You don't have to be a Christian to believe that Jesus is the world's most fascinating person ever to exist. Hardly anyone in the world has a bad thing to say about Jesus. There are plenty of people who don't like Christians and who will say nasty things about Christians and our doctrines, but most people still want to remain at least neutral about Jesus. Many hope that Jesus, even if He is only a historical figure, will be on their side, fighting for their version of justice, peace, or morality. But Jesus cannot validate all of our conflicting claims. So, who is the real Jesus, and why do humans find Him perpetually interesting?
Scholars write countless books and give endless lectures about "the real Jesus," which often claim to "rescue Jesus from the Church." The fascinating reality is that we almost universally consider Jesus important and authoritative, regardless of how we interpret His meaning, because He appears to be a successful human being. If we could be like Jesus ourselves, we imagine that we would be all right; we can consider ourselves successful human beings. The identity of Jesus helps us measure our behavior. Thus, we are also aggressively motivated to make Jesus into our image. We hope that Jesus will validate us, but we also fear that He won't. The interpretation of Jesus is a major battleground for power and affirmation. It is no wonder the subject is so contentious.
Ultimately, we are concerned with the question "who is Jesus?" because the answer will help us resolve another question: "Who am I?"
"Who do people say that I am?" Jesus asked his disciples. And then, making the question personal, He addressed one particular disciple, Peter, saying, "who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:27-30)
How do you answer this question?
Christians say that Jesus is God. But what we mean is that God is Jesus. Unfortunately, most of us presuppose the character of God before we import Jesus into His identity. This presumption is the source of all kinds of misunderstandings concerning Jesus. We first need to look at Jesus and let His character and power speak independently of our assumptions. I am confident that the longer one looks at Jesus, the more synonymous His name becomes with the author of life itself. Jesus is truly unique among men.
The identity and nature of God is the most important question of all. It is the identity of God that gives the human race self-understanding, a vocation, a mission, a goal, and a purpose for living. Even if you were to conclude that there is no God, this belief would lead you to draw very consequential conclusions about yourself and your value or lack thereof in this world. The question of God's identity is the hinge pin for every subsequent thought or action of human beings. It is not without reason that people have always wanted to know, "Whose, your daddy?" We want to know where we came from so we can understand where we are going.
In the case of God, the formula is the other way around. We must know the son before we can know the Father. We simply do not know what God is like, except that He must be the originator, "the father", of our world. And with this, the Gospel of John agrees:
"No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." John 1:18.
We cannot overstate the significance of Jesus. The meaning of life hinges on Him. He is worthy of our exploration and, I believe, of our worship.