Who Is the Real Jesus?
Who Is the Real Jesus? Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a group of people who were asking the question: “Who is Jesus?” It’s a great question. Who is Jesus? No, the real Jesus. Not what this church thinks or that church thinks. The real, authentic, genuine, historical Jesus! These friends were honestly and sincerely exploring questions about God and life. And they were doing so with so much intellectual integrity. They not only wanted to know who the real Jesus is—they wondered: “Is becoming a Christian a blind leap of faith?”
There is a step of faith required to become a follower of Jesus Christ, but it’s not a blind step. It’s an intentional step, leading to a consistent walk, resulting in a life long journey. Following Jesus is a process that begins with examining firm historical evidence. “Who Is Jesus?” is the most important question you and I could ever ask.
Jesus Was A Real Person
Let’s start with the basics. Jesus existed! There’s a great deal of evidence to prove this—even evidence outside the New Testament. For example, we read about Jesus in the works of two Roman historians, Tacitus and Suetonius. Josephus, a Jewish historian born in 37A.D., describes Jesus and His followers like this: “Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians so named after him, are not extinct at this day.”
We know Jesus existed in the same way we know Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 or that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Why? Because reliable people have documented their life and accomplishments.
The New Testament is the historical journal of the life, teaching, works, and consequences of a man called Jesus of Nazareth. He was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, lived 33 years, and was put to death on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem. No serious historian can maintain that Jesus was a mythical figure who never existed. There is too much evidence to the contrary.
Do you remember where you were when President John F. Kennedy was shot? You could probably describe with great detail what that day was like and the sequence of the events which unfolded. Do you remember where you were the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded?
The skies were clear and the sun shone on the cold freezing morning of January 28, 1986. Kennedy Space Center in Florida was busy preparing the launch of the 25th space shuttle into space. Mission 51-L, the 10th flight of Orbiter Challenger. It was one of the most publicized launches because it was the first time that a civilian, a school teacher, was going into space. The launch was delayed five times due to bad weather, but the time finally came at 11:38 AM Eastern Standard Time, and Challenger left Pad 39B. It was beautiful. I know because several of my classmates watched it live on a television set up in the gym of my high school. Then, seventy-three seconds into flight, it exploded, killing all seven of its crew. I remember it like it was yesterday, and I still carry a bit of the emotion of that day with me. I remember because I was an eye witness.
What about eyewitnesses of Jesus?
There’s a great deal of evidence to prove Jesus’ existence from inside the New Testament as well from those who wrote His biography—those who knew Him, traveled with Him, ate with Him, worshipped with Him, and spent holidays with Him. The eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry wrote down what Jesus said and did. Their names were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and it’s in their journals of Jesus’ life and work that we begin to find some answers to our question.
So, becoming a Christian isn’t a blind leap of faith, but a step of faith based on firm historical evidence. If you’re interested in exploring the reliability of the evidence for Jesus, then I want to recommend a wonderful book entitled “The Case for Christ,” by Lee Strobel.
More on The Real Jesus next week.
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