One generation after another says good things about Jesus. People seem to want him on their side. It’s been 2,000 years since he walked the earth, but Jesus is still talked about as much as ever.
Cross necklaces and Jesus tattoos abound. Some wear Jesus t-shirts. He’s even admired by people who don’t call themselves Christians.
The Most Famous Person in History
By any sober evaluation, Jesus is the most famous person in history. No one has been more frequently painted, written about, or sung to. No person has affected human history as much as Jesus.
But who is Jesus really? It’s only fair to let him speak for himself. Jesus never wrote his own book, but he taught day after day in public, and several of his friends wrote down much of what he taught. What they recorded is our most reliable account of what Jesus really had to say about himself.
More Than a Teacher
Jesus was a great teacher, no doubt. Everyone seems to agree on that. He’s likely the best teacher who’s ever lived, and many of his sayings are recognized and familiar: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” “Do not judge others, so that you will not be judged.” “Our Father, who art in heaven . . .” And the list goes on.
But Jesus didn’t think about himself as just a teacher, and it’s significant that his friends each record him saying these things just once. There is only one thing that Jesus’ friends Matthew, Mark, and Luke record three times each: Jesus’ teaching that he was going to die and then rise again.
So His Death Was Planned?
Matthew’s 16th chapter is the first place we encounter Jesus explicitly talking about his death: “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must . . . be killed, and on the third day be raised” (vv. 21-23).
Then again in the next chapter, Jesus says that he “is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 17:22-23).
Then a third time—this one in Matthew, chapter 20: Jesus said to his disciples, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem [the city where he was going to be killed]. And the Son of Man [talking about himself] will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over the Gentiles [the non-Jewish Romans] to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day’” (vv. 17-19).
And again, both Mark and Luke also record Jesus clearly teaching about his death and resurrection at least three times each before he died—notably more than he teaches on any other subject! (See Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:33–34; Luke 9:22, 44, 51–53; 18:31–32.)
Why Did He Die?
The political leaders couldn’t find any real fault in Jesus, so why did they kill him? The ultimate answer is that God wanted it this way and orchestrated the details to bring it about. That’s why Jesus knew it was going to happen.
But why in the world would God want that—and why did Jesus willingly comply? The reason is this: Because humanity as a whole—and every individual human being—has rebelled against God by not living how God, as our Maker, intended. Because of this, we all deserve to be punished forever—that’s the appropriate punishment for belittling a God who deserves infinite respect.
But in his perfect love, God found a way to save rebellious humans—without compromising his perfect standard of justice—by sending Jesus, who was his eternal divine Son, to …
- share in our humanity
- live flawlessly in step with God’s intentions
- die to pay for our rebellion
- and finally rise again in victory over our damnable failures.
This is what Christians call “the good news” or the gospel. The good news is that there is a way out of the punishment we deserve. And this way out is through both the most famous and also most spiritually attractive person who has ever lived: Jesus—the same Jesus who said that he came to earth “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
So why again did Jesus die? He died so that humans don’t have to spend eternity apart from their Maker but can be brought into a real relationship with him by trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice—and by enjoying him forever.
Getting connected with Jesus isn’t something you can earn. You can’t do anything to gain his favor and get yourself right with God. The only thing you can do is something that really isn’t doing: Trusting that Jesus and his sacrifice are enough to take care of you.
Would You Like to Hear More?
If you’d like more info on Jesus—and there’s much more to say than can fit on this Web page—we’d love for you to check out our church, not because we have all the answers, but because we believe what Jesus’ friends wrote in the Bible is true. And the Bible is where the reliable info comes from.
You could read the Bible for yourself, too. Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John would all be good places to start. Read the Bible online, or we’d love to give you a Bible. Pick one up at the Information Booth at any one of the Bethlehem campuses.