More than 2000 years have passed since the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, but his is a story that still refuses to go away. His influence in some parts of the world may be declining, but the fact is that globally, a greater part of the world’s population are now his followers more so than at any other time in history. So important is he, that we divide history by his birth.
Followers of Jesus are to be found in every nation. He is read and spoken about in thousands of languages. For his followers, the creation and destiny of the world as well as their own personal destiny all revolve around him. All that can be known and seen of the invisible God is to be found in Jesus.
Even amongst non-believers, the name of Jesus is recognised. Mention of his name brings to mind acts of great heroism but also acts of great evil that people have claimed to carry out in his name. For good and for ill, the name of Jesus is known throughout the world. All the more ironic then that in his own lifetime, Jesus was neither famous nor very influential in the lives and events of the society that he lived in.
So who is this man who divides history?
First of all he is Jesus. To us Jesus is a sacred name. We wouldn’t name our child Jesus. But in the time of Jesus, it was a very common name indeed. It is the same name as Joshua. This name is a reminder of Jesus’ full humanity. He was a real human being, who lived and walked the earth at a specific time in history.
Secondly, he is Jesus Christ. Christ is not Jesus’ surname. It means the same as the word Messiah, or anointed one. Jesus Christ was born for one purpose. He was born to reconcile the world to the God who created and who loves the world. For his millions of followers Christ does this supremely through his death on the cross and his Resurrection to new life from the dead.
Thirdly Jesus is the Son of God. He is God’s only Son and his relationship with God is unique. Christians often see themselves as children of God as a way of explaining the close personal relationship that they experience with God, but Jesus’ relationship is altogether different. Son of God means that Jesus is himself God. God came into the world as a human being.
In Jesus, God has come into our world and lived in the world and experienced it in the same way that we live in and experience the world. Jesus unites in his person humanity and God. He is literally the bridge between heaven and earth.
Because of Jesus, God is not to be found ‘out there’ looking down on the world and indifferent to what goes on in the world. God is to be found right here at work in the world, working with the world to transform it into a place of peace and justice for all, where all humanity can thrive and find their true meaning and purpose.
The text above was written by Mark Hocknull, Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, and is used with his permission, and our thanks. This picture of Jesus is in one of our stained glass windows. Having photographed it the camera told me that the subject had blinked …