The story of Jesus stretches credibility as no other. But it also gives hope like no other. It's your choice. By Graeme Loftus.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will always constitute the watershed of meaning in human life and the history of our planet.
If the reality of Jesus' story has been fabricated, or misrepresented by some intentional religious collusion, then Christianity stands condemned as the biggest, most sophisticated hoax of all time. On the other hand, if the historical account of those events—as recorded in the Bible's four Gospels—is trustworthy, then the choices made by every human individual regarding Jesus affect their eternal destiny.
Humanistic minds have always baulked at the claims of Scripture regarding Jesus. They reduce the Bible to humankind's thoughts about God rather than a revelation of God. The Bible says its contents have been transmitted to us by a process of divine inspiration. The thoughts of humans were guided as they wrote in order to convey accurately the thoughts God wanted to share with us.
But if life is viewed only through eyes that dismiss any supernatural, it is easy to see why many struggle with this.
The supernatural aspects of Jesus' birth stretch human credibility to its limit. No human placed any sperm in His mother's womb. The Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary, is how the Bible puts it, and the Baby born to her was called a “holy one” and “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The Bible is clear in its claims that Jesus was fully God as well as fully human. The implications of the virgin birth mean that Jesus received humanity from Mary, and divinity from the Holy Spirit.
Throughout His brief ministry of three-and-a-half years He showed that He clearly understood the reality of His divine nature in two ways: He received worship from people and He forgave their sins. To do both has always been a prerogative of God alone and the clarity of His claim was clearly recognised by His contemporaries when they accused Him of blasphemy (see John 10:33).
The supernatural aspects of Jesus' life also stretch human credibility to its limit.
On numerous occasions, divine manifestations confirmed His identity. Shepherds experienced a chorus of heavenly angels welcoming His birth (see Luke 2:8-20).
Two devout elderly people were prompted separately by God to announce His divine identity at His dedication (see Luke 2:25-38). Wise philosophers, guided by angels, were led halfway around the then-known world to pay tribute to Him. Angelic messengers protected Him from being slaughtered by a jealous monarch (see Matthew 2:1-18). Three times, people heard the audible voice of God Himself testifying to who Jesus was (see Luke 3:21, 22; Matthew 17:5; John 12:28).
The profundity of Jesus' teaching is something that even His greatest detractors will not deny (see John 7:46). His insight into Old Testament scripture constantly silenced the PhDs of His age, who sought constantly to discredit Him (see Matthew 22:46). The leaders of all world religions universally recognise the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7) as the finest statement of human ethics ever uttered. Gandhi, for example, held Jesus Christ in high esteem and said the “sermon” altered his lifestyle. A beautiful picture of Jesus Christ adorned the wall over his desk.
As people came into Jesus' presence, they were overwhelmed with a sense of His purity and sinlessness. John the Baptist, used to rebuking the hardest of men, shrank back from baptising Jesus and requested baptism for himself (see Matthew 3:13, 14). In reaction to a revelation of Jesus' holiness, the apostle Peter fell to his knees and cried, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Jesus could eyeball His greatest enemies and confidently say, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46). And not one of them could. For any other human to utter those words would be pure arrogance.
The nature and scope of Jesus' miracles have never been seen again in the life of any one person. Even though Nicodemus wasn't a follower of Jesus at the time, he nevertheless expressed the conviction of all who witnessed His opening the eyes of the blind, loosening the tongues of the dumb, empowering the limbs of the lame, delivering those inhabited by demons and raising those taken by death, when he said, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).
The supernatural aspects of Jesus' death stretch people's credibility, because no human ever died like this Man.
Despite the studied torture devised by the Romans to maximise human pain through the barbaric act of crucifixion, it was not primarily the physical aspects of Jesus' death that were significant. The spiritual nature of what transpired at that time transcended all bodily suffering.
No person has ever hung on a cross and asked God to forgive their executioners (see Luke 23:34). No-one has ever assured someone else dying on a cross alongside of them that because of faith in what was happening through their death, they would experience eternal life in paradise (see Luke 23:43).
Normally criminals die from asphyxiation from crucifixion. But no-one has ever died under such circumstances from a broken heart carrying the sacrificial weight of humanity's sin on their shoulders and experiencing the consequent devastation of eternal separation from God (see Matthew 27:46; John 19:34).
And no man has ever died with the heavens supernaturally darkened for three hours and a hardened soldier in charge of the execution crying out, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” with the temple curtain ripped from top to bottom (Mark 15:39). No-one's death ever released many people from their tombs who then went into Jerusalem and appeared to many (see Matthew 27:51-53).
It is the supernatural elements of Jesus' resurrection, however, that stretch human credibility to its limit and form the touchstone of the veracity of His claims about Himself (Romans 1:4). The appearances of Jesus after His death are so well documented by trustworthy witnesses that there can be no doubt of their reliability (see Luke 24:1-53; 1 Corinthians 15:1-12). And they confront every single person with compelling implications that cannot be avoided.
We cannot dismiss Jesus as just one gifted teacher among several others who have lived at different times in history. If He were not who He claimed to be—the God who created all animate and inanimate things, the one who keeps our very hearts continually beating, the one who sacrificially made a way for every person to be right with God and transcend the crippled nature of our bodies, souls and spirits, and the one who will ultimately take us to be with Him in a renewed earth—then He is the greatest selfdeceived individual this world has seen.
When I've weighed it all up, I have acknowledged my sin and crowned Him Lord of my life.