“If he had not grown up to become the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, we would never even have heard of the story of Christmas, despite its beauty, simplicity, and wonder. But something began at the Nativity which has never ended. The infant would change history, wrench the world’s chronology so that its years would pivot about his birth, and touch countries, cultures, civilizations, and untold millions of lives.”
“Yet the supreme paradox must be this: The person behind this achievement taught publicly for only three and one-half years. He wrote no book. He had no powerful religious or political machine behind him–indeed, the ranking spiritual and governmental authorities opposed him–and yet he became the central figure in human history. The Book about him now has well over a billion copies in print in more than a thousand languages” (John Stott).
“Jesus of Nazareth remains the most important individual who has ever lived. Nobody else has had comparable influence over so many nations for so long. Nobody else has so affected art and literature, music and drama. Nobody else can remotely match his record in the liberation, the healing and the education of mankind. Nobody else has attracted such a multitude not only of followers but of worshippers. Our claim, then, is not just that Jesus was one of the great spiritual leaders of the world. It would be hopelessly incongruous to refer to him as ‘Jesus the Great,’ comparable to Alexander the Great, Charles the Great, or Napoleon the Great. Jesus is not ‘the Great,’ he is the only. He has no peers, no rivals and no successors” (John Stott, The Contemporary Christian).
“The biblical presentation of Jesus refuses to remain nicely confined to any of our containers. One picture after another of Jesus in this long line of nontraditional portraits fails before one question dear to the hearts of all faithful Christians: ‘What about the Cross?’… Why would anyone crucify the reasonable Jesus of the Enlightenment? Why would anyone crucify the dreamy poet of Romanticism? Why would anyone crucify the Law-abiding, mild-mannered rabbi of revisionist Jewish scholarship? Why would anyone crucify the witty, enigmatic, and marginal figure of the Jesus Seminar?” A Jewish scholar says, ‘Theologians produced the figure they could admire most at the least cost.’ But the Cross stands amidst each such easy path, each attempt to avoid the heart of the matter and the cost of discipleship. The Cross remains a stumbling block for all who encounter this Jesus. He is perhaps not the person we want, but he is surely the person we still – desperately – need” (Allen).
The key to Jesus’ legacy is His identity. It is not what the Church believed or continues to believe about him. Tradition has not defined Jesus. And religion has repeatedly proven to be empty, hypocritical and powerless. The legacy of Jesus is found in the fact that, “Jesus of Nazareth was not a man in whom God distinctly manifested himself–He was God become God-Man” (Carl F. H. Henry).
The unending legacy of Jesus is based on who Jesus is. Yes, I used the present tense “is” for Jesus because unlike other religious leaders, Jesus is not “dead and gone; finished and fossilized.” He declared, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:8,17-18).