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10 Things that made Jesus Stand Out in the Ancient World

Consider for a moment with me, the things about Jesus that were so attractive to people in the
ancient times. Imagine that you were one of these people. How would you react to seeing such things with your own eyes, and experiencing these things with your own life? What would it do to you? What would you think about Jesus after seeing and experiencing these things? Ever wonder why was Jesus so popular in the ancient world, and why has He been the most studied person in human history? Perhaps the answers are found below. Here are ten things that made Jesus stand out in the ancient world.



1. He told the disciples where to fish. In Luke chapter 5, I believe we find something astonishing:


“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.[1]


 So did Jesus cause the fish to go into the net or did He just know where they were? He clearly couldn’t have seen the fish because they were in the “deep water,” and the disciples answered Him that they have been fishing all night and haven’t caught anything. Experienced fishermen clearly did not see the fish. Either way, whether He caused the fish to come from other places and land in the net, or that He just knew where they were, it was a miracle.

Did you notice the reaction that His Disciples had afterwards? This reaction not only shows that the disciples recognized this as a miracle, but also they recognized who was with them. We will get to that in a moment. Would you react in a similar manner if you saw the same thing?



2. He walked on water. In Matthew chapter 14, we see Jesus doing the unthinkable.


Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”[2]


Notice that after Jesus got into the boat, they worshiped Him. Would you do the same? Imagine that you are in a boat on a lake near your house and saw a man walking on the water toward your boat. How would you react? The reason you know of the phrase “walking on water” is because of this recorded instance. We have heard of it over and over because much time has passed since this event, and at times, we easily dismiss it, but what if you have never heard of such a thing and experienced this first hand? How many times have you been boating and fishing and expected to see a man walk on water? Imagine sitting in your boat and you are rocking away, trying to tie on your lure, and you look up and see a man walking on the water. How would you view Jesus after such an event? How would you understand Him after just these two things?



3. He loved all people. Consider the following few verses:


Luke 7:34 “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”


Matthew 8:2-3 “And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”


Jesus definitely loved all people. Not only was He the furthest thing from racist, but he also did not show favoritism. Whether someone was clearly (openly) a sinner or not did not faze Him. “A friend of tax collectors and sinners…” He knows that all people are sinners. He loved all people. Imagine from the lepers perspective, where there was no known remedy or cure for your disease, and that you had to lawfully scream out the word, “unclean!” in order to warn people that you were in their vicinity. Then there is this man who comes along, where you haven’t felt the touch of another human being in a depressingly long time, and your flesh is rotting off your bones, and Jesus comes along and puts His hand on yours and heals you to where you are not only not an outcast in your community, but you are healed from your terrible disease to which there was no known remedy. How would you feel about this warm and gentle human touch for the first time in such a long time? How would you respond? Are you starting to see why Jesus stood out in the ancient world? Imagine witnessing these things through the eyes of the disciples.  



4. He brought sight to a man born blind. In John chapter 9, they recognized the power of bringing sight to a man born blind. If a man once saw and went blind, possibly he could have healed or something, but in this case, Jesus showed those through the man born blind that He has the power of God. Jesus created new eyes in the man born blind, just like at the beginning of life, God creates eyes in a person as only the Creator could do such a thing.


John 9:1-7 “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.


Imagine being there and seeing this. Jesus bends over, gets close to the ground and spits on it. Then He picks up the clay that He made with his spit and checks the viscosity of it by rubbing it in His fingers. Then he smears it on the eyes of this blind man. What would be going through your head at that moment? Would you question what the heck He was doing until the man came back and interrupted you interrogating why Jesus would do such a thing to a blind man? Imagine what it was like when you see the blind man running over the horizon back to you and Jesus, wide eyed and with a huge grin. Do you see why Jesus stood out yet?


5. He spoke with authority. It was a different time back then. People generally saw themselves as messengers. It was not like today, where people tend to speak from what they think is their own authority and ideas. But Jesus spoke with His own authority. He did not quote rabbis or philosophers like everyone else. He spoke from his own self, and the people were amazed because of it. It was a new thing for them. They saw the power that Jesus had within Him not only through what He spoke, but what His speaking did. People were familiar with the written Word of God, but they were not familiar with the Living Word of God. See below how Jesus spoke and from His speech there were immediate results, both physically and spiritually…


Mark 1:21-28 …They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!" "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him." News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.


Matthew 28:18 …And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.


All authority”? Have you ever considered these words from Jesus? Can you imagine your neighbor making this claim? You would immediately think him to be a lunatic, but with Jesus, it is different because of not only the things He said, but the things that were done because of what He said; for instance the above. Do these words from Jesus have the impact on you like they did on the Disciples of Christ two thousand years ago? Jesus stands out in the ancient world and today, because no one could say this in all seriousness without being considered a lunatic. But with Jesus, it is different. This claim is not the only thing He did. Consider further…



6. He raised people from the dead. Imagine going to a funeral where your deceased loved one is laying in the closed casket. Everyone is weeping, and in dark clothes, they have the look of question and bewilderment on their faces as to why this death had to happen at this time. Confusion brings disorder and tension into the room, and as the words are spoken about the deceased, the tissue boxes continue to empty. Formaldehyde singes your sense of smell. People are embarrassed that they cannot control their own emotions and the thought of your loved one being brought back to life has never entered the mind of anyone present. The same is found in the case below.

See the astonishing claim of John 11:35-44. Imagine that you were one of these people witnessing such an event. How would you respond?


Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”


I hope at this point you see clearly why Jesus stuck out like a sore thumb in the ancient world. It seems that when we look at the validity of the accuracy of the unchanging Word of God, it is a no-brainer why people flocked to Jesus and swarmed Him like no other person in history. If you saw the stone rolled away, and the dead man come walking out, how would it affect you? When your loved one came out of the casket at the funeral home, what emotions would be stirring in you? How would you make sense of it in your mind? What lasting affect would this have on you?



Fallen angels, perhaps?
7. He cast out demons. People have questions about this demonic activity today, whether or not it was a disease that the ancient people just didn’t understand, or that it actually was a demon. Similarly today, we recognize patterns medically and label them as such, but we know from the Bible that demons are also creatures of habit. So if there are some modern instances of demonic possession, the question is, would we recognize it? It seems to me that if I were Satan and wanted to draw people away from God, the smarter thing to do would not have demons do wild and crazy things like we see in the movies, because that would draw attention to the spiritual world, and thus would bring up questions about God. On the same side of the coin, if the mild working of a demon that habitually and faithfully caused the same patterns in modern times, we might sensibly recognize such things as scientific as opposed to spiritual. In either case, whether demonic possession is real, or that these things are just diseases, those who were labeled as possessed were changed dramatically. See Mark 5:3-17, for instance:


When Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.


“They began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.” Why do you think this is the case? Imagine that you were one of the herdsmen who knew all too well about this crazy, strong man that lived in the tombs. You are sitting there on a rock, watching your flock, bored out of your skull, and all the sudden some screaming, naked, crazy, and scarred up dude runs toward you from the graveyard. You try to reason with him, but you quickly realize that this is futile. You and the other guys with you try to wrangle him to submission, but it proves impossible. He gets away and runs back to the tomb. After your first state of shock about what just happened, you immediately feel the need to take a bath.

Then enters Jesus on the scene. You are watching from your rock this man getting off the boat, and you think nothing of it until you see people flocking around Him. Then this crazy, screaming, dude runs over to Him and you elbow your fellow herdsman and he looks up and the both of you think that you are going to get some serious entertainment. But then he falls down before this man and you hear screams and shrieks in the distance and something about “entering the pigs.” Next, your pigs start behaving erratically and you are not sure what to do since you have never seen them do this before. You and your fellow herdsmen are all but panicking. All the sudden, the pigs run down the steep bank and drown in the sea. What will you do for work now? When you tell people about it, they come and see all the dead, bloated, pigs floating in the sea, with crabs and fish all over them, having the times of their lives. The stench is otherworldly.

When you are looking in the newspaper for a new job, you look up and are stunned at the thought of all that went down. You are terrified at this man that stepped off the boat. The power that He has is like nothing you have ever seen before. It terrified you.

For the herdsmen, this was an impact event. It was like being a New Yorker in Manhattan during 9/11. This event of the pigs is not going to be hidden from conversation. On the contrary, it will be the only thing discussed for months. … Jesus stood out in the ancient world.



8. He predicted His own death. Let’s look at Matthew 16:21-23.


From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”


We know that Peter had good intentions in telling Jesus that things would never go the way He described. From this, we can see that Peter loved Jesus and was desperate to hang on to his friendship. But imagine recalling these words after Jesus ascended into heaven. That Jesus predicted His own death and Resurrection. Not only did you see all of these things take place, you mourned for you loved one… you thought your new path in life was over… you were confused about what you were supposed to do… you felt betrayed that your amazing friend and who you thought was your Lord, died. Then all the sudden, someone comes to you and says that the tomb was opened. You run to the tomb and see that there is no body. Then you see Him on several occasions over the period of 40 days. You touched Him, you ate and drank with Him, you spoke with Him… Do you see why Jesus made such an impact on the ancient world?


9. He never sinned. Speaking of Peter, Jesus in the above Bible passage, said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” Imagine this wildly amazing person who does all these miracles and such and shows love to everyone saying this to you. Would you be hurt over it? Especially since your intentions were always and only to protect your beloved friend. Look at what Peter says about Jesus after he had time to reflect on all that went on during his time with Jesus in 1 Peter 2:22.


“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”


There are several verses in the Bible that say that Jesus was without sin.[3] It is common knowledge among those familiar with the God’s Word. In the case above, Jesus saw the influence that Satan had over Peter, and was speaking to him. Notice that when Jesus predicted His own death in the above passage and Peter rebukes him, Jesus says, “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter saw clearly from this point on. It grabbed his attention and he knew now more than ever, whose presence he was in.

Peter examined the events as they happened and he examined the event after they happened. He was able to reflect on his time with Jesus and on every conversation and act concerning Jesus. There was not one time when he could recall a sin, nor was there any time that deceit was found in His mouth.[4] Jesus was set apart from all others. He was so different from everyone before Him in the most extreme way. Jesus stood out in the ancient world, to the ancient people.

10. He rose from the dead. When you have a family gathering, you sometimes talk about the memories that you had with someone who has passed. You reminisce about how there were some funny experiences and how your loved one at some moments was the man of the hour, or may have even been a hero of sorts. But, you never expect him to appear before you at your holiday gathering. It is not even a thought in your mind. What would you do if it happened? How would you react? You knew it was your grandfather by the scar he got from a locally famous boating accident. What would your family gathering look like if all the sudden he appeared before you? Let’s now turn to John 20:24-29:

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


Think about this for a moment… The Disciples of Christ locked the doors because they were afraid of the Jews. They didn’t want them coming in and hauling them off to jail, or even worse, to their death. They are trying to make sense of all that went down. Then Jesus appeared among them. How would His appearance affect you in a similar situation? After seeing Him nailed to the cross? After seeing Him be carried to the tomb and laid to rest. After seeing the Roman guards come and guard His tomb in case one of you decided to steal the body and make it look like He rose from the dead? How would His present appearance affect you? Would it change your life? Would you ever be able to stop talking about it? Would the works of Jesus consume your life? Would he be the topic of just about every conversation that came out of your mouth? Would you talk about Him so much that people would want to kill you? It seems that the affect that Jesus had on people would do just that.[5] If any one of us were alive at the time of Jesus, He would stand out in the world so much that He would leave a lasting and deep impression on our souls. Yet, there were still those who did not believe.

Thomas had an appropriate reaction. It seems that any one of us might reply the same, even if we had earlier doubts about whether or not it was the real Jesus. These things bring us to an extraordinary conclusion: Jesus is God. Jesus stood out in the ancient world, and He still stands out today. The things that Jesus said and did are timeless. They will always and forever be astonishing, stunning, shocking and mind blowing. These things that Jesus did are just as impactful to the person realizing the truth of the events in any world which is called “the present.”


Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His Disciples, which are not written in this article; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.[6]



Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

[1] NIV Luke 5:1-10.

[2] NIV Matthew 14:22-33.

[3] See Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:19; Colossians 2:9; et. al.

[4] See also, Isaiah chapter 53.

[5] Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

[6] See John 20:30-31.


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