. 14:61-62/Dan. for it would have omitted many moral and spiritual truths. 8:58/Exo.. and He omits their errors. he shed more light on matters human and divine that all the philosophers and scholars combined. 3:14. Mk. Muhammed and Napoleon. . 8:12. Lk. p. that there is true truth out there to be discovered That if we are willing to work at it a little. His teaching would have been inadequate. or which had been discerned by the reason of man. Caesar. he set more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons..” Many today want to try to say that Jesus is merely one of many significant religious leaders through the course of history And there are some similiarities between Jesus and other religions Some others have supposedly had virgin births Some others have supposedly performed miracles Some others have taught some of the things Jesus taught [“Christ embodies all the moral good which is found in other religions. 24:47. He would have had to omit every truth which had been revealed in the O. If Christ had been completely original. we can discover. Philip Schaff. works of art and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient times and modern.10. socially incorrect “truth”. 7:13. rather than settling for the cop out of indecision. miracles and teaching are unique from all others but rather than quibble over these disputed areas I want to emphasize the areas where Jesus is absolutely unique 1) Jesus’ unique claims (Jn. 5:18. cf. we’re assuming first a huge. the truth And the truth is that Jesus is the most unique Person of history The great Swiss historian. without writing a single line. Jn.14:6.. 31:34. Mt. countercultural.For our purposes today. discussions. put it like this: “Jesus of Nazareth without money and arms. at least beyond reasonable doubt. . Matt.21)] Jesus’ birth.

They were self-effacing. Who do you think you are?” (v.” (v. so far as I perceive it. He was self-advancing.” (John 14:10) “I am the way and the truth and the life. slipping away from the temple grounds. they picked up stones to stone him. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 10:30) “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. 24:35. but Jesus hid Himself. They pointed men away from themselves. follow that. 53) Jesus replies and they ask Him another question and then He says: “I tell you the truth before Abraham was born.5:21-32. I am. This self-centeredness of the teaching of Jesus Himself immediately sets Him apart from the other great religious teachers of the world..” (John 14:6) John Stott rightly notes: “The most striking feature of the teaching of Jesus is that He was constantly talking about Himself . and so did the prophets.’ . 58) And verse 59 says: “At this.” The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying He was claiming to be Yahweh A claim that if untrue was blasphemy and worthy of death But Jesus said in other contexts: “I and the Father are one. ‘That is the truth. saying.” And in John 8 when the Pharisees were challenging Jesus about His claims and authoritative teaching they ask Him: “Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died.. 28:19-20) We’re in the midst of a presidential campaign and we’re used to candidates making ridiculous claims But if any candidate claims to be divine most of us would look for the guys with white coats People who claim to be God are not taken seriously But if we have been a Christian for awhile then we may take Jesus’ claims for granted However it was Jesus’ claims that got Him crucified Do you remember the story of Moses at the Burning Bush in Exodus 3? Moses asked God what His name is and God said: “Yahweh which means I am that I am.

yet he never claimed to be God and died seeking more light. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness. follow me. yet he never had the nerve to say: ‘I am the bread of life. ‘Before Abraham was born. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” (John 14:27) Jesus’ claims are the most dramatic.’ (John 8:12) Mohammed claimed that he and his tribes were descendants from Abraham through Ishmael. I Am. But he never claimed to be God nor did he say.’ (John 6:35) Hitler made astounding claims for the role of Germany on this planet. believing that he was beginning a thousand-year Reich or rule. the most unique and the most credible of any claims ever made No wonder Larry King was once asked if he could interview anyone from history who he would choose And although an unbelieving Jew he immediately responded: “Jesus Christ.Jesus said.” (Basic Christianity p.” (John 11:25) In more modern times Lenin said that if Communism were implemented there would be bread for every household. ‘I am the light of the world.’ The founders of the ethnic religions never dared say such a thing. ‘I am the truth. But he never said. and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. even though they die.” (John 3:36) Freud claimed that psychotherapy would heal people’s emotional and spiritual pains.’ (John 8:58) Many have claimed that people are reincarnated But none have claimed: “I am the resurrection and the life. I’d ask him one question: Are you virgin born? The answer to that question explains history for me. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. The one who believes in me will live. 23) Erwin Lutzer points out the radical uniqueness of Jesus’ claims (Christ Among Other Gods 113): Buddha taught enlightenment. He never said.” . But he could never say: “My peace I give to you. I do not give you as the world gives. another son of Abraham. but will have the light of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry.

a literature professor at both Oxford and Cambridge.” (The N.” (Mere Christianity.S. 119) The real issue is not whether Jesus existed but Who He is Jesus could not be a mere legend but secondly. p. He has not left that open to us. a famous author a convert from atheism to Christianity. could He have been a liar? . and is. Lewis. pp. you can spit at him and kill him as a demon. It it not historians who propogate the ‘Christian-myth’ theories. or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. 38) Indeed it does! What are we to do with Jesus’ claims? There are only 3-4 possibilities C. Jesus could theoretically be only a legendary figure who never even existed But because of all the evidence confirming His historicity the only consistently logical way to deny that there was a man named Jesus is to reject all other ancient historical figures as legends As F. Either this man was. You must make your choice. You can shut him up for a fool. put it as well as anyone: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.(from Ravi Zacharias.on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the devil of hell.T. Jesus Among Other Gods. He did not intend to. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. Documents: Are They Reliable? p.F. 52-53) Whoever Jesus was or is He cannot be merely a great human teacher Great human teachers do not claim to be God Basically there are only four possibilities as to Who Jesus is First. He would either be a lunatic . Bruce puts it: “The historicity of Jesus is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.

and sacrificed his own life for it. who calmly and deliberately predicted His death on the cross. common sense.Theoretically Jesus could have been history’s greatest con artist [But Philip Schaff asks: “How in the name of logic. so completely. 94-95)] But how could even the greatest actor of history begin to accomplish the things Jesus accomplished from His teachings to His miracles to His resurrection Furthermore everyone who knew Him viewed Him either as the greatest or the most dangerous man they ever met And even if He pulled off history’s greatest con . and with an intellect in all respects so clear and so sound. depraved man have invented. so perfect. in the face of the strongest prejudices of his people and ages?” (The Person of Christ pp. moral magnitude. the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. selfish.predictions which have been literally fulfilled? A character so original. His resurrection on the third day. who always returned the wisest possible answer to tempting questions. and consistently maintained from the beginning to end. so uniformly consistent.. . and experience. as the sun above the clouds. the founding of the church. could an imposter .. the destruction of Jerusalem . is equally out of the question. and sublimity. would He have died for His con? Once He was facing execution for His apparently blasphemous claims wouldn’t He have denied them? A third possiblity is that Jesus was a self-deluded lunatic The claims Jesus made are closer to those of say a David Koresh or Marshall Applewhite than to those of the other founders of the world’s religions But would a mad man teach the kind of things Jesus taught? Would a crazy person say that we should do unto others as we would have them do to us? Would an insane person say that the essence of all ethics is to love God and others? [Philip Schaff summarizes some of problems with claiming Jesus was a lunatic: “Self-deception in a matter so momentous.that is deceitful. How could He be an enthusiast or a madman who never lost the even balance of His mind. who sailed serenely over all the troubles and persecutions. the purest and noblest character know in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality? How could he have conceived and successfully carried out a plan of unparalleled beneficence.

40:57. cf. 110:3) Ravi Zacharias observes that “the playfulness of Krishna and his exploits with the milkmaids in the Bhagvad-Gita is frankly an embarrassment to many Hindu scholars. Heb. 14:33. by denial. 20:28. Matt. John 1:1-18.” (The Person of Christ. 1 Jn. Col.” and is described sinning in the Koran (Suras 4:106.” (Jesus Among Other Gods 41) Buddha identified himself as merely an enlightened man who could show the way to escape.” (1 Jn. Acts 4:12. 5:23.” John further says of Jesus: “In Him is no sin. 1:8. p. 5:21.T.” (1:1) John goes on as we have seen to explain that the Word is Jesus and so John is saying: “In the beginning was Jesus and Jesus was with God and Jesus was God. 2:21-22) Those who knew Jesus best Those who lived and traveled with Him for three years described Him not as a prophet or a great teacher but as the sinless Son of God The God-man For example. or a liar. besides His unique claims we can also see His absolutely 2) Jesus’ unique character (John 8:46. His life and teachings. 2:22. 1 Pet. or a lunatic but the Lord For example. 9:38. 1 Pet. also consistently present Jesus as having never once sinned Their claim makes Jesus again different from any of the other founders of the world’s religions Virtually every other person presented in the Bible is seen to have significant flaws and sins Moses did not get to enter the promise land because of his sin Mohammed admitted: “Surely I am no more than a human apostle. 109)] Does Jesus’ character. Jesus’ disciple John begins His gospel by saying: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2 Cor. suffering .so human and yet so high above all human greatness. 3:5. 4:15. can be neither a fraud nor a fiction. 1:15-17. 48:2. 7:59. 3:5) The rest of the authors of the N. support or disprove His claims? That will be the focus of the rest of our sermon The fourth possibility is that Jesus is not a legend.

Sinless perfection and perfect sinlessness is what we would expect of God incarnate. but not sinless. Mic. 9:24-27.T.” (Protestant Christian Evidences p. 22:18. fast or clever. Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent consciousness. ‘I bring salvation to every living being. He injured nobody.T. Whatever men may claim for being great. They may be brilliant or strong.. p. 7:12.. 33) Bernard Ramm emphasizes: “There he stands. 49:10..” p. 3:15. He took advantage of nobody.Some of Buddha’s later followers deified him but he never claimed this for himself Rather he said: “You disciples. 2 Sam. do not affirm that the Lord Budda reflects thus himself. 12:1-3. 151) Comparative religions scholar Robert Hume similarly summarizes: “All of the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character. 5:2) There are over 300 prophesies in the O. and a consistent program for his religion. this is one thing they cannot. 286) As historian Philip Schaff says: “In vain do we look through the entire biography of Jesus for a single stain or the slightest shadow on his moral character. The Portable World Bible: A Comprehensive Selection from the Eight Great Sacred Scriptures of the World. The hypothesis and the facts concur. Is.. about who the Messiah would be . . it presents Jesus as having the most perfect character of anyone in history The Bible also points to 3) Jesus’ unique fulfillment of prophecy (Gen. written centuries before Jesus birth. sinless. creative or inspired. 7:14. 169) Making another huge assumption. is a historically reliable document. He never committed a wrong action.” (“The Person of Christ.” (The Living World Religions. some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances. p.” (from Robert Ballou. a consistent character himself. Dan.’ Subhuti (Buddha’s disciple) entertain no such delusive thought! In reality there are no living beings to whom the Lord Buddha can bring salvation. that the N. He never wrote an improper word.

but if that was the case would they not have produced it after people started claiming that Jesus is risen Some have claimed that Jesus’ disciples stole His body. Jer 23(5) and Is.000.000 (cf. except that it happened! But the most compelling and crucial evidence of all is 4) Jesus’ unique resurrection (Matt. Luke 24. 3:15 that One would come who would defeat Satan and restore the broken relationship between God and mankind Genesis 12(3) and 18(13) then promise that this coming One would a descendant of Abraham Genesis 49(10) then promises that He would come from the tribe of Judah Ps.. but if that was the case would they have gone on to sacrifice their lives for what they knew was a lie? . Josh McDowell.After Adam and Eve sinned God promised in Gen. but if I had time I could show numerous ways in which the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is absolutely unique None other claims compare to the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection [Furthermore comparative religions scholar Robert Hume observes that “no other historic person in the world religions has ever been reported to have arisen shortly after his death and burial.000. 167) Now if you’re like me a number like that is incomprehensible But I can tell you that one mathmatician compared this to the state of Texas being covered 2 feet deep in silver dollars and reaching in and pulling out one particular silver dollar Jesus’ fulfillment of so many prophesies is unbelievable .000. 28. John 20-21. p. and to have continued his customary influence upon his disciples as in the case of Jesus. 1 Cor. 15) There have been a few other claimed resurrections. Evidence That Demands a Verdict. 265)] It is beyond reasonable historical dispute that three days after Jesus was crucified His tomb was found empty History’s most important issue is: What happened to Jesus’ body? There have been many theories proposed to try to explain Jesus’ empty tomb Some have claimed that Jesus’ enemies stole His body. 11(10) then promise that He would be a descendent of David Isa. 7(14) says that He will be born of a virgin Micah 5:2 says that He will be born in Bethlehem and Daniel 9(24-27) even predicts the time of His death It has been calculated that for Jesus to fulfill just 8 of the over 300 prophesies that He fulfilled would have only a one in 10 the 17th power probability In other words 1 in 100.” (World’s Living Rel-s p. 132(11).000..

heaven. 3:18. 20:28. 2:8-9. John 1:29. cf. 3:16. 1 Pet. bodily raised from the dead then Christianity is a farce All the Christian faith stands or falls upon the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection Take Jesus historical resurrection out of Christianity and everything about it crumbles But not only is Christianity uniquely based on history 6) Jesus’ unique message (Matt. 15:1-20) If it were proven that Budda or Mohammed or the other founders of the world religions were only legends it would not destroy those religions As basically ethical systems their ethics and traditions could go on without missing a beat But the credibility of Christianity is absolutely tied to Jesus’ historicity As Paul repeatedly emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 15 if Jesus was not truly. Acts 16:31. Luke 15) The basic message of all the world religions is do Do this and find God Do this and find forgiveness Follow God’s commands and earn salvation. or whatever the rewards of their particular system But the unique message of Christianity is not do but done The Christian faith is not about what we do for God but about what God has done for us The difference between Christianity and all the world religions can be seen in two of the most famous stories told by Jesus and Budda Both stories are about rebellious sons who ran away from home but who later saw the error of their ways and returned home to be reconcilled with their families . Eph.All of the other proposals for what happened to Jesus’ body make no sense 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that more than 500 people simultaneously saw the risen Jesus How could more than 500 people all have the same hallucination? And 1 Corinthians 15 goes on to emphasize 5) Jesus’ unique historicity (1 Cor.

” Time magazine’s 12-6-99 cover story was entitled “Jesus at 2000” And although they tried to rewrite history in their own image they nevertheless admitted: . so that no one can boast. and His message are all unique and thus so also has been His 7) Jesus’ unique impact (Matt. which God prepared in advance for us to do.G. accepting His gift Christian ethics are the evidence of having been saved not the means of earning it This approach to salvation and ethics makes Christianity totally different from any other religious faith Religion is do. is about trying to earn God’s favor Christianity is about what God has done to give us His favor The only thing we have to do to get eternal life is to believe in Jesus John 3(16) says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Salvation is God’s gift that is received by simply trusting Him. His resurrection. Christians do not do to work their way to heaven Christians do because of what God has already done for them (given them heaven as a gift) As Ephesians 2(8-10) says: “For it is by grace you have been saved. His historicity.In Budda’s story when the rebellious son returns his fauther gives him a list of a whole bunch of things that he needs to do to pay for his past misdeeds In Jesus’ story when the rebellious son returns home his father runs to him and lavishes upon him undeserved forgiveness Buddhism. created in Christ Jesus to do good works. it is the gift of God— 9 not by works. 8:27) H. But I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. through faith —and this is not from yourselves. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in history. His character. 10 For we are God’s handiwork. like all the world religions. Christianity is done For Christians how we live is not the way to salvation How we live is the result of salvation Jesus’ claims. His fulfillment of prophecy. Wells said: “I am a historian. I am not a believer.

“It would require much exotic calculation to deny that the single most powerful figure -not merely in these two millenniums but in all human history . On our calendars His birth divides history into two eras. nineteen centuries have come and gone and today . While He was still young. It’s an astonishing conclusion in light of the fact that Jesus was a man who lived a short life in a rural backwater of the Roman Empire and who died in agony as a convicted criminal 100 years or so before this article another author put it even better: “Nearly two thousand years ago in an obscure village. Then for three years He became an itinerant preacher. He grew up in another village where He worked as a carpenter until He was thirty. While He was dying. a child was born of a peasant woman. But .. His followers ran away. And two of our most important holidays celebrate Him .. . This man never went to college or seminary He never wrote a book He never held a public office He never had a family nor owned a home He never put foot inside a big city nor traveled 200 miles from His birthplace And though He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness. but a serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely so powerful and enduring as that of Jesus. this man is the central figure of the human race.. throngs of people followed Him. One day of every week is set aside in remembrance of Him. His body was laid in a borrowed grave provided by a compassionate friend. Not only is the prevalent system of denoting the years based on an erroneous 6th century calculation of the date of his birth. He had no credentials but Himself. the tide of public opinion turned against Him. He was turned over to His enemies and sentenced to death on a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth the simple coat He had worn...has been Jesus of Nazareth.

” [James Kennedy concurs: “Jesus Christ has had an enormous impact more than anybody else .on history.. He asks for the human heart. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years. poems and paintings than any other person or event in history. He demands it unconditionally. Jesus Christ was more than man . all the kings that ever reigned have not changed the course of history as much as this One solitary life. Whatever Jesus touched on or whatever He did transformed that aspect of human life. Had He never come. He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends. and to this very day millions will die for Him . all the navies that every sailed. In defiance of time and space. All the armies that ever marched. becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. (What If Christ Had Never Been Born? p. orphanages and other institutions have been founded in honor of this One who gave His life for us.. or a man of his brothers. the soul of man.. Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others is difficult to satisfy. Caesar.. with all its powers and faculties. . Christ’s influence on the world is immeasurable . Thousands of colleges. that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. all the governments that ever sat.. but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. the hole would be a canyon the size of a continent. Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires.This one Man’s life has furnished the theme for more songs. and forthwith His demand is granted. 4) Even Bonapart Napoleon once said: “Alexander. none else is like Him. or a bride of her spouse. He will have it entirely to Himself. Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love.. or a father of his children. hospitals. books.

Liddon’s Bampton Lectures. p.. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.” (quoted by Henry Parry Liddon.All who sincerely believe in Him.. it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. 148)] . This phenomenon is unaccountable. . supernatural love toward Him. experience that remarkable.