John Lennon once said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, but he was wrong. It’s arguable that this Jewish man from a forgotten corner of the Roman Empire has been more influential in human history than any other individual.

But it is not because of his fame that Christians worship him. According to the accounts of his life in the New Testament, Jesus was an extraordinary human being. He was a compelling teacher, exposing the religious hypocrisy and corruption of his day. He was a healer, and a worker of miraculous signs. He was a friend to outcasts and misfits – a man of compassion even sometimes to the point of tears.

But they killed him. Jesus was made an example by those he threatened, and ended up hanging on a cross in the hot sun of Palestine, till he was dead.

This was, you might think, a disaster. But the witnesses claim that the death of Jesus was not the end of his story. Not long after he died, his friends and followers found his tomb empty, and actually met him – not his ghost, or some vague spirit, but Jesus himself, in living three-dimensional reality.

His death was not simply the death of an annoying upstart who got in the way and became a victim of the machine. As his friends explained it, Jesus died for the sins of the world. In him, God himself, because of his great love for humanity, was bringing about a reconciliation between human beings and himself. And in rising to new life, Jesus demonstrated that he could even overturn the final judgment against human beings. As John, one of the authors of the New Testament wrote later: ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ (1 John 4:10)

Jesus is not just famous, or interesting, or profound. For Christians, he is Lord. And that means that Christians seek to live lives that are beyond simply ‘moral’ or ‘decent’. They try to live lives that echo the life Jesus himself lived, out of the knowledge that he has broken the power of sin and death.

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