Was Jesus sinless?

According to Christian researcher George Barna (www.barna.org) only 40% of Americans and 62% of Christians believe that Jesus lived a sinless life.  This view among Christians is perhaps the most perplexing of any to me.  If Jesus sinned while on earth, what is the basis for one’s salvation?  Why was Jesus’ death on the cross any more significant than if you or I sacrificed ourselves?  No one is going to heaven by virtue of my sacrifice and if Jesus had sinned while here on earth He would be no different than the rest of us.

When sacrifice was implemented in the Old Testament, the requirement was a perfect sacrifice.  The Jews were expected to present an umblemished sacrifice because it pointed to a perfect savior who would be a sacrifice for them.  The book of Malachi rails against the Israelites for giving worthless sacrifices of crippled and unfit animals.  This was because it was saying that anything was acceptable as a sacrifice despite what God had required.  Unfit animals were not acceptable because they didn’t point to the perfection of Jesus who would die on the cross once and for all for our sins.

Jesus gets lumped in with other religious figures.  He was a good teacher.  He taught people to resist doing wrong and wanted everyone to love one another.  If this is all that Jesus is, then He is no different than Buddha, Confucius, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King.  It is because Jesus was sinless that He was capable of bearing our sins on the cross.  He was the unblemished sacrificial lamb that was slaughtered at the time of Passover.  Nobody but a sinless person could take away our sins.