What Sets Jesus Apart?
What sets Jesus apart from other would-be Saviors, Messiahs, and Lords? What, if anything, is unique about “Christianity”—the way of life that seeks to honor Christ’s name?
Many people say his teachings, but that’s not quite true. Lots of folks have delved deeply into God’s design for human life, even if they never put it in these terms. Others may say the church, the Bible, or Jesus’ miracles, yet each of these too find counterparts elsewhere. Probably the most common answer is grace. But the only way to argue the absence of grace in all other “religions” is to caricature at least one or two of them.
There is, however, only one resurrection.
Only once did a person undergo death and then come out the other side—not back to this life, mind you, but out to another kind of life altogether. Just this once a Savior, a Messiah, a Lord let evil do its worst to him and still came out on top.
This is the life eternal. This is the good news of Christianity. Without this, we have no news to tell. Without resurrection, Jesus may have been a good man, but he was also a failure. Without resurrection, the life in which we have placed our hope is at worst a cruel joke and at best nothing more than a creative dream. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19:
If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . . If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins….If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
On the other hand, with resurrection comes justification and salvation (Rom. 4:25; 10:9; 1 Pet. 3:21). With resurrection comes hope and healing (Acts 4:10; 1 Pet. 1:3). With resurrection comes victory (1 Cor. 15:50-57). With resurrection comes life (John 11:25-26; Rom. 6:4-7).
The Gospel of Jesus’ Resurrection
With resurrection comes the gospel. We tend to shrink the gospel of Jesus down merely to his death. It should be obvious by now that Jesus’ death is, to put it mildly, fantastic news. But there’s more. Think about the book of Acts, which tells the story of the early church. To be honest, much of the preaching in Acts presents Jesus’ death as a prelude to the even greater moment of his resurrection.
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22-24)
“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:13-15)
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. (Acts 4:1-3)
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 that there were no needy persons among them. (Acts 4:33-34)
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.” (Acts 5:29-31)
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus….God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay.” (Acts 13:32-34)
Paul was preaching the gospel about Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:18)
It’s like talking to someone who’s head-over-heels in love or who just won the lottery. They cannot stop talking about the resurrection of Jesus.
(Excerpted from Michael DeFazio, Jesus in 3D. Used with permission.)