September 6, 2010

I Believe in Jesus

When discussing Jesus, there are at least two questions that must be asked. Was the Jewish man whose name translates into Jesus, who is proclaimed by his followers as the Christ, an actual person in history? The answer to the second question has much larger implication. Is this Jesus who his followers say he is, i.e. the prophesized Messiah of the Jews, the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us?

Probably the most universally accepted fact about the Jewish carpenter, Jesus, is that he actually lived. Wikipedia, certainly not a scholarly source, does offer several references to the historic Jesus. While there are some historians who reject the notion of the historic Jesus, the vast majority accept his existence in history.  Major religions also accept Jesus as having lived in the approximate time frame indicated in the Bible. Muslins accept Jesus, but do not see him as the prophesized Messiah.  They see him as a great teacher and a prophet of the one God. But Islamic texts do not accept the concept of God having a partner in the Lordship of the earth. But they do recognize that Jesus lived.

Judaism rejects the idea of Jesus as the prophesized Messiah. In fact, they do not consider him to have been a
prophet, but instead, view him as a great teacher. Jews do not believe Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets and thus they remain watchful for the Messiah prophesized by the ancient prophets. But they do recognize that Jesus lived.

The four of the major religions of the world, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism recognize Jesus as having lived and taught in ancient Israel/Judah. Only Christians understand Jesus as having been sent from God. 

So that second question remains, “Was Jesus the Son of God?”  In the Gospel of Mark, the baptism of Jesus
by the Prophet John is recorded.  As Jesus comes out of the water, the voice, presumably of God, is reported to say, “You are my beloved son, in you, I am well pleased.”  Jesus often referred to himself as the “Son of Man” and acknowledges the correctness of Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do people say that I am?” Peter says, “You are the Messiah!.”  There are numerous in the scriptures, where Jesus or his followers referring to him as the “Son of God.”

Most of what we know about Jesus, his life and death and his teachings and commandments, we learn from the Gospels, Particularly, the Gospel of Mark,   written within 40 to 50 years after the death of Jesus. The Gospel of Luke was written by Luke as a historical document after years of traveling and living and working with hundreds of men and women who lived with or knew someone who lived with Jesus. The first three Gospels attempt to record the life and teachings of Jesus, while the Gospel of John was written primarily as a theological treatment of Jesus life.

All of the Gospels and Luke’s book, The Acts of the Apostles, are in agreement with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Some of the details of the life and resurrection are in conflict, and some of the timelines are fuzzy, but the essential facts are not in conflict. Jesus lived, was crucified, died, was buried and rose from the dead.  The essential question is, “Why do I believe this to be true?”

If I can believe the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred and Jesus subsequently  appeared to His followers, then I am compelled to believe that Jesus was indeed who He said He was, “The Son of God”.  The evidence for the truth of the resurrection lies not in archeological findings, nor in scholarly research.  The evidence lies in human nature.  And it is something you can test on yourself by asking, “Would you risk your life for a lie you made up?  Would you allow yourself and your family to be persecuted and killed while proclaiming a lie you had participated in forming? Would you change your life, as many early Christians did, for something you knew was not true?”  Frankly, I would not and I suspect you would not either.  The evidence of human nature convinces me that those who were around Jesus and those who knew Him, believed Him to be the awaited Messiah.  If they said Jesus was dead and then appeared to them later as a fully functioning human and remain committed to that belief, then I must accept their testimony.

So, I believe in the historic Jesus and I believe He is who He said He is, the Son of God. If Jesus is the Son of God what are the implications of that title. What is the purpose of His coming to the earth? And what did He command us to do? How are we to respond to Him?  All important questions, but not as important as the fact that “I Believe in Jesus.”

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