In Who is This Man?, a book written as a response to
his lecture on the historical impact of Jesus, Pastor John Ortberg
of Menlo Park
Presbyterian Church in California writes about the lasting
impact of Jesus' life.
Looking back on the first century, he suggests the comparison of
Jesus and the Roman Empire was stark.
"[If] you took a look at the
Roman Empire on the one hand, with its money … its armies … its
roads and all of the power that Caesar [had] and the greatness of
the Caesars and the way they thought they ruled the world, and then
you were to look at Jesus, who was killed on a cross and [had a]
tiny, little band of ragtag followers -- if you had to make a bet
on whose influence was going to be the strongest in 2,000 years,
you would never put your money on this crucified carpenter and His
motley crew," Ortberg poses.
He also points out that non-Christians in modern history like
Gandhi and Tolstoy still had the utmost respect for Jesus --
perhaps indicating that even though they may have not have believed
in Jesus, they did admire Him.
"Like in the first century, Jesus didn't actually come to his
disciples and say you have to affirm all these creedal, doctrinal
statements about me or else go away," Ortberg notes. "He just had
people come and check out what he said and try it out in their
life, and people came to admire Him immensely and to believe He was
right. Then they would become His followers … actually seek to live
with His help, His kind of life, and then eventually they came to
believe that this really is the unique expression of God and to
trust Him for this world and the world to come."
Ortberg's book reveals that Jesus' impact 100 years after his
death was greater than when he was alive on earth, and it has
continued to grow exponentially -- influencing the calendar system,
art, architecture, music, government, medicine and education.