In Africa, we understand the importance of the founders of our countries, political parties, and businesses. They are highly regarded because of their leadership and vision. Unfortunately, some African leaders want to become objects of worship. President Mobutu Sese Seko, the self-proclaimed “Marshal” of the Republic of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), and President Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the self-styled “Emperor” of the Central African Empire (now Central African Republic), are two examples of leaders whom people worshipped. As Christians we follow and worship Jesus. It’s therefore important that we understand who he really is and how he differs from other religious figures.
Who is Jesus?
This is what the Bible says about who Jesus is. Jesus is unique in all history. He is the foundation of the Christian church (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). He is different from and above all the world’s other founders and leaders. Jesus Christ is God who came to earth in human form (John 1:1-3, 14; Philippians 2:8). He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation (Colossians 1:15, 18). And furthermore, he was a human and “faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
No other religious leader—not Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, or Simon Kimbangu—claimed to be born through miraculous circumstances. Jesus is different
Jesus Christ Was Born Miraculously
The birth of God’s Son, Jesus, was announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit, not by a man. Mary asked, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin” (Luke 1:34). Even the Quran mentions the virgin birth and suggests that Mary asked, “How can I have a son, since no man has touched me, and I am not a prostitute?” (Quran 19:16-21, Surah Maryam).
No other religious leader—not Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, or Simon Kimbangu—claimed to be born through miraculous circumstances. Jesus is different from all men and women on earth because of the miracle of his virgin birth.
The Son of God and the Messiah
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. All other founders or religious leaders are only humans. God the Father himself confirmed that Jesus was his Son by saying at the baptism of Jesus, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:17).
While Jesus was ministering in Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples two questions. The first was, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The second one was, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16). Peter’s declaration revealed that Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited Saviour.
Jesus Christ is God’s Word and God’s Power Revealed in the Flesh
Jesus Christ was and is God himself, fellowshipping with humans face to face (John 1:1). Throughout history, God has spoken through prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Daniel. Jesus did not just speak God’s words; he is God’s Word. He is also God incarnate. Jesus showed God’s glory, majesty, power, and authority on earth. The miracles he performed such as healing the sick and casting out demons demonstrated this. He also raised the dead—Lazarus (John 11:1-46) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17).
Jesus did not just speak God’s words; he is God’s Word. He is also God incarnate.
No Other Religious Leader Claims to Be God
Of all of the religious founders and leaders in history, none have claimed to be God.
In Judaism, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the three patriarchs, the fathers of Israel. Moses received the law directly from God on Mount Sinai. Though these men hold great importance in the history of Israel and Christianity, none of them claimed to be the Lord God. Furthermore, no Jew believed that these patriarchs or Moses should be worshipped as God.
In Buddhism, Sidartha Gautama, or Buddha, is the founder. The name Buddha means an “awakened being” or “a person who woke up from sleep or ignorance.” Buddhism contends that there is no such thing as God. Buddha’s very name shows that he made no claim to be God.
The founder of Islam is the Prophet Muhammad. He claimed to be the one who came to bring the message of Allah (God) after Jesus Christ. However, Muhammad never said he was God. He said that he was one sent of God.
Neither did Confucius, Guru Nanuk (Sikhism), Lao-tzu or Chuang-tzu (Taoism) ever claim to be God.
Jesus Christ was Clear that He is God
Jesus Christ, on the other hand, made his divinity and equality with God clear. The Jews understood this when he said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” (John 8:58). “I Am” was the very name God gave when Moses asked what God’s name was. God said, “ ‘I Am Who I Am.’ Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). Jesus was fully man and fully God. He existed before the world came into being and will remain throughout eternity. Revelation describes him as the “the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end” (Revelation 1:8).
Jesus was fully man and fully God. He existed before the world came into being and will remain throughout eternity.
Jesus Demonstrates his Divinity
Only God can forgive the sin that blocks our relationship with him. Jesus showed that he has authority to forgive sin. When a paralysed man came to Jesus to be healed, not only did he heal, but Jesus also told him, “My child, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).
Jesus spoke of his divinity directly to his disciples. When Philip asked to see the Father, Jesus said: “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” (John 14:9).
The Apostles Declare Jesus’ Divinity
The apostles also declared Jesus Christ to be God. The apostle John, referring to Jesus, wrote, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). After confessing his unbelief before the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Thomas exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The apostle Paul said, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1:15).
Jesus Christ Rose from the Dead and is Alive
Moses, Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, and Simon Kimbangu all died and remain dead, never again to be seen alive on earth. No follower of those religions ever claimed that their founder rose from the dead. But Jesus Christ died and rose again. When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb of Jesus after he was crucified, an angel told them, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body” (Mark 16:6).
No follower of those religions ever claimed that their founder rose from the dead. But Jesus Christ died and rose again.
The apostle Thomas could not believe that Jesus had risen bodily from the dead. So Jesus appeared to Thomas and the other apostles and graciously spoke to Thomas, saying, “ ‘Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Do not be faithless any longer. Believe!’ And when Thomas did that, he exclaimed, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” (John 20:24-29). The Thomas who was doubting became a believer that Jesus was truly God come in the flesh and that he had risen from the dead.
The guards who were witnesses to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead were bribed not to tell the truth. Leading priests told the soldiers to say, “ ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body… So the guards accepted the bribe” (Matthew 28:11-15). To this day, no one has been able to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His tomb in Israel is empty.
Jesus is “the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come … the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world” (Revelation 1:4-5).
Jesus Christ is Superior to All Other Founders or Leaders
All human leaders, past and present, made mistakes. All of them are sinners. Jesus Christ is superior to all other founders or religious leaders. He lived a perfect life, he never sinned. He is the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:19). “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).
Jesus precedes all founders. He is the Leader of all leaders. “At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (1 Timothy 6:15). Jesus is God. He is “Lord of all lords and King of all kings” (Revelation 17:14).
Points to Remember
- Jesus Christ was born miraculously.
- He is the Son of God.
- Jesus Christ is the Messiah the people of Israel had been waiting for.
- He is God’s Word and God’s power manifested in the flesh.
- Jesus Christ is God.
- He rose from the dead and is alive.
- Jesus Christ is superior to all other founders or leaders.
- We owe Jesus Christ our full worship, total obedience, and heartfelt love.