In the spring of 2009, Maurice Clemmons began to imagine that he was Jesus Christ. He held that thought all through the summer, even while facing eight felony counts.
Shortly after 8 a.m. he Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, Clemmons—who’d just been released from prison on bail—walked into a strip-mall coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington, where four police officers sat planning their day. Clemmons pulled out a pistol and quickly shot three of them to death, killing the fourth after a struggle.
Of course not.
Then how about the painting that hangs in a beautiful meditation temple in a Seattle suburb where I used to live? The temple is a circular building with brilliant blue roof-tiles and a glass dome. Beneath the dome is the temple sanctuary, where scores of people gather to meditate and practice yoga. They face a wall on which hang five portraits, arranged in a wide upside-down V.
At the tip of the inverted V—the highest point—is a painting of Jesus’ face. Sloping down from either side are photographs of eminent yoga practitioners and swamis. The temple’s Web site says that “Kriya Yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which the human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. . . . A yogi who faithfully follows its technique is gradually freed from karma or the universal chain of causation.” There’s no mention of Jesus’ atoning death for our sins.
Of course not! Then who was He?
The real Jesus
Jesus was the One foretold by several ancient Bible prophecies, each one adding a puzzle-piece to complete who He really is. I will share with you four of these prophecies about Jesus.
BIBLE PROPHECY 1
JESUS’ PLACE OF BIRTH.
Seven centuries before Christ’s birth the prophet Micah wrote, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
Centuries later, the wise men showed up in Jerusalem wanting to know where to find the newborn Ruler of Israel. To find the answer, King Herod consulted the local Bible scholars, and they quoted these very verses—thus correctly pointing the wise men (and later Herod’s murderous soldiers) to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1–18).
In other words, Jesus’ arrival in the humble “little” city of Bethlehem not only proved that God can predict and control the future but also that the Son of God who came from eternity past was not to be born among the high-and-mighty but among the lowly. That’s who Jesus was.
BIBLE PROPHECY 2
WHEN JESUS WOULD BECOME THE MESSIAH.
The prophet Daniel, writing in the mid-500s B.C., quotes the angel Gabriel as saying, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (Daniel 9:25).
The command to restore and build Jerusalem (from its Babylonian destruction a century earlier) was given by the Persian king Artaxerxes Longimanus in 457 B.C.. The “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” add up to 69 weeks, which according to the interpretive principle that a day in apocalyptic prophecy equals a literal year, works out to 483 years. If we begin these 483 years in 457 B.C. as the prophecy suggests, they end in A.D. 27 (Luke 3:1–3). And that is the very year when Jesus was baptized and began His ministry as the Messiah.
In other words, Jesus wasn’t simply another in a long line of teachers and philosophers who tried to show us how to work and think our way to a higher existence. Instead, He was directly commissioned by God the Father to live and die for us, redeeming our sinful lives with His sinless one, and re-creating us in His image. That’s who Jesus is.
BIBLE PROPHECY 3
JESUS’ VIRGIN BIRTH.
Isaiah, who had a lot to say about the coming Messiah, said, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) The word virgin is a translation of the Hebrew word almah, which is used of a girl of marriageable age until the birth of her first child. And Matthew documented that fulfillment: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18).
The amazing truth that emerges from the pens of Isaiah and Matthew is that Jesus was no ordinary man who was fathered by a Nazareth woodworker. He was directly a Child of God. But this didn’t make Him half-man and half-God, but rather all man and all God. Paul says, “For in Him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Mind-boggling? Of course—but God wouldn’t be God if He couldn’t boggle our minds once in a while. Both God and Man—that’s who Jesus is.
BIBLE PROPHECY 4
JESUS’ SUFFERING AND DEATH—AND WHY THEY HAD TO HAPPEN.
This is what’s so starkly absent in any non-Christian belief system that tries to borrow Jesus and fit Him to their purposes. To them, Jesus was a wise and good teacher and very little more. Why? Because it’s truly repulsive to gaze unflinchingly into our own souls and discover the ugliness there, for which only Jesus’ sacrificial death can atone. But Isaiah—also an unflinching soul-examiner—said, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4–6).
No, Jesus could never be a felon with a grudge against the police who claimed His name from the depths of a deranged mind. And neither could He ever simply be the wisest among eminent Eastern mystics. His very name—given to His earthly father by an angel who delivered it direct from His heavenly Father (Matthew 1:21)—tells His true mission. The word Jesus comes from the Hebrew Yeshua (Greek Iesous), which means, “Yahweh [Jehovah] will save.”
And no matter how ugly—and even murderous—your past and mine may be, Jesus can save us. Jesus’ own friend, who tried to murder His followers, said that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
That’s who Jesus is—your Savior.