In Christian belief, Jesus was the smartest man who ever lived since he understood the meaning of life and how to live it as no one else has. As vital as scientific knowledge is, it’s no substitute for this knowledge. For example, despite all of Einstein’s successes in the former, he evidenced major deficiencies in the latter. In Jesus, however, we find a man as humble and content as he was imaginative, truthful and bold. He showed us how to live a fulfilled life and died with no regrets. What greater measure of success can there be?
Many today reject this assessment of Jesus, however. Secularists dismiss Jesus as irrelevant, presuming that we’ve now discovered something about reality that renders his teachings as simply foolish to thinking people. But when pressed for particulars about what’s changed and what proof they have, they’re quickly stumped. The secular mind also renders life meaningless in the end. For without God, our life’s work, personal relationships and moral choices have no bearing on whatever distant future lies ahead.
Most Muslims discount the biblical Jesus’ wisdom also, but for different reasons. They claim to honor Jesus as a great prophet. But they honor an ahistorical Jesus—based on their hadith and Qur’an interpretation—and invoke their biblical falsification theory whenever the historical Jesus differs from their own. As with secularists, when pressed on precisely why the Gospels are irrelevant and what proof they have, they lack answers. As Dallas Willard says, “Descending to particulars always helps to clear the mind.”
Our world is now being torn apart by all kinds of violence—Muslim (Sunni, Shia, Alewi), Western, Russian, etc.—and there’s no end in sight, since all our solutions only perpetuate it. Technology offers no solution, the advantages it confers being short-lived at best. Christians believe the biblical Jesus has the answers we all need. We either allow our culture, Muslim or secular, to drown that possibility out or consider that Jesus really may indeed hold the rarest of wisdom and knowledge.
Jesus didn’t just tell us, he showed us how to live. The Gospels present him as having unlimited power at his disposal. Early Jewish and pagan sources refer to him as a magician, sorcerer or alleged miracle worker. The combined witness of these unsympathetic sources attests to his having done crowd-mesmerizing feats, making the Gospels worthy of historical consideration.
The Gospels present Jesus refusing to use his powers to overthrow the Romans, not because he didn’t care about injustice. But because he knew how quickly the oppressed become oppressors upon gaining power—however good their laws. Instead, Jesus wanted to make his followers into the kind of people God can entrust with power. For God’s goal is ultimately to empower us to do what we want to do, once he’s reshaped us to want what he wants. That’s why Jesus focused on the heart and promised an entirely different quality of life.
Perhaps the ongoing catastrophe in the Middle East will give us pause to consider if Jesus’ teachings are as irrelevant as many say they are. Violence cannot overcome violence. Only love can do that. That’s why Christians believe that, in all the centuries since Jesus, no one has improved on his Sermon on the Mount and no one can.