A lot has been said about Jesus – and it can be hard to separate fiction from reality! Watch what happens when people on the street are asked about Jesus!
You’ll remember from Week 2 that we were created to live in a close and personal relationship with God.
St. Augustine put it this way: He wrote that we have a God shaped hole in our hearts, a longing deep within us that only a relationship with God will satisfy.
But because we have a problem with sin, we all fill our lives with everything but God, our careers, our families, our homes, our friends, yet no human relationship or material possession will ever fully satisfy us and so we are always left searching, searching for meaning, contentment—searching, as Freddie Mercury was for that one loving, ongoing relationship that will never let us down.
And so we come to Jesus. Where does Jesus fit into all of this? Could he fit that God-shaped hole in our lives? Or is he just a good teacher?
First, need to deal with one obvious question. Did Jesus really exist? Actually, this is only an obvious question since we live 2000 years away.
For someone alive in his day, or a generation or two removed from Jesus himself, there would be little question if he really lived or not.
This would be like you and I questioning whether Henry Ford really lived. We trust the sources that tell us he did, and know that if anything was written about him that wasn’t true, someone who knew him, or someone who knew someone who knew him, would be able to tell us otherwise. We also see evidence, in the form of automobiles, that he existed! They may look very different, many generations on, but they all started with Ford’s first Model T.
But we’re more than a few generations removed from Jesus! And it does seem harder to rely on the witness of people so long ago, and because the stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are so fantastical, we easily begin to doubt.
So we need to look for the same things: Do we have written documentation of him? Was there an opportunity for people who knew him, or those a generation removed, to verify those written documents? And do we see a lasting impact today, like the automobile for Henry Ford?
As for written evidence, there are more documents attesting to the existence of Jesus than Alexander the Great…and few doubt he existed.
The most obvious document to consider is the New Testament of the Bible. The NT itself, written between 35-100AD is one of the best attested ancient manuscripts in existence and so there is little doubt in the scholarly world, that the NT is an accurate historical document, despite the popularlity of the fictional work The DaVinci Code.
So we can turn to modern historians. No serious historian today can back up a claim that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist. Some might question Christian sources, thinking that they are too personally invested in what they describe. But if we only want to know if he existed or not, that isn’t in question. There is a great deal of evidence for Jesus’ existence from Christian and non-Christian sources. Here’s what a few of them say:
The following facts about Jesus were written by early non-Christian sources:
- Jesus was from Nazareth and lived a wise and virtuous life.
- Jesus was crucified in Palestine under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar at Passover time, being considered the Jewish king.
- Jesus was believed by his disciples to have died and risen from the dead three days later.
- Jesus’ enemies acknowledged that he performed unusual feats they called “sorcery.”
- Jesus’ small band of disciples multiplied rapidly, spreading as far as Rome.
- Jesus’ disciples worshiped Christ as God.
The timings, locations, and circumstances all match the Bible’s accounts.
If we consider actual evidence, we have no reason to believe Jesus was not all these things. But many other people lived in that time as real human beings, so why is Jesus who we talk about today? Is he anything more than another human, who may have said some wise things and done some neat tricks?
Is there any evidence to suggest that Jesus was anything more than a great moral teacher, like Gandhi, perhaps?
Well, the answer that we shall see is that there is a great deal of evidence, evidence that supports the Christian claim that Jesus was and is nothing less than the Son of God.
Question: What have you read or heard about Jesus in the past? What is your impression of him? Where did you learn this?