Jesus made a big "splash" 2,000 years ago. But have you ever considered his impact on society, cultures and the world since?
Four voices from history -- a historian, an intellect, a military leader and a political idealist -- expressed their point of view on the ripple effect of Jesus:
Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history."
One of the most prolific intellects in human history, Albert Einstein, stated, "Unquestionably. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression that we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus ... No man can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some of them have been said before, no one has expressed them so divinely as he."
The great military leader Napoleon declared, "I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."
The pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during its struggle for independence, Mahatma Gandhi, said, "A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act."
It cannot be denied that Jesus Christ changed history. His "splash" has brought multiple ripples that continue to this day.
One ripple is Christ's influence over his followers to love their neighbors as themselves. To live out this idea, his followers invented the idea of organized charity. The early Christian communities stressed support for widows, orphans, the sick and disabled. They organized efforts to help those who were dying even when it put their personal health and vitality at risk. Hospitals have been built, staffed and paid for. In recent times, Christ's followers have founded virtually every charitable organization on earth, including the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, World Relief, World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, Food for the Hungry and Compassion International, just to name a few.
What got this all started? Did it just happen? Did Jesus' ripple effect come about by chance?
For some help on these questions, we read in John 14:12 where Jesus says, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." No, the impact of Jesus did not just happen. There was a vision conceived to change the world and the method of change was through the changed lives of Jesus' followers.
Jesus put this vision into motion in a very troubling and disturbing time. His followers were coming to grips with the fact that Jesus was not going to be with them long. In John 13:33, Jesus says, "My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come."
Where was he going? Jesus said on many occasions to them that he would die and in John 12:36 we read from Jesus, "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." This part of Jesus' plan brought about pain, anguish and, in a sense, a type of separation anxiety.
But Jesus informed his disciples that in his absence they were to continue to follow him, to grow in their trust of him and to carry out his work. The optimism flowed as Jesus said, "Greater things are yet to come." Jesus Christ says something amazing here, that the cumulative efforts by his disciples both then and now will bring about greater things than they had seen. This was not to minimize the healing of the sick, the feeding of the masses or the resurrection from the dead, but to emphasize the enormous long-living impact of Jesus through his followers.
Are you on board with the Jesus vision? Are you a part of Jesus' ripple effect? Making Jesus your forgiver from sin and yielding to him as your leader is the first step. If you are a part of Jesus' ripple effect, you are helping others begin a journey with God, one who connects others to a faith community, and you are one who walks with others to enable them to become everything Jesus would have them be.
Imagine if you and I lived our lives to carry on the effects of Jesus in our day. We would find peace and fulfillment, and the greatness that would come would be awesome!
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, which meets 9:30 a.m. Sundays at the Petoskey Cinema and 11 a.m. Sundays at Boyne City elementary. For more information, visit www.genesiswired.com. Comments and insights are welcomed on Twitter @NormByers.