What if Jesus has come back many times since the Roman Empire? Perhaps coming back in the form of Gandhi, Buddha, the Dalai Lama, John Lennon, or anyone who speaks of love and acceptance, or in the form of anyone who is vocal enough to be ostracized or killed for their teachings on love and acceptance?
It is good to think outside of the conventional christian theological box and consider other possibilities or perspectives about how we all can see Jesus in our own ways. No one religion or belief system has a monopoly on truth. It is sad if people in mainstream christian circles are discouraged to think for themselves, having been controlled by by their church authorities who impose guilt and fear on them through their fear-based doctrines/dogma.
For example, while Jesus may have said that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” in John chapter 14, He wasn’t talking about “the only way” to heaven (or God) because in that context in John chapter 14, Jesus was talking about (in) the Father’s house are many mansions, many rooms, referring to all of us – we are the Father’s house. We are the dwelling place of God and He is dwelling in us. That is the beauty of our union with Christ.
In this sense, Jesus is saying that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the revelation of God as our loving Father. So, other people may have their own concept of God. If they don’t know Jesus, they may think God is like this or God is like that, but the fullest revelation of God as our loving Father is when we see Jesus. Jesus is the manifestation, the exact representation, the very image of God Himself. So, yes, He is the express image of God, and it’s so much better if people were to see Jesus and acknowledge Him as God, then they will know that God is truly a loving Father who is all grace, all merciful, and who loves us with His self-sacrificial love.
But people who do not know God through first knowing Jesus, they may have some glimpse about God’s love. They may have their own concept of God – God is love, and so on, but they may not have the benefit of knowing God in all His fullness until they really see Jesus as God. That’s the only thing. So I believe that’s what Jesus meant by saying He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He’s not talking about going to heaven. He’s talking about He is the Way to see God as He really is. He is the revelation of God Himself – He who has seen Him has seen the Father.
Back to the above questions, there is always a possibility that Jesus may have manifested himself in a conspicuous way throughout history by coming back as prominent people who spoke of love and acceptance, such as Gandhi, John Lennon and Dalai Lama, to the extent they were ostracized or killed for their teachings. My take is that Christ can manifest and is manifesting and has manifested and will continue to manifest in every person whenever there is love and acceptance and grace being shared and demonstrated. There will be some of us who are more prominent than others at different points of time.
Also, Buddha, Krishna, Horus, Mithra, etc, who are similar archetypes of the great teacher or messiah, may also be different forms or manifestations of Christ, who are meant to minister to people of particular cultures at different eras, since it is important to speak the language of the people living at that time and age, given that the world is so diverse.