Jesus is the most attractive man in human history. No one matches him in the qualities we all want and need in a person. He’s incomparable, even if most of the world ignores him. Even when many Christians will view this claim as a teasing overstatement. Which is why we need to pause and reflect on it, without reaching for hyperbole or fantasy.
Let’s start by asking how anyone—Jesus included—is measured as attractive. Do we, for instance, use his popularity as a historical figure to make the claim?
No. If we do, the Buddha or Mohammed might be competitors with Jesus based on their broad historical impact. And the fact is that any persistent collection of followers only tells us of a person’s relative impact as a leader. In our claim we need a different and better standard to measure Jesus.
Do we elevate Jesus as a surpassing moral figure? As a man who called on people to love each other without exception? And whose stubborn but honest confrontations of the broken social, religious, and political world of his day led to his crucifixion?
No. These admirable qualities reach out to us from the literature about his life in Palestine. But moral narratives only offer noble memories. Others, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela also invite appreciation.
Instead Jesus, as offered in the gospels, used immeasurable claims—claims that reach beyond normal evaluations. For instance, that he existed with God, his eternal Father, before the creation. Or that he forgives sin. These go a long step beyond claims of other world figures.
In John’s Gospel, for instance, Jesus is portrayed as one who is above and beyond comparisons. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him …” (John 1:10). And followers, like Paul, claimed “all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17).
And, given our theme, let’s not miss Christ’s claims that he draws people to himself. Four examples in John’s Gospel offer a starting point.
The first of these is his sheep and good shepherd metaphor in John 10 that includes, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me” (v.27). A second is John 12:32 as Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He was speaking of his coming crucifixion at the time. Again, in 17:8, Jesus identified followers as those who hear his words and “have believed that you sent me.” The attraction, in other words, was to the Father as they recognized Jesus as God’s true representative, fully united with him. And, finally, in John 18:37 Jesus told Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
A connection among these sample references is a shared recognition by some people, but not all, that Jesus is divine. Or, as John 1:1 puts it, that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And that Jesus disclosed in his life and ministry enough compelling evidence that he and God are one.
Yet only some responded, while others did not. The former group included those who worshipped Jesus; and the others included those who crucified him. Which is to say that my first claim, that “Jesus is the most attractive man in human history” is true, but with a caveat that his attraction has a limited range of application. Some sheep recognize his voice, but not all.
And here we find the drama of salvation. As John wrote in his prolog, in 1:13, those who do respond, “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” And when a person is “born” with eyes that see and ears that hear they recognize their creator whose design for them only emerges through communion with him. He changes everything!
His Spirit is the agent of change here. He first awakens a heart by revealing God’s love in Christ, then enters the soul to bring about the bonding force that a magnet and ferrous metal illustrate. It’s what Paul experienced on the road to Damascus. Or Thomas finally came to in John 20:24-28.
What is clear is that for at least some people Jesus will become ultimately attractive—as a loving creator and shepherd. For those of us who already know him and his attractive love, we only need to speak of him, and to display the love that cements him to us and us to each other. It’s pretty basic. So, for all of us who know and love him a broken world, with spiritual “ferrous metal” scattered here and there, lays before us.
Our role is to share his magnetic presence wherever we go. Because we love him. And, as we taste and see his goodness, his love has a spreading attraction. Let’s see who responds!