There's no question that Jesus is one of history's most significant figures. His name has reverberated throughout the last 2,000 years, and His contribution has been felt worldwide. As the renowned historian and philosopher, Will Durant, has said, "The triumph of Christ was the beginning of democracy."
To gauge the impact of Jesus from Nazareth, one only needs to consider the schools, hospitals and humanitarian works that have been started in His name. We should also consider the number of important universities like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Dartmouth that were started by His followers.
From governments to the arts, the life and ministry of Jesus had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives.
Christ was more than an influential man
It would be wrong to look at Christ's impact on the world and simply write Him off as a prominent man. We need only look to the Bible—the only source we have of a detailed description of His ministry—to see that He was much more than that.
Jesus was the Jewish Messiah
From Genesis onward, the entire Hebrew canon looks forward to a coming Messiah who will deliver Israel from her oppressors once and for all. But in their anticipation, the Israelites misunderstood just how this Messiah would deliver them. He would ultimately deliver them from death, the devil, and their own sin.
Being born in Bethlehem
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" Micah 5:2).*
Fulfilled in Matthew 2:1.
Riding into Jerusalem on a donkey
"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9).
Fulfilled in Matthew 21:6–10.
Tortured, killed, buried and resurrected
Isaiah prophesied about Christ's death and resurrection in detail in chapters 52 and 53. Here are just a few highlights:
"See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness" (Isaiah 52:13–14).
"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4–6).
"He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth" (Isaiah 53:9).
"Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand" (Isaiah 53:10).
Fulfilled in Matthew 27–28
Jesus wasn't just a man; He was God
Throughout His ministry, Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah, but He also claimed to be God. It was because of this declaration that the Jewish leaders sought to have Him killed for blasphemy. After the resurrection, the apostles also worshipped Jesus as God.
John links Jesus to creation
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:1–3).
Paul calls Jesus "the fullness of God."
"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Colossians 1:19–20).
Peter refers to Him as our God and Savior
"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours" (2 Peter 1:1).
Jesus' death was incredibly important
Since the first century, people have attributed a weight and urgency to Jesus' death that’s never been attached to any other noteworthy figure. According to Christian tradition, Jesus' death released us from the guilt and condemnation of our own sins.
Mark tells us that Jesus came to give His life
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
Jesus tells us that He will die for the forgiveness of sins
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28).
Paul's entire message was built upon Christ's death
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Jesus conquered death
In the three years of Christ’s ministry, He raised three people from the dead: a widow's son (Luke 7:11–17), Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:40–56), and His friend, Lazarus (John 11:1–44). As shocking and impressive as these feats were, they pale in comparison to the significance of Jesus Himself being raised from the dead.
The apostles preached about the resurrection
"With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all" (Acts 4:33).
Paul explains why the resurrection is important
"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:17–19).
Our hope is tied to Christ's resurrection
"By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also" (1 Corinthians 6:14).
Learn more about Jesus!
There's no question that Jesus has had a significant impact on world history, but don't fool yourself into thinking that He's like any other figure. He came to reconcile humanity to God, and through His death and resurrection we can know true peace and forgiveness.
If you'd like to learn more about the life of Jesus, check out our classic film "JESUS," which has been translated into more than 1,600 languages and has helped more than 500 million people make decisions to follow Christ.
*Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the New International Version.