Throughout the last two millennia, no person has had a greater influence on men's lives than the risen Christ. One often sees astounding changes in the lives of men and women who have encountered the Savior. Go back to the days immediately after Jesus was crucified. His disciples had deserted him, some denied even knowing him, and they were scattered like sheep without a shepherd, afraid for their lives. Even though Jesus said He would rise again, they did not seem to expect it. Yet encountering the risen Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised to send, transformed this group of men and women into an army which "turned the world upside down."
While great leaders inspire and influence men, none have done so like Christ. Historian Philip Schaff described the overwhelming influence which Jesus has had on world history and culture: "This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science...he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times."
In the poem, One Solitary Life, the unknown author penned "He was born in an obscure village, the son of a peasant woman. He grew up in yet another village, where he worked in a carpenter's shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he became a wandering preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn't go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was executed by the state. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind's progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life."
People who encounter the Lord are transformed totally. Their outlook on life, their personal goals and dreams, are changed forever. They are willing to face persecution and torture, even death, and willfully disregard their own needs and desires, all for this Jesus of Nazareth. They are changed so because they have been made aware of their sin, made aware of their great guilt, and have found forgiveness and cleansing in Christ, as dying men given a sudden reprieve.
Probably the most amazing transformation recorded in the Bible is Saul, a member of the Jewish religious sect known as the Pharisees, who persecuted the church by beating, killings, or throwing their members into prison. After meeting Christ, Saul changed his name to Paul and became a fiery messenger of the gospel, enduring much suffering himself for the sake of Christ.