Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Gospel (6)

This is the final installment, part 6, of chapter 5 of my book, Biblical Glasses.

Jesus is the only founder of a religion Whose tomb is empty today. You can visit the tomb of Muhammad in Mecca, as all Muslims are required to do at least once in their lifetime. His remains are still there. You can visit the tombs of other great men and religion founders. Their remains are still there. Only the tomb of Jesus Christ is empty. He is the only Man to rise from the dead never to die again!

Meanwhile, the guards at the tomb went to tell the religious leaders what had occurred. The religious leaders paid them “a large sum of money” (Matthew 28:12) to say the apostles stole the body, which still today is an argument against the resurrection.

Later in the Bible, Paul admits there is no Christianity without Jesus’ bodily resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:13-23). Since Jesus appeared to hundreds of people on several occasions after His return from the grave, evidence exists for the resurrection’s actuality.

The resurrected Christ visited the apostles many times; He even ate fish with them. At one time, He had appeared to each of the apostles except Thomas; Thomas still doubted the resurrection, until Jesus appeared to him personally. Upon seeing the Risen Lord and touching His wounds, Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)! Jesus then said: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Jesus also spoke with Peter, forgiving him for the triple denial and betrayal at His arrest. Jesus told Peter he would die by crucifixion as well. Interestingly, Peter was sentenced to die by crucifixion, but claiming unworthiness to die as Jesus had died, he was crucified upside down!

Jesus met the apostles in Galilee after His resurrection, giving them what is known as the Great Commission. It serves as the mission statement for Christians today. Jesus said:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have
commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age
(Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives in the presence of the apostles, and they saw Him seated at the right hand of the Father. Then they returned to Jerusalem, praising the Lord.

Why is it significant?

Who was Jesus of Nazareth? When we examine all the evidence, and there is much to examine, we come down to only three possibilities: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. Josh McDowell explains this very well in several of his books; C.S. Lewis also discusses it. By examining the life of Jesus, we can rule out the option taken on Him by other faiths—that Jesus was merely a good man. A good man does not make claims about being God in the flesh or teach that He is the exclusive way to heaven if he is merely a good man. Jesus as simply a good man is illogical.

The teachings of Jesus were not delusional, imprudent, irrational, or groundless; rather, Jesus taught wisely and rationally, in a coherent, well-mannered style, providing grounds to believe He was not a lunatic. Jesus was neither deceptive in His compassion, nor ambiguous in His teachings, neither conniving in His forgiveness, nor manipulative with those who surrounded Him; rather, Jesus, by His lifestyle, exhibited genuine care in healing, working miracles, and teaching moral truth, giving reason to believe He was not a liar.

As mentioned earlier, people do not die for what they know to be lies. Jesus’ followers and many other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection gave up their lives as martyrs for the Christian faith. They certainly believed Jesus had risen from the dead. That leaves us with only one option: Jesus is Lord. If you think Jesus is not God, then you must call Him insane; He clearly believed Himself to be God (see John 4:3-26, 14:6-11, among other verses) and demonstrated by numerous signs, including resurrection from the dead, that He is God.

Listed below are just eighteen of the over 100 distinct prophecies Jesus Christ fulfilled at His first coming:

- Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
- Came into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)
- Rejected by His people (Isaiah 53; Psalm 118:22)
- A prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)
- Betrayed by a close friend (Psalm 41:9)
- Tried and condemned (Isaiah 53:8)
- Silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7)
- Mocked and insulted (Psalm 22:7-8)
- Death by crucifixion (Psalm 22:14-17)
- Offered vinegar and gall (Psalm 69:21)
- Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
- Struck and spat on (Isaiah 50:6)
- Lots cast for His clothing (Psalm 22:18)
- Prayed for His enemies (Isaiah 53:12)
- Bones not broken (Exodus 12:46)
- Died as a sacrifice for sin (Isaiah 53:5-12)
- Raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10)
- Sits at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1)

Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, pure and sinless in every way. He experienced every temptation we experience today, yet He was without sin. We need only accept His gift of life to enjoy freedom from sin. The Bible says: “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Out of love for us, He took our place, substituting His life for the wrath of God and the punishment of death we deserve; in that most glorious and gracious exchange, while we receive His eternal life and are forgiven the debt we owe God for our sin, He takes on Himself, out of love for us, the penalty for our sin—death. Jesus traded His perfection for our sin, so we can spend eternity with Him. This is the hope of the Christian: That we will be declared righteous before God by His grace, through accepting the gift of eternal life made freely available by the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us. We can have faith in our Savior, trusting in His perfect life, His death on the cross to wipe out all of our sins, and His physical resurrection that won victory over death, the ultimate consequence of sin.

The first time your mind and your heart grasp the reality of what Jesus Christ did for you by coming to earth, suffering, dying, and rising again, it will be a moving experience. Marvin and Gentry wrote, “Jesus is our hero in the battle He has won.” Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

When we realize the incredible sacrifice our Creator made, we can rejoice in freedom from sin, praise Him forever, and live for Him out of gratitude! The perfect life of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead are the foundation of Christianity. As we examine the early Church after Jesus ascended into heaven, we will learn more about what it means to be a Christian.

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