Did Jesus exist?
- Clemet of Rome – Bishop of the church at Rome. “The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God.”*
- Ignatius. “Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under the earth; who moreover was truly raised from the dead…”*
- Cornelius Tacitus – Roman Historian (A.D. 68). Wrote the Annals and the Histories
“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also. (Annals XV. 44)*
- Pliny the Younger – Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (A.D. 112)
Pliny persecuted Christians heavily and reported to emperor Trajan that he also “made them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do.” … “They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.” (Epistles X.96)*
- Babylonian Talmud. “It has been taught: On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshua.”*
*from Evidence for Christianity by Josh McDowell
Did Jesus claim to be God?
- God alone forgives sins. (Mark 2:1-12)
- Jesus was killed because he claimed to be God (Mk 14:55-65 > Daniel 7:13-14)
- God alone should be worshiped. (John 20:24-29 > Revelation 22:8-9)
How can we know Jesus is God?
Liar, Lunatic, Lord,
- If Jesus was not Lord, but believed he was, then he was crazy.
- If Jesus was not Lord, and knew it, then he was wicked.
- If Jesus was not Lord, he was not a good teacher.
- Jesus said people must deny themselves: Luke 9:23
- Jesus said people must love him supremely: Luke 14:26
- Jesus said people must suffer for him: Mark 13:9-13
He went through one of the more excruciating deaths ever conceived by man. Nails pierced through his hands and his feet, the weight of his own body is pulling and tearing at his flesh as it hands from a wooden beam, naked, extreme thirst and exhaustion of having to pull himself up even to speak, being spit on and whipped. If Jesus really believed he was doing the will of God by being on that cross and it was not true, Jesus was insane. He was a lunatic. He said he was going to raise the dead and judge the world. Crazy people talk like this unless it is true.
- Perhaps he really knew he was not God, and he suffered all of these things. If so, then we should have nothing to do with him. He demanded that people be tortured for something that was not true. He was wicked. He was evil. He was as wicked as Adolf Hitler and has sent millions to their deaths. He was a liar and not a good teacher.
- The final and most reasonable option is that Jesus was who he claimed to be. Perhaps he was Lord. Perhaps he was God in the flesh. Perhaps it was true. (Mark 15:39)
These are your only three options – You cannot escape them. Either he was a liar, he was a lunatic, or he was the Lord of all the earth. You cannot praise him as simply a good teacher to be admired or as a role model.
What happened to his body?
- If you are not going to believe that Jesus was God, you have to explain away the empty tomb. The tomb was empty. Something had to have happened to his body.
Option 1: Perhaps Jesus never really died
A Romans centurion would have been killed for letting a mistake like this happen. They broke the bones of the criminals on his left and his right, but they didn’t even need to do this to Jesus because he had already died. In fact, Pilate was surprised he died so quickly. They pierced his side with a spear and blood and water flowed out. This is a medical description that shows what happened when the liquid separates within a dead corpse.
Option 2: Perhaps it was not Jesus who was crucified, perhaps it was actually one of the disciples.
The Pharisees wanted to be sure that Jesus was dead because they hated him so much. They hated Jesus and they were present at the crucifixion account. They looked upon Jesus and mocked him. To say that it was simply someone who looked like Jesus is not reasonable. This would also mean that the disciple in his place would have been dying for a lie. This would also mean the disciple was dying for something he knew was untrue and the other apostles would also die for something they knew to be false.
Very few people are willing to suffer torture and die for a lie. Now, many people will die for falsehood. Muslim terrorists kill themselves for something that is not true. Yet, they really believe it to be true. I cannot think of an example in history where someone was willing to go through torture and deep pain all the while knowing they what they are suffering for is actually false.
Option 3: Perhaps the body was stolen by the disciples.
But this would mean that they were living and dying for a lie. If they stole it, then they knew what they were suffering for was actually in vain. They would not be doing this for glory! They were poor, beaten, crushed and persecuted. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 2 Corinthians 4:8-11)
Option 4: Perhaps the body was stolen by Jesus’ enemies.
This is the most unlikely of all the options. It would be completely contrary to their agenda. By stealing the body, they would be shooting themselves in the foot.
Peter was a scared coward before the crucifixion. He denied Jesus three times and forsook him when they came to take Jesus away. Yet in Acts chapter 2, Peter is boldly proclaiming the truth of God and even defies the religious leaders. Why the change? Because he saw the resurrected Christ. Since Peter, there have been millions of Christians who have experienced new life in Christ.
How should we respond?
- Submit to the Lordship of Jesus. Have you believed that Jesus is the Son of God risen from the dead? If you confess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Perhaps God is calling you to believe in him right now. Please do this and submit to the Lordship of Jesus.
- Bold faith. We don’t need to worry about whether Jesus was God. He is God and he is going to judge the living and the dead. We can act like this because it is true. Christianity is logical, historical and does not conflict with science. We can sleep at night and boldly approach God in prayer.
- Share Christ with unbelievers. Others around us need to know the truth of the resurrection. Who are some people you can share with this upcoming year?
Small Group Discussion:
- Which of arguments mentioned tonight is new to you? Which one is the most persuasive to you?
- Which one of the application points do you need to apply most tonight and tomorrow?
- Pick one evidence for the Lordship of Jesus and restate it in your own words. Think carefully and clearly as if you were talking with someone who did not believe in Jesus.
- Does this material comfort or convict you in anyway? Please share.