Category Archives: Jesus Christ

How Much Do You Owe? And Who Can Pardon It?

Christ, in Matthew, tells us of a parable of a man who owes an unimaginable amount (more than a life times wages) to a King. The King, being gracious, forgave the man’s debt. However, the man went out the next day to collect a menial amount of money (a day’s wage) from another servant, was unable to forgive the servant’s debt, and put him in jail. The King was furious and put the first man in jail because, after being forgiven his unpayable debt, he was unwilling to forgive a minor debt to him.

The parable Christ shared was used to show to importance of forgiving others because we have been forgiven by God. This is a common theme mentioned in the Bible, especially by Christ. However, I want to focus more on a certain part of the parable.

I have written about the problem of evil (Selfish Is As Selfish Does  and Hear No Evil…See No Evil…Speak No Evil) and many religions and world views agree there is evil in the world, but have differing opinions how to go about solving that problem.I want to paint a picture of what the Bible says about evil and how that problem was ultimately solved. (Preface: Before I start I must first say that what I am about to say is not how all evil will be handled, for there are still consequences and punishment for evil on Earth now and after. Rather it is more of an aim to show that Christianity is the best when it comes to handling the evil in one’s own life, the importance of doing so, and the beauty of being pardon of it.)

In the parable Jesus told there was a King that forgave a servant of an unpayable debt. Not only is the debt immense, but the King has no obligations to forgive the debt owed. The King has the right to punish his servant for his inability to repay the debt. Also we must not forget the difference in status between the King and a servant makes the forgiveness much more extravagant and meaningful. The Bible parallels this with humanity and God. We owe a debt for our disobedience to God that is unpayable. The magnitude of our debt can not be grasped. It must be looked at in the light of who this debt is owed to, the Creator of the Universe. Anyone would agree (if thinking properly) that when a person commits a crime they deserve punishment, and if one’s life is examined closely enough it obvious we have committed crimes against God. However, we are powerless to pay for these debts. In Romans 6:23 it states “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The beauty of it all is that since the beginning of time God had planned to give us a pardon for our debt. In Jeremiah 31:31-37, it speaks about a New Covenant that would be give to mankind in which God “will forgive their iniquities, and [He] will remember their sin no more.” In the Covenant it is also promised that this forgiveness would come through a sacrifice, but not of our own. The sacrifice would be Jesus Christ. In Matthew 26:28, Jesus says, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Not only would our unpayable debt be forgiven, but it would not be of our own works, abilities, or possessions.

What makes this pardon even more grand and beautiful is that it is through a gift of God’s grace alone. Romans 5:10 speaks about us being “enemies of God”. Knowing that we are enemies the pardon becomes even more amazing. For when we are forgiven it is while we are enemies, and we are transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Beloved Son (Colossians 1:13-14). Grace not only means free gift, but it also implies that we are undeserving of it as enemies of God (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:24; 5:15; 6:23).

How sad it is that many work so hard to clear their debt (sin) in their lives through money, works, meditation, and many other means. Yet before them is a free gift of God that forgives them of all their debt. And in light of this forgiveness should we not dedicate our lives to God in pursuit of living the way He commands because that is the way it was intended.

I will end with asking that you consider the gift God has offered by searching for the truth. It may take a lot of work, but I promise in the end it will be worth it because if it is true then it is not something to be taken lightly. I would like to end with a quote by Charles H Brent:

To be able to look into God’s face, and know with the knowledge of faith that there is nothing between the soul and Him, is the experience the fullest peace the soul can know. Whatever else pardon may be, it is above all things admission to full fellowship with God.

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Jesus Wanted…Dead or Alive?

I believe that one of the most formidable arguments for the truth of Christianity is the resurrection. Not only is the evidence powerful, but the implications of a resurrected Jesus Christ that claimed to be God, taking the sins of the world, are astounding. The resurrection is the foundation of the Christian worldview (1 Cor. 15:17). Without the resurrection, the Christian worldview is just another set of rules to follow and a guilt trip. As Easter nears, I desire to give evidence that the case for the resurrection is overwhelmingly strong. The evidence will be presented in the order of the historical account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

Scripture

The historical accounts of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection can be found in (click the verses to read the section of Scripture):

1. Luke 22-24
2. Matthew 26-28
3. Mark 14-16
4. John 12; 18-21

Before the Crucifixion
First, Christ claimed to be God throughout His ministry: John 10:30, Mark 14:61. This claim got Christ crucified, but it also is the reason He was able to accomplish something as astounding as salvation for mankind and a bodily resurrection from the dead.

Jesus Christ’s ministry consisted of the preaching of repentance and reconciliation between man and God. However, He also came to die as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and then conquer death through His resurrection, so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life. Christ, himself, claimed that He would resurrect:

1. “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Matthew 16:4

2. “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'” John 2:19

Either Jesus was a lunatic and not to be trusted for His outlandish claims, or He was really God and resurrected from the dead. Today, I would like to show that the latter is true and there is evidence for it.

The Crucifixion
Jesus was a real person in history and He did die by crucifixion. Dr. Michael Licona would categorize this in his minimal facts approach, which must meet two criteria: (1) strong historical evidence,(2) so strong even skeptics accept it as historical. Not only do all four Gospels attest to Jesus’ crucifixion, but also Tacitus, Josephus, Lucian of Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion, and even the Jewish Talmud attest to the historical reliability that Jesus was crucified. Also, Jelius Aficanus (AD221) quotes Thallus (AD 52), Tertullian, and Phelgon (AD 137) all mention the time of darkness during Jesus’ crucifixion.

It is important to clarify this because some claim that Jesus never died or that the historical account is not true. However, there are plenty of resources outside of the Bible that agree with the account of Jesus’ crucifixion. Also to claim that Christ did not die on the cross (Swoon Theory) would be outrageous because the penalty for Roman soldiers who did not do their job properly, allowing for the escape or not following through with a sentence, would be punished by death. Even though the soldiers did not break the legs of Jesus, they did stab him with a spear and found water mixed with blood giving more evidence that He was dead. It is outrageous to think that Jesus being severely whipped, crucified, and embalmed only to live through it all and escape from a tomb with a rock in front of it.

Burial
Jesus’ burial has three strong arguments that give evidence to His resurrection: (1) Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was used, (2) the tomb was located in the same city Jesus appeared in, and (3) the tomb was guarded.

Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus (Matt. 27:57), but he was a secret disciple because he feared the Jews (Jn. 19:38). Not only did he fear the Jews, but he was also a prominent member of the Council (Mk. 15:43). If the account of Christ’s death and burial were created, and not true, then it seems that Joseph of Arimathea would have been the least likely to be used by the Gospel writers. The early Christians had anger and bitterness toward the Jewish leaders of that time, which Joseph was. Also the use of such a specific name and title seems like a poor choice by the Gospel writers, since people could check this out for themselves and ask about it. Lastly, it is logical that if the burial by Joseph of Arimathea were a legend or myth, then there would be competing burial stories of Jesus’ body. However, that is not found.

Jesus’ tomb was located in the same city that He appeared to others in. The appearances of Jesus’ occurring in the same city He was buried in allows for the locals to easily check whether the claim of His burial and resurrection were false. Also, if the claims of the disciples and others who saw Him were lies, then it seems unwise of them to claim they saw Him in the same city He was buried in. If his tomb was not empty it would have been remarkably difficult to convince or advance early Christianity.

The tomb of Jesus was guarded by Roman soldiers (Matt 27:62-66). The intensity in which the Roman soldiers made sure Jesus was dead would have been the same while guarding His tomb. Again the penalty for anything happening to the body of Jesus would result in their death. They had been posted there because the Council remember that Jesus had claimed He would rise from the dead, and did not want the disciples stealing Him, then convincing people He had risen. Yet another reason the guards would have been vigilant and careful that nothing would happen to Jesus’ body. Along with the disciples being afraid and scattered with no motives, the guards eliminates the possibility that the disciples could have stolen the body of Christ. And yet if the disciples did get away with stealing the body, why would they die for something they knew was not true?

Appearing to Many
Even Jesus’ appearances after His death is proof for His resurrection. (1) All of the disciples couldn’t have had the same hallucination or created the story (groupthink), (2) the disciples believed they saw the risen Jesus and died for it, (3) the first witnesses were woman, and (4) several skeptics of Jesus claimed to see Jesus and were transformed.

The theory that the disciples hallucinated the risen Jesus is outrageous. First, hallucinations cannot be shared by multiple people. A hallucination is an individual experience. Second, hallucinations often come from fertile open minds, but the disciples had fearful and doubtful minds. Third, over many weeks, to many different types of backgrounds, different temperaments, and in various places people saw the risen Jesus. For all of those people to have the same hallucination is astronomically improbable and doesn’t remotely seem reasonable. Last, if all of the witnesses had a hallucination, then what accounts for the empty tomb?

Some say that the disciples thought up this lie together, groupthink. However, this is highly unlikely considering the disciples held to the belief that Jesus rose from the dead, and went to their deaths. If they all made up the story, then they went to their deaths needlessly. Also both Paul and James, skeptics, believed that Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus’ disciples strongly believed that He rose from the dead and appeared to them. Paul, oral traditions, and written works of the early church can attest to this belief held by the disciples. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, confirms that the disciples of Jesus witnessed and held that Jesus rose. Many of the creeds of the early church attest to the same thing. Even early church writings speak of the disciples belief of Jesus’ resurrection: Clement (ordained by Peter) mentions Jesus’ resurrection in a letter, and Polycarp (appoint by John) wrote a letter mention the resurrection no less than five times. How strongly did the disciples believe in the risen Jesus? The disciples were transformed from scared and confused (at Jesus’ trial and crucifixion) to willing to endure persecution and martyrdom (after Jesus’ resurrection and visitation).

One could ask: How is this different than other religious martyrs? Many people are more than willing to die for their beliefs. I would agree with that. However, the other religions can only have faith that their beliefs are true, but the disciples knew for a fact whether the resurrection had truly occurred because they were witnesses.

Knowing the role of women in the first century Jewish society makes the account of the women seeing both the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus more extraordinary. Women were considered low on the societal ladder. There was even an old rabbinical saying “Let the words of the Law be burned rather than delivered by women.” In Jewish court, women weren’t even allowed to be legal witnesses. This shows the faithfulness of the Gospel writers to write the truth, even if it was embarrassing.

Paul, the persecutor of the early church, and James, Jesus’ half-brother, bother were skeptics, but converted after the resurrection of Jesus. Not only was Paul a skeptic, but he persecuted the early followers of Christ. After experiencing a run in with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul devotes his life to proclaiming the risen Jesus and even becomes a martyr. Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Dionysius of Corinth, and Origen all report that Paul was willing to suffer for his beliefs. James also is converted to following and proclaiming the risen Jesus. Just like Paul, James dies a martyrs death. Neither Paul nor James had anything to gain, but still chose to die for the belief that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Conclusion
The facts for Jesus’ resurrection are overwhelming. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then we could conclude that His claim to being God was true. And if He is God, then we could trust all of what He said previous to His death was true. That gives us a lot more to think about, which I hope you do.

Articles
Evidence For The Resurrection by Josh McDowell
The Resurrection by Greg Koukl
Was Jesus Really Resurrected? by Jim Wallace

Books
The Case for the Resurrection by Gary Habermas
The Case for the Resurrection by Lee Strobel
Did the Resurrection Happen: Really? by Josh McDowell
Evidence For The Resurrection by Josh and Sean McDowell

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The Bones of Jesus Christ

In chapter eight, “Putting Darwin’s Theory to the Test”, in the book Understanding Intelligent Design: Everything You Need To Know In Plain Language I read a section that I felt gave a exquisite example of how Christianity is testable like science. Before I get to this, I want to clarify that I am not saying that all of Christianity is testable like the scientific method. I believe there are many other ways of knowing or coming to the knowledge of truth besides empirical evidence.

In the movie The Body, Antonio Banderas plays a Jesuit priest, Father Matt Gutierrez, that has been sent to investigate an alleged finding of the bones of Christ. As the movie progresses Antonio Banderas’ character wrestles with his faith because if the claims about the bones of Christ are true then Christianity is false. He even comes to the point of suicide. Why live when one’s entire life has been spent following a false Messiah? Eventually, Father Matt finds out that the bones belong to another martyr that died in a similar fashion to Jesus. The movie may sound fascinating, or boring, but it makes an interesting point about Christianity: It is a falsifiable religion.

If the bones of Christ were to be found, which they have not, then it would prove Christianity wrong. Even the Apostle Paul mentions it in 1 Corinthians 15:14,17, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is vain…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” You may be asking, “Why is this a good thing?” Many other religions make untestable claims about reality. However, Christianity makes claims about historical events that can be tested. Christianity being able to be shown false also means it can be shown true.

If you are interested in reading more about arguments for the resurrection of Christ click the links below:

Books
Case for the Resurrection by Lee Strobel
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas
Evidence for the Resurrection by Sean McDowell

Articles
The Resurrection by Greg Koukl
Evidence for the Resurrection by Josh McDowell
The Resurrection of Jesus by William Lane Craig (You may have to register to read the article, but it is free)

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