Jesus is a nuisance inasmuch as he’s hard to ignore and he isn’t easy to categorise.
Call him a ‘nice man’ and you’ll read about him cutting an opponent down in a discussion or insulting someone of high standing. Call him a ‘cruel man’ and you’ll find him including outsiders and healing helpless lepers. Instead if you insist that Jesus is a normal man, with a mix of good and bad like the rest of us, you’ll overhear him making claims to divinity.
Jesus believed that when he spoke, he spoke with the authority of God and when he acted he acted on behalf of God. He told people to forget their dead, give up on their family and follow him instead. We might call him a ‘religious nutter’, but then what about the wisdom he spoke with and the care he extended to people? The claims Jesus made and the impact his followers have had on the world are simply too big to be ignored or pushed aside.
What shall we do with Jesus?
The historical existence of Jesus is widely attested to. Not only are his life and death documented in the New Testament but non-Christian historians acknowledge his existence as well. In around 93AD the historian Josephus records for us:
About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks.
— Book 18, chapter 3:3 of the Antiquities
No credible historian today would doubt the historic existence of the man Jesus of Nazareth. So Jesus existed in history, but what was he like?
The historic references outside of the Bible tell us almost nothing about what Jesus was like. For this kind of information we need to turn to the Bible itself.
In the Bible the New Testament begins with four books, each of which is an eye witness account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. They record in detail some of the things Jesus did, with a special focus on his death and supposed resurrection.
Can we trust the Bible?
Can we trust the Bible as a source of accurate information? The straightforward answer is a simple ‘yes’ and here’s why.
The New Testament stands in a category of its own among ancient documents for its reliability. We trust the authenticity of other documents written around a similar time despite having very few documents at our disposal.
Take, for instance, Julius Caesar’s recorded history documenting his battles in Gaul (modern day France). We have only 10 manuscripts documenting this, the closest to the original being 950 years after the recorded event took place. Yet with the gospels we have over 20,000 copies dating as close as 50 years after it was written (a partial document) and 270 years for a complete manuscript. We can assert with confidence that what we have in our New Testament is what was written in the first instance.
Did Jesus rise from death?
The claim of Easter Sunday, that Jesus had risen from the dead, if untrue is the most outrageous stunt and deception ever pulled on the human race. It’s become the cornerstone of faith for over 2 billion Christians alive today. Let’s consider it together for a moment.
The tomb that Jesus was buried in no longer held his body on the Sunday following his execution. So what happened? Because the precautions the authorities took to guard his tomb were so extensive, only five feasible options have ever been put forward:
Fearing how Jesus’ followers might react to his death the authorities took the body and kept it for themselves. But when Jesus’ followers started telling everyone Jesus was alive, the authorities were unable to produce the body to quell the disturbance.
The women who found the tomb empty went to the wrong tomb. As did everyone else, including the rich man who had recently purchased it. The original tomb was never found.
Jesus was close to death but didn’t actually die. In the middle of the night he revived, rolled back the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb, over-powered the guards and then headed for the hills. Then, a while later he appeared ‘alive’ to his disciples.
Grave robbers stole the body. But they left behind the only thing in the tomb of any monetary value, his clothes.
The disciples stole the body. Grief stricken and not wanting to admit he was gone the disciples over-powered the guards (professional Roman soldiers), broke in to the tomb and took Jesus’ body. After which they spread the rumour that Jesus was alive and well, and the world’s true ruler.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is one of the most well-documented events in history. Because of this, these are the only options that offer any explanation; but there’s significant problems with each. There is of course one more, but it’s an option with dangerous implications. It’s an option that few of us are bold enough to entertain since it forces us to question what we’re living for. The final option of course is that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive. It’s an option that validates all of his previous claims to power. It’s an option that changes everything.
Jesus’ message was that you are loved by the creator of everything. You’re so loved in fact, that before you were even born he sent his son to die for you. We have all ‘sinned’ — there’s no shortage of evil, injustice or selfishness in the world. Jesus died on the cross to take all of the punishment we deserve. Jesus died to show you that God loves you. Jesus died so that you could be set free, released from the fear of death. He died so that you could know God as your father, and receive everlasting life.
To find out more discover The Alpha Course, chat to us on a Sunday morning, or find our online resources in the Exploring Christianity section of our website.