We've looked at a whole lot of different things to examine the evidence that God exists. Rather than turning to science or philosophy, today we are going to examine the testimony of a single witness. Imagine you are on a jury in a courtroom. A crime was committed and there are various witnesses being called to the stand. There are two conflicting stories that emerge as the witnesses are questioned. Half of the witnesses tell one story and the other half tell another. Both stories cannot be true as they say completely opposite things.
So what happened? How would you, as a member of the jury, decide? Would you take into account the character of the witnesses? Would it change the way you felt if you found out that one half of the witnesses were gang bangers and the other half of the witnesses were police officers with clean records? What if one of the witnesses was Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Theresa? Would that sway your thoughts? What if one of the witnesses who stood up to testify was Jesus Christ Himself?
Jesus clearly taught that God is real.
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. -- Mark 12:29
In fact, Jesus told others that they were wrong when they doubted God and didn't know His Word.
Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? -- Mark 12:24
But beyond simply saying God is real, Jesus claimed to be God!
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" -- John 8:58
"I and the Father are one." -- John 10:30
Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? -- John 14:9
Why should we take Jesus' Word for it?
Jesus clearly stands up and testifies that He is God. So should we believe Him? If He is our witness, does His character and life give us any reason to believe His story? Author and apologist Josh McDowell was right when saying that Jesus clearly claimed to be God which makes him a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord.
You see, those are the only options. Jesus said He was God. So either He was God or He was not God. If He truly was not God, then He either knew that He wasn't God or actually believed He was. In the first case, He was one of the most wicked liars in all of history who has deceived billions and given false hope by claiming to be God. In the second case, He was insane and is to be pitied, not followed.
He is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. What does His life and character lead you to believe? Let's look at this witness' credentials.
Jesus life was foretold by prophecy
The entirety of Isaiah 53 is a prophecy about Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Its long, so go read it on your own. We read here that Jesus would be rejected, oppressed, afflicted, judged, bear our sins, die, be buried among the rich, and rise from the dead. This prophecy was written 700 years before Jesus was born. The whole Old Testament is littered with prophecies about Jesus in Genesis, Isaiah, Psalms, Zechariah, Malachi, and more. The scores of prophecy should lead us to believe that Jesus is no ordinary man.
Jesus was a "good" man
By all accounts, Jesus was an upstanding man. He spent time with the poor and ministered to the outcasts both rich and lowly from tax collectors to prostitutes. He spent His life loving people and teaching others to love and forgive. He made time for children and kids loved him. Most people would agree that He was one of the nicest, kindest, and most loving men to ever live. Would a man of such character lie like this? Does he sound insane?
Jesus Performed Amazing Miracles
The Bible says that Jesus performed dozens if not hundreds of miracles. He calms a raging sea, casts demons out of people, gives sight to the blind, makes a lame man walk, heals the sick, feeds 5,000 plus people with a little boy's lunch, restores a severed ear, turns water to wine, and the list goes on. Is there any evidence for this outside of the Bible? Keep reading and I'll get to some.
Jesus Himself Prophesied His own death and ressurection
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. -- Mark 8:31 (See also, Mark 9:30-31 and 10:33-34)
Jesus actually predicted His own death. Not many people can say that. What's more, He predicted that He would stay dead and come back to life three days later! Not many people can say that, in fact, its just Him. Once again, this is strong reason to listen to Him about His claim to be God and strong reason to dismiss the options of liar and lunatic. Is there evidence of this outside of the Bible? Keep reading.
Jesus resurrection is a historical fact
First, people often dismiss the Bible when it tells an account of a miracle or the resurrection. The documents are biased is what many people will claim. The gospel of Luke is important to consider. Luke was not a Jew. He was a Greek who did not grow up in Israel. He was not a believer. He was highly educated (he was a doctor and scholar). He was hired by a rich man named Theophilos to go to Israel and find out the truth about all the rumors he had been hearing about Jesus. Read the first chapter of Luke or Acts to see this. Luke went to Israel, interviewed hundreds of people, checked the facts, talked to the eyewitnesses, and wrote down what happened. The Gospel of Luke is much more of a historical document than people realize and it was written by an unbiased non-believer who became a believer based on the evidence.
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. -- 1 Corinthians 15:6
In Paul's first letter to the church of Corinth, written only a few years after Jesus' death and resurrection, Paul writes of Jesus' death and resurrection. He says that Jesus appeared to many people including a group of 500 at the same time. Paul then says that since this only happened a few years ago, you didn't have to take his word for it, you could just go ask all of those people because they were almost all still alive. Many people have heard that the resurrection story is a myth that developed a hundred or more years after Jesus lived. But that's just not the case. The resurrection was being taught and believed right after Jesus died. There was literally no time at all for myths to develop. The eyewitnesses were all still alive.
All it would take to disprove it in that day was for someone to go ask questions. All they had to do was go to the tomb and look. Yet nobody did this. No writing from that time period showed anyone contesting the resurrection. It was accepted as an actual event in history.
On top of that, we are left with some very difficult things to explain if the resurrection didn't happen. First, there are rare testimonies. What made doubting Thomas go from doubt to belief? More shockingly, what made Mary and James the mother and brother of Jesus believe? These two were orthodox Jews who knew that idolatry would land them in Hell yet they chose to worship Jesus, their son/brother, as God! Why were they willing to risk Hell for that? What convinced them that Jesus was God? Finally, what about Paul? Paul was the Osama Bin Laden of his day. Back when he was known as Saul, he went around murdering Christians. What made that guy suddenly love, follow, and worship Jesus as God? The resurrection easily explains all of these things. If the resurrection didn't happen, what could have changed these people?
In addition, the disciples went from cowards to martyrs. When Jesus died, they scattered and went into hiding. But then, something happened. They exploded out preaching the gospel with bravery in the face of severe persecution. In fact, ancient texts tell us that all of the apostles with the exception of John (and Judas for obvious reasons) were killed for their faith in Jesus! Peter was crucified upside down! What gave these men such a huge dose of courage? It was the certainty of their faith they gained from seeing Jesus risen.
Let's think about the deaths of the apostles for a moment. Would you tell a lie that you knew would get you into lots of trouble? Would you tell a lie that you knew would land you in prison and get you tortured and murdered? Would you refuse to come clean and tell the truth when tortured and threatened with impending execution? I wouldn't and I don't think I could find a single person on the planet that would.
Now, the apostles were eyewitnesses of the resurrection. That makes them different from you and me. If I died defending the resurrection, that might move you emotionally, but its hardly proof. All that it means is I had a lot of faith, but I certainly haven't seen the resurrected Jesus with my own eyes. I'm just willing to die for what I believe in. But the apostles are different. They either really did see Jesus risen or they really didn't. So when they willingly suffer and die on account of defending the resurrection, that tells us something. Nobody suffers and dies willingly for what they know for certain is a lie. Here we have 11 men who willingly suffered and died for the resurrection. These men would have known for sure if it was the truth or a lie. They all chose to die for it. Could it really be a lie that they made up? Would they really have been tortured and died for a lie?
There are many other things to consider. For example, if there was no resurrection, then why is Jesus' tomb not enshrined today like every other famous person in the world? In fact, if you'd like to hear a lot of the evidence laid out, check out THIS SERMON by Pastor Mark Driscoll. Its an hour long, but its well worth it.
For now, take a look at the following quotes. The first is from Josephus, a first century historian who lived just after Jesus and who was not a Christian. The second is from Thomas Arnold who was a Professor of Modern History at Oxford University in the 19th century.
"Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works--a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named for him are not extinct to this day." -- Josephus
I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead. -- Thomas Arnold
Here is what I'm trying to say. Jesus very loudly and clearly says that there is a God and claims to be that God. Should we believe Him?
He was a man of character, love, compassion, and forgiveness. He certainly doesn't have the character of a liar. His life was foretold in prophecy. He performed many miracles. His resurrection is more than a myth as seen from biblical and historical evidence. He certainly seems to be more than a lunatic.
We are left with only three options when Jesus takes the stand to testify as a witness. We can call Him a liar. We can call Him a lunatic. Or we can believe Him and call Him Lord.
I believe that His character, the transformation and courage of the early church, His miracles, and the historical evidence should lead us to conclude He is Lord. If you do too, then put your faith in Him today. God became a man in Jesus to reveal Himself to us and to pay the penalty for our sins. His resurrection is a taste of the eternal life we can have through faith in Him. Put your faith in Jesus death and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins and follow Him in your new life with God. Let me or a pastor know so that we can help you take your first steps of faith!
As always, please let me know if you have thoughts or questions and vote for next Tuesday's topic at the top right of the site.