Our Western Gregorian calendar marks the year of this Man’s birth. He was conceived contrary to the ordinary laws governing natural life. His birthplace was a barn, He grew up in an obscure rural village, and His parents were plain-living peasants. Their ancestry was fully Jewish – known as God’s chosen people, but often hated by the nations of the world. They were a typical poor, young couple lacking any formal education and possessing neither wealth nor influence.
Yet His arrival was announced by angels and caused panic in one king’s heart and elation in the hearts of three other kings. As a baby, He was prophesied over twice by strangers at the temple during His dedication. As a toddler, He was visited by a team of accomplished foreign scholars who traveled and searched for months in order to locate Him. Approaching his teen years, the wisdom He shared impressed, engaged, and surpassed religious professionals and highly placed lawyers. As a young man, He apprenticed quietly in his father’s carpentry shop until age thirty, after which He worked for the next three years as a traveling preacher without a church building for shelter and without a congregation to support Him.
In the final years of His unnaturally short life, He belatedly demonstrated the fullness of His nature by walking on water, commanding violent storms to be at peace, converting water into fine wine, healing the sick, raising the dead, and multiplying a handful of fish and loaves sufficient for the satisfaction of thousands of His hungry companions.
He never held an elected office, and never had a title; yet multitudes wanted to proclaim Him their king and were prepared to forsake all other appointed and inherited rulers in exchange for just this one Man. He never owned a home, never married nor had children, never attended college, and never gained any formal credentials or positions. As an adult, He never lived in a big city or traveled more than a hundred miles from the place where He was born. He had nothing in this world beyond the simple clothes He wore.
He never wrote a book, and yet all the libraries in the world contain books written about Him. He never wrote a song, but hundreds of thousands of songs have been written about Him with more being added daily. He never painted, sculpted, or drew; yet the greatest artists in the history of mankind have consistently sought to honor Him by selecting Him as the subject of their masterpieces. He never founded a college nor earned a degree, but all the schools in the world cannot claim as many students. He never commanded troops, drafted a soldier, planned a troop movement, won a war, or fired a gun; and yet no other leader has ever had more volunteers and followers – most of whom are prepared to die for Him.
He never practiced psychiatry nor studied pharmaceuticals; still, He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors of the world. He cured countless desperately afflicted multitudes without medicine or instruments – even raising several from the dead. He turned no one away while they were suffering, never acted inconvenienced, and never charged for His services. His only incentive was the benefit another would receive.
He was no film or rock star, and He played no professional sports. He never appeared on television, spoke on the radio, blogged or tweeted; yet His words are broadcast worldwide on a daily basis. He turned the world’s concept of greatness and fame upside down while demonstrating true servant leadership. Although He never did any of the things contemporary society considers an indication of greatness or importance, He was a true hero and His life remains worthy of imitation by every generation.
Despite all His good deeds, He was criticized for befriending society’s outcasts and for resisting popular influences and powerful personalities. His words and deeds were forcefully opposed by the ruling elites. His family doubted His motives, and at times thought Him mentally unstable. The tide of popular opinion turned against Him while He was still young. Many were jealous of Him and many others hated Him. Friends deserted Him, one denied Him multiple times, and another bitterly betrayed Him to His enemies. He was arrested by His adversaries, and suffered the harassment and lies of false accusations and a mock trial. Although wholly innocent, He was pronounced guilty, whipped, spat on, beaten, pierced, and sentenced to a criminal’s public death in a painful, bloody manner. He was nailed to wooden crossbeams, set high between thieves, speared, ridiculed, and cursed. As He was dying, the executioners gambled for His only remaining possession, a simple robe. His last words were those of forgiveness and love for the very men who were persecuting Him.
For His burial, He was to be laid in a borrowed tomb donated through the pity of a stranger. At the moment of His death, the earth shook violently and split open, the skies thundered, the sun darkened, and graves yielded their dead who then walked the streets – all bearing witness to His innocence and to the promise of mightier things to come. Although His enemies had tried, they couldn’t destroy Him because even the grave was soon proven unable to hold Him.
Had there been an obituary written at the time of Jesus’ sacrificial earthly death, it would have read similar to this:
Jesus Christ, aged 33, died late Friday afternoon in Jerusalem on Mount Calvary, also known as Golgotha the Place of the Skull. Born in Bethlehem of Judea, He spent his childhood in Egypt and his youth in the northern village of Nazareth. Jesus was sentenced to death by the state for crimes against the Roman Empire and the Jewish religion. He was crucified along with two other criminals by order of Prefect Pontius Pilate with the approval of King Herod Agrippa. Causes of death were extreme exhaustion, severe torture, unrelenting pain, and profuse bleeding. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, and a member of the royal Jewish House of David. He was the firstborn son of the late Joseph Ben Jacob, a respected Galilean carpenter. He is survived by His mother, Mary, three brothers and two sisters, twelve apostles, and numerous disciples. He was self-educated and spent most of His adult life working first as a carpenter and then as a pastor, teacher, community organizer, and social worker. The entombment occurred just prior to the Sabbath in a nearby hillside cavern previously owned by family benefactor Joseph of Arimathea. In lieu of flowers, the family requests honoring the deceased by embracing His instruction and the example of His life. Monetary donations will be forwarded in his name to local charities.
There was, however, no time or need for an obituary, because three days thereafter, He was resurrected and back even stronger; teaching, speaking, preaching to His friends and family in full view of hundreds. He departed soon thereafter on His own terms and timing. As He left, He promised an imminent future return while leaving His immortal Word and providing a great, new Gift intended to comfort us in the interim. Jesus lives yesterday, today, an always.
Soon the world discovered that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the governments that ever were established, all the kings who ever reigned, and all the presidents who ever held office have not affected history as powerfully or as positively as this one Man’s life. Although more than twenty-one centuries have come and gone since His brief time on earth, He’s continuously been the centerpiece of the human race as its greatest source of guidance and divine inspiration. Many times every week the world over, countless multitudes gather to study His teachings and to show their respect for Him.
The modern world still has difficulty understanding Him. Schools are reluctant to teach about Him. Leaders can’t succeed if they ignore Him. Historical revisionists have tried but can’t erase Him. Scientists remain baffled by Him. Communism, Nazism, and atheism failed to silence Him. New Agers, Hindus, and Muslims can’t replace Him. The proud can’t accept Him. Religion can’t sanitize or convolute Him. And none of the commercial commentators on TV or radio are able to explain His continuing popularity and influence.
Time itself recognizes His earthly presence by its division between that which came before and that which came after His birth. Today, His followers celebrate the date of His arrival on earth as both a holy day and a holiday. Without ceasing, His enemies dispute antagonistically against the mere mention of His name and are hostile to any display of the symbols relating to His humble birth and life. They harass public officials and school boards, they wear out the courts with endless mean-spirited petitions, and they disrupt the celebrations enjoyed by a majority of the population. His symbols are not their issue; it’s the Man Himself: His heavenly ancestry, incarnate birth, Jewish heritage, pure life, selfless death, church on earth, eternal and unchanging existence, renewing resurrection, claim of being God, universal authority, kingdom of saints, eternal judgment, second messianic coming, and His everlasting presence.
The names of the eminent statesmen and thinkers of ancient Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have also come and gone. But the name of this humble Jewish man multiplies more and more with every season that passes. His life, works, and words are continually studied in minute detail from every possible perspective: historically, educationally, doctrinally, practically, comparatively, medically, critically, devotionally, prophetically, and analytically, and there is always enough to satisfy everyone while keeping them hungry for more. Even though more than two thousand years lie between our generation and His time on the earth, the Son of Man’s name still lives on – JESUS.