Have you ever thought about why Jesus was such an influential person in history? I mean the simple fact is Jesus did more to change the course of history than any other person in the history of mankind ever has.
That’s a pretty incredible thing to say about a guy who was an uneducated laborer in an insignificant backwater country that was part of ancient Rome. Then consider that he changed the course of history without a publicist or public relations campaigns. He had no global communications network to spread his influence.
Even writing and publishing was all done by hand in Jesus’ time. It would be another 1400+ years before the movable type printing press came along.
And yet today, some 2,000 years later, over 2 billion people identify religiously with Jesus in one way or another. That makes Christianity the single largest religious group in the world.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus managed to have such a lasting impact?
Jesus Did Not Self Promote
For starters Jesus broke all the rules for self promotion. In fact not only did he not promote himself ever, but he went out of his way to keep other people from promoting him too.
There’s one example of this where John tells us what happened after Jesus miraculously fed the 5,000 by multiplying the 5 loaves and 5 fish:
When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting! When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.— John 6:14-15
The people were on the verge of forcing Jesus to be their king. Most PR people would recommend milking sentiment like that for all it’s worth.
In fact, most people do all kinds of ridiculous things to become popular in other people’s eyes. Many would go to extreme lengths to see this kind of public approval.
Yet, Jesus is radically different. Not only does he not manipulate people to increase his own popularity, but he takes it a huge step forward. When he sees where the situation is going he sneaks away.
To most of us that looks like Jesus missed a great opportunity to change the world. Conventional wisdom says that he could do so much more to impact the world as a king than as an itinerant preacher.
But Jesus saw it differently.
Jesus Took No Shortcuts
Jesus Didn’t take any shortcuts.
He knew the Father’s plan and stuck to it. Even when he had opportunities to get it done faster he stuck to the plan.
In addition to the example above when the people wanted to make Jesus king, there was his temptation in the wilderness. Satan attacked Jesus’ identity and offered him a shortcut to a kingdom without having to go through all the incredibly painful parts that had to happen in the original plan.
Have you ever thought about why Jesus turned down that tempting offer?
The Bible says it was because he knew the joy that was waiting for him once he paid the price.
That’s very different from most people. Folks will go to extreme measures trying all kinds of shortcuts to see if they can get the payoff without paying the price. Jesus knew that things gained by shortcuts don’t last. He chose the more sure path.
Jesus Defied Conventional Wisdom
Pretty much everything he taught went completely against the grain of what most people think, even today. Jesus repeatedly said, “You have heard it said… But I say…”
Here are just a few of the things that Jesus taught which seem backward.
- To become more prosperous give away some of what you have
- To be promoted to leadership become a servant to others
- Instead of cursing our enemies we should bless them
- Persecution for his sake is actually a blessing
- Good deeds done in private will see greater rewards than those done publicly
And the list goes on.
Why Jesus Stands Apart
What Jesus taught was so radically different than anything else that in the end he was killed for it. Even so, that’s still probably not enough to hugely impact humanity.
Thousands of people have had radical ideas, lived out their lives and died in obscurity without ever being noticed.
However there is one very significant difference with Jesus that sets him apart from every other teacher, preacher or religious figure throughout history: Jesus didn’t stay dead.
The authorities of his day knew Jesus spoke regularly of his resurrection so they took some pretty extreme steps to make sure his followers couldn’t steal his dead body and perpetrate a hoax. Of course because they took all those measures it made it much more difficult, nearly impossible really, to effectively discount the claims of Jesus being resurrected when it actually did happen.
So much so that today there are 2 billion plus people on the planet who believe Jesus was raised from the dead. If you look at other major world religious groups, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and such, only Christians follow a leader who is still living.
The tomb of Jesus is empty.
And that is why Jesus totally changed history.