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Jesus versus History: What’s the Difference?

There are lots of dead history figures, but Jesus isn’t one of them

A commercial for Jeopardy once claimed, “Enough stuff has happened that jeopardy could run forever!” It’s true, lots of history has happened. And with history come great people, famous and infamous.

Historians enjoy ranking the influence of history’s leaders. It’s almost humorous when they include Jesus Christ as A leader in history One historian ranked Jesus fifteenth!

You and I might say, “Wow, what an amazing thing if I was one of the 15 most important, influential leaders in the history of the world! How amazing is that?” And yet, to put Jesus anywhere other than Number One is mind–numbing.

We cannot even imagine today’s world without Jesus. I doubt the world would even be here today, seriously, without the peacemaking, providence and preservation provided by the “15th most influential man in history.” (Insert tongue in cheek.)

Here are a few famous or infamous people I thought of who live on, in a sense:

Adolf Hitler (Born 1883; Fuhrer of the Third Reich; killed himself April 30, 1945, just hours before the Russians captured his Berlin bunker)

  • Murderer of millions; hated by approximately everyone on earth
  • Continues to influence some, especially toward hatred based on race
  • Solemn reminder of the evil that can lurk in the human heart

Adolf Hitler lives on in the nightmares of a horrified world!

Elvis Presley (Born 1935; “the King” of rock–n–roll; died August 16, 1977 of an overdose of prescription barbiturates)

  • His lifestyle is desired, emulated by millions
  • In a disturbing way, we have made a hero out of a basically corrupt, off–color, self–centered character
  • He influences generations of people to ignore destructive personal habits and personal responsibility

Elvis lives on in the affections of middle–aged people and older folks.

John F. Kennedy (Born 1917; 35th President; died by assassination during a motorcade in Dallas, TX, November 22, 1963)

  • Second son of a family that made its fortune bootlegging liquor during Prohibition
  • Rich, handsome, popular, intelligent, playboy
  • A genuine WW–II hero
  • Almost a political conservative by today’s standard of liberalism
  • A dividing line in society: “Do you remember the moment you heard President Kennedy was shot?”

JFK lives on in the memories of pretty much everyone aged 60 and older.

Princess Diana (Born 1961; ex–wife of the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne; died August 31, 1997 in an auto crash in Paris while fleeing photographers)

  • A decent person, apparently; idolized by anyone anxious to give hero worship to rich, famous, beautiful people
  • Hailed for her humanitarianism, especially as an advocate for children

Princess Di lives on in many hearts as a symbol of style, grace and compassion.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Born 1929; Southern Baptist minister and leader of the non–violent civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s; died by assassination on a motel balcony in Memphis, TN April 4, 1968)

  • Started college at age 15, earned his Doctorate in theology from Boston University
  • Pastored Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, a church founded by his grandfather and also pastored by his father before him
  • Probably hated by more people at the time of his death than there were people who idolized him (true of Jesus too!)
  • May have done more for racial equality than any person since Abraham Lincoln

Martin Luther King, Jr. lives on in the hopes and dreams of anyone who longs for human equality.

Abraham Lincoln (Born 1809; 16th President; assassinated just six days after the South surrendered, ending the American Civil War)

  • Often rated by historians the greatest American President
  • He made the best of the trials, troubles and tragedies in life
  • Great example of making tough choices and doing what is right no matter what
  • Was undeterred by concerns about popularity; resisted great pressure from political enemies
  • Compassionate and forgiving toward the South; wanted national healing (halted by his death)

Abraham Lincoln lives on in the American consciousness as a great man, remarkable leader and symbol of basic human goodness.

All these people live on in the hearts, minds, memories, even fears of others; but none ever literally came back to life! That’s the difference between Jesus Christ and the rest of history. It makes Him unique: He died, but today He lives!

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus (John 14:6)

Though killed 2,000 years ago, Jesus survives in a way no one else ever has. He rose from the grave to live forever; He is uniquely qualified to offer us eternal life.

(Next time: how is Jesus uniquely suited to make your life great?)

Dr. Curtis Alexander