Jesus has irrevocably changed my life. Jesus has also irrevocably changed your life, though you may not know it.
That’s a presumptuous statement to make, I know, but Jesus was nothing if not presumptuous. Raised as a carpenter’s son with no formal education, one day he began to teach, heal and proclaim that God’s reign was breaking into world affairs and that he was the kingdom-bringer come to set things right. Pretty presumptuous.
The thing was, when he taught, his words had weight. “He teaches with authority,” the people kept saying.
It wasn’t just what he said. It was the things he did. Jesus healed the sick, made lame people walk and blind people see. He even raised dead people back to life. That was really presumptuous. You don’t just go around waking the dead. Only God does that kind of thing, which is exactly who Jesus claimed to be.
On more than one occasion, he assumed God’s prerogative to forgive sin. He told the religious leaders, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” In other words, “Look at me, and you see God.” That’s not only presumptuous. That’s crazy talk.
As C.S. Lewis observed, ordinary sane people just don’t say that kind of thing. Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic or, strange as it may seem, who He said He was.
In the end, the Jewish religious leaders formed an unlikely alliance with the Roman political powers and killed him. Even as he faced death, Jesus was presumptuous, telling the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given from above.” He claimed to know things about ultimate power that those in power did not fully comprehend.
The leaders of Jerusalem and Rome thought they put an end to his presumption when they had him nailed to a cross. But three days later, news broke that Jesus had risen from the dead. From that point on, Jesus began to presumptuously, irrevocably, change lives and history. This is true whether or not you personally believe in that last part about the Resurrection.
I look at the date on my iPhone. The calendar we use to manage our appointments, measure our days and arrange our lives is centered in Jesus. Historically, rulers have sought to impose calendars on their subjects. Somehow this rabbi/carpenter became the dividing line for history.
Consider education. I went to school at Leroy Nichols Elementary here in Lodi along with children from a wide variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds, including the children of migrant farm workers.
The incredible value of children and the need to teach every one of them truth is directly traceable to the rabbi who said, “Let the little children come to me.”
The first law for mass universal education in America established in Massachusetts in 1647 was called, “The Old Deluder Satan Act.” It was enacted so that every person might read and know the Scriptures “that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers.”
Jesus never wrote a book, but 92 percent of the first 138 colleges and universities founded in America were started by his followers because learning truth matters.
And then there is medical care. Ancient Rome routinely disposed of infants who were malformed, diseased or female, abandoning them to die. When a plague swept through, people left family members to fend for themselves and die in their own filth.
Followers of Jesus became known for rescuing infants and caring for the sick and dying who had been left behind. Without Jesus, the health care we all think we have a right to would not exist.
The list goes on. Government, art, marriage and family, virtually every aspect of life has been marked by Jesus. You owe it to yourself to know his story. He was no ordinary man.
Rod Suess is senior pastor at Vinewood Community Church.