Jesus is so central to Christianity that there is no way I could cover every important aspect of Him in a single article. But I'll cover some of the high points here. Some view Him as a mere legend who never existed. Some view Him as a merely a great teacher. Some view Him as the founder of a religious sect. I once talked with an orthodox Jew that described Him as a guy who started out as a good teacher and ended up going crazy. Some of the ways He is viewed cannot be related to the way He is described in the Bible and can be nothing more than a fantasy based on people projecting their own personalities onto Him. It is very strange to me that some will use the existence of Jesus as per the Bible, but then ignore the way He is described therein. Josh McDowell's book "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" looks into the historicity of Jesus and you can check that for an exhaustive treatment of the subject.

CS Lewis states: If Jesus were not Who He said He was, His words would prove that He was either a liar or a lunatic. Reading His words makes it clear that He was neither a charlatan or a madman. And His resurrection from the dead, as He predicted, proves that He is Who He claimed to be. Jesus is the point at which many people stumble. The vast majority of people probably agree with what I've said in the previous articles, but a lot will have problems with what I say here.

There are three types of God's sons described in the Bible. The first type are the created sons. Adam was created by God and is referred to as His son. By extension, all humans can be considered children of God, via creation (Adam directly, the rest of us indirectly). The second type are adopted sons (and daughters). Those who become believers in Jesus are adopted into God's family2. This is different from the first kind of sonship in that, because of the fall, created sons are under the condemnation that hangs over all of mankind. The created children are considered rebels against God and the relationship is broken. The adopted children, however, are in a restored relationship with God. They are looked upon in favor in a way that the merely created children are not. But the third type of sonship is unique. Jesus is the only begotten1 son of God.

"Beget" is an old-timey word that I use only because its specific meaning is important. To beget is to reproduce. It is not a creator/creation relationship nor an adoptive relationship. Fish beget fish. Birds beget birds. Humans beget humans. God begets God. Does this mean that Jesus is another God? After all, a fish beget by another fish is a separate thing, despite being like its progenitor. But if you think that God begets a separate god, you do not understand the nature of the "species". Of course, we again are considering the nature of the trinity which, as I mentioned in the previous article, lies at the limits of human comprehension. Jesus is a Person separate from the Father, but they are One in the Godhead. As such, He is the second member of the trinity.

Some have tried to reconcile this by assuming that the man Jesus was merely an image projected by God and not a physical man. Others have assumed that Jesus was only a man, not God. A unique and inspired man, but only a man. The Bible rejects both of these viewpoints3. A comprehensive reading of the Bible makes it clear that Jesus was a man: He touched people, He ate, He got thirsty, He got tired, He slept, and He was killed. But He was also the Father's only begotten Son. Besides the testimony of His disciples, He also admitted that He was One with the Father. The Pharisees tried to kill him more than once because His claim to be One with the Father made Him equal to God. In His trial, He was asked, "Are you to Son of God" and Jesus replied, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the Clouds of heaven."4 He was somehow both man and God.5

His deity is affirmed by the Bible clearly stating that it was the Son Who was the Creator. Everything that was created was created by Him.6 This runs contrary to certain fringe groups who believe that Jesus is a created being, such as an angel.

Since He is part of the trinity, He is eternal, like the Father. In terms of us time-constrained humans, there are some important events that mark His timeline in history. The first is the incarnation: when He took on a human body and was born, which we celebrate as Christmas. The next is His ministry years, which was about three years when He taught and healed people. That was followed by His death on the cross, and then His resurrection from the dead three days later. Shortly thereafter, He left earth and His mission was continued by the church. Yet to come is His return to gather His believers, and then a few years after that He will return to earth to set things right.

His incarnation was important, because without it there would have been no death and resurrection. And His death and resurrection are not only the crux of His human life, but the crux of history itself. The theme of the Old Testament is the future coming of the Messiah ("Christ" in the New Testament). Several passages predict very specific things that match Jesus' life.7 So why didn't the contemporary religious leaders accept Him as the Messiah? Well, a few did. However, as would be expected from humans, those with power didn't want to give it up. They were envious of the popularity of Jesus. They also didn't clearly understand the prophecies about the Messiah. There are prophecies about the Messiah being a suffering servant, and prophecies about Him being a conquering King. The religious leaders tended to ignore the former and focus on the latter (hoping for a king who would drive out the hated Romans). Both prophecies are true: the first applies to His death and resurrection, and the latter refers to His return (still in our future).

Jesus started out His human existence at his birth to His virgin mother, Mary. The Bible indicates that she was a special person, but I don't see any Biblical basis for the obsession that Catholics have for her. Nor is there the slightest indication of the bizarre theory that some groups have that God came and had sex with Mary like some Roman god. The Father simply spoke the word and the baby began gestating. Why didn't Jesus just incarnate as an adult? Partly because the prophecy was that the Messiah would be of the line of King David, and Mary was a descendant of David - so He had to be born of someone of that line. Probably also partly because it was important that Jesus experienced the various stages of growing up so that we know that He can relate to us as humans.

To understand why His death and resurrection are the crux of history, we have to realize what is wrong with humankind. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, something happened. This event is called the "fall" of man. The Bible doesn't go into details, but it gives some hints: such as the land only reluctantly yielding food after the fall, and death entering the world where there had been no death before. That indicates some kind of fundamental shift in the way the universe operates. The New Testament states it like this: "All creation groans in pain until now, like a woman giving birth".8 Adam and Eve had been immortal and then became mortal. They passed on mortality to their children (probably some sort of DNA alteration), but they also passed on a sort of spiritual DNA alteration that marks all of their descendants as sinners. So all of us are born into mortality and into the fallen nature. We cannot help it. This is the human condition I've mentioned.

As such, we cannot live up to the standard God has set - we all fall short. It matters not whether we fall short in a few "minor" ways or in many "major" ways - we deserve death. But Jesus didn't ever fall short. And so He paid for our crimes by dying in our place. As Paul states, through Adam all died, but through Jesus we have life. Jesus' death didn't remove the mortality of our physical bodies, though we are promised new bodies in the future. But it opened the way for our spirits to get right with God. All that is required is that we admit we need Him, and trust that what He said is true. Belief in Jesus is the doorway to correcting the human problem. I'm not talking "belief" as in a mere intellectual acceptance of the truth of a matter. James points out that even the demons believe in Jesus that way.9 No, saving belief is when we trust that He will save us. But not only does His death pay the price that we all owe, His resurrection from the dead is proof that He is Who He said He is, and also assurance that we too will one day be bodily resurrected like Him.

He delays His return so that as many people as possible have the chance to hear of Him, believe in Him, and become right with God. But when He returns to set things right, that will be the end of that opportunity. His death and resurrection finally fix the problem caused by Adam's sin thousands of years before. Since then, everyone who has heard has had the choice to believe in Jesus or reject Him. Why do some reject Him? There are a multitude of reasons, but they all come down to disbelief. People either don't believe that they need saving ("Hey, I'm a basically okay person!") or they don't believe that Jesus is the means of salvation (usually due to willful ignorance), or they think that they are so bad that there is no way that God could forgive them. One other problem that people have with Jesus is to believe that He is only one of many possible ways to salvation. But Jesus Himself clearly stated that He was the only way.10 There may be some praiseworthiness in other things, but none of them can take the place of Jesus and save us. He clearly stated the truth. We can either believe Him or not.

I'd like to reiterate what has been stated before. There are some who think there is something we can do to earn salvation. If we pray enough or say enough "hail Marys" or donate enough or go to church enough, then we can make up the moral debt we've incurred. But the only the sinless blood sacrifice of Jesus can pay that debt. This strikes at our human conceit. We want to accomplish it on our own in our pride. But following a set of rules or rituals is a different way than belief in Jesus. Since He said that He was the only way to our acceptance by God, anything else that you think will get you there only deceives you.

"What!?" You say. "All I have to do is trust Jesus and everything I've ever done will be forgiven?" Yes. That is exactly what the Bible says. This is called God's "grace". The term means "undeserved favor". He forgives us even though we don't deserve that forgiveness. And if we truly believe, we also desire to turn from our selfishness and follow His example - and He gives us the power to do so. I will talk about this at greater length in the future.

Why did Jesus do this for us? It is because God is love.11 Some might wonder how one could say that God is love when the Father sent His only begotten Son to die for us. What kind of father would do that? But remember, the Father and the Son are One in the trinity. They both agreed to the plan, and when tempted to avoid the humiliation and pain of crucifixion, Jesus held firm to the plan that He and the Father had come up with. And what humiliation it was! The Creator of everything allowed Himself to be insulted, tortured, and killed by beings that He could have utterly annihilated with a single word! But He endured it all because He loves us. Frankly, if we stubbornly hold fast to rejection of such lavish love, we deserve whatever comes to us. But until we die or Jesus returns, we all have the opportunity to give into His love.

1 John 3:16
2 John 1:12
3 John 1:1-5,14, 1 John 4:2, 2 John 1:7, Colossians 2:9, etc.
4 Mark 14:62
5 Colossians 2:9
6 John 1:3, Colossians 1:16
7 Isaiah 53, etc.
8 Romans 8:22
9 James 2:9
10 John 14:6
11 John 3:16