The Historical Jesus
The historical Jesus was a man who was born in an obscure village to an obscure family and who lived in relative obscurity his entire life. He was a carpenter by trade, having learned it from his mother’s husband Joseph. He spent the final three years of his life as an evangelist preaching from village to village. His message was a simple one that powerfully and poignantly dealt with numerous issues of his day: religiously, morally, politically, and even philosophically. Religiously, Jesus was known for his scathing sermons against the religious leaders who were both materialistic and hypocritical. Morally, he was known for raising a higher standard than those that prevailed in the religious thinking of his day. “It was said by them of old time,” Jesus taught, “thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28 AV). Politically, Jesus made one statement that has been repeated perhaps in every generation since: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesars; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21 AV). Philosophically, Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was not to obey, serve, or even worship God. Rather, it was to “Love . . . God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37 AV).
His death was shocking to all those who knew him. An innocent victim, Jesus was illegally arrested, falsely accused, and unjustly condemned. His most loyal followers all forsook him in the events surrounding his trial and many would only watch the crucifixion from a distance. Death came rather quickly and his body was laid to rest in a tomb belonging to a wealthy man named Joseph of Arimathaea. The religious Jews, bothered by reports that he had claimed he would rise from the dead, persuaded the Roman government to post guards at his tomb to prevent any possible foul play by his followers! They were fearful that his followers would steal the body and claim that he was risen from the dead. Strangely enough, history reports that something did indeed happen at that tomb. On the Sunday morning following his burial, the tomb, which had been sealed by the Roman authorities, was jarred open by an earthquake and the body was indeed missing.
Strange things began to happen in the aftermath of this supposed resurrection. His followers, who were unusually frightened at his trial and crucifixion, now claimed that he was alive and had appeared to them on several occasions. One of them records an event, attended by over 500 people, in which the entire crowd claimed to have seen Jesus alive! His own half-brother, a man named James, was in complete opposition to Jesus’ religious claims while Jesus was alive. After the claim of his resurrection, however, James became one of his most staunch defenders, not only declaring unwaveringly that Jesus was alive from the dead, but also eventually pastoring the church that was founded in Jerusalem by the followers of Jesus. James spent the rest of his life claiming that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead. In fact, many of Jesus’ followers died at the hands of the Religious Jews and the political Romans for insisting that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead.
The Biblical Jesus
So, what about this man? Who is this Jesus who has wielded such a powerful influence on the history of the entire world? Historically, his life was rather obscure and more than a little strange. Scripturally, however, his entire life was planned to the minutest detail. In fact, without the support of the Scriptures, his life makes no sense at all!
For instance, the Bible, one book in theme and substance, and one penned by 40 Holy men over a period of 1500 years, actually made multiple claims about Jesus Christ, a Messiah who was coming to die for the sins of the entire world (Isaiah 53:1-12). These claims were written in the form of prophecies (spiritual statements that were said to come from God and which made claims about future events). Many of the Scripture’s prophecies were historical. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, for instance, that the old city of Tyre would be destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian empire and that its rubble would be carried into the sea. Few if any believed that such an event would occur. After all, Tyre was a very powerful and wealthy city and quite secure too! However, King Nebuchadnezzar did indeed destroy the city of Tyre. But the prophecy claimed that her rubble would be carried into the sea, an event that did not occur until years later when another leader, Alexander the Great, marched through Tyre on his way to conquer Egypt. As he passed through the old city of Tyre, he halted his march long enough to use the rubble of the city to build a land bridge to the tiny island of Tyre that had refused to acknowledge his presence. Everything the prophet Ezekiel had written precisely occurred.
Scriptural prophecies have an incredibly important place in developing an understanding of the Biblical Jesus. Over 300 prophecies (with well over 400 precise details) were given about a Messiah who would come from God, die for our sins, and be raised from the dead. Jesus precisely filled each of those prophecies. For instance,
Isaiah wrote that this Messiah would be born of a virgin, uniquely placed in her womb by a divine miracle. Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary! (see Isaiah 7:14)
Another prophet wrote that he would be born in Bethlehem Ephratah (as opposed to another Bethlehem that existed during the same time). Jesus was born in this specific Bethlehem. (see Micah 5:2)
Isaiah also wrote that he would be preceded by a preacher who would preach and say “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” A fiery preacher named John Baptist came preaching that very message and was actually the one who baptized Jesus at the beginning of his earthly ministry. (Isaiah 40:3)
The same prophet foretold that Jesus would begin his ministry in Capernaum. Jesus did that very thing. (Isaiah 9:1-2)
Another foretold that he would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. He also prophesied that those thirty pieces of silver would be used to buy a worn-out, worthless piece of property. Jesus’ own disciple Judas betrayed him for that exact amount, and afterwards, when Judas had committed suicide, they used the money to buy a worn-out, worthless piece of property. (Zechariah 11:12-13)
Isaiah even wrote about his trial in Isaiah 53. He will remain silent at his trial. He did that very thing! He will be beaten severely. At his trial, he was brutally scourged by a Roman soldier using a Roman whip. And on and on the description goes.
Even the events of his death was foretold. It was prophesied that soldiers would gamble for his clothing, another prophesy that precisely came to pass. (Psalm 22:18)
And this is only a small handful of the dozens of prophesies.
Do you see what I mean? The Scriptures point to one who was no ordinary man. According to the Scriptures, He was God in human flesh! Theologians refer to this as Hypostatic Union, a term meaning that Jesus was as much God as He was man and that He was as much man as He was God. They also speak of His Theanthropic Personality (a man who was also God). For instance, the Scriptures teach that God created the world. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The same Scriptures also teach that “all things were made by [Jesus], and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). If God made the world, and Jesus made the world, Jesus and God must be the same. They must be equal!
The prophet Isaiah claimed that Jesus would be God. In one passage, he stated that His name would be Emmanuel – which means “God with us.” In another, he foretold that Jesus would be called “wonderful, counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the prince of Peace” (italics mine). Twice, Isaiah claims that this Jesus is the God of the Universe, the one who became a man in order to die for our sins that we could have eternal life as a free gift!
Oddly enough, Jesus also claimed to be God. He told the Pharisees (the religious leaders of his day) that before Abraham had ever lived, He was “I AM.” That was startling and blasphemous to a Pharisee, because “I AM” was a prominent name for Jehovah God of the Old Testament which they loved and revered. Jesus was either God (as He claimed to be) or a raving lunatic for making such an absurd claim.
Simply put, if the Scripture is true (and I believe it is), this Jesus is not just a man. He is also the God of the universe who loved His creation and Who came to die for their sins. His heartbeat was to die for our sins and then to offer to us eternal life as a free gift. Because of our sins, we were condemned to eternal separation from God in a lake of fire. Because of His death, however, we can receive eternal life through Him!
Will you consider Jesus Christ?
“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 AV).