By Daniel H. King
Mark’s account of the life of Jesus tells of a meeting between Jesus and a young man who was puzzled over one of life’s most difficult questions. He confronted Jesus with these words: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk. 10:17). It is not Christ’s answer which interests us here, but his response to what He had been called. he said “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Some have been surprised at this reply, thinking that Jesus somehow robs Himself of His dignity. But, if you will read more carefully than they, you will find there is more here then meets the eye. By so answering, He made it clear for all time that Jesus of Nazareth must not be confused with a mere man, not even a good man. This young fellow felt that he was addressing Jesus with a complimentary title, and for most people it would have been such; but for Jesus it was unacceptable. In the first place, the Lord understood that all men fall short of God’s glory on account of sin. All men, that is, except Himself. Too, if we assume that He was much more than an ordinary man, we can understand that he would not appreciate being classified as this and nothing beyond. It was His plan to challenge the rich young ruler, and you, to look more closely at Him and decide whether He was more than a “Good Teacher.”
In the world today, there are many people who look at Him as a great man, a first-rate teacher, a prophet, a “super-star,” etc. But will this do? Let me challenge your thinking in the following paragraphs and you decide for yourself. I will do so by presenting to you five things that I have found to be powerful proofs that He is God’s Son.
Nobody Ever Talked Like That!
When the Jewish ruling counsel, the Sanhedrin, sent officers to arrest Jesus, they returned empty-handed. In dismay, the leadership inquired of them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!” (Jn. 7:32ff.). What they said was true. No one had ever talked quite the way He did. In this respect, Jesus fits in a category all by Himself! The people were astounded at the way He spoke simply because He spoke as though He possessed authority, resident within himself (Mt. 7:29). All of their scribes and teachers (rabbis) had to cite Sacred Scripture to command the attention and demand the respect of their hearers. Jesus talked as though his words were Scripture. He spoke as God would speak if He were to walk among men.
Furthermore, He made all sorts of claims about Himself, which if true make Him the central figure of the human race, but if false brand Him a liar or a lunatic. For example, He claimed to be the Messiah or Christ which the Old Testament prophets had foretold (Jn. 4:24-26; Mk. 14:61-62); He claimed to be the Son of God – not a son of God, but God’s very own Son (Jn. 10:30-36; Mt. 16:13-17); He asserted His personal equality with God (Jn. 5:17-18); He therefore claimed to be eternal, as only God could be (Jn. 8:56-59) and spoke of Himself as the judge of all mankind (Jn. 8:56-59) and spoke of Himself as the judge of all mankind (Jn. 5:21-27). He also boldly laid claim to the most elusive of all traits for man – perfection! He even charged those who were His examiners to find some sin in Him (Jn. 8:46). That charge applies as much for you today as for them then. All of His most intimate associates and even one of His worst enemies (who became His follower) had to admit that they had not been able to find any fault with Him or taint of sin in Him (1 Pet. 2:19-24; 1 Jn. 3:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). This alone should be enough to make you take a careful look at Him.
But, whatever you do, don’t be satisfied with “he’s a good man.” Why not? Because, if a man made such claims as did Jesus and they were not true, then you should not consider a fellow like that “good.” He was either a liar or a lunatic, but in neither case was He “good.” If, on the other hand, He was what He claimed to be, then you cannot be satisfied with putting Him there and leaving Him. He must sit upon a throne in your heart and reign as King in your life!
Before we leave this matter of His extraordinary claims, let me make one final point. Jesus sealed His claims with His blood. Now, before you pass that off too lightly, consider another man who made great claims: Savanarola, a reformer of the Catholic church, claimed direct communication with God, and was subsequently tortured to elicit the truth from Him. Under such pressure, he retracted all he had said of himself. In contrast, Jesus was beaten brutally by the authorities, condemned in a public tribunal, and tortured to death, yet He maintained to the end His integrity and His claims!
What Others Said About Him
How did those closest to Jesus react to the fantastic things He said about Himself? Actually, they acted much like we would behave if someone close to us began to say such things. His brothers, for example, at first did not believe Him. They reacted with the same attitude that we would have under similar circumstances (Jn. 7:5). They wanted to see proof! But something truly miraculous happened after the stories of His resurrection from the dead began to circulate: they suddenly became His disciples! How are we to explain the fact that thereafter they followed Him, confessed Him as their Lord, urged others to believe in Him, and finally died as martyrs for His cause. The Bible simply explains that “He appeared to James” (1 Cor. 15:7). Who would have been better qualified to know whether it was really Jesus risen from the tomb, or some imposter, than His own brother (Mt. 13:55; Gal. 1:19)? This powerful evidence apparently swayed all of His brethren (Acts 1:3, 14). Both of His brothers who contributed to the literature of the New Testament later saw themselves as His bond servants (Jas. 1:1; Jude l: l).
His mother never questioned the veracity of His assertions. In fact, she was confident that His power was without limit (Jn. 2:1-11). Unlike His brothers, she never needed to be convinced. She believed Him from the start. Her stonelike silence at His crucifixion will forever remain one of the powerful evidences that her Son was telling the truth. Had He been a pretender, she could have stepped in at any moment and halted the ugly proceedings with: “Son, give this pretension up!” She could have ruined Him. How so? She was the only one who could know beyond the shadow of a doubt that He was born of a virgin, conceived directly by God. Knowing what she did, she could never, ever doubt Him. To her more than to anyone else he was the Son of God! She stood silent as they crucified Him (Jn. 19:25), watched Him as He died, and was numbered among His faithful disciples when He rose again to life (Acts 1:14).
Those who were the closest to Him as He went about His task of teaching and performing signs were also totally convinced of His divinity. This was not a conviction reached out of logic or persuasion, either. It was forced upon them by what they saw, heard, and themselves experienced (1 Jn. 1:1-4). “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” said Peter (Mt. 16:16). John was so thoroughly convinced of this that he wanted to tell the world. He did just that in his record of the gospel, concluding with this impressive thought: “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:30-31). Many of His disciples, most in fact, sealed their faith with their blood. That in itself is impressive, for they lived and died bounded by an ethic of absolute and unequivocal honesty. To die for a lie? For them it was unthinkable!
Objective Facts Of History
Certain objective historical factors, when closely studied, show Jesus was none other than the Christ, the Son of God. First, there is the fact that He was a person in history, not a mythical or legendary character. Pagan writers from the early centuries mention both the man and His movement. Tacitus, Roman orator, public official, and unsympathetic historian, in his Annals 15:44 (dated 56-120 AD) wrote about a certain “Christ,” brought to capital punishment by. the procurator Pontius Pilate. The Jewish historian Josephus (38-100 AD) in his Antiquities 18.3.3; 20.9.1, calls him “Jesus, surnamed Christ.” Suetonius, the Roman biographer and historian (69-122 AD) in his Lives of the Caesars, “Claudius,” 25 refers to him as “Christ” (Chrestus). Pliny, another Roman, in his Letter to Trajan, 96, records that this “Christ” was worshiped by the Christians of Pontus and Bithynia as their God. This early evidence attests that He was a real person, a man of history, not a figment of imagination or a figure from legend or myth.
One of the greatest pieces of historical evidence, though, is seen in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (who came to be called Paul) in about 34-35 AD. Here is a man who at first led in the opposition to Christianity. He killed its adherents and persecuted their cause even beyond the borders of the Jewish homeland. His conversion to Christ is an unexplainable event, unless we accept his own story of how it happened. He relates it on two occasions in the book of Acts (chaps. 22 and 26). Luke the historian recounts it directly in Acts 9. The amazing story he tells is that the resurrected Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, confronted him with the truth of His resurrection, and chided him for his obstinance. Now if this story had been told by some fanatical follower of Jesus, it might be conceivable that it was fabricated to lend some credence to the story of the empty tomb. Instead, it happened to the leader in the opposition, the mortal enemy of Christianity! What he endured on account of this change in his thinking makes us even more sure that he actually did meet the risen Lord on the road to Damascus (2 Cor. 11:22-28). He became a leading figure among Christians, wrote numerous works in defense of his faith, and finally died at the hands of a Roman executioner. He refused to give up this faith in Jesus even when he knew it would cost him his life! He was happy to surrender his life for the one who had died for him (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:20-21; 2 Tim. 4:6-8), and so became one of the early martyrs of a movement which viewed death a happy alternative to denying that Jesus was the Son of God.
Prophets Spoke Of Him Long Before
No other religion ever attempted to establish itself on the grounds of miracle or fulfilled prophecy. Yet the religious movement started by Jesus validated itself on both points. You can no doubt see how this could be a most dangerous, even precarious, basis upon which to stand. If. the prophets really did not so speak or if Jesus did not really fulfill them, then His followers would have been vulnerable on this count ever afterward. But the friends of Christ were bold to declare that Jesus had fulfilled the utterances of men who spoke hundreds of years before. In direct prophecies, types and figures, etc., the disciples saw Him not as a mere fulfillment of a few forecasts, but as the personal culmination of all that the Law and Prophets intended to say. God had completed that segment of His dealings with men by speaking through his own Son (Heb. 1:1-3; 8). This bold habit of citing the prophets they borrowed from Jesus Himself (Jn. 5:46; Lk. 24:44).
The amazing fact is that men hundreds of years previous described almost every facet of his life, at times doing so plainly, and on occasion through veiled references. He is to be seen almost at every turn on the pages of the Old Testament, even in the incidents and words which relate to those figures from Israel’s sacred past. Things which seem only to be incidental and of little importance thus come to testify that He is far more than any mere man. Here we will give you a bare outline of the hundreds that we could offer if space would permit: (1) His birthplace to be Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2); (2) He was to be Divine (Isa. 7:14; 9:6); (3) A forerunner was to herald His arrival (Mal. 3:1; 4:5); (4) His ministry was to begin in Galilee (Isa. 9:1-2); (5) He was to be a prophet like Moses (Dent. 18:15-19; 34:10-12; Acts 3:22-23); (6) He was to be king like David, but a heavenly king who was also a priest like Melchizedek (2 Sam. 7:16; Psa. 110:1-4); (7) His kingdom was to see its origin in the days of the Roman Empire (Dan. 2:44); (8) He was to bring a new covenant (Jer. 31:31ff.; Heb. 8:8ff.); (9) He was to be betrayed and tried (Zech. 11:12, 13; Isa. 53:7); (10) He was to suffer and die (Isa. 53; Ps. 22:15-18); (11) He was to be raised from the dead (Isa. 53:10-11; Ps. 16:10; 2:6-7); (12) He was to ascend to heaven (Ps. 68:18) and there be glorified (Dan. 7:13-14).
Why prophecy? Because it is an infallible proof of one’s ability to tap the resources of the divine mind. Only God can really know the future, all of the pretensions of modern prognosticators notwithstanding. As Jesus said of His own advance warnings to the disciples: “I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He” (Jn. 13:19; 14:29). The fact that men centuries before told the very details of His life is a tremendous proof that He is indeed the Son of God.
As we earlier said, no religion in the history of the world ever attempted to establish itself on the basis of either prophecy or miracle. Mohammed offered none. Buddha offered none. Krishna offered none. Jesus is absolutely alone in establishing His claim to authority on miracle. What He did was clearly intended to show who and what He was (Mt. 4:3). They were not ends in themselves, but the “signs” of who He was (Jn. 2:11; 3:2). The incredible risk involved in this must not be underestimated. If people could not have remembered the incredible works of Jesus, or if they could not have produced many eye-witnesses to the miracles, Christianity would have never have gotten off the ground. In fact, witnesses were abundant (Acts 2:22; 1 Cor. 15:4-8). That Christianity persisted beyond the first two generations of its history is proof that the miracles actually happened!
Through His miracles He demonstrated that He was divine; no one except God could possess power so absolute. In turning water to wine (Jn. 2:1-11), He showed His authority over the normal processes of nature: The same may be said of many of His miracles: (1) Multiplying the loaves and fishes (Mt. 14:15-21; 15:32-39); (2) Walking on water (Mt. 14:22-33); (3) The draughts of fishes (Lk. 5:1-11; Jn. 21:6); (4) Tribute taken from-the mouth of a fish (Mt. 17:24-27); (5) Healing birth defects (Jn. 9:lff.) and all forms of disease (Mt. 4:24); (6) Demon possession, a temporary manifestation of the power of evil, He also thwarted.
The greatest of all his feats of power, though, was certainly His control over death. He was its master when others were taken by it (Lk. 7:11-16; Mt. 9:18; Jn. 11:1-46), but just as much so when it cast its dark shadow over Him. His own resurrection from death was His most important miracle of all (Jn. 20:24-29; Mk. 16:1-14; 1 Cor., 15:3-8). It convinced His disciples of His divinity to the point they were happy to lay down their lives for Him, although they were at first as skeptical as you and I would have been about such a thing (Mt. 16; Jn. 20:24-29). The empty tomb which He left behind remains the most powerful proof that He was and is the Son of God. As Paul wrote: “(He was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:4).
These five proofs lead me to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth is the very Son of God. The more I read and study about Him, the more I am convinced of His divinity. On that account, I have placed the present and future in His hands. He is worthy of it. Let me encourage you to take a long and searching look at Him and then at yourself. I think you will find in Him all that you should be, the epitome of humanity, man made in the very image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), in every respect without fault or taint of sin. He is, thus, God’s final message of love to man, written on a tablet of human flesh, illustrated in a human life, sacrificed for human sin (Jn. 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:5-8), and glorified as Lord and Savior of all men. “Wherefore God highly exalted him, and gave him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow. . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
Why not make Him your Lord also, by belief, repentance, confession, baptism, and heeding His every command (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 22:16; Rom. 10:10; Rev. 2:10)?
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 14, pp. 417, 440-441
July 21, 1983