By Bobby Witherington
More Than Just A Historical Being
The fact that a man called “Jesus of Nazareth” actually lived upon this earth and died upon a cross is a matter of historical record. If we can believe that such men as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Julius Caesar lived on this earth and interacted with fellow human beings, then we must surely acknowledge that Jesus Christ once dwelt among men on planet earth. Various reputable, contemporary historians were unanimous in their affirmations concerning the actual existence of Jesus, as well as the fact of his death on the cross. Notwithstanding their erroneous conclusions concerning the nature of Jesus, most informed atheists and infidels agree that a person known as Jesus of Nazareth lived at the time and place ascribed to him in the Scriptures. In fact, our calendar is dated from the time of Jesus’ birth. Hence, notwithstanding the inward agony it must give them, infidels cannot even write a check without providing mute testimony that Jesus lived!
But Jesus was not just a man. He claimed equality with God the Father (John 5:17, 18). He referred to himself as “the Son of God” (John 9:35-37). On another occasion, referring to God, Jesus said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). That Jesus regarded himself as more than man is evidenced by the facts that he accepted the worship of men (Matt. 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25, etc.), claimed to “have come down from heaven” (John 6:38), as well as having the power to give “life” (John 5:21), and even said the “Father . . . has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 6:22). In fact, Jesus made claims which no mere sane mortal could ever make. He said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the door” (John 10:9), “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), etc. Jesus went so far as to say “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and then said, “. . . no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus also said that “Moses . . . wrote about Me” (John 5:46), and he even claimed the “power . . . to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). Moreover, he even said that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth” (Matt. 28:18).
Surely, in view of the affirmations made by Jesus regarding himself, we must agree that no person ever made greater claims for himself than did Jesus of Nazareth. And we must all agree that his claims were either true or false. If they were true, then he was nothing less than “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), or “God . . . manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). On the other hand, if his claims were false, then he was either the world’s biggest liar, or the world’s most self-deceived lunatic! We admit that some people brazenly charge Jesus with being either a liar or a lunatic. However, in so doing they obligate themselves to explain how a liar could deliver the greatest moral code which ever existed, or how a lunatic could devise the most workable system ever revealed for enabling human beings to clean up their own lives and to live peacefully, successfully, and happily with others!
Proof That Jesus Is the Son of God
In a sense, there are many “witnesses” who affirmed the Deity and Divinity of Jesus Christ. On two separate occasions (at his baptism and his transfiguration) our heavenly Father said concerning Jesus, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). At Jesus’ death, after witnessing the amazing chain of events which then occurred in such close proximity, “the centurion and those with him . . . feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God’” (Matt. 27:54)! On a prior occasion, Peter, who had witnessed so many of his miracles, said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). After seeing the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and remaining upon Jesus at the time of his baptism, John the Baptist “testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). Yes, there are so many credible witnesses who affirmed the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ, all of whom deserve to be heard. However, for the sake of space we must reserve our further comment to three reliable and irrefutable “witnesses.”
- Prophecy and fulfillment. That Jesus would be the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, begotten of the Holy Spirit, introduced by a harbinger, rejected by the Jews, betrayed by a friend, become a sin offering, be buried in the grave of the rich, and ascend on high had been foretold centuries in advance (Gen. 12:3; 49:10; Isa. 7:14; Mic. 5:2; Ps. 2:7; Isa. 40:3; 53:3; Ps. 41:9; Isa. 53:4, 5; 53:9; Ps. 68:18). Amazingly, each of these prophecies was fulfilled in the birth, life, death, burial, and ascension of Jesus (Gal. 3:16; Heb. 7:14; Matt. 2:1; Luke 1:35; Matt. 3:1-3; John 1:11; 13:18-30; Matt. 20:28; 27:57-60; Acts 1:9). In fact, in the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus some 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled. The mathematical improbabilities of all of these prophecies being “fulfilled” simply through a string of unplanned coincidences are simply too great for an honest, intelligent person to reach any other conclusion than this: prophetic fulfillment proves that Jesus is the Son of God!
- The Miracles Jesus worked. Jesus healed the sick (Matt. 4:23, 24), fed the multitudes (John 6:1-10), walked on water (Matt. 14:26), calmed the wind and the sea (Matt. 8:26), gave sight to the blind (John 9:6-9), cast out demons (Matt. 8:28-32), raised the dead (John 11:43, 44), etc. His miracles were not faked; they were genuine! Even his enemies acknowledged that “this Man works many signs” (John 11:47; Acts 2:22). In fact, Jesus performed many more miracles than are recorded, but the ones that were recorded were “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God . . .” (John 20:30, 31).
- His resurrection. Jesus repeatedly foretold the facts pertaining to his death, the location of his death, the persons involved, and his resurrection some three days later (John 2:19; Matt. 16:21; 17:9; 20:18,19). Even his enemies were aware of his pronouncements concerning his resurrection, so they requested Pilate to place soldiers at the tomb to prevent his disciples from coming by night and removing his body (Matt. 27:62-66). However, notwithstanding the fact that Roman guards were placed at the tomb to make sure that Jesus’ body could not be removed, some three days later on the first day of the week visitors to the tomb discovered that it was empty (Matt. 28:1-6; Luke 24:1-7). Moreover, the resurrected Jesus remained on the earth for another 40 days, presenting himself “alive . . . by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3), was seen by Peter, then “by the twelve,” by over 500 “brethren at once,” by James, and last of all by Paul (1 Cor. 15:4-8). In view of the fact that all the remaining apostles, save John, reportedly died a martyr’s death for their declarations concerning the resurrected Jesus, then you can be sure that all the ones closest to Jesus knew that he is the Son of God! They never wavered in their testimony as to the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God! But, with reference to our salvation, he is more than that! He is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). He is our Teacher and has all power to instruct us in the moral and spiritual realms (Matt. 7:28, 29). He is our Redeemer, who shed his blood for our salvation (Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19). He is our King (1 Tim. 6:14, 15), and has “all authority” (Matt. 28:18) to reign in our hearts and lives (Eph. 1:20-23). Having conquered death himself (John 10:18), he has power to raise us from the dead (John 5:28, 29), and to judge us by his word (John 12:48). He is our “High Priest” (Heb. 3:1), and upon the merits of his own shed blood he has the authority to forgive our sins against God (Luke 24:46, 47).
Yes, what a wonderful Savior is Jesus our Lord! However, he does not save man apart from man’s ready, obedient response to his revealed will. Jesus is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9). In New Testament days, he saved those believers (John 8:24) who repented of their sins (Acts 17:30), who confessed their faith in him as the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and who were baptized “into” him “for the remission of sins” (Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:38). Upon so doing, such people constituted the “saved” whom God “added” to his church (Acts 2:47), and who then had the obligation to be “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:20). Dear reader, do you have a deep and an abiding faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and have you exerted your faith in scriptural obedience to his saving gospel? Consider ye well!
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