A unique kind of religious founder

Rev José Mario O Mandía

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus is truly one of a kind. He is the only man, the only founder of a religion, who could claim that people had been talking about his coming centuries before he was born.

Archbishop Fulton J Sheen wrote: “Socrates had no one to foretell his birth.  Buddha had no one to pre-announce him and his message or tell the day when he would sit under the tree.  Confucius did not have the name of his mother and his birthplace recorded, nor were they given to men centuries before he arrived so that when he did come, men would know he was a messenger from God.

“But, with Christ it was different.  Because of the Old Testament prophecies, His coming was not unexpected.  There were no predictions about Buddha, Confucius, Lao-tze, Mohammed, or anyone else; but there were predictions about Christ.” (“The Only Person Ever Pre-Announced,” chapter 1 from Life of Christ).

This was not the only claim He made. He also claimed to be divine. No other religious founder did that. This is why the Jewish leaders wanted him dead. He even used the name of God as revealed to Moses. In John 8:58, he tells the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Now compare this with Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO AM.’ And he [God] said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM [“YHWH”] has sent me to you.’” In all four Gospels, Jesus asserts some 42 times: “I AM.” 

Incredible, isn’t it? That’s why CS Lewis said that Jesus was either God, or “a lunatic,” or “he would be the devil of hell” (Mere Christianity). Many people call this trilemma the “Lunatic, Liar, or Lord”, or “Mad, Bad, or God” argument.

Jesus, however, was not all talk. He presented proofs about who He really was.

One of these proofs are his miracles. Instantaneous cures, multiplying resources (the miracle of the loaves and fishes), controlling the weather, raising people from the dead are among them. These miracles were seen not by one or two, but by crowds of people. The Gospels record 38 miracles of Jesus, including the most spectacular of all – his own resurrection. The resurrected Jesus was seen by some 500 persons who had also seen him suffer and die in the hands of the Romans.

Another proof is his own prophecies. He makes predictions about himself – that he will be – he must be (not “might be”) – denied, betrayed; that he must (not “might”) suffer, die, … and rise again! He makes predictions about his own apostles, how one will deny him, another will betray him, while the rest will  scatter when he is arrested, and how they will come back again to him. He foretells the future of Jerusalem, how it will be destroyed (it was indeed destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 AD.)

Jesus’ words carried out in actions remind us of those words at the beginning of the Bible: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) God spoke, God did. Jesus spoke, Jesus did.  Isn’t that very revealing!

(Written for international Catholics in Shanghai, January 2022)