apologetics Posts

Is Jesus Really God?

 I’ve talked to a lot of people who say they agree with, and appreciate, the teachings of Jesus. It’s popular in our day to resonate with His teachings but not His Church. Many people who are troubled by the exclusive claims of Christianity don’t realize that it was Jesus, Himself who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

He also said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Jewish writer of Hebrews said, “He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3). John 1:14 say that “the Word, (God) became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt among us.” Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh.

As we approach the question of His divinity, we need to realize that at the center of Christ’s teaching, His mission, His Message, His life, was (and is) His identity. The central theme and focus of His teaching was not a set of principles or commands; it wasn’t love or grace – per se – it wasn’t feed the poor, be kind to one another, or be a good citizen. At the core of His teaching was His identity. Who He was. And to be one with Him is not to do what He says, as much as it is to believe in HIM, who He is and what He has done.

This is why His definitive question still echoes forth into our hearts today:

“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

This is what separates Jesus from every religious leader ever known. His message was not, “Do this, don’t do that”, but “Believe that I am who I say I am.” Think about it: Jesus was ultimately crucified, not because He talked about love or serving others or caring for the poor. No, His enemies crucified Him because of who He claimed to be. He claimed to be the Messiah, “the Liberating King”. And it is His identity that continues to be at the center of discussion, debate, belief and unbelief, heaven or hell.

The importance of this question cannot be overstated. How might we tackle such a massive question? We must get to the heart of the matter. What do you think is the central event of the entire Christian faith? In all of history? The Resurrection is everything. If Jesus rose from the dead, then we have to accept all that He said; if He didn’t rise from the dead, then we don’t need to worry about anything that He said. The central issue is not whether or not you like His teaching, but whether or not He rose from the dead. If the resurrection took place then He is exactly who He claimed to be. If He didn’t, everything is futile, we are still in our sins, and we need to pack it up, go home, and wait for death to come. This precisely the point that Paul makes: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

This appears to be the earliest statement of belief, a kind of creedal proclamation, doctrinal statement. In fact, we see elements of the Apostles Creed (widely accepted by the 4th Century), but this was written as early as 35-49 A.D. So we are looking at a statement of belief from within a few years after the Resurrection. Read it now.

Is Jesus Really God?  – Let’s corroborate Paul’s outline with historic documentation.

1. Christ died. (v. 3)

If you’re thinking it seems to be circular reasoning to seek evidence for the life, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ by using the Bible, then let me give you sources outside of the Bible: Tacitus, a 1st Century historian, writing about Nero’s blaming Christians for the great fire in Rome wrote:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.”

These statements don’t prove that He was God, but they do prove that Christ lived (and when He lived), and that He died, through the “extreme penalty” (crucifixion), under Pilate. Celsus, a 2nd Century opponent to early Christianity, wrote the earliest known comprehensive attack on Christianity. He wrote:

Jesus accordingly exhibited after His death only the appearance of wounds received on the cross, and was not in reality so wounded as He is described to have been.” He says, after His “death”, He appeared with wounds.”

Liberal scholar, John Dominic Crossan (a part of the infamous, Jesus Seminar), concluded Christ’s death is indisputable, saying, “That He was crucified, is as sure as anything historical can be.”

2. Christ was buried. (v. 4)

In 1st Century Judaism, after a man died, someone had to claim the body and bury it before sundown. All four Gospels state that Joseph of Arimathea, a rich, dissenting member of the Sanhedrin, offered his tomb for Jesus’ body. Not one of disciples showed up to take, and care for, His body. This is what some scholars have noted, is a story of “embarrassment”, to the early followers. Not one of His followers believed Him enough to have the guts to go get His body. They all ran. They completely failed their Master, not a way to start a movement.

3. Christ was raised from the dead. (v. 4)

The fact there was an empty tomb is undeniable. The theories started immediately. Some said, “the disciples stole His body.” This theory claims that they were on the run, hiding out scared, and suddenly became grave robbers, overpowering soldiers guarding the tomb. The “swoon theory” claims that Jesus didn’t die but instead, passed out, and the cool of the tomb brought Him back to life. Professional executioners knew when a victim was dead. They did not bury Jesus alive. Another theory is that the women went to the wrong tomb. Then, of course, everyone went to the wrong tomb. Why did no one go to the “right tomb” and produce the body? Another source of “embarrassment” for the early disciples would have been that the first eyewitnesses of the resurrection were women. Women were not even allowed to be witnesses in court. No one would try to make up or devise a story that included women as the key eyewitnesses to the most important aspect of the story, unless it actually happened. You don’t have theories on an empty tomb unless there’s an empty tomb. There was an empty tomb.

  • He appeared to over 500 people. (vv. 5-9)

Paul points out that He appeared to different people, at different times, in various ways. One person here, a few people there, small groups, large groups, and to 500 at once. He’s pointing out these were not hallucinations. Paul says, some who saw Him, “are still alive”. Archaeology proves that the four biographies of Christ were written within the lifetime of Christ’s contemporaries. Most scholars agree that by 70-80 A.D. the Gospels were written. There were people who knew Jesus personally. They saw Him risen. Others could have refuted the claims about Him. So, within 50 years, would be the same as if people claimed J.F.K. was the Messiah or that, after his assassination, he rose form the dead. What would happen? Those who knew Him would refute it. Not unlike Lloyd Benson’s famous quip to Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice Presidential debate; he could’ve said, “I knew Jack Kennedy. And he was not God, nor did he claim to be.”

  • The disciples believed, preached, and died martyr’s death. (vv. 10-11)

All of the disciples, minus Judas, who hung himself previously, and John, who died in exile, died martyr’s deaths. For many, this is the ultimate proof. No one would die, knowing they were dying for a lie.

  • The Church was born.

You cannot explain the birth of the Church apart form the resurrection. In the written testimony of Pliny the Younger (carrying out the persecution of early Christians for Trajan), he states that the early Christians “gathered on a stated day before dawn and sang hymns to Christ as to a god.”

Here’s what we know (apart from the Bible): Jesus lived (and when He lived), He was crucified, He was buried, an empty tomb was commonly accepted and not disputed even by the enemies of Jesus, and His early followers claimed to have seen Him alive again, and from the very beginning, worshipped Jesus as God. All of this points to the central event of history: the Resurrection. N. T. Wright makes this important historical observation: There was no thread of resurrection in Jewish theology or in Greek philosophy. There was no formation of resurrection theology over time. It appeared fully developed over night.

Here I have not proven that Jesus rose from the dead. But I have forced the skeptic to give an answer for the facts. But at the end of the day you can only receive this truth by faith. Immediately, many are frustrated, wondering, “Why faith!? I have such a hard time with faith! I can’t just believe.”

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Think about it: aren’t you grateful it’s faith. You don’t have to be good enough. You don’t have to be religious enough (because you can’t be). You don’t have to be smart enough. You can’t be. God is beyond your goodness and your comprehension. Praise Him for faith. Stop trying; stop working. Get off the treadmill of religion and believe.

Perhaps I’ve helped break some barriers that you have to have. But you must realize that belief precedes knowledge in spiritual matters. Faith always precedes reason as we approach a God who is bigger and more glorious than our minds can fathom. Eternity weighs in the balance. You must answer the question:

“But who do you say that I am?” – Jesus

Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

The problem of evil and suffering is so much a problem, there’s actually an entire area of theological study devoted to it, called theodicy. Pain is a problem only for those who believe that 3 things are true:

The Theistic Set

1. God is all-loving.

2. God is all-powerful.  

3. Evil and suffering exist.

The atheist has no problem (or shouldn’t), because without a God, life has no purpose- so there’s no purpose in pain, unless it’s somehow a part of natural selection , weeding out the weak. For Eastern Religions, Hinduism for instance, pain is an illusion, wrong thinking, you must try to look past it.

Epicurus summarized the problem this way, “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or He can, but does not want to. If He wants to, but cannot, He is impotent. If He can, but does not want to, He is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?”

The Problem of Pain (four questions):

1. Is God all-powerful?

“For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.” Psalms 33:9–11

Is God all-powerful? Can He do anything? Think deeply about this question: Can He make a rock so big He can’t move it? Can He create two mountain peaks without a valley between them? Some things can’t be done. God can do anything that can be done. Can He create a world in which there is free will where evil and suffering do not exist? Evidently not, or He would have done it. Can God be loving and evil at the same time? God is all-powerful but God cannot contradict Himself. He cannot sin. Pain is the result of our sin. Think about it: How much of your pain is self-inflicted? How much of your pain is caused by other people’s sin? If you purchase and use drugs, you’re part of causing the murder and pain of the drug cartels along the Texas boarder. If you look at porn, you’re part of the abuse of sex slaves and trafficking around the world. Our sin has far-reaching consequences.

2. Is God all-loving?

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

We have a different definition of love from a personal perspective. We think that all things loving will always be good for us, or always make us feel good. I remember taking each of our kids to the doctor for shots. The child thinks, how can you do this to me? You know that it is because you love them. It will be better for them in the long run, some vaccinations may very well save their lives.

3. Is God all-knowing?

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” Romans 8:28–29

God can see the present and the future. He’s outside of the time-space continuum. Have you ever noticed that you often grow through pain? God is at work. Job serves as the great story of pain and suffering in the Bible. We must have faith that God is accomplishing something through our pain. Can you say with Job?

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” Job 13:15

Paul explained further:

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3–5

So God is all-loving. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, there’s a purpose and a hope.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

It seems of the three questions we’ve addressed, the one people struggle with the most is the second one: Is God really all-loving? What you need when you are in pain is not an explanation, you want the one you love to come and meet you there in your pain. If I’m hurting or if Stacy is hurting, or one of my children are hurting- when someone in our church is hurting… you don’t simply want good advice, or solid theology, (those things can be helpful) but what you really want is someone who can simply be present and share in your pain (the ministry of presence).

In The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes, “If we again ask the question: ‘Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?’ and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, we know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that He doesn’t love us. It can’t be that He is indifferent or detached from our condition. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that He was willing to take it on Himself.” Jesus knows our pain at the deepest level.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to His own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:3–6

Whatever your pain, Jesus knows it. He cares so much that He came. Psalms 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” God sees and feels every human tear. There is no pain that you have ever experienced that Jesus Himself did not experience.

John Stott, in his book, The Cross, wrote this:

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in my imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world as ours…”

God is not sitting back, cross-legged, smiling, He’s agonizing, slowly dying on the cross, in the face of complete and utter injustice. But watch what He is does. On Friday, His family and friends were saying, “This is the worst thing that has ever happened.” On Sunday they were saying, “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened.” He’s doing the same thing in your life right now.

4. Do you trust Him?

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:8–10

The Cross shows us that our pain is not meaningless. The Cross also reminds us of God’s unconditional love for us in Christ. We live in a sinful world; our bodies are breaking down and some day they will shut down altogether. Only Christ brings us hope in our suffering, Christ alone gives hope is our dying. Only as we die to ourselves, is He able to live in and through us.

Earth Day and the Law of Cause and Effect


News flash: Without a Creator there is no earth. If you would call yourself an agnostic, a skeptic, or spiritual seeker, please read on.

Today’s Google Doodle shows a hummingbird, snow monkeys, a chameleon, a dung beetle and a moon jellyfish. It must be Earth Day! I love it. I’m currently writing this while sitting outside on a perfect day in Dallas, Texas. It’s 82 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and (as any avid North Texas cyclist would note), almost no wind… beautiful.

I love planet earth. I’m glad there’s a day set aside to “get your green on” and remember we have been given the great privilege and responsibility to steward our planet. But I must state the obvious: There would be no “Earth Day” if God had not created the earth. Like so many events, special days, holidays (formerly “holy days”) and reasons to celebrate our lives together, we most often find ourselves on adventures in missing the point. And today’s is so obvious it’s mind-numbing.

Let me state the obvious. The simple fact that the earth exists is evidence of the existence of God. I could go quickly to the God of the Bible but that’s not even necessary to make my point here. I simply want to go to Aristotelian logic to make a simple but profound point that is unavoidable, apparent, and incontestable. Aristotle’s law of cause and effect says that no effect can be produced without a cause. Every effect must have a cause.

The fact that the earth exists proves that there is a God. You cannot get something from nothing. It is scientifically impossible. And you cannot get living matter from non-living matter. It is scientifically impossible. Regardless of your personal views of creation, evolution, adaptation of the species, etc.. eventually you come to the “Uncaused Cause”- God.

Humans and the Universe itself are effects that must have a cause. Think about it: The fact that you exist is a key argument for the existence of God. People ask me, “How can you know God exists?” Because you do. It really is that clear. Could a computer suddenly come into being without an intelligent designer? Could a monkey in a print shop set Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in type? Could an eye that sees in 3-D and color happen by accident? Could the Universe or the human body come into being without a Supreme Creator? Scientifically impossible. Don’t allow your preconceived biases to lead you into absurdity.

Earth Day Fun Facts:

Looking at the Universe we see that there is Designer. Consider plain water. Water has a high specific heat. This means that chemical reactions in the human body are kept rather stable. If water had a low specific heat, we would “boil over” with the least amount of activity. The ocean is the world’s thermostat. The ocean keeps the earth warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Did you know that if the earth were much smaller an atmosphere would be impossible? If larger, the atmosphere would contain free hydrogen (like Jupiter and Saturn) and life could not exist on earth. The distance from the sun is perfect for life on earth. The smallest change would make it to hot or too cold for survival.

When you eliminate the answer before you ask the question it always leads to absurdity.

Many have eliminated God as the Answer to questions regarding origins, purpose, and meaning. Imagine that the number four does not exist. Eliminate it as a possibility. You then come to the question: What’s two plus two? It must be 3 or something close to five but it cannot be four. We’ve already decided four does not exist. Unless of course, it does. And to say that two plus two is anything other than four is absurd. This is why the definitive word about atheism found in the Bible is this: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1). That may sound harsh to the atheist but what other word would you use for someone who eliminates the answer before asking the question?

As I am on Thanksgiving, I am on Earth Day: grateful. I’m thankful every day for the glory of the earth and this beautiful life on this planet. Are you thankful? If so, whom will you thank?


Did the Resurrection of Jesus really happen? – by Sam Holm

Death.  When we contemplate our own mortality or experience a loved one’s death, we must come face to face with death.   For the Christian and non-Christian alike, death brings pain.  However, the Christian has a different perspective.  Jesus gives us hope in a better life now and after death.  Why?  Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Did the Resurrection of Jesus really happen?

The reality of the resurrection can be examined and scrutinized.  Our faith in Christ is not only built on theology.  It is based on history.  In John 14:6, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Now, this is not a provable fact in the same way that His resurrection is provable, but it is nevertheless either true or false. It cannot be true that Jesus is the only way while at the same time it is also true that other religions can also offer salvation. If salvation comes through Jesus, then it is because He is the Son of God and it cannot come through any other means. As we have studied, if there are other ways to be saved, then Jesus is a liar and a fraud and He offers no salvation at all.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul addresses doubt about the resurrection.  He makes several strong statements.  “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  At least some in the church in Corinth doubted whether or not they would be raised.  Paul addresses their doubt head on by listing many who saw the resurrected Christ and were still alive at the time of the writing.  “(Jesus in resurrected form) appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me.”  He seems to say, look at all of the eyewitnesses.  Jesus rose again.

However, many of us still doubt about the Resurrection.  Let’s address several of the primary questions of doubt.

Did Jesus die?   - Yes.  The Roman Historian Tacitus wrote in his final work Annals 116AD (assessing blame on Christians for the fire that destroyed Rome in 64AD): “Christus, from whom the name (Christians) had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus..”  What was the extreme penalty?  Crucifixion.  The Romans were experts at executing and wanted to be sure He was dead.  They publically killed him.  He did not pass out.  When he was seen on Sunday, he was in full health.  If he had suffered on the cross and somehow escaped death, he would not have been worshiped as a resurrected Lord two days later.  He would have needed someone to nurse him back to health.  Jesus died on the cross.

Was the tomb empty?  – Yes.  Gary Habermas writes that “75% of historical scholars accept the historicity of the empty tomb.”  Even early critics like Justin Martyr and Tertullian say it was empty.  Jewish writers never refute it, they just try to explain it away.  In addition, the resurrection was first preached in Jerusalem.  If the tomb was not empty, the body would have been produced by the government and religious leaders.

Was the body stolen?  – No.  The Jews and Romans would have shown everyone if they had it.  The body would have squashed the Christian revolution.  The disciples were terrified and had no motive.  Just a few days prior they deserted Christ in his greatest time of need.  They would not have stolen the body knowing they would end up dying for what they said they believed.

Was it a group hallucination?  – No.  500+ people at the same time?  That’s funny.

Was the story made up?  - No.  Nothing looks fictional in the way it is presented.  The resurrection appearances suddenly stopped (at Ascension with the exception of Paul).  Women were the first witnesses in the gospel narratives and they were not given a voice in court.  You would not choose a woman to prove your story was true.  Witnesses were alive when the NT was written.  “500+ people – they are alive today.  Go ask them.”  What is the motive?  Suddenly, this group is ready to suffer and die for their faith.  No one would do this for something they made up.

Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews wrote around 93AD “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate . . .condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared . . . restored to life. . . . And the tribe of Christians . . . has . . . not disappeared.”

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

Jerry Vines says: “Gospel not a catch word for man made theology.  Nor a code word for man-made methodology.  But a clear word of divinely directed history.”

In verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says “His grace toward me was not in vain (NIV – Without effect… NLT – God poured out his special favor on me-and not without results…).  The transformation of thousands of lives and the explosion of the early church is the primary reason we know this story was not made up.  What happened to those who believed in the resurrection?  James, the brother of Jesus, was openly skeptical that Jesus was the Messiah. Later James became a courageous leader of the Jerusalem church, even being stoned to death for his faith. Paul, possibly the PRIMARY biblical example, was persecuting the church and then his life transformed?  Why?  He saw the resurrected Lord.  Faith in the resurrected Christ totally transformed the lives of all who saw him.

The resurrection of Jesus really happened.  The death of death.  Do you believe it? You can respond to the truth of the resurrection by responding to Christ Himself, as the Risen Lord.  You can receive salvation through believing in the resurrection.

Faith in the resurrection does not only transform the way you die, it transforms the way you live.  There is a member in our church.  I’ve asked permission to share his story.  He was a cultural Christian.  He grew up hearing the stories of Jesus, went to church on occasion and lived like the world.   Then, one Sunday he was faced with the truth of the God, Jesus and the resurrection.  Life totally changed.  He said when we were talking, “Suddenly, my faith was the most important thing to me.”  He read many books attacking and affirming the faith.  His conclusion.  The resurrection really happened. And his life is proof.

Jeff Warren’s father died last Monday.  In his obituary we read: “He was an active member at FBC Charlotte where he was a deacon and loved teaching Sunday school. Following retirement he became the Assistant to the Pastor (Dr. Charles Page) in the area of evangelism. Gene had a passion for sharing Christ with anyone who would listen.”  If Jeff’s father were here today, do you know what I think he would say?  The resurrection of Jesus happened!  And his life is proof.

Is your life proof that the resurrection of Jesus really happened?



Is Jesus who He claimed to be?

“I believe; help me with my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

In previous posts below we explored the reliability of the Bible and the audacious claim that it is actually “God-breathed”. We looked at evidences for the existence of God and noted that perhaps the main evidence for God’s existence is that He came here in Person and told us He exists and showed us exactly who He is. Few doubt that Jesus lived and that He is arguably the greatest and most influential person who has ever lived. It seems logical to believe that a man named Jesus lived but was He really God in the flesh? Are the outrageous claims that He made of Himself true? How can I know?

Perhaps you have wrestled with this question of doubt. It’s critical that we wrestle with this one because it is at the center of the Christian belief, indeed (if it’s true) at the center of LIFE itself. As we approach this question, we need to realize that at the center of Christ’s teaching, His mission, His Message, His life, was His IDENTITY. The central theme or truth of His teaching was not a set of principles or commands; it wasn’t love or grace, per se. At the core of His teaching was His identity. Think about it: Jesus was ultimately crucified not because He talked about love or serving others or caring for the poor. No, His enemies crucified Him because of Who He claimed to be. And it is His identity that continues to be at the center of discussion, debate, belief and unbelief- and heaven and hell. We can’t overstate the importance of this question.

Luke 7:18-23 John asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” If there is anyone in the Bible that we would think did not doubt Jesus’ identity, it was John the Baptist. He was the foretold prophet and his role was to announce who Jesus was. In John 1:29, seeing Jesus, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the Word.” Here in Luke 7 (also told in Matthew 11) John finds himself in prison, about to be beheaded and he’s questioning the true identity of Jesus. Notice how the Bible never hides doubt, sin, failure, brokenness. It simply describes real people wrestling real faith issues.

Who did Jesus claim to be? He said He was the Messiah, the long-awaited “Liberating King”, the Lord God in the flesh, the Son of the Most High, the now-seen Holy God.

Jesus answers saying, “tell John what you’ve SEEN (His works) & HEARD (his words)”.

1. His works prove He is Lord. What evidence do we have that Jesus Is Lord? We have what the Bible calls “signs” Jesus’ works (these “signs” were prophesied. The Gospels record 35 miracles that Jesus performed: 23 were healing miracles, 9 were miracles showing power over nature, and 3 were miracles of raising the dead. He had power over nature, He calmed the storm, turned water into wine, fed 5,000 people from 5 loaves and 2 fish, raised people from the dead. He performed miracles of physical healing, and He reports back to John that “many people of diseases, the lame walked, lepers were cleansed, & the deaf could hear..” He provided physical and spiritual healing, defeating evil spirits as well. He says,  “Go and tell… the blind receive their sight, the dead are raised up…” These were all signs of the kingdom of God, a New Order that Jesus came to usher in. His miracles proclaimed the nature of the kingdom- that is, blindness, brokenness, death do not reign and rule in the kingdom of God. He reverses the order of this fallen and broken world.

Of course, the ultimate demonstration of His Lordship was the resurrection (much more on that next week). BUT historically, how do you explain what happened 2000 years ago if Jesus did not rise again? Scholars have noted that within five weeks after the resurrection not just one but over 10,000 Jews in Jerusalem (including many Pharisees, the ruling priests of the day) who were willing to give up their social and religious beliefs that they had rigidly observed since childhood to follow Jesus.

2. His words prove He is the Lord. He said tell John about my works and tell him about my words- the truth that He spoke- and again namely the truth about WHO He was. Jesus didn’t simply walk around doing good things. He walked around making the audacious claim that He was the Messiah, knowing that it was blasphemous. He even challenged hostile, even violent skeptics to examine Him, watch Him, and prove that He wasn’t. I’ve talked to people who claim, “Jesus never really claimed to be God.” Just listen to His first hearers: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” John 5:18

John 10:24-31 “So the Jews gathered around Him and said to Him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe (WORDS). The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me (WORKS), but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, & they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” He is clearly claiming to be the Messiah and everyone knew it.

Note (back to Luke 7) that John the Baptist wanted to believe, the Pharisees did not.  And to answer John the prophet, Jesus looked at the Old Testament, the signs of the foretold Messiah. As He answered the Pharisees (theologians) Jesus gave a very theological and logical response. But again, faith precedes reason. Even with the works of Jesus, we still find ourselves doubting. One of the ways to come to a clear conclusion is to eliminate the possibilities. For some this will offer a very clear response:


Four Possible Options for Jesus’ Identity:

1. Legend This option would say that the story of Jesus claiming to be God is a legend; it never even happened. Most people believe Jesus lived. The problem with Jesus as legend is that modern archaeology shows that the four biographies of Christ were written within the lifetime of Christ’s contemporaries. Most scholars agree that by 70 – 80 AD the Gospels were written. People knew Jesus personally. They saw Him. They could have refuted the claims about Him. See Dr. Luke’s purpose in writing His account of Jesus in Luke 1:1-4.

Consider this: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Imagine, if over the past 50 years, and over the past 15 years in particular, people claimed J.F.K. was the Messiah. What if people began saying that he rose form the dead? What would happen? Those who knew Him would refute those claims immediately. If Jesus was not a real person, how do you explain what happened on the in the Southwest region of the Mediterranean Sea? How do explain the emergence of the most transforming movement of history 2000 years ago? For some, the most impressive of all historical sources are the numerous ancient non-biblical sources that refer to the life and Person of Jesus, including the writings of Tacitus (considered the most famous Roman historian of Antiquity) and Josephus (a famous First Century Jewish historian, who was not a Christian), both of whom were born within 25 years after the death of Jesus. Within 150 years there are more extra-biblical sources that mention Jesus than who mention Tiberius (the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus). In the First and Second Century there are numerous sources that document historically that Jesus lived, died, and was crucified, that His disciples claimed to have seen Him alive after His death, that the empty tomb was commonly accepted and not disputed even by the enemies of Jesus, that the number of believers spread rapidly and widely after the claimed resurrection appearances, and that believers from the very beginning worshipped Jesus as God. This is why most people believed a man named Jesus lived. If He is not a legend, then perhaps He was a…

2. Liar – This option would argue that Jesus knew He was not God but lied and said He was. Few if any, take this option seriously because Jesus was such a great moral teacher. But how could He be a great moral teacher if He lied about the most crucial point of His teaching: His identity. And of course, what do you do with the miracles, the resurrection? Jesus consistently answered His skeptics, namely the Pharisees, with, “I AM” statements, to the questions concerning His identity. “I AM” was the name of God, YHWH, in the Old Testament. Revealing again that it was His identity that was the focal point of His teaching. Consider these amazing claims he made:

  • To know Him was to know God. (John 8:19)
  • To see Him was to see God. (John 12:45,14:4)
  • To believe Him was to believe in God. (John 12:44)
  • To receive Him was to receive God. (Mk. 9:37)
  • To hate Him was to hate God. (John. 15:23)

To honor Him was to honor God. (John 5:23) As if to say: “Prove that I’m lying”

3. Lunatic – This argument says that Jesus really thought He was God and though He was sincere, He was self- deceived. He was crazy; He was a lunatic. Is there any evidence of abnormality or imbalance as we look at Jesus’ life?  No, he did not behave like a madman. Again, you must deal with miracles, the resurrection, and the prophecies. Consider the prophesies: Mathematician Peter Stoner took just eight of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus and calculated that the odds of them being fulfilled by any one person in history to be 1 in 10 to the 17th power- this 1 with 17 zeros behind it. To understand how incredibly unlikely that is, Stoner says you should take 100,000,000,000,000,000 silver dollars “and lay them on the face of Texas.  They will cover all of the entire state two feet deep. Now mark ONE of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one?  The same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time…” (see page 167 of Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith, Volume I, by Josh McDowell). Consider too that most of the prophecies were outside the control of Jesus (not self-fulfilling)- family lineage, date of death, born in Bethlehem, preceded by a messenger, rejected by His own people, betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, scourged, death with hands and feet pierced, crucified with thieves, no bones broken, soldiers gambling for clothes, suffer thirst during death, buried in rich man’s tomb.

4. Lord - If none of the other options is true, the only option is that Jesus was and is Lord. He knew who He was and He spoke the truth boldly. Jesus wanted everyone to check out His claims to see if He could back up what He was saying (John 10:38).

In his famous quote in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. Now it seems to me- obvious- that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

Who do you believe Jesus is?

Jesus is the whole truth about God, God as God is, rather than whom we supposed God to be.” In Matthew 16, Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.”

Who do you believe Jesus is?