All power in heaven and earth centers in the person of Jesus. Everything that man needs in this world and in the world to come is found in Him. Without Him no man can hope to succeed, but with Him failure is impossible. No human mind has ever been able to comprehend the height, the depth, the length, and the breadth of the eternal realities that reside in Jesus, for He contains all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. 2:9.)
It is clear that in order for Jesus to be so mighty, He must be more than a mere man. Many centuries before He came, it was foretold of Him in Isaiah 9:6: "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
Isaiah, looking down over more than seven centuries of time, saw the Prince of Peace born into this world. Speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, the prophet boldly affirms that this child who was to be born is "The Mighty God." No one could possibly fulfill the predictions made in this prophecy unless he was born as a child and at the same time was the Mighty God.
There are very few in the present generation who refuse to believe that Christ was a real historical character--that He was born into the world and lived His life among men. There are a considerable number of people, however, who will not admit that Jesus Christ is God. The testimony of Bible prophecy to the Deity of Jesus Christ is conclusive, but we shall present other proof to substantiate the fact that Jesus Christ is actually God.
Josephus, the noted Jewish historian, who was born in A.D. 37 and died about A.D. 95, gives us this remarkable statement: "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man; for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him; for He appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophet had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from Him, are not extinct at this day." --Antiquities of the Jews, book 18, chap 3.
For some time it was thought that this passage was an interpolation into the writings of Josephus, but Adolph Harnack, the great German scholar and authority on this period of history, has proved it to be a part of the original text, and as authoritative as anything Josephus ever wrote.
Then we have also the testimony of the apostle Paul, who was actually a contemporary of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is said concerning Paul that he had the philosophical mind of a Plato and the literary genius of a Shakespeare. Being a contemporary of Jesus, Paul did not investigate the claims of Jesus when centuries had passed and the real person of Christ might have been lost in the midst of mythology and hero worship. He scrutinized those claims when Christianity was in its infancy, when the generation in which Jesus lived was still alive. To the mind of the apostle Paul one of the most conclusive reasons for believing Jesus Christ to be the divine Son of God was the fact that He rose from the dead.
In Romans 1:1-4, in referring to Jesus, Paul wrote, "The gospel of God,...concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."
Paul tells us here that Christ is of the seed of David according to the flesh, but on the divine side of His nature, He is declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection of Christ must not be left in doubt down through the ages, for on it rests the most potent argument of all in favor of the divinity of Christ. If there is nothing left of the mighty man of Nazareth except a handful of dust in an old Syrian tomb, to what hope of a future life can other men look forward?
So God raised up Paul with his brilliant mind, that he might investigate the claims of the resurrection of Christ while the men were still alive who said they actually saw Him after He rose from the dead. He tells us that after His resurrection, Jesus was seen of above five hundred persons at once. The greater part of this number were still alive when Paul had attained the prominence of apostle in the early church (1 Cor 15:6). He was able to obtain their personal testimony to the certainty of the resurrection. These were men and women outside the circle of the apostles.
Of course the apostles themselves affirmed that they saw Him and talked with Him after He rose from the dead; so they had not a shadow of doubt regarding His resurrection.
It would be difficult indeed to find any even in history to which the unanimous testimony of five hundred persons could be obtained. Yet this is the testimony given concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which makes it the most accredited and certain historical event of all time.
No wonder Talleyrand, the secretary of state under Napoleon Bonaparte, said that there is no event in all history the certainty of which is so fully established as the resurrection of Christ.
May we again quote the statement of Paul? "Declared to be the Son of God with power...by the resurrection from the dead."
Surely Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
Paul saw that Jesus was like a great mountain peak that pushed its snow-capped summit into the clouds, and all other men were but like the swamps at its base. One eminent authority has said concerning the apostle Paul that he was the greatest man that ever lived. And yet this great man, when he compared himself with Jesus, said of himself that he himself was but refuse in comparison. When we see how far Jesus Christ towers above Paul, considered the greatest and best of men, it is clear that Jesus must be more than man.
If He were not more than a man, it would be impossible to explain the influence of His life. Everything about Him points to the fact that He is not a mere man, but is actually God. He was born in a stable and cradled in a manger. Yet around that manger and that precious Babe the whole world gathers at least once a year and stops and listens anew to the angels' song of peace on earth and good will to men, and all the world becomes tender and is drawn closer together. Other babes have been born during the centuries, but none of them have gripped the heart of the world as has this one.
Out of the dimly lighted stable of Bethlehem comes a light that makes the hearts of men glow with a warmth that inspires them to the loftiest acts of which they are capable. The poor and the hungry are fed, the homeless are given shelter, and the naked are clothed. The hard-fisted, selfish man suddenly wakes up and becomes unselfish, sending good cheer into the desolate homes of the unfortunate.
Who can explain the mighty hold that Jesus has on the hearts of men, except by admitting that Jesus Christ is more than man?
Jesus was no visionary who sat and dreamed and philosophized as the days came and went. He was a hard-working artisan, who applied Himself to the carpenter's trade in the village of Nazareth, in Galilee. Until He was thirty years old, He worked early and late at the carpenter's bench.
In an age that had sunk to the lowest ebb of iniquity and sin, Nazareth was an outstanding example of moral depravity. Its reputation for wickedness was so great that it had become proverbial, and the saying was current in Christ's day, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" The product of this town was expected to be nothing but vile and sinful.
In this town Jesus spent the greater part of His life, living there nearly thirty of the thirty-three and a half years of His sojourn on earth. It was not an environment that was calculated to grow a rare and choice plant. Yet amid those vile surroundings grew the Lily of the Valley that has sent forth its fragrance of purity to lift the whole world to a higher and loftier plane. This was possible because He did not depend for His spiritual sustenance upon the soil of Nazareth, but drew His strength from the very throne of heaven.
Very little is known of the life of Jesus Christ during His sojourn in Nazareth. Practically all we know is that He worked as a humble carpenter there until He was thirty years of age. He died at the age of thirty-three and a half. Only three and one-half years of His life were lived outside the obscurity of the little carpenter's shop of Nazareth. During that brief time He wandered about on the dusty roads of a small country, Palestine, which was at that time a vassal of Rome. He did not share in the education advantages of His time; He never wrote a book, never traveled, never had a job or a public office; He never was seated upon a royal throne in this world, never was a governor--not even a major of a town or even a constable of a small village; and He died as a criminal. Everybody, apparently, was glad when He passed away, except a few fishermen and some humble women.
Abraham Lincoln was president of a great nation and was sincerely mourned by millions, but when Jesus died, He was execrated by His nation and mourned by but a few unlearned followers. He died upon a cross an ignominious death reserved for the slave and the alien. And yet His name eclipses all others, and He is the outstanding figure of the centuries.
The cross was the gallows of His day--the electric chair of His age. It was the most cruel instrument of torture ever invented. Men were nailed upon it and hung there unsheltered from the biting cold or the scorching heat until they died of exhaustion or of heartbreaking suffering. We are told by historians that some lived for a week hanging upon the cross until the birds came and plucked out their eyes while they were still alive. The body of the Lord Jesus touched the cruel cross and immediately transformed it into the glory of the world.
We have our red crosses, our white crosses, our green crosses, with all their crossed pieces like friendly arms reaching out to heal and uplift and bless the world...
Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, was a woman of modest circumstances brought up among the rugged hills of old Galilee. Her life was one of hardship and poverty. At the critical moment of her life, when every woman especially needs a friend, she was obliged to find her way into a dimly lighted stable at the time of the birth of her first-born son, Jesus. And yet this humble girl of Galilee has become the most honored and revered woman in all history. Her name, Mary, has become a household word in nearly every nation of the world. The only reason why such signal honor has been bestowed upon her is that she is the mother of Jesus Christ. The name of Jesus lifts the simple girl out of the common place into the sublime. What a mighty name is this name of Jesus!
Every time you write the number of the year on your letter or make an entry into your ledger, or look for the date on your newspaper or magazine, you are reminded that Jesus was born so many years ago. This year is numbered as it is because Jesus was born into the world. Other great men have lived since His day, but He remains supreme through the ages. It is not so many years after Julius Caesar, or Shakespeare, or Napoleon, or Washington, or Abraham Lincoln, but it is so many years after Jesus Christ.
The first thing that meets you when you enter the classroom is that everything in history is dated before and after Jesus Christ. He is the Number One of history. From this number one, Jesus Christ, you count all the events of all time. Like a great mountain peak pushing its snow-capped head into the clouds, He stands supreme, and all history slopes down from Him. He splits the centuries in two, and all history revolves about His name.
Who can explain this without admitting that Jesus Christ is more than mere man? His public career lasted only three and a half years, but from that three and a half years of short, fleeting ministry His life sent forth a power that has lifted empires off their hinges, turned the centuries out of their course, and colored the stream of time with His blood. Think back over three and one-half years of your own life, and see how quickly they have passed, and how little impression you have made even on your immediate surroundings, to say nothing of the world at large. Jesus wandered around three and one-half years without office or position of any kind, with a few humble followers, and yet today He is the dominant figure of history. So great an effect must have a corresponding cause.
William E. Lecky, the noted Irish historian, in his Essays on Religion, page 253, has summed up the life of Christ in the following language: "It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character, which, through all the changes of eighteen centuries, has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love, and has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; has not only been the highest patron of virtue, but the highest incentive to its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of those short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists."
He spent his entire life among the Jews; yet no one thinks of Him as a Jew. The prejudice that is sometimes held against that race is certainly absent when men think of Christ. He is loved everywhere, and all nations call Him their own. When the Frenchman paints Him, He looks like a Frenchman. When the Italian depicts Him upon the canvas, He is an Italian; the German always makes Him look like a German in his pictures; and the American paints Him so that He looks like an American. He rises above all national lines and all national borders, and is the universal Christ, loved and worshipped in every nation. His name is sung and prayed in more than eight hundred languages in the world today.
He is the supreme figure of the ages, and is growing more mighty every day. Kings, potentates, and crowns are falling rapidly. Great names one after the other flicker and go out and are soon forgotten. But the name of Jesus is every increasing in might and glory. His is the one name that goes steadily marching on. How can you account for such a tremendous effect without admitting a corresponding cause?
What great name but the name of Jesus helps men die in peace? Millions of persons have passed into the valley of the shadow of death with the name of Jesus on their parched lips. And for them the valley has been transformed with light and glory and the shadows have fled away as the Sun of Righteousness has lighted up their last moments with resplendent colors. Surely Jesus must be divine.
Napoleon Bonaparte gives us this testimony: "Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years Jesus Christ makes a demand which is, beyond all others, difficult to satisfy. He asks that for which a philosopher may seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her husband, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally, and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable. It is beyond the scope of man's creative power. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame. Time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its reign. This is what strikes me most. I have often thought of it. This is what to me proves quite convincingly the divinity of Jesus Christ."
Shortly before Jesus Christ went to His death upon the cross, He made a wonderful pronouncement. We read in Matthew 24:14: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
Jesus Christ was standing alone, looking, as it were, at the open tomb. His nation had given Him up. At Rome, the capital of the world, He was unknown. His few followers would soon leave Him and flee. And yet when He stood at what would seem to be the end of the road, His eyes were not dimmed with the tears of disappointment, for He looked with the eyes of God upon the future generations, and He said, "There is coming a day in which My name and My gospel will be known around the world."
At the time He made this pronouncement, there was not a chance in the world, according to human probabilities, that what He predicted could happen; but it has come true, nevertheless. Today men are telling the story of Jesus in the darkest parts of Africa. In China they are singing the praises of the Christ of God. Men's hearts are glowing with the thought of the Gospel of Jesus in the islands of the sea. In fact, every country in the world is hearing the name of Jesus in song and in Scriptural language.
At a time when the whole world was lying in the inky blackness of heathenism, and the only nation that really believed in God was hostile to Him and gave Him up to be crucified, how did Jesus Christ know that there would come a day when His praises and His gospel would be sounded to the end of the earth? He knew it because Jesus Christ is God, and God knows the end from the beginning. Men do not know the future. If we knew what the future held in store for us, how different would be our plans! But God alone is able to foretell and unveil future events.
There is one other beautiful thing about this pronouncement. Jesus tells us that when His name is sounded around the world and the gospel is preached in every nation, then will the end come--the end of the reign of sin and sorrow and heartbreak and trouble. As we stand looking over the world, and see this marvelous prediction so fully and wonderfully fulfilling, we may know that we are nearing the dawn of that better day when sin will be no more. We are approaching that time when the nations of the world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.
How wonderful to live in a country of which Jesus Christ, the Man of Calvary, the One who gave His life for us, is King. What a wonderful ruler He will make in that country of the blest!
"What value is it to us," you say, "to know that Jesus Christ is God?" Well, dear friends, Jesus Christ is God, and God cannot lie. So the story He tells us in the Scriptures must be true. After all, there is a home over there where the changes never come. There is a land that is fairer than day. There is a country where men can run and not be weary, and walk and never be faint. This life is altogether too short even for the man who lives to a ripe old age. But how comforting it is to know that there is a place prepared for those who are willing to live for and to love this dear Jesus, where their fondest ambitions will be realized, and where men will live with a perfect mind in a perfect body in a perfect world forever.
Jesus! How wonderful and precious is the name! He is the Prince of Peace, the mighty God, and the coming King. When we think of Him, who was born in a stable and died upon a cross; who divides the centuries in two, and about whose name all history revolves; who lifted empires off their hinges, turning the stream of time out of its course; and who at the same time binds up the brokenhearted and speaks peace to the troubled breast; when we think of the millions who have died with the name of Jesus on their parched lips, and of how the shadows of death have burst into the glorious colors of the setting sun at the thought of Him, may we not exclaim:
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all."
All the glories that gather round that name sublime are wonderful to behold, but they will be of no value to you, dear friend, unless Jesus makes triumphant entry into your heart. You must do something definite about the aceptance of Christ as your personal Saviour, if His life is to benefit you.
Perhaps you are saying within your heart, "I admit that I am not what might be called a real Christian, but I believe I have as good a chance for heaven as some people I know who profess to belong to Christ."
Let me give you an illustration that I hope will make this matter of the need of accepting Christ still clearer.
In Rome, Italy, some years ago, there entered the office of the American embassy a man who appeared to be in great distress. When he finally secured an audience with the ambassador, he stated his case, a very serious one, and then implored the ambassador for help.
The ambassador immediately asked the man, "Are you a citizen of the United States?" The man replied, "I have lived in the United States for twenty-five years. I have reared my family there. I have always paid my taxes, and contributed to all worthy enterprises."
"But," interrupted the ambassador, "are you a citizen of the United States?"
He answered slowly, "No, I have never taken out my citizenship papers, but I believe I have done my duty toward the Government just as fully as those who have taken out their citizenship papers."
The ambassador replied, "I am sorry for you, but I cannot help you because you are not a citizen of my country."
Some years later a man entered the same embassy, and talked to the same ambassador. The man was trembling with fear and emotion, for his case was desperate. He spoke in broken English, but he stated his case to the ambassador with sufficient clearness to make him understand his situation.
The ambassador directed the same question to this man that he had asked the other man some years before: "Are you a citizen of the United States?"
In a faltering manner he explained to the ambassador that some years before he had taken out his first papers, and just before he sailed for Italy, he had received his last papers, and so he was a full-fledged citizen of the United States.
The ambassador exclaimed, "You are a citizen of my country. I extend to you the full power of the United States for your protection, and one hundred thirty million American citizens are behind you to see that you get your rights."
No foreigner can become a citizen of a country without making a positive, definite decision to take out his citizenship papers. Everyone is a foreigner by nature with respect to the kingdom of heaven. But we may become "fellow citizens with the saints," as Paul expressed it in Ephesians 2:19.
So may I ask you the question, "Have you taken out your citizenship papers which entitle you to a place in the kingdom of heaven?"
It is not a question of how near you think you come to doing as well as your neighbors who are Christians, but have you taken out your citizenship papers? Is Christ the King of your heart now?
You say, "I do not know how to take out citizenship papers for heaven." If you are willing to acknowledge Christ as your personal Saviour, to follow Him all the way, He will accept you as a citizen of His kingdom, and you will become right now a citizen of the kingdom of grace.
You cannot do His will without His help; so it is useless to talk about being saved at last unless He has entered your heart and taken up His abode there. Our part of the transaction is to be willing to do God's will. Christ's part is to furnish the power to do the thing you will to do.
We have the case of a palsied man mentioned in Luke 5:18, a helpless, bedridden victim. Jesus told him to arise, and take up his bed, and go to his house. No doubt this palsied man had tried many times to rise, but had found that he was absolutely helpless. But when Jesus told him to arise, he made the effort, and immediately Christ furnished the power, and he was able to rise.
So with us. If we are willing to make the effort, taking Christ at His word, He will furnish the power to do God's will.
Will you not bow your head and accept Him, and invite Him to take charge of your life? He will come in and live His life within you, and at last He will present you faultless before the throne. (Jude 24).
May you not delay, but make the decision in favor of Christ and eternity right now, and a peace that floweth like a river will be yours for time and eternity.
--Charles T. Everson