Is Jesus unique? Ravi Zacharias on how to answer the 'are all religions the same' question
Jesus was always being asked questions. He also answered people with questions. And questions about whether Jesus is unique are not new.
For example, when faced with Jesus on trial, Pilate the Roman governor represents all the political and religious tension of the time in his question in John 18:33: "Are you the king of the Jews?"
Pilate is in this immense conflict within himself. Something within him is prompting him to say that this trial is a charade. But he's trapped between the political manoeuvring of Rome and the Jewish authorities he's subjugating. And he asks the crucial question: Who is Jesus? Is he unique?
We often hear that all religions are the same, but this is not true. They are superficially the same, but they are fundamentally different.
How is Jesus different? There are a number of ways:
Fundamental is Jesus' description of the human condition. He talks of the alienation of the human heart by being separated from God. He says that the heart is in rebellion against God: so deep is this, that morality alone cannot solve it. It goes beyond mere good vs bad. The heart is in need of something greater than just pulling ourselves up by our moral bootstraps.
Second, Jesus offers a unique solution to the problem. The provision he gives for you and me is absolutely unique, and it is not cheap. It is the cross. That's why you will find an Easterner, when they come to Jesus Christ, literally sobbing and sobbing and sobbing, because they have felt the anguish of what sin is. Their recognition of the graciousness of forgiveness is very, very unique. Islam says, to get to heaven your good deeds will have to outweigh your bad. In other words, you pay. When Christ comes and says to you and me that he is offering forgiveness and doing so through the payment of his life on the cross, it is an extraordinary truth. The Bible says that we need a Saviour and we need forgiveness.
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There is only one place in the world where love, forgiveness and justice come together: justice was being revealed, love was being demonstrated and forgiveness was being offered. That is on the cross of calvary. Jesus Christ claimed to be the way, the truth and the life because he is what the absolute truth really is. Repentance is an anguished moment, but your tears are wiped away with the joy of forgiveness. This truth of Christ's grace is unique.
Thirdly, Jesus was unique in that he had no sin. Even Pilate said, "I find no fault in this man".
Finally, the resurrection is the ultimate demonstration of his uniqueness. Jesus shows that he is the Son of God through his rising from the dead. And, through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered through evil, not in spite of it. It shows that there is a hope that comes from beyond the grave.
This is a precis of a talk given to the Keswick Convention 2014. The audio is available free here and will be summarised in a BBC Radio 4 broadcast on 24 August.
Keswick's mission is to unite with Christians around the world to commit to three big priorities for our lives and churches – hearing God's Word, becoming like God's Son, and fulfilling God's mission.