Jesus Christ is arguably the most famous person in history. Over 2 Billion people claim to follow him, thats one third of the worlds population. Time magazine called him ‘The most influential person who ever lived.'
It may sound obvious, yet many people fail to recognise that the true key to understanding Christianity is contained in the very word itself, CHRIST-ianity. The key to understanding Christianity is understanding Christ. Christians aren’t just moral, well-behaved, religious people - they are people who believe that Jesus is the Christ!
Christianity can’t be proved mathematically or scientifically. Science answers a different set of questions like, When, and How did the world come into being? But it can’t answer the questions, Who and Why?..
If you were to be given a cake, science would be able to tell you How it was created and maybe When it was created. But only the person Who created it can tell you Why they created it. It's the same with this universe we live in, only the creator can reveal Who made it and Why..
This is the claim of Christianity, that he has done that and he has revealed himself in Jesus. The evidence of this is not scientific evidence, but historical evidence.
Some people think that Christianity is a blind leap of faith but it can be a step of faith based on good historical evidence! It's the resurrection of Jesus that strongly suggests this world has a creator and that creator is viewed through the lens and life of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was fully human, he ate, he drank, he got tired and he suffered pain like we all do. He also experienced all the human emotions, love, joy, sadness and more, like us. He grew up in a family, he got an education and was employed like many people. He was tempted and ridiculed and died, he was human. There is a mountain of historical evidence that proves this, and many are happy to accept that and leave it there; That Jesus was just a good person who had some good thoughts and philosophies.
We believe there is more to Jesus Christ than that!
So what evidence is there to prove that Jesus was more than just a good religious teacher, that he is God?
What did Jesus think about himself?
If Jesus didn’t think or say he was God that ends the discussion. But if Jesus says and thinks He is God then what is there to prove this?
Jesus said this, ‘If you receive me, you receive God. if you welcome me, you welcome God.’ (Matthew 10:40) and ‘If you have seen me you have seen God’ (John 14:9). Very bold statements if it's not true.
Forgiveness is a huge part of what Jesus taught but he also claimed to be able to forgive sins, this was a huge claim in the culture of his time and it was offensive to many of the religious leaders of the day because only God could forgive sins.
He went as far to say he came to give his life so that people could be forgiven.
A big claim Jesus made was in John 10:30 ‘I and the Father are one’, this didn’t go down well with the religious leaders, it was a claim that was punishable by death. Jesus made some very bold claims that he was God and no ordinary religious teacher with any sense of wisdom would say these things.
These claims are so big it leaves us with a few ways to view it. He was either a liar and it was not true, or it was not true and he didn’t realise it and he was deluded. The other possibility is that it is true.
What evidence is there that it's true?
The first bit of evidence is his teachings, he often had large crowds gather to hear his teachings. Many of Jesus’ teachings have been the foundation of our entire civilisation and many of our laws are originally founded on Jesus’ teaching. Like, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31), ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’ (Luke 6:31). These were huge steps forward for the day. As a society we have advanced in every field in the last 2000 years like science, medicine and technology but no one has ever improved on the moral teachings of Jesus. They are the greatest words ever spoken, they are the kind of words you might expect God to speak.
The second thing that marked Jesus’ life was his love for the marginalised his feeding the hungry, healing of the sick. His character has impressed millions who wouldn’t call themselves Christians. Time magazine called him 'The most persistent symbol of purity, selflessness and love in the history of western humanity'. He was a person who's enemies could find no fault and his friends said that he was without sin. Our character is truely tested when we are under pressure or in pain and while Jesus was being tortured he said ‘Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing'.
The physical resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of Christianity and its relevant to every single one of us because we are all going to die, the ultimate statistic, 1 in 1 die. Death can seem very final. Unless Jesus died and was buried and then was raised to life, in which case death has been conquered… But is this just wishful thinking?
There are 4 pieces of evidence that this happened.
1. His absence from the tomb.
No one has every given a satisfactory explain on how Jesus' body was absent from the tomb. There have been many thoughts around why this happened. One is that the authorities took the body away, but wouldn’t they have presented the body when people started claiming he was raised from the dead? It was causing a lot of trouble for the authorities of the day.. Perhaps it was stolen by robbers? But when the disciples had heard that Jesus had been seen after his death they ran to the tomb and Jesus wasn't there but the tomb was not empty, the grave clothes Jesus had been wrapped in were still there. This means the most valuable thing to take or sell was in the tomb was still.
2. His presence with the disciples.
Jesus was seen on more than 11 occasions after his death one of these being to around 500 people. Some might say it could have been a hallucination, hallucination does happen among highly strung, very nervous or highly imaginative people, or people who are sick or on drugs. But the disciples don’t fit any of these categories, they were cynics, tough fishermen and tax collectors. Not they type of people who hallucinate.
3. The transformation in the disciples.
This is a group of people who after Jesus death were disillusioned and in despair that their leader had died. Then suddenly they were transformed and started saying ‘we have seen Jesus’ and they went around telling everybody. Practically all of them were killed, beheaded or tortured and crucified because of what they believed. If they were deceiving people surely having their lives threatened would have caused some or one of them to deny what they had been saying but they said it was true right up until their deaths. Christ totally transformed their lives and as a result it started a movement that spread around the whole known world, nothing has ever happened like it in all of history.
4. What is still happening today.
There are now over 2.3 Billion Christians around the world of every ethnicity, continent and social background imaginable and they all speak of types of encounters with Jesus Christ.
Believing any of this in your head is one thing and believing it in your heart is entirely different. Jesus said ‘I have come that you might have life and life in all of its fullness’ (John 10:10).
We believe God has absolutely revealed himself in Jesus Christ, we believe Jesus really is who he claimed to be, we believe Jesus Christ did rise from the dead and there is a hope beyond this life and in this life and when you go on the joinery to discover more about Jesus you will find life and life in all its fullness.
ALPHA SERIES or FOLLOWING JESUS
Much of the content above has been taken from the Alpha Series that we run regularly as a church. We would love for you to join the one we have coming up and talk more about Faith, Life and Meaning.
We also have copies of a small book called Following Jesus available in all our Sunday gatherings. Just visit the info stand at a service and we would love to give you a copy.