In thirteen days, three-quarters of the world will celebrate Christmas–the world’s largest holiday. Over 2 billion people will worship the One whose birth it honors.
Why is Christmas the most celebrated holiday? Because there is no one who has influenced the world more than Jesus of Nazareth.
Over the next few weeks I’d like to re-share some thoughts on why Jesus is so special. I will add some material from my new book–River of God: Where Religion Began and Why Grace and Love Will Triumph which debuts in February, 2018.
Christmas is the biggest because there is no one like Jesus.
- Jesus is unique in historical verification.
When we read the history books, we often assume that ancient historical figures such as Alexander the Great, Plato, or Julius Caesar, can be easily verified by historical records. That is not true. Very few ancient manuscripts exist that confirm the reality of any ancient history-maker—especially books or parchments that go back over one thousand years.
But Jesus is different. First, there are twenty-seven different New Testament sources that describe his life and ministry. Second, his life is mentioned by numerous non-biblical authors such as Cornelius Tacitus (born A.D. 52-54), the great Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (born A.D. 37), Seutonius (Roman historian), Tertullian (African jurist-theologian), and even the Jewish Talmuds (written A.D. 100-500).
The Encyclopedia Britannica uses 20,000 words to describe Jesus—more than Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, or Napoleon Bonaparte combined. There is unprecedented proof that Jesus of Nazareth walked this earth some two thousand years ago.
- Jesus is unique in the prophecies related to his life and work.
Jesus’ life purpose was announced by numerous prophecies hundreds of years before his coming in 6/5 B.C. The Old Testament contains three hundred references to the Messiah that could have been fulfilled only in the person of Jesus. These include him being a Jew (Numbers 24:17), from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), in family line of David (Jeremiah 23:5), and born in David’s hometown of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He was preceded by a messenger (Isaiah 40:3), betrayed by a close friend (Psalm 41:9), sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), crucified with thieves (Psalm 22:16, Isaiah 53:12), and buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9).
Peter Stoner states in Science Speaks that the odds of Jesus fulfilling only eight of the major prophecies are one in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (10 to the 17th power). He concludes, “The prophets had just one chance in 10 to the 17th power of having them come true in any man, but they all came true in Christ.”
Allow that scientific probability to sink deeply into your heart. Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah has no parallel in history.
- Jesus is unique in his birth.
Jesus’ unique and utterly miraculous birth is celebrated all over the world each Christmas. Two detailed accounts of the amazing circumstances are recorded in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. Besides the angel Gabriel announcing the birth (Luke 1:26-38), the extreme humility of being born in a cave or barn reserved for animals (Luke 2:6), or the choir of angels that sang for some startled shepherds, Jesus being conceived of the Holy Spirit and born to a woman who was a virgin is unparalleled in human experience.
But this, too, was prophesied: “The Lord himself will choose the sign: Look! The virgin will conceived a child! She will give birth to a son and call him Immanuel—‘God is with us’” (Isaiah 7:14).
Do you know of any other “virgin” births?—or any child conceptions that produced a life anywhere near that of Jesus Christ? As the creeds finally delineated, Jesus was fully God and fully man. God himself had taken on human form. Can we imagine anything more wondrous than Incarnation? This act exemplified the greatest act of humility of all time—God stooping to become a part of his fallen creation.
- Jesus is unique in his supernatural powers.
If anything stands out in the four gospels (good news accounts) of the life of Jesus Christ, it is God’s love expressed through miracles that freed and benefited people. The first gospel, written by John Mark, contains fast-paced stories where Jesus heals peoples’ diseases, casts out demons, multiplies food for thousands, and even raises people from the dead (e.g. Mark 2:1-12, 6:34-44, 9:14-29). John’s gospel, written by the disciple whom Jesus’ loved (John 20:2), builds its case on eight miracles that demonstrated the power and divinity of Jesus Christ.
A careful study of the New Testament reveals at least thirty amazing signs and wonders that Jesus performed while on the earth. No other person validated their ministry by supernatural means as did Jesus who “went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).
- Jesus is unique among all religious founders or leaders.
When we really analyze why Christmas is the world’s biggest holiday, it boils down to an unequaled person who makes all the difference.
No organization is greater than its leadership. No religion is greater than its God. Jesus, the incarnate revelation of the Godhead, is the only One who has made the Father known to us and provided the way back to him.
In the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus revealed himself in various forms, possibly as the “Angel of the Lord” (e.g. Judges 13:1-22) who guided Israel out of bondage, and provided direction and salvation for a nation. In the New Testament, we meet God face-to-face in Jesus Christ—the God-man—a person who has no peer in history. He came to die for the sins of the entire world and personally demonstrated the love and grace of the living God.
Each religion rises on falls on the strength of its founder, architect, or deity. Let’s compare Jesus, the Son of the triune loving God, with the leaders of the other four main religions in the world (which is the focus of my new book):
- Jesus and Zeus – Polytheism possesses no supreme god or being, but the Greek god, Zeus, comes the closest. As with most polytheistic gods, he is a mythical figure who wars, possesses multiple wives, does good, also evil, and is certainly not worthy of emulation. Jesus lived a perfect life of sacrificial love. He has no equivalent in the pantheon of the gods.
- Jesus and the Buddha – Since Hindu pantheism lists no heroes, let’s compare Jesus to Siddhartha Gautama who started out as a pantheist and ended as an atheist. He abandoned his family for most of his life. He begged for bread, and did nothing to help people to change their world. Near the end of his life, he is reported as saying: “I’m still looking for truth.” Jesus Christ said: “I AM the truth” (John 14:6). There is a world of difference.
- Jesus and Friedrich Nietzsche – There are numerous voices in atheism, but none thunders louder than German philosopher Nietzsche. He was a melancholy individual who called himself an “immoralist”—and eventually went insane, possibly due to contracting tertiary syphilis. He gave us the phrase “God is dead.” Jesus gave us hope through his words, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die” (John 11:25).
- Jesus and Muhammad – Don Richardson makes the comparison: “Jesus raised the dead; Muhammad killed the living. Jesus healed the sick; Muhammad harmed the healthy. Jesus released the oppressed; Muhammad enslaved the free. Jesus sanctified the earth with that which is heavenly; Muhammad sullied mankind’s understanding of heaven with the earthly. In fact, Muhammad could not even reach up to touch the underside of the moral standards of an average rogue.”
The life of Jesus Christ remains the purest and greatest one ever lived. Probably the easiest way to come to the truth about religion is to compare the founders or gods of them all. There is no comparison. Jesus Christ–Son of God—Lord—Savior–is someone to whom you can truly entrust your life, your soul, and your future.
Now you know why the world celebrates Christmas like no other.
There is no one like Jesus.
Give your heart to Him once again and worship Him.