There are a lot of amazing, funny, curious things about Jesus, but what makes him unique? There are a few brief references in ancient texts that speak of Jesus' life, but the main place we go to read his stories is the Bible which claims that Jesus is God's son,[1] that he is the Messiah,[2] a dynamic teacher, a miracle worker, and here's what we'll explore: he is the image of God, the one who most accurately reveals what God is really like.

Jesus implemented a new way of reading and understanding the religious texts of the day, what we now call the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. These new understandings shaped what was written about him in the New Testament and these writings continue to shape how people think and live. That in itself doesn't set Jesus apart from other religious leaders, what sets him apart is the content of those writings.

Let me give you two examples so you can read them for yourself: Luke 4, and Matthew 5. I've only provided part of these passages to highlight these examples of Jesus interpreting a text in an unexpected way. These may not sound like a big deal to us, he seems to be reading a text and giving his opinion about it, but that was not the way things were done during Jesus' lifetime: teachers drew on and expanded the teaching of another respected teacher. They typically did not just offer a new teaching in their own authority. Jesus, on the other hand, offered new interpretations and revealed aspects of God's character in the process. In Luke 4 we read that God loves justice and that second bit, just before the crowd tried to throw Jesus off the cliff, that's talking about how God acts in unexpected ways.

Jesus, in the context of first century Palestine, was pretty radical. He was often criticized by the religious leaders for enjoying meals[3] with the outsiders,[4] and creating a faith community where the outcasts of that society (people with illnesses, disabilities, rural, poor, and women. Yes, women had a low status at that time.) had a place to belong. Just as it is today, that community was messy as each person tried to understand and work out the kind of life Jesus was calling them into.

People are still trying to live out what Jesus called "full life."[5] Jesus is unique because his words are still full of mystery and power and his words still change people's lives. Every person lives according to our best understanding of how the world works, Jesus provides a counter-intuitive and upside down view where the last are first, the rich are poor, leaders are servants, and in dying to selfishness and pride people find a fullness in life.