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Your Christian Cowboy Resource

Bible Bootcamp

Part 4

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

By Jesse Horton/Cowboys of the Cross

Welcome back!  I’ve enjoyed presenting facts regarding the Bible to you in order that you might decide for yourself if it is a reliable source of truth from both a historical and a spiritual standpoint, but this is what separates and elevates the Christian faith from other religious beliefs.  If you can fully grasp these truths, your life will never be the same; and that certainly for the better (not necessarily easier, but certainly better)!  The pivotal question of the Christian faith that is agreed upon by atheists, agnostics, and Christians alike: Is Jesus really who the Bible proclaims him to be, and did he rise from death?  If the answer is yes, then Christianity is not just a religion like all the rest on the “salad bar” of religions where each person can pick and choose what he prefers to believe; but if the answer is no, then we of all people are to be most pitied for our weightless beliefs.  Let’s dig in by answering three questions: 1) Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth actually exist? 2) Did he claim to be not only the Jewish Messiah, but God in the flesh? 3) Did he fulfill the Messianic prophecies regarding his death, burial, and (most importantly) the resurrection?

1. Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth actually exist?  Is this just a tale we find in the Bible or are there other secular records to prove his existence?  Since Jewish law states that a person can be convicted or acquitted on the testimony of two or three witnesses, I will offer three witnesses:

a.a. Cornelieus Tacitus (AD 55 – 120) was a Roman historian.  In his writing titled, the Annals XV, 44 reads, “Hence to suppress the rumor, he [Nero] falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities.  Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also."

                a.b. Pliny the Younger, the governor of the Roman province Bythinia in AD 112 wrote to Emperor Trajan seeking advice on how to handle the Christians.  His concern was that Christians were choosing death over the option of bowing down to a statue of the Emperor (believed to be a god by Romans) or being made to “curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do." (Epistles X, 96)

                a.c. Julius Africanus wrote in AD 221 commenting on Tallus (AD 52) and his account of the darkness that accompanied the death of Jesus, “Tallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died." (Chronography 18.1)

                 2. Did Jesus claim to be the Jewish Messiah?  Did he also claim to be God in the flesh?

                 a. John 4:25-26 – The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

                 b. John 10:24-30 – The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.” *Read that carefully – No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand or from Jesus’ hand because Jesus and the Father are the one and the same.

                  c. John 20:26-29 – A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” *Thomas called Jesus God and was not rebuked for doing so, but rather Jesus commented that whoever believes the same things (Lord and God) without having seen is blessed!

                 d. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” *When Jesus said, “I AM”, he used the same words that Moses heard from the burning bush when he asked, [paraphrased] “if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’  Then what shall I tell them?”  God replied, “Tell them ‘I AM’ sent me to you.”  God proclaimed himself to Moses; Jesus proclaimed himself to the priest in exactly the same way.

3. Did Jesus fulfill the Messianic prophecies – specifically regarding his death, burial, and resurrection?

a. Death

a.a.i. Psalm 53:5 – “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  Hundreds, maybe even thousands of witnesses would have seen this played out before their eyes; with the Jewish people having returned to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the city was beyond maximum capacity.  Crucifixion was a common Roman punishment, but it was not their practice to stick a spear in those who were crucified, but that is exactly what they did to Jesus.  Rather, they would break their legs to assure rapid asphyxiation if the process needed to be sped up as it did in this case.  But Jesus’ beating at the hands of Pilate was so severe that he was already near death, so the cross was more than his human body could bear.

a.a.ii. Psalm 34:20 – he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.  *Even though Jesus was crucified and the two malefactors with him had their legs broken, he did not.  He was already dead; but the Roman soldier pierced him with his spear to make sure.

a.a.iii. Isaiah 53:8 – By oppression  and judgment he was taken away.   Yet who of his generation protested?  For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression  of my people he was punished.  *He died in the presence of witnesses at the hand of a Roman guard that swore their lives to complete any task given to them, and they were masters at getting the job done.

b. Burial

b.a.i. Isaiah 53:9 – He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich  in his death.  Luke 23-50-53 – Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man,  who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.

c. Resurrection – This is the quintessential point to be made.  He’s God and he is alive or he’s dead, buried, and we’re idiots for worshiping a corpse.

c.a.i. The Roman guard placed at Jesus’ tomb was guarding Caesar’s seal on the door of the tomb.  The punishment for dereliction of duties was death, so it was in their best interest to do their job well.

c.a.i.a. Some have proposed that the disciples overtook the guards and removed the stone and carried Jesus’ body away.  There are huge holes in this theory:

c.a.i.a.i. Just two days before, they were scattered, scared, and Peter denied even knowing Jesus.  They were in hiding from both Jewish and Roman authorities after their Teacher was crucified because they feared the same treatment.  Therefore it is highly unlikely they would bolster enough confidence in a large enough group to take on a group of Roman soldiers.

c.a.i.a.ii. Good Jewish boys breaking a sweat after dark on the Sabbath?!  Get real!

c.a.i.a.iii. All but one of the 11 remaining apostles was martyred for his faith in Jesus.  All they had to do was say, “Sorry, it was all a lie!  Jesus is really dead,” and their lives would have been spared.  But they held onto the resurrection and the deity of Christ even unto death.  Tell me, what group of men do you know would die for a lie and not even one would tell the truth to spare his life?

c.a.i.b. Some have also suggested that Jesus was not really dead, but only appeared to be dead and he later recovered.

c.a.i.b.i. Witnesses saw a Roman soldier pierce his heart with a spear after having been given 39 lashes with a whip that ripped flesh from the bone, carrying his own heavy cross to Golgotha, and then hanging there for 6 hours.

c.a.i.b.ii. You don’t bury living people in a tomb.

c.a.i.b.iii. To suggest this is to affirm his continued existence after the resurrection!

c.a.i.c. Others believe that when they returned to the tomb, they went to the wrong place.

c.a.i.c.i. The tomb was a “new construction” (Luke 23:53 – “a tomb in which no one had yet been laid.”) and was in a garden just outside of Jerusalem, and it belonged to a rich man…it was an obvious place.

c.a.i.c.ii. If they had the “wrong address” when they went back to find him that first Easter morning, then the Jewish elders and the Roman government would have been quick to point them in the right direction and show everyone Jesus’ dead body in an effort to quickly squash the growth of Christianity.

c.a.ii. Witnesses

c.a.ii.a. Luke 24 – Mary Magdalene sees Jesus at the tomb; the first to see the risen Christ.

c.a.ii.b. Luke 24 – Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus spoke with Jesus.

c.a.ii.c. Luke 24 – Jesus revealed himself to 10 apostles (less Thomas).

c.a.ii.d. John 20 – Jesus revealed himself to Thomas.

c.a.ii.e. Acts 9 – Jesus appears to Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul

c.a.ii.e.i. Paul’s conversion is a fantastic testimony.  Paul zealously persecuted followers of Jesus and called them blasphemers.  But after he met the resurrected Christ, he repented and followed Jesus.  And moreover, he was one of the greatest evangelists the world has ever known, writing 13 books of the New Testament.  The greatest persecutor of the church became their greatest ally after meeting Jesus.

c.a.ii.f. 1 Corinthians 15:6 – After that he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time…

Jesus is most definitely a real historical figure – there’s not a scholar on the face of the planet with more than muddy water between his ears that will deny that.  Even secular historical sources recount his crucifixion and even the darkness that accompanied his death.  Jewish law dictates that someone could be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; there were well over 500 witnesses of the resurrected Christ, 11 of which were apostles who were martyred for their faith.  How can you explain that transformation?  These men and women were scared into hiding when Jesus was taken under arrest, then three short days later they followed him for 40 days, and later became some of the boldest, most powerful preachers of the gospel.  All scholars agree about Jesus’ existence and death; but what about the resurrection?  He either is who he said he was, and we should worship him, or it’s all bogus.  He’s either a liar, a lunatic, or he is LORD!  Examine the evidence and decide for yourself!

Examine the evidence and decide yourself

Part 4 of our new series encouraging digging deeper into the Bible

Part Nine