Seventh Sunday of Epiphany 24th February

John 20 : 30 – 31

 

‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’.

 

Who do you think is the most influential person in human history?gus1

Now, believe it or not, this question has actually been researched and documented. The outcome of that research is that no person, living or dead, has ever influenced our world more than Jesus of Nazareth.

You may find that very surprising, especially when you stop to consider what Jesus left at the end of his time here on earth. At the time of his awful death through crucifixion, no one was less likely to be remembered, or be an influence for future generations than Jesus of Nazareth.

Just consider what he left at the end of his ministry …

  • He didn’t own any property or amass any fortune,
  • He never wrote any books,
  • He didn’t hold any political positions,
  • He didn’t start any organizations. Remember, the church only formed after his time here on earth!
  • He travelled very little, and what travelling he did, was limited to a small region,
  • He only had a small band of followers.

Now, that’s a pretty unimpressive resume, isn’t it?

Yet today, two thousand years later, Jesus is the most influential person in human history!

So let’s look at why Jesus is such an influential person in human history?

  1. Firstly he really was a person in history!

This is important, because today there are many people who still question whether Jesus actually lived and walked on this earth. That is especially true for the younger generations today. They admire the stories told about Jesus, but they doubt whether he was a person of history.

But there is so much historical information and there are so many records we have to show that Jesus really was a person in human history. Now, some of those reports were even by people who were not followers of Jesus!  People who were the detractors, even the enemies of Jesus!

  • We have writings about Jesus going back to only a few decades after his life.

People wrote about this individual in history.

  • Stories were also written very close to the time some events actually occurred.

There were events recorded by Tacitus, who was a Roman senator and historian. Written only twenty years after the time Jesus lived and walked on this earth. Then there were other documents written by historians like Josephus and Pliny. Their only interest was to record history.

These people were not followers of Jesus, they were critics of him, but they wrote about him. Now, would they have even bothered to write about Jesus, if he wasn’t an actual person of history?  I don’t think so!

2: Secondly, we know about Jesus because people wanted to share his story!

They tell the life story of Jesus. Everything that he said and did!  They were close to him and were the eye witnesses of much of his life. They just wanted the world to know how remarkable Jesus of Nazareth was.

People like the Gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We get to hear from them every Sunday, and then when we read the gospels ourselves.

They were simple ordinary people, who got to rub shoulders with Jesus.

Fishermen, tax collectors, even a physician. Like us, they were common folk. But their lives were completely changed by their experiences with Jesus. They marvelled at his compassion and care for people. How he treated everyone alike. They had never met anyone like Jesus before.

  1. Thirdly, the followers of Jesus gave up their lives for what they believed.

That is really quite mind blowing, isn’t it?  Who of us would be prepared to die for what we believed in?

The suggestion has been made that the followers of Jesus made up or added to his story that he died a physical death, and then rose again physically. They agree that Jesus may have been a great teacher, but he was really just another ordinary individual. It was his followers and the church who invented some of the miraculous stories told about him, and then, especially the extraordinary tale of his death and resurrection.  I mean, how can someone possibly die, and then rise from the dead three days later?

Now we know that eleven of the disciples remained at the time of Jesus’ death.

The amazing thing is that only one of those eleven died a natural death. The other ten died as martyrs. They lived a life of persecution and torture before losing their life standing up for what they believed in.

They were eyewitnesses to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. So the obvious question is: ‘Who in their right mind would be prepared to die for something if they knew it to be a lie?’ 

Yes, these disciples were prepared to put their life on the line, because they knew that while Jesus did die, he also truly rose again and was physically present with them before ascending to the Father.

  1. Fourthly, Jesus changed the lives of people one at a time.

The teachings of Jesus may have led to changing societies, but individual lives are only changed one person at a time. That was true with Jesus. He didn’t bring about any sweeping changes to the values, ethics and behaviour of society. His impact was on people, one person at a time, and often on people who were not looking for any change!

  • Think of the apostle Paul!             He was a prominent Jew and a Pharisee.

He had a great family background and the best of teaching in Jewish law. He persecuted the followers of Jesus and even spoke to the Roman leaders about his obsession to hunt them down.

Yet one day, on his way to Damascus, his journey was interrupted by Jesus and his life was turned upside down. The outcome was a life revolutionized by Jesus and he became one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known.

  • Augustine was another! He lived a completely self-indulgent and pleasure seeking life.

At the age of only fifteen he had a mistress. He went to Milan to teach and enjoy every aspect of life he could. But he couldn’t run from God who was seeking him. One day, while out in the garden, confused about his life, he heard a voice say: ‘take up and read’. So he read from the book of Romans and it began a change that saw him become one of the greatest leaders of the church at that time. He became the bishop of Hippo, in Northern Africa, and one of the greatest minds the church has seen.

  • Maybe you know someone whose life has been radically changed by Jesus.

I was already a Christian as a teenager when my brother was killed in an accident. But I remember reflecting on that experience many times. It could have turned me away from God. How could there be a loving God if someone so young has their life cut short. From a human point of view we could say: ‘what a waste!’ But I came to the conclusion that it could only be a waste if there were no God!  God is forever present in our lives. In good and bad situations. It is only through God that we can make sense and meaning of our lives. I know my brother is forever safe in God’s care, and in my journey through life I continue to pinch myself and say: ‘God is so good to me!’  I know I don’t deserve it.

Jesus continues to change lives and the worlds of people – one at a time!

The fact that Jesus lived and was a person of history makes all the difference. He knows and understands what it is like for us to be human, and he cares about us all the same. He has a plan and a purpose for every one of us. We are precious to him and he loves us with a passion. So surrender your life and your concerns to Jesus. Trust in him for he truly cares.

So keep looking to Jesus – he will truly make a difference in your life.

Gus Schutz

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