Defend The Faith Ministry

What Makes Jesus Different?

While many religions have similar moral guidance in their teachings, each religion defines god differently. Some religions define multiple gods, each having a particular power over one aspect of nature. Some religions define god as existing in all things, while one religion defines god as a single entity outside of all things. Christianity defines God as outside of all things, but as a Triune Godhead. Therefore, all religions cannot be right because all religions define god differently.

Yet, many people treat all religions as essentially the same. In this post-truth society, religion is treated as a relative truth. You may believe in XYZ religion and that works for you, but I can believe in ABC religion and that works for me, and as long as we are all happy and sincere, it doesn’t really matter. Even though each of those religions may define god differently, the relativist views them as equally valid.

Interestingly, atheists can draw the same conclusion. Many atheists use a statement popularized by Stephen F. Roberts. He said that Christians are atheists too – atheists just simply believe in one fewer god than Christians do. His point is that Christians dismiss all the other gods around the world, like Allah, Vishnu, Shiva, Thor, Zeus, or Jupiter, but believe in the God of the Bible. Atheists just simply disbelieve in one additional god, the God of the Bible. The underlying idea to the atheist is that all gods are equal, meaning equally unbelievable.

Can the conclusion reached by both of these groups be valid, that all gods are equal?

This week alone disproves that conclusion. The events of this week from nearly 2,000 years ago separate the God of Christianity from all other gods.

·       In most major religions, there is always a strong leader espousing the main doctrine and fundamental truth of that particular religion. Buddhists would point to Buddha who claimed to have found the path of enlightenment. He taught his followers about the Eightfold Path to reach nirvana. Muslims would point to Mohammed who claimed to have received a private revelation from Allah. Mohammed then recited to his followers the rules and commands that would later form the Quran. Figures like Confucius, Hindu gurus, and Bhaktivedanta (founder of the Hare Krishna movement) offered wise sayings and advice to guide followers into a better life.

As important as each of these individuals may have been for the religion they promoted, they never claimed to be god. They simply claimed to be the messenger of god or the instructor on how to better follow god.

In Christianity, however, the “founder of the religion,” Jesus of Nazareth, did claim to be God. After Jesus had been arrested, He was brought before Caiaphas, the High Priest, who asked Jesus, “Are You the Christ, the Son of God?” And Jesus replied, “I am.” (Mark 14:61-62) As a result, the High Priest charged Jesus with blasphemy because Jesus claimed to be God, which, if untrue, would have surely been blasphemy.

Jesus claimed something other religious leaders did not; He claimed to be God. And He proved that not only with the wisdom by which He spoke, but also by showing His power and authority over nature, disease, sickness, the spiritual forces of evil, and even over death itself.

·       In other religions, there is always a distinction between the leader and the way in which the follower should live. The leader simply provided guidance and instruction. It was up to the follower to live by those instructions or not. Mohammed could only point Muslims to the Quran, and Buddha can only tell people about the Eightfold Path.

But Jesus did not simply point people to a path for salvation; He was the path for salvation. In John 14:6, Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Unlike other religions, the way for salvation in Christianity is not by following the instructions from a religious leader; it is by the work done by Jesus Himself. And that work was His willingness to die for those He came to save.

·       While many religious leaders show great devotion to their religion and to their followers, none of them were willing to die for their followers so that they might find salvation, or moksha, or nirvana, or paradise, or whatever they believed about eternity. They especially weren’t willing to give their life for those who were not even practicing that religion.

On the other hand, Jesus chose to give up His life in order to save us. It was the whole reason why He came to earth in the form of a man. Jesus told us in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

Jesus, being fully God and fully human, could not have been crucified without His willingness to do so. While Jesus hung on the cross, the chief priests and crowd mocked Him by saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15:29-32) What they failed to understand was that Jesus absolutely could have done that.

Jesus pointed that out Himself when He was arrested in the garden. One of the disciples pulled a sword and struck one of the servants of the high priest as they were arresting Jesus, and Jesus replied, “Do you think I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:51-54)

Jesus could have stopped the arrest, trial, beating, scourging, and crucifixion at any point. He already demonstrated His power over all things. He is Almighty God Himself, Creator of the entire universe. Those Roman soldiers and Jewish high priests could not have done anything to Him that He did not allow. Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself for us.

Paul makes this point in Romans 5:6-8: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were not even worthy of His sacrifice – we were still sinning and in rebellion against God – yet Jesus still chose to lay down His life for us.

·       Even if other religious leaders had been willing to die for their followers, which they were not, none of them were qualified to do so. For example, if Buddha sacrificed his life for Buddhists, it might have been noble, but it would not have gotten one Buddhist a single step closer to nirvana. If Mohammed had laid down his life for Muslims, which he never would have done that, it would not have brought a single Muslim closer to paradise.

Their sacrificial deaths would not have done anything for their followers. Those followers would have been still just as sinful as they were before and would have had to work the same amount on their own in order to achieve that eternal destiny. Furthermore, if these men had sacrificed their lives on the behalf of their followers, they would still be in the grave.

However, Jesus was not only willing to die for those He came to save, but also, He was the only One qualified to do so. Only the sacrifice of a perfectly obedient and sinless man could pay the penalty for the rest of us sinners.

In other words, someone already serving a prison sentence can’t offer to do time for another prisoner. He already is facing punishment for his own crimes. But someone innocent of any crime could offer to pay the penalty for someone else. So Confucius, Buddha, or Mohammed dying for others would not have provided redemption for anyone else because they were sinners themselves.

R.C. Sproul explained it, “Moses could mediate on the law; Mohammed could brandish a sword; Buddha could give personal counsel; Confucius could offer wise sayings; but none of these men was qualified to offer an atonement for the sins of the world…Christ alone is worthy of unlimited devotion and service.”

Though Jesus willingly laid down His life for those who were sinners, He did not remain in the grave. He resurrected the third day, demonstrating again His power over all things including death itself. This all happened according to Jesus’ own words in Mark 9:30-32: “Jesus was teaching His disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when He is killed, after three days He will rise.’”

These things set Jesus apart from other religions. He was more than just a great teacher or profound rabbi, espousing on ideas of a way to live a better life. He was God Himself in the flesh. And He was the only one qualified and willing to die for you, the only One who would not remain in the grave.

·       Some religions may have gods that interact with humans, such as the Egyptian, Greek, or Roman gods. Their interactions though are for their own purposes. The people are simply pawns in the games played by the gods.

The Christian God, however, stepped out of His throne room of glory to come down into His creation to live as one of His own creatures, yet without sin, and to willingly allow that creation to wrongly accuse Him, mock Him, scourge Him, beat Him, and kill Him on a cross like a common criminal. No other religion has a God who became man to help man’s broken condition.

It is an event unlike anything else in history. This week celebrates that the One True God is one who loves His creation enough to purchase us with His very own blood. Those events that took place around 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem set Christianity apart from all other religions. This God who came down as a man laid down His life so that we might gain eternity. And He raised up from the grave three days later.

Paul summarized this in Philippians 2:5-11: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Cathryn Sterling

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2 thoughts on “What Makes Jesus Different?”

  1. I love it. Great blog. But we don’t just celebrate Easter one time a year. We do of course but actually we celebrate Easter, what Jesus did for us, the reason He came, every day of the year. Every day is Easter to me.

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