Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The influence of Jesus Christ on mankind (Part III)

Before reading this blog post it is highly recommended that you read the previous two posts.
Part I
Part II

It is clear that Jesus Christ has changed the world ever since his earthly life, death and resurrection. Every sphere of human life has been influenced by this man who treaded the sands of Israel thousands of years ago. Thanks to this Galilean there is a new morality in human minds.

Now that Christ has been established as the single most influential personality in the world, should he be dismissed as being just that? Isn't he so much more than just that?

When we read the words of Christ found in the New Testament, we read Christ's demand for us to follow him.

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24 NASB)

Deny himself? Even Jesus' brothers thought he was out of his mind to make demands like these (Mark 3:21).James and Jude were both brothers of Jesus, they thought he was crazy and utterly delusional (John 7:5). But something happened later on in their lives. Both James and Jude had written letters to churches, and in both their letters look at how they were describing themselves.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. (James 1:1 NIV)

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James... (Jude 1:1 NIV)

Servants of Jesus! What happened? What could have caused these two brothers, brothers of the Lord, from being utterly in denial to being bond-servants of the Lord Jesus?

Christ taught a new morality, yes. He was also himself the new morality, the new Adam, the firstborn from the dead. He fed the hungry (Matt. 14), he healed the sick (Luke 17), he preached the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18), he gave sight to the blind (John 9), he raised the dead (John 11), and finally, he died for our sins - bridging the great gulf between man and God - and he rose from the dead. He is now alive and still in control.

Christ beckons us to him so that our lives may be transformed, our perceptions may be altered, and we become a new creation altogether. His transforming nature is itself evident in the story of mankind, and his influence on mankind is nothing but a sample to the greater influence that is in him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11 NIV)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The influence of Jesus Christ on mankind (Part II)

In twenty years Christianity will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear. - Voltaire

Voltaire threw this direct challenge at the heart of Christianity in Western Europe during the Renaissance era. The Renaissance was the age of 'enlightenment' - it was supposedly that time when humanity threw aside superstition and backward thinking and replaced them with reason and free thinking. Voltaire, writer and philosopher, was one of the pioneers of the Renaissance, and he was no fan of Christ. So convinced was he of the effect of the Renaissance on Christianity that he made a bold prediction of Christianity's extinction in no more than 'twenty years'.

Unfortunately, Voltaire's prediction did not come true. The Bible itself inspired the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 which in turn printed more copies of the Bible. Jesus' words were now translated in many languages, printed in greater numbers and distributed all over the world.

Christ in arts

Leonardo Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper'
Some of the most famous paintings in the history of arts were made under the influence of Jesus Christ. Famous artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and Boticelli all depicted Christ in their paintings. Depictions of Jesus in arts surged, especially during the Renaissance era.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890), a pioneer of post-Impressionist painting, was probably the most influential artist of all time. He wrote in a letter that Jesus Christ was the ultimate artist.

Van Gogh's Pieta
Christ alone, of all the philosophers, magicians, etc., has affirmed eternal life as the most important certainty, the infinity of time, the futility of death, the necessity and purpose of serenity and devotion. He lived serenely, as an artist greater than all other artists, scorning marble and clay and paint, working in the living flesh. In other words, this peerless artist, scarcely conceivable with the blunt instrument of our modern, nervous and obtuse brains, made neither statues nor paintings nor books. He maintained in no uncertain terms that he made…living men, immortals. - Vincent Van Gogh

Music composers often wrote music based on the themes of the Bible, especially on Jesus. One such composer was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) who wrote the 'Requiem Mass in D minor'.

American composer Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) was another musician moved by Biblical themes. His "The Chichester Psalms" are famous for incorporating the Psalms of David as songs of peace.

A whole genre of Spiritual music, mainly Blues and Negro Spirituals, was created for Jesus by the African community enslaved in American. This genre would later give birth to 'Rock n roll' music in the 50s popularized by Elvis Presley, a gospel singer himself.

One of the most famous and influential musicians of our times is Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a Bob Dylan. Dylan is an American musician, singer and song-writer.
Bob Dylan

Probably the most thought provoking song-writers of his time, Dylan wrote the following lyrics.

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Dylan would recall after his coming to Christ in 1978:

“Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Bob, why are you resisting me?' I said, 'I'm not resisting You!' He said, 'You gonna follow Me?' I said, 'I've never thought about that before!' He said, 'When you're not following Me. you're resisting Me.”

His lyrics from then onward, especially in 1979's 'Slow Train Coming', would frequently refer to his transformation due to Christ.

Country singing icon Johnny Cash (1932 - 2003) was known for his outspoken belief in Jesus as his savior. Before he became a country music sensation, Cash was first and foremost a gospel singer. He produced songs for a movie on Jesus called 'The Gospel Road' and wrote a novel on the apostle Paul called 'The Man in White'.

He said,

The Master of Life's been good to me. He has given me strength to face past illnesses, and victory in the face of defeat. He has given me life and joy where other saw oblivion. He Has given new purpose to live for, new services to render and old wounds to heal. Life and love go on, let the music play.

Christ in Motion Pictures

A scene from 'Ben Hur'
Movies on Jesus such as 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', 'Ben Hur', and 'Passion of the Christ', are landmark achievements in the art of motion pictures. The Charlton Heston starrer 'Ben Hur' (1959) holds the record for most Academy Awards won (eleven) by a motion picture. 'The Passion of the Christ' (2004) is perhaps the most controversial movie, alongside 'The Last Temptation of Christ' (1988), to be made about Jesus Christ.

Movies about Jesus continue to be made even today, the most recent being 'Son of God'. Many directors have made their own Jesus films, each with their own thoughts and ideas. For example, Pier Pasolini made a movie showing Jesus as an uncompromising champion of the poor and the oppressed.

Voltaire again

After seeing the numerous ways Christ has impacted every sphere of life around us, it is difficult to take Voltaire seriously. Today, Jesus is as influential as never before. His words are quoted frequently, often heralding revolutionary changes wherever they are uttered, and his personality still endears to many.

As we move on to part three we will come to know why Christ's words, as evident from its transforming nature, should be heeded and not ignored.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The influence of Jesus Christ on mankind (Part I)

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.- H.G. Wells, British Historian and Novelist

Little did anyone know in the time of Christ that this man would single-handedly change the course of human history. Many skeptics argue that the impact of Jesus - no doubt a great man - is often exaggerated by his followers. One of the skeptic's claims is that it was Paul, not Jesus, who is largely responsible for the spread of Christianity. This claim itself comes under doubt once we find the meaning of the word 'influence'. Surely Paul had a burning motive - or rather an 'engine' - that propelled him to spread the Gospel all over Europe and Asia Minor. Paul's engine was none other than Jesus Christ as is evident from his letters to the first century churches. He says to the church in Galatia,

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)

The non-violent movement

So how did Christ influence the world? After he lived his earthly life Christ introduced radical principals by which his followers lived. In Europe, the Roman empire severely cracked down on the disciples of Christ because of the refusal of Christians to bow down and worship Caesar. They were hacked down, burned, scourged, crucified, beheaded and thrown to the lions. But the Christians did not retaliate. History has it that the Christians, despite suffering greatly under the empire, actually helped their Roman and Greek neighbors in times of trouble. The Romans were astonished at this non-violent behavior from Christians.

Leo Tolstoy
In 1894, Leo Tolstoy - famed author (War and Peace, Anna Karenina) - wrote a book called 'The Kingdom of God Is Within You'. In this book Tolstoy underlined the non-violent principles of Jesus Christ and it's effectiveness. He gave his book to a certain Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an Indian lawyer living in South Africa, who used it to fight the British Empire. Gandhi's non-violent resistance left the British shell-shocked and eventually India became independent as a result of his commitment to the passive resistance method.

Later. in 1960s, Martin Luther King would adopt similar means in his campaign for racial equality in the United States. He said, "Christ showed me the way, Gandhi showed me the method."

Causes of the oppressed

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

These were the words Jesus spoke at the time of his ministry. Before Christ came, it was considered normal to abuse human rights, to violate agreements between each other, to bully the weakling and show utter ruthlessness. The Roman Empire stood for everything of the twisted nature of mankind, it was a glorified celebration of the fall of man. Then in 1st century Anno Domini, a man called Jesus was born into a poor family of Roman occupied Palestine. This man, a Jew, challenged the very notion of Empire by feeding the hungry, healing the sick and giving sight to the blind. This man promoted compassion, charity, humanitarianism, universal brotherhood and, above all, love for all. These qualities were all but nonexistent during the reign of Caesar, but after the ascension of Christ they spread like wildfire.

William Wilberforce
As time went on and the message of Christ spread further and further, human morality seemed to have evolved as is evident in the fabric of history. Slavery, considered normal in many parts of the world, began to be despised. William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833), an Englishman and a devout follower of Christ, started an intense political campaign to rid the British Isles of slavery. Taking inspiration from Jesus' undying determination, Wilberforce, after scores of failures, finally succeeded in abolishing slavery. The United States of America would follow suit.

Today, there are countless numbers of organizations like Amnesty International and the One Campaign dedicated to social justice and humanitarianism around the world. Thanks to Jesus, bullying the weak is no longer considered normal by a large portion of humanity. Thanks to Jesus, there is such a thing called social justice.


"I believe only and alone in the service of Jesus Christ. In him is all refuge and solace." - Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German Astronomer

The field of science has been no less touched by the hand of Jesus Christ. Pioneers and visionaries such as Isaac Newton, Galileo and Leonardo Da Vinci had felt the influence of Christ on their works. Many scientists today have felt the truth of Christ in their research and discoveries.

As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) German-born physicist

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


This past week I watched 'The Railway Man', a movie, based on a true story, depicting the traumatic experience and aftermath of a British soldier in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. The highlight of the movie was how the British prisoner - Eric Lomax - endured severe brutality at the hands of Japanese interrogators and still found courage, years after the war, to forgive one of his tormentors.

This made me think of an incident in the gospel when Peter asked Jesus, "How many times should we forgive those who sin against us?" Forgiving someone, especially one who has caused us harm that is not easy to forget, is very hard. Yet forgiveness is one of Christ's most radical messages to humanity, one that will effectively transform our world if embraced by all.

Consider how Christ was beaten, scourged and crucified to death by the people of his day. A doctor describes the crucifixion below:

The patibulum was put on the ground and the victim laid upon it. Nails, about 7 inches long and with a diameter of 1 cm ( roughly 3/8 of an inch) were driven in the wrists. The points would go into the vicinity of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain to radiate through the arms. It was possible to place the nails between the bones so that no fractures (or broken bones) occurred. Studies have shown that nails were probably driven through the small bones of the wrist, since nails in the palms of the hand would not support the weight of a body. In ancient terminology, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand. (Davis) Standing at the crucifixion sites would be upright posts, called stipes, standing about 7 feet high.(Edwards) In the center of the stipes was a crude seat, called a sedile or sedulum, which served a support for the victim. The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes. The feet were then nailed to the stipes. To allow for this, the knees had to be bent and rotated laterally, being left in a very uncomfortable position. The titulus was hung above the victim's head. (Complete article here)

Even though Christ suffered some of the most severest agonies every devised by man, he still uttered these unforgettable words on the cross:

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV)

Peter asked, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”
Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22 MSG)

Forgiveness is essential in our quest to be Christ-like. Henri Nouwen said: Forgiveness is the well at the center of God’s Village. It is the antidote to the world's bacterial miseries. It sets apart God's kingdom from man's kingdom. It is the one thing that defined Christ's message to an unforgiving creation.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A tale of two traitors

When Jesus was arrested two of his disciples - Peter and Judas Iscariot - were guilty of denying and betraying their Master. Judas' betrayal is obvious, he is incredibly dissatisfied with his Master when a woman lovingly anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Judas argued that the perfume could have been spent on the poor (as if Judas was concerned about the poor) only for Jesus to rebuke him and praise the woman. (Matt. 26)

Peter, on the other hand, was found making bold statements, for example he said he would rather 'die' than betray his Savior. At the hour of reckoning both Peter and Judas abandoned Jesus in every way possible. Judas betrayed his Lord to the religious authority for thirty pieces of silver. Peter denied the Lord in front of a crowd gathered at the trial. Both had sinned and both cried bitterly over it.

The reactions of these two disciples in relation to their sins are something for a Christian to take note of in his/her life following Jesus. At times we end up committing a grave sin against our fellow man or God, and we think that the Lord is unforgiving and vengeful towards us for it. A look at this episode of Peter and Judas tells us something different from what our carnal mind so often conceives about God.

Judas was disgusted with himself, 'I betrayed innocent blood' he said. He tries to return the 'blood money' to the Pharisees and runs away. Here, he is tormented with guilt by Satan and is eventually driven towards suicide. Judas' fate reminds us why we are wrong to judge God's forgiveness as limited in its reach and select to only a few. In the end it was Judas himself who was unforgiving rather than God.

Peter was equally upset over his denial but he still hung out with the other apostles. He waited and waited, and when he heard of Jesus' resurrection he literally ran into the empty tomb. The ever impulsive Peter still had a glimmer of hope inside him that Christ was ready to forgive. And how right he was! Peter jumped from his boat and into the water, he swam to the shore to reach where his friend - the Lord Jesus - stood. (John 21:7)

God, as revealed by his Son Jesus, is ever patient in his forgiveness. When Jesus and Simon Peter were reconciled the two had this interesting conversation with each other.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17 NIV)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pasolini's 'Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo'

"I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief." - Pier Paolo Pasolini

Recently I watched both the new movie 'Son of God' and the 1964 Italian movie "Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo" - The Gospel According to St. Matthew - directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. After watching both movies, I have to say that Pasolini's is by far the most compelling of the two. In it I saw perhaps the most realistic reenactment of the story of Jesus Christ. The movie itself is considered by many to be a cinematic masterpiece. Shot entirely in black and white, the movie is void of romanticism or melodrama. Simply put, Pasolini puts the gospel account of Matthew as it is and in the style of Italian neorealism. He chose non-professional actors to work in his film, he cast his own mother as Mary, and his Jesus was an unknown economics student named Enrique Irazoqui. The Jesus depicted by Irazoqui is perhaps the best on-screen portrayal of Christ I have ever seen.

Enrique Irazoqui as Jesus
Pasolini's movie, when it came out, was intensely criticized by both the religious right and the secular left. The director was a Marxist and a homosexual. Why would someone like him direct a film on Christ's story? Once Pasolini read through the entire gospel story while waiting for the Pope before a meeting. After that he decided to film the story of Jesus. Pasolini depicted Christ as the greatest revolutionary to have walked the Earth.

When someone has read the story of Christ it is hard for him/her to not feel drawn to that one personality that forever changed the course of history. Pier Paolo Pasolini was a homosexual, but that did not stop him from being drawn to the brilliance of Christ's character. Perhaps we, as Christians, need to learn that Christ's message refuses to be locked into the boxes of either conservatism or liberalism.

I highly recommend 'The Gospel according to St. Matthew' by Pier Paolo Pasolini to those who are looking for both a scriptural portrayal of Christ and a masterpiece.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


The following sermon was preached by S. M. Lockridge:

The Bible says my King is a seven-way king
He's the King of the Jews
He's the King of Israel
He's the King of Righteousness
He's the King of the Ages
He's the King of Heaven
He's the King of Glory
He's the King of kings, and He's the Lord of lords. That's my King.
Well....I wonder, do you know Him?

David said, "The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork."
My King is a sovereign King.
No means of measure can define His limitless love.
No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shoreless supply.
No barrier can hinder Him from pouring out His blessings.
He's enduringly strong.
He's entirely sincere.
He's eternally steadfast.
He's immortally graceful.
He's imperially powerful.
He's impartially merciful.
Do you know Him?

He's the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world.
He's God's Son.
He's the sinner's Savior.
He's the centerpiece of civilization.
He stands in the solitude of Himself.
He's august and He's unique.
He's unparalleled.
He's unprecedented.
He is the loftiest idea in literature.
He's the highest personality in philosophy.
He is the supreme problem in higher criticism.
He's the fundamental doctrine of true theology.
He is the cardinal necessity for spiritual religion.
He's the miracle of the age.
He's -- yes He is -- He is the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him.

He's the only one qualified to be an all sufficient Savior.
I wonder if you know Him today?
He supplies strength for the weak.
He's available for the tempted and the tried.
He sympathizes and He saves.
He strengthens and sustains.
He guards and He guides.
He heals the sick.
He cleansed the lepers.
He forgives sinners.
He discharges debtors.
He delivers the captives.
He defends the feeble.
He blesses the young.
He serves the unfortunate.
He regards the aged.
He rewards the diligent....and He beautifies the meek.
I wonder if you know Him?

Well, my King....He is the King!
He's the key to knowledge.
He's the wellspring of wisdom.
He's the doorway of deliverance.
He's the pathway of peace.
He's the roadway of righteousness.
He's the highway of holiness.
He's the gateway of glory.
Do you know Him?

Well, His office is manifold.
His promise is sure....and His light is matchless.
His goodness is limitless.
His mercy is everlasting.
His love never changes.
His word is enough.
His grace is sufficient.
His reign is righteous.
And His yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
I wish I could describe Him to you, but He's indescribable -- Yes He is!? He is God!
He's incomprehensible.
He's invincible.
He's irresistible.
Well, you can't get Him out of your mind.
You can't get Him off of your hand.
You can't out live Him, and you can't live without Him.

The Pharisees couldn't stand Him, but they found out they couldn't stop Him.
Pilate couldn't find any fault in Him.
The witnesses couldn't get their testimonies to agree.
Herod couldn't kill Him.
Death couldn't handle Him, and the grave couldn't hold Him.
Yea!!!, that's my King, that's my King.

Yes, and Thine is the Kingdom....and the Power....and the Glory....Forever....and ever, and ever, and ever -- How long is that? And ever, and ever.

And when you get through with all of the forevers, then. AMEN!

Transcipt courtesy of Sermon Index.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Was Jesus just a prophet and a great moral teacher?

“Jesus was a great moral teacher.” - Richard Dawkins

"Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine." - C.S. Lewis

One of the most commonly held beliefs about Jesus Christ among people is the perception that Jesus was just a prophet or a good moral teacher. If this is true then Jesus, it seems, was just one one among thousands of prophets and teachers. In other words, Jesus was nothing special.

However, the Bible says otherwise. In this post I will present six points from scriptures that say Jesus was anything but just another good teacher.

- - -

1. Exclusivity

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)

No moral teacher claims that his ways are the only ways. Christ said it was either his way or the highway which by his own words led to 'destruction' (Matt. 7:13). He claimed that he has the key to salvation and he holds it alone. He also claimed that, not only does he have possession of the truth, but he is the truth.

2. Demanding Love

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37 NIV)

No moral teacher would ever teach his disciples to love him more than his parent or loved ones. Confucius taught 'filial piety' - which is living life centered on obedience towards one's parents. Christ said that such should be our love for him that our love for our loved ones would pale in comparison. He wants us to live for him alone.

3. Comparing himself to God

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9 NIV)

Any moral teacher would teach us to obey God. Some religions, like Islam, wouldn't dare allow any type of comparison with God. But Christ... he...uh... compared himself with God and he did it routinely! He claimed to be God's Son (John 3:16). Once Philip said, "Show us the Father, Jesus." Jesus replied, "You've seen me, haven't you?"

4. Authority

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. (Mark 2:10 NIV)

No moral teacher ever claimed to have authority to forgive sins. Buddha said, 'you must meditate', Muhammad: 'you must pray', and Krishna: 'you must devote'. But Christ forgave sins, he said,"I will meditate, I will pray, and I will devote." (1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 4:15)

Christ also claimed authority to give his own life and take it up again (John 10:18). No moral teacher has ever claimed that sort of authority.

5. Promises

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24 NIV)

No moral teacher ever claimed to give promises he couldn't keep. They say, "do this and that and you may have salvation." Jesus said, "You believe in me and you will have salvation." He said, "I am going to prepare mansions for you in heaven." (John 14:2-3)

6. Sacrifice

No moral teacher ever laid down his life for others. No moral teacher would hand himself over to death so that others might come to life. The cross of crucifixion is the ultimate distinction between Jesus and other teachers/prophets. It is the cross which makes Jesus complete as the redeemer, and others incomplete.

- - -

These things are those that make Jesus who he is. Do you still believe he was just another moral teacher? Read his story and judge for yourself.

(For more about the man who was more than just a prophet, read 'The Man from Galilee'.)