Who was—or is—Jesus?

No other name in all of history carries so many connotations. His name has inspired some of the most beautiful acts in human history, and has been used to excuse some truly terrible ones. Can we strip away the centuries of baggage that surround this name, and find the real Jesus?

Our knowledge of Jesus and his life comes from the Bible. Historically speaking, Jesus was a Jewish man who lived and preached 2000 years ago in the region of Palestine—the modern-day country of Israel. The Bible paints a stirring picture of this man and his work: it describes his miraculous birth, his years spent preaching and teaching and performing miracles, his clash with the religious leaders of the day, and finally his brutal death. The Bible also describes Jesus rising from the grave three days after his death!

What makes Jesus different from history’s many other religious revolutionaries? The difference lies in the claims Jesus made. Jesus never angled for political power or tried to set up his own religion with rules and regulations to follow. Instead, he made a startling claim: that he was the son of God, and that he had come to solve the “problem of sin”.

Jesus’ message is called the Gospel, or “good news,” because it’s wonderful news to every imperfect person (that’s all of us!) who wants to know a perfect God. Jesus taught that by simple belief in his death and resurrection—not by adherence to religious rules or rigid lifestyle regulations!—our sins and mistakes are erased so that we can commune with God. (Read more about Jesus’ “good news.”

Throughout the centuries, people have debated almost everything about the life and message of Jesus. But no matter what anyone else says, Jesus’ significance boils down to just one question: how will you respond to this man Jesus and his claims?

The famous writer CS Lewis once wrote that Jesus’ life and message were so unique that he simply demands a response from us today. If Jesus was just another huckster religious leader, then he was a liar and can be ignored. But if Jesus really was who he said… then no matter how messed up our lives are, we can find real meaning and hope. It means there’s a way to break out of the pain and frustration of everyday life and have a purpose. The Christian faith is based on the belief that Jesus was exactly who he said he was.

Read more about the problem of sin, and the solution that Jesus offers. And if you’ve read about those and are ready to answer Jesus’ challenge, it’s time to make a decision about what you’ve learned.