DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

The Reality of the Resurrection

  • a few years ago, a man approached me and asked for some money
  • usually, I'm more than a little wary - you have to be really good for me to open up my wallet if you're a perfect stranger
  • but in this case, I was in a rush, and the man had an excellent story
  • he needed money to get out East, and so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, along with some cash

  • you can guess what happened
  • a week later, a friend of mine who also gave him money spotted the man downtown
  • and when challenged, the man admitted that he was a scam artist with a really good story, and the ability to deceive people out of their cash
  • scams - defined in the dictionary as a fraudulent scheme or a swindle
  • I'm sure that truth be told, everyone here at one time or another has been scammed by crooked salespeople, too-good-to-be-true schemes, trades people, or just someone who looked like they could use a little help

  • a week away from Easter, I'd like to suggest to you that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either the most vicious, heartless scam ever perpetrated, or else it is the single most important fact of history
  • it is either a scam that has deceived millions of devout followers of Jesus Christ, and has led many of them to give up possessions and sometimes even their lives
  • or it is the greatest historical event ever to have taken place in the history of this world

  • if, after looking at the evidence for the resurrection, we are led to conclude that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not take place, I would suggest that we call Christianity nothing more than a faith system built on an elaborate hoax
  • in fact, the apostle Paul wrote:
  • (1 Corinthians 15:14 NLT) And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless.
  • (1 Corinthians 15:17 NLT) And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins.
  • we can flip this around and say that if Christ has been raised, then he is worthy of our trust and our faith
  • so there is a lot riding on this question

  • so let's look honestly at this question
  • let's examine the evidence and ask what I believe to be the three most penetrating questions about the resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • objections to the resurrection come in three broad areas
  • first, they wonder whether Jesus really died on the cross
  • second, why his tomb was empty
  • third, they try to challenge whether Jesus really did appear alive
  • let's look at these three questions

  • QUESTION ONE: DID JESUS REALLY DIE?
  • when we're talking about somebody coming back from the dead, we need to ask first of all if they really did die
  • we've all heard stories of near-death experiences
  • isn't it possible that Jesus himself had a near-death experience, and appeared to die, but actually just fainted from exhaustion?
  • maybe he was given a drug that made him appear to die, but the cool, damp air of the tomb revived him
  • some Muslims are taught that Jesus only appeared to die
  • this has become known as the swoon theory - that Jesus wasn't resurrected, but only resuscitated

  • so let's ask ourselves: what does the evidence suggest?
  • what actually happened at the crucifixion?
  • could anyone have ever survived such an experience?

  • let's go back and examine what Jesus went through
  • after Jesus was arrested, the Bible says that Jesus was flogged with a lead-tipped whip
  • according to historians, the Roman floggings consisted of thirty-nine lashes, but frequently more, depending on the mood of the soldiers applying the blows
  • a whip of braided leather thong had metal balls woven into them, and sometimes sharp pieces of bone as well
  • the whip would strike the flesh, and these balls would cause contusions, which would break open with further blows
  • one physician who studied Roman beatings said, "As the floggings continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh"
  • a third-century historian described these floggings by saying, "The sufferer's veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure"
  • in fact, many people died from this beating even before they were crucified
  • before Jesus was even crucified, he was already in serious to critical condition

  • but Jesus survived the flogging
  • the Bible records that he was in very weak condition as he carried the cross to the execution site at Calvary
  • when Jesus reached Calvary, he would have been laid down with his hands outstretched on the horizontal beam of the cross
  • the Romans used spikes that were five to seven inches long, and tapered to a sharp point
  • the Romans drove these sharp spikes through Jesus' wrists, directly through the median nerve, the largest nerve going out to the hand
  • if you take the pain of banging your elbow and hurting your funny bone, and multiply that hundreds of times, that would equal the pain of the nail piercing Jesus' median nerve
  • then the nails were driven through Jesus' feet, again crushing his nerves
  • and, as the cross was lifted, it would have immediately dislocated his shoulders

  • once on the cross, crucifixion essentially became an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation
  • medical doctors say that in order for the victim to breathe on the cross, they had to push up on their feet to relieve the stress on their diaphragm
  • but as they did so, the nail would tear through the feet
  • every time the victim pushed himself up, his bloodied back would scrape against the coarse wood of the cross
  • eventually, complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn't be able to push up and breathe anymore, and they would die of asphyxiation and cardiac arrest
  • according to medical doctors and even skeptics who have studied crucifixion, there is absolutely no way that Jesus could have survived crucifixion
  • in the words of one medical doctor in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "Interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge"

  • but just imagine for a minute what would have happened if Jesus had been resuscitated, as preposterous as that suggestion is
  • what would he have looked like? he would have been in the most serious medical condition
  • he would have been a grotesque sight - certainly not one that would inspire the sort of confidence we see in the disciples
  • they would only be nursing him back to health
  • scholars don't even hold to this theory anymore

  • so you can't explain away the resurrection of Jesus by saying that he didn't die and was only resuscitated
  • this leads us to the next question
  • QUESTION TWO: HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE MISSING BODY?
  • if Jesus indeed did die, how can you account for the empty tomb?
  • the empty tomb, after all, is the enduring symbol of the resurrection, and the ultimate representation of Jesus' claim to be God
  • what happened to Jesus' body?
  • can we know with any certainty?

  • whereas most victims of crucifixion were essentially left on the cross to be devoured by birds, or were thrown into a common grave, there was a difference in Jesus' case
  • the Gospel accounts - all four of them - record that Jesus was buried by a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea
  • and all accounts record that there was an empty grave
  • the question is not, was there an empty grave? but rather, why is the tomb empty?
  • let's look at some different possibilities
  • isn't it possible that that Jesus' grave might have been tampered with?
  • isn't it possible that somebody stole Jesus' body?

  • well, nobody today really believes the disciples stole Jesus' body
  • even if you leave aside the fact that Jesus' tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers who would be put to death for falling asleep on their watch - even leaving that aside, there is absolutely no doubt that the disciples believed in the truth of the resurrection
  • look at the historical record
  • at the time of his death they were despondent, they were afraid, they fled, they thought it was all over
  • a short time later, suddenly these same disciples are out, boldly proclaiming that Jesus is alive
  • once cowardly men are suddenly going to their death proclaiming that he lives
  • almost all of them were put to death for it
  • 10 of the 11 were put to death for their belief, 6 of them by crucifixion
  • yet none disavowed their faith
  • friends, nobody willingly dies for something they know is a lie
  • if this were a charade, at least one of the disciples would have cracked up under pressure and told the truth
  • there was no motive for the Jewish or Roman authorities to have stolen the body
  • historians unanimously agree the tomb was empty

  • some have asked, isn't it possible that the women who went to the grave were emotional, and accidentally went to the wrong one?
  • okay, that can happen
  • but it's hard to explain the angels and the graveclothes they find at the empty tomb!

  • if you look at the possible suggestions surrounding the empty tomb, the only plausible explanation is that Jesus rose from that grave
  • Sir Norman Anderson, one of the towering legal intellects of all time, served as dean of the Faculty of Laws at the University of London, and he said: "The empty tomb...forms a veritable rock on which all rationalistic theories of the resurrection dash themselves in vain"

  • so we know that Jesus actually did die, and we know that we have an empty grave - both undisputed facts in the ancient world
  • further, we have no plausible explanation for why the body might have disappeared, apart from the resurrection
  • and on top of that, the next question adds to the proof that Jesus rose again
  • QUESTION THREE: WERE THERE ANY EYEWITNESSES?
  • after all, it's one thing to have a missing body
  • it's another thing to actually see someone who was dead alive again!
  • while nobody actually saw Jesus rise again from the dead, we need to ask ourselves, "Did he appear later to people?"
  • and the answer is clear, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians while quoting an early church creed:
  • (1 Corinthians 15:5) and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
  • (1 Corinthians 15:6) After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
  • (1 Corinthians 15:7) Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
  • (1 Corinthians 15:8) and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
  • in fact, beyond Paul's report, you have at least nine post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in the gospels and the book of Acts

  • let's pretend we had a courtroom
  • we were going to call to the stand everyone who saw the resurrected Jesus
  • we were going to question them, cross-examine them
  • were going to spend 15 minutes with each individual
  • we were going to do it around the clock, day and night
  • you know how long it would take
  • all the rest of today, tonight, Monday, Monday night, Tuesday, Tuesday night, Wednesday, Wednesday night, Thursday, Thursday night, Friday - 8:00 Friday night we'd still be here listening to eyewitness accounts
  • I wonder how many people after listening to 128 hours straight of eyewitness testimony could possibly walk away unconvinced
  • never seen any case that has anywhere near the eyewitness testimony this does

  • some have suggested that all these people might have been hallucinating
  • only problem is hallucinations are individual events, that happen in our own brain, not shared with other individuals
  • that would be like me asking you, "how did you like the dream I had last night?"

  • Charles Colson was a counsel to President Nixon, and one of the White House staff who tried to cover up Watergate
  • listen to what he says:

Here we were, the twelve most powerful men in the United States. All the power of the government was at our fingertips, but we could not keep a lie together for 3 weeks. The most powerful men in the world could not hold onto a lie. So weak is a man that we couldn't do it.

Are you going to tell me that those powerless apostles who were beaten in their own land could be stoned, persecuted, and beaten, some for 40 years, never once denying that Jesus was raised from the dead? Impossible, humanly impossible - unless they had seen the risen Christ face to face.

Nothing less than a witness as awesome as the resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive.

  • Sir Edward Clarke, a British High Court judge who has covered scores of trials - both criminal and civil - conducted a thorough legal analysis of the first Easter Sunday
  • and this is the verdict he reached:
  • "To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. As a lawyer I accept the gospel evidence unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate"

  • friends, the evidence is overwhelming
  • former atheists and agnostics, after examining the evidence, have changed their minds and become Christians
  • convincing books have been written such as Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Know Why You Believe by Paul Little, and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
  • in a debate between an atheist and an apologist for the resurrection before five independent philosophers from various universities, four out of the five judges concluded that the Christian had won, and that his evidence was stronger
  • in another debate between a Christian and an atheist selected by the national spokesman for American Atheists, Inc., a poll was taken of those who entered the debate as avowed atheists, agnostics, or skeptics
  • 82% walked out concluding that the case for Christianity had been the most compelling
  • forty-seven people entered as nonbelievers and exited as Christians
  • incredibly, nobody became an atheist

  • but let's be honest here this morning
  • these facts are helpful for unbelievers who honestly have questions, and they're helpful for Christians who have begun to wonder if their faith is illogical - a leap of blind faith
  • but I could make all the arguments in the world, and make the most convincing case possible, and you still might walk out of here not having met the person behind the arguments - Jesus Christ

  • you see, arguments appeal to the head
  • but the longest distance in the world is that distance between your head and your heart
  • you can believe anything in the world about Jesus Christ intellectually, but let me tell you this morning that Satan believes in the resurrection, and it hasn't done him any good

  • so let me close this morning by talking about Jesus the person
  • quite simply, Jesus is the most amazing person who ever lived
  • although he never traveled more than 200 miles from his birthplace, yet throughout history he has changed lives all over the planet
  • even though he never went to college, he doesn't hold any degrees, he gave us a brilliant blueprint for livi ng, how we can interact and have relationship with each other, and have a relationship with God
  • incredible wisdom, and you can find it yourself in the Bible, wisdom that transcends anything mere man could come up with
  • even though Jesus possessed amazing power, you never see one example of Him being arrogant
  • even though he had this amazing humility, he still had the boldness and courage to stand up and face down the corruption of his day

  • Jesus lived in a day of rigid religious rule-keeping
  • yet his message was one of freedom, of grace and acceptance
  • he lived in an age of cool discrimination and prejudice, yet Jesus extended compassion to all people, to men and to women and to small children, and to the wealthy and the poor, to people who were the outcasts of society, the diseased and the ill and the elderly
  • he even extended compassion to the Roman soldiers who took spikes and drove them through his hands and his feet

  • if he were to come in and be part of this community, do you know what he would be like?
  • he wouldn't just hang out with the wealthy people, he'd hang out with the everyday people
  • he would be a father to orphans, a friend to the lonely
  • he would be your friend

  • Romans 5:8 says:
  • (Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • the Bible teaches us that Christ's death on the cross is the ultimate expression of his love
  • God loved sinners so much that he left heaven to live in a sin-contaminated, stench-filled environment
  • he lived a perfect life, and submitted to, without exaggeration, the most awful death you could imagine
  • his back was scourged with whips of metal and bone that ripped his flesh right off
  • they drove spikes through his wrists and nailed him to a cross
  • the placed his feet one on top of the other, and a third spike was driven through the two feet and into the wood
  • he suffered unbearable pain
  • that's how much Jesus loves you
  • the cross is the ultimate symbol of God's love for you and for me
  • while you were still a sinner, without even the smallest amount of interest in God, he loved you with a perfect love
  • you don't deserve it, but God loves you anyway
  • in fact, Jesus is here this morning, and is reaching out to you in love even as I speak
  • and all the arguments in the world won't touch your heart this morning as much as the simple fact that Jesus is reaching out to each person here this morning with a love that can't be contained

  • Paul writes to Christians in Ephesians 1:4-5:
  • (Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT) Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.
  • I'm going to invite you to respond this morning by reacting to Jesus' love as we close this service

The Credibility of Christ's Claims

  • good morning again, ladies and gentlemen
  • my name is Darryl Dash, and as you might remember from last week, I am the defense attorney for Jesus Christ
  • we're putting some of the key facts of Christianity on the trial stand
  • we're doing this because, as we approach Easter, we need to ask some hard questions about Jesus Christ
  • is the Bible credible?
  • who really was Jesus?
  • did the resurrection really happen?
  • and, perhaps most importantly, the subject we'll cover on Easter Sunday: what does all this mean for me?

  • the truth of Christianity depends entirely on the truth and truthfulness of Jesus Christ
  • throughout history, different people have expressed their reservations about Jesus
  • in his famous essay Why I Am Not a Christian, Bertrand Russell wrote, "Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we can know nothing about him"
  • Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu and the father of modern India, wrote, "I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept"
  • you might remember that a couple of years ago, United Church moderator Bill Phipps publicly expressed his views that Jesus is not God and he did not physically rise from the dead
  • he said, "All the biblical stories surrounding the birth of Jesus evoke wonder and awe and majesty. But as soon as you want to reduce them to literal fact, they lose their power."

  • I don't know what you make of statements like these
  • but in pulpits around the world these next few weeks, people like me are going to be preaching the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead two thousand years ago
  • you need to make up your mind who is right - the skeptics or the believers
  • those who doubt Christ's claims, or those who believe in him
  • because, according to Jesus Christ, your eternity rests on the verdict you reach in your heart

  • last week we looked at the documentary evidence for Jesus Christ
  • I argued at great length that the historical documents that we have that speak of Jesus Christ are historically accurate
  • let me add just one more point, if I could
  • for years, people thought that the gospel accounts were written many years after Jesus' life - long enough for traditions and legends to have developed
  • this is what led many to argue that the Jesus of the gospels is the Jesus of mythology, rather than the Jesus of history
  • but recent discoveries have led scholars to conclude that the gospels were written much earlier than previously thought
  • Dr. William F. Albright, a world-famous archeologist, said that there is no reason to believe that any of the Gospels were written later than AD 70
  • too soon for myths and legends to have developed, without being refuted by the eyewitnesses who were still alive
  • not only that, but one expert in ancient history has documented 39 ancient sources for the life of Jesus outside of the Bible, including 17 non-Christian sources
  • so the Bible is an accurate historical document that tells us about the life of Jesus

  • but let's be honest here - so what?
  • even if you believe the Bible, who's to say that it doesn't record the life of just a good man, a miracle worker
  • who's to say that Jesus wasn't himself deceived about his own identity?
  • even if the Bible is accurate, who is to say that Jesus' claims are credible?
  • and why should we follow him today?

  • there are four areas we're going to cover this morning
  • psychiatric evidence
  • physical evidence
  • character evidence
  • fingerprint evidence
  • next week we're going to talk about the ultimate evidence

  • let's begin by looking at what you might call PSYCHIATRIC EVIDENCE
  • I bet many of you along the way have heard that Jesus never really claimed that he was God
  • in fact, many say, if Jesus knew that people today were worshipping him as God, he'd roll over in his grave, he'd be that upset
  • the motion picture The Last Temptation of Christ depicted Jesus in this way - as someone who was uncertain about his identity and mission
  • the only problem is, that's not the picture the Scriptures give us

  • the religious leaders of his day clearly understood that Jesus was making the claim that he's God
  • (John 10:30) I and the Father are one.
  • that word one means one in essence - Jesus was claiming to be God
  • it was clear to the religious leaders of the day what he was claiming
  • another time, Jesus said:
  • (John 8:58) "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
  • and they picked up stones to stone him for claiming to be God
  • why is it that Jesus in the end was crucified?
  • he was crucified because they thought he had committed blasphemy, claiming that he was God
  • his claim to be God is very clear in these historical documents

  • the question becomes, what alternatives does this leave you with?
  • one is: he's telling the truth
  • another: he's telling a lie, intentionally deceiving his audience
  • that alternative doesn't stand up to any scrutiny, if you think about it, because who is going to be willing to be tortured to death for a lie
  • telling a lie would be totally out of character with his life and teachings

  • another alternative: the possibility I want to consider here, that Jesus was mentally ill
  • a skeptic could say, "I could drive over to Queen Street Mental Health Center and find half a dozen people who would say that they're God, but that doesn't mean that they're divine"
  • maybe Jesus sincerely thought that he was God, but the truth is that he was just mentally unbalanced
  • so we need to look at Jesus to see if there are any indications of mental imbalance

  • think of somebody who claims to be something they're not
  • their claim is not isolated - other indications of imbalance are present as well
  • usually, there are inappropriate emotions - inappropriate depression, anger, or anxiety
  • they have misperceptions - they think people are watching them; they are out of contact with reality
  • they sometimes have thinking disorders - they can't carry on a logical conversation; they're irrational
  • but, as Dr. Gary Collins, professor of psychology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School says, Jesus showed none of these symptoms:

    He was loving but didn't let his compassion immobilize him; he didn't have a bloated ego, even though he was often surrounded by adoring crowds; he maintained balance despite an often demanding lifestyle; he always knew what he was doing and where he was going; he cared deeply about people, including women and children, who weren't seen as important back then; he was able to accept people while not merely winking at their sin; he responded to individuals based on where they were at and what they uniquely needed...All in all, I just don't see signs that Jesus was suffering from any known mental illness. He was much healthier than anyone else I know—including me!

  • to be honest, as we look at Jesus, we see the farthest thing from a crazy person
  • we see no evidence of abnormality and imbalance
  • rather, we see tremendous grace under pressure
  • at his trial before Pilate, where his very life was at stake, he remained calm and serene
  • as C.S. Lewis put it, it's impossible to reconcile the depth and sanity of his moral teaching with the idea that he's in any way a lunatic or megalomaniac
  • the only satisfactory explanation is that he indeed is God

  • but what about his claims to be God?
  • isn't that a sign of a crazy person?
  • I'll put it this way - if you claimed to be president of the United States, you indeed would be a crazy person
  • but if William Jefferson Clinton claimed to be president of the United States, he would be demonstrating nothing else but a clear understanding of his identity
  • if you or I claimed to be God, we indeed would be crazy
  • but Jesus Christ claimed to be God, and backed it up with his miracles
  • so there are no grounds for claiming that Jesus was deluded in thinking that he was God

  • that's the psychological evidence
  • I just mentioned something about Jesus backing up his claims to be God with miracles, and that leads us to the next area of evidence - PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
  • in other words, if Jesus really was God, you would expect that he would have the power to do miracles, right?
  • one of the things you would expect is that Jesus would have power over nature
  • we see in the historical documents that Jesus demonstrated that
  • by walking on water, by taking a small amount of food and feeding 5,000 people with it, by turning water into wine, by calming the storm
  • Jesus had power over nature

  • another thing we would expect is that Jesus would have power to heal people of their illnesses and afflictions
  • time after time, we see Jesus doing this
  • by the way, this is not just a demonstration of his great power, it's also a demonstration of his great compassion

  • then we'd expect if Jesus were God, he'd have power over death
  • we see that as well as he brought back from death his friend Lazarus, who had been dead in the tomb for four days
  • we see other instances when Jesus raised people from the dead
  • Jesus himself, in the ultimate expression of this, was resurrected
  • so these miracles were performed in front of many eyewitnesses - in front of people who were skeptics, even in front of people who were hostile towards Jesus
  • and because of that they provide amazing corroboration that Jesus really is who He said He was
  • Jesus even said:
  • (John 10:37) Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.
  • (John 10:38) But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."

  • now some of you might be saying right now, "Hold on just a second. This is the almost the 21st century. Isn't this the age of science? Come on, miracles? You can't expect anyone to believe that Jesus actually performed miracles. That's ridiculous!"
  • well, contrary to what you might think, miracles do not contradict science in the least
  • science depends upon observation and replication
  • the miracles, by their very nature, were unprecedented events that cannot be replicated in a laboratory
  • in other words, they're outside of the scope of science
  • if you believe in a God who created the universe, then it is not unreasonable to believe that God can intervene in nature whenever he chooses
  • God is not bound by natural law

  • in fact, there are good reasons to believe that Jesus did perform the miracles recorded in the gospels
  • for one thing, eyewitnesses were still around when the gospels were written
  • if the miracles were false, there would have been plenty of people who would have disputed them
  • what's more, even hostile witnesses provided no dispute
  • when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, for example, none of the chief priests or Pharisees disputed the miracle
  • and so miracles are credible and they provide powerful confirmation that Jesus is who he claimed to be
  • this past November, I sailed on the Sea of Galilee
  • I saw the places mentioned in Scripture as the locations of the miracles
  • now ask yourself: if Jesus claimed to be God, and was not a liar or self-deceived, and if he indeed performed miracles to back up this claim - what are you going to do with this evidence?
  • don't they lead us to believe in the credibility of Christ's claims?

  • we've seen psychiatric evidence and physical evidence
  • the second last form of corroboration we'll look at today is CHARACTER EVIDENCE
  • we can take a look at the historical documents found in the Bible and look at the character of Jesus Christ
  • as we do that, what do we expect if he is the Son of God?
  • one thing we would expect is that he would have lived a perfect life
  • isn't that true?
  • no man or woman is capable of living life without some form of wrongdoing
  • as a matter of fact, isn't it true that the more you get to know someone, the more you see there flaws, their wrongdoings and shortcomings?
  • inevitably, when you get to know people, you find out that they're as flawed as anyone else is
  • yet we can look at these historical documents and what we see is the opposite in the case of Jesus
  • nobody was closer to Jesus in his ministry than John and Peter
  • they traveled with him, they ate with him, they hung around together for three years during is ministry
  • imagine being together for three years - you'd get to know someone pretty well
  • yet what did they write about Jesus?
  • John ended up writing this
  • (1 John 3:5) But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.
  • and Peter wrote:
  • (1 Peter 2:22) "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
  • we have almost universal acceptance of the fact that Jesus was a man of high moral character - so much so that those who knew him best claimed that he was perfect

  • time is almost gone
  • I want to leave you with one last evidence for Jesus' claims this morning
  • and that is what author and pastor Lee Strobel has called FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE
  • let me explain what he means by fingerprint evidence, because this is one of the most persuasive evidences there is
  • the Old Testament contains dozens and dozens of very specific predictions about the coming Messiah
  • when you take all these prophecies and put them together, they sort of create a fingerprint that only one person in history could possibly fill
  • the Bible in effect said, whoever in history fits this fingerprint, whoever matches it perfectly, that person truly is the Messiah, the Son of God
  • you can look all through history and only one individual fits the fingerprint perfectly
  • it's Jesus Christ

  • to testify about these prophecies, we're going to call to the witness stand somebody who was a hard-core skeptic on this very topic
  • his name is Louis Lapides
  • he has two advanced degrees in theology, he's taught the Old Testament at the university level, and he's been the national president of a network of churches made up of people who were Jewish until they came to understand that Jesus really is the Messiah, he really is the Son of God, because he fits the fingerprint of the Old Testament prophecies
  • Lapides grew up as a conservative Jew
  • after his parents' divorce, a stint in Vietnam, and some flirtation with other religions, Lapides was challenged by a Christian, "Just read the Old Testament and ask the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the God of Israel - to show you if Jesus is the Messiah. Because he is your Messiah. He came to the Jewish people initially, and then he was also Savior of the world"

  • Lapides began reading the Old Testament every day
  • he read in Deuteronomy of a prophet greater than Moses who would come
  • he was stopped cold by Isaiah 53 - a prediction of a man who would suffer for the sins of Israel and the world, written more than 700 years before Jesus walked the earth
  • he came upon four dozen major predictions in the Old Testament
  • each one chipped away at his skepticism until, one day, he took a drastic step - he began reading the New Testament!
  • so convincing were the fulfilled prophecies he found, he began telling people that he thought Jesus was the Messiah, although he remained frightened of the implications
  • it would mean giving up the drugs, the sex, and so forth
  • in other words, Yeshua became the probable Messiah, but that was still a long way from Yeshua being "Fairest Lord Jesus..."

  • one day, sitting in a dessert, he recalled the words someone had said to him: "You're either on God's side or on Satan's side"
  • and he prayed, "God, I've got to come to the end of this struggle. I have to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah. I need to know that you, as the God of Israel, want me to believe this"
  • at that moment, God convicted him, and Louis Lapides prayed, "God, I accept Jesus into my life. I don't understand what I'm supposed to do with him. I've pretty much made a mess of my life; I need you to change me"
  • and that's what God has been doing since then: changing him

  • friends, if you look at the gospels, you will find that Jesus' words in the book of Luke have proved true:
  • (Luke 24:44) "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
  • it was all fulfilled, only in Jesus - "the only individual in history who has matched the prophetic fingerprint of God's anointed one" (Lee Strobel)
  • this is Jesus Christ - the only one who passes the psychiatric, physical, character, and fingerprint evidences I've presented this morning

  • but what about you?
  • you are either on God's side or on Satan's side
  • you must reach your own verdict
  • if you don't accept the fact that Jesus is God's Son sent to earth out of love for you, then I don't think you have looked at the evidence honestly
  • but it's possible that you have accepted intellectually that Jesus is God, but you don't want him to change your life
  • you're still a long way from singing, "Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature, O Thou of God and man the Son! Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown!"
  • I invite you to pray the prayer that Louis Lapides prayed: "God, I accept Jesus into my life. I don't understand what I'm supposed to do with him. I've pretty much made a mess of my life; I need you to change me"
  • let's pray

The Credibility of the Bible

  • ladies and gentleman, my name is Darryl Dash, and I'm the defense attorney for Jesus Christ
  • now, I don't mean to imply that Jesus has got himself into some sort of trouble and needs some defense
  • but sometimes a trial can be a wonderful way of ferreting out the facts
  • we're going to stage a mock trial as we approach Easter so that we can determine the answer to the following questions:
  • Why should I believe the Bible?
  • Can we believe Christ's claims?
  • Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
  • What does Jesus' resurrection mean for me today?

  • the answer to these questions is important, because the Bible claims that your eternity rests on it
  • in John 8:24, Jesus told the religious rulers of his day:
  • (John 8:24) I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."
  • in other words, according to Jesus, your eternity is hinging on the verdict you render on the question of the identity of Jesus Christ
  • you can dismiss Jesus, but if you do, Jesus says, you're throwing your eternity away
  • so it only makes sense to examine his claims, to see if they're really true or not

  • so we'll begin by examining the evidence for the Bible
  • the next time I preach we'll look at the credibility of Christ's claims - can we really believe that he is the Son of God?
  • and then, on Palm Sunday, we will look at the clincher question - whether or not Jesus Christ rose from the dead
  • finally, on Easter Sunday, we'll ask ourselves what this means for us today
  • but before we look at the evidence for the Bible, let's pray

  • Father:
  • the Bible says:
  • (2 Peter 1:16) We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
  • I pray that you would give us open minds to examine the evidence for the Bible and for Christ's claims these coming weeks
  • and that you would use this to buttress our faith
  • we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

  • let's begin by looking this morning at what you might call the documentary evidence for Jesus Christ
  • we're dealing here with a historical figure
  • just as you would have to do if you were looking at any historical figure, George Washington or Plato or Aristotle, whoever it is, you need to rely on historical documents to find out who they were, what they said, and what they did

  • in this case, the main historical documents we're going to look at are collectively known as the New Testament of the Bible
  • so the first big question becomes this: is the New Testament accurate in recording the life of Jesus?
  • can we trust the Bible when it talks about God and Jesus Christ, or is the Bible full of mistakes and errors?
  • this is a crucial question, because if we can't trust the Bible when it speaks about Jesus, who can we trust?
  • if the Bible is just a collection of fables, what right do we have to believe anything about Jesus Christ?

  • in 1985, a group of scholars began meeting in Berkeley, California to begin a search for the "real Jesus"
  • their premise is that the Jesus of the church isn't the historical Jesus, and that the Biblical record regarding Jesus is not trustworthy
  • they began to review 1,500 items ascribed to Jesus and 176 events attributed to Jesus
  • and these scholars concluded that between 16-18% of the sayings and events attributed to Jesus were probable or certain
  • so what about the Bible?
  • is it true?
  • does it contain the words of Jesus Christ, or is it a creation of men and women?

  • it's my privilege to present to you the argument that the Bible is true and trustworthy, and that it presents an accurate record of the life of Jesus Christ
  • and let me give you five reasons why the Bible is credible and can be trusted:
  • FIRST, IT IS HISTORICALLY ACCURATE
  • the first reason that we can trust the documents that describe Jesus Christ is that they are historically accurate
  • suspend, for a moment, the question of whether or not the Bible is the Word of God
  • and simply ask yourself, is the Bible historically accurate?
  • and you'll be amazed what you discover

  • as you're aware, the Bible is full of historical references
  • it names people, places, events, and is very specific
  • while archeology can't prove that the Bible is the Word of God, it can certainly tell us whether or not the Bible is accurate when it refers to historical events and geographical places

  • for years, critics of the Bible have attacked some of the historical references, believing that there are inaccuracies in the Biblical account
  • for instance, Luke 3:1 lists Lysanias as being the tetrarch of Abiline in about 27 AD
  • for years, scholars pointed to this as evidence that Luke didn't know what he was talking about, because everyone knew that Lysanias was not a tetrarch, but the ruler of Chalcis half a century earlier
  • if Luke couldn't be trusted to get that fact right, nothing he wrote could be trusted
  • but then, an inscription was found that listed Lysanias as the tetrarch in Abila near Damascus at this time - just as Luke had written!
  • in fact, one prominent archeologist has carefully examined Luke's references to thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands, finding not a single mistake
  • the same is true of the other Gospels, and indeed the entire Bible
  • things that were once viewed as biblical errors - names, dates, and so on - have one after another been dealt with

  • prominent Australian archeologist Clifford Wilson has written: "Those who know the facts now recognize that the New Testament must be accepted as a remarkably accurate source book"
  • and Nelson Glueck, a Jewish archeologist, and probably the greatest authority on Israeli archeology, has said:

    No archeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries."

  • friends, the Bible is accurate in its history
  • it is a credible historical source

  • SECOND, IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE
  • you might have heard that the Bible is full of scientific errors
  • in fact, I talked to somebody this week who said that the reason he didn't become a Christian sooner was because of all the scientific errors in the Bible
  • but contrary to what you have heard, no real mistake has ever been demonstrated in the Bible, in science, in history, or in any other subject
  • while the Bible is not a scientific textbook, it can be stated clearly that when the Bible does speak directly about matters of science, it speaks correctly

  • even more than this, many principles of modern science were talked about in the Bible before they were discovered experimentally
  • think about this: before we discovered certain things to be true, the Bible already recorded them as true
  • for instance:
  • Roundness of the earth - (Isaiah 40:22) He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
  • Hydrologic cycle - (Ecclesiastes 1:7) All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.
  • Vast number of stars - (Jeremiah 33:22) I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.'"
  • Law of increasing entropy (Psalm 102:25-27)
  • Paramount importance of blood in life processes (Leviticus 17:11)
  • Atmospheric circulation (Ecclesiastes 1:6)
  • Gravitational field (Job 26:7)
  • and many others.
  • it is significant that no real mistake has ever been demonstrated in the Bible in science - or in any other subject, for that matter
  • volumes of books exist that testify that the Bible is accurate scientifically

  • THE THIRD REASON YOU CAN TRUST THE BIBLE IS THAT IT IS REMARKABLY PRESERVED
  • most Bible critics have no idea how much manuscript evidence there is backing up the Bible's credibility
  • here's what I mean
  • in university, it's not uncommon to be asked to read Homer's Iliad or Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars
  • Homer's Iliad is the most famous book of ancient Greece, and today there are only 643 copies around
  • not bad; nobody doubts its accuracy
  • similarly, there are only 10 copies of Caesar's Gallic Wars, and the earliest of these manuscripts was made 1,000 years after it was written
  • 643 copies of Iliad, and 10 copies of Gallic Wars

  • what about the New Testament?
  • wouldn't it be great if there were 1,000? or 2,000?
  • that way we could say it's 3 to 1 more manuscript evidence than Homer's Iliad

  • friends, there are about 5,366 existing manuscripts that help us study and make sure that the information in the New Testament has come to us accurately over the years
  • manuscripts that were hand-copied have been found in Palestine, Syria and Egypt, and there is strong agreement among them no matter where they're found
  • this is nothing short of amazing!

  • you might have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found in a cave near the Dead Sea in 1947
  • they contained two copies of the book of Isaiah from the Old Testament that date back 1,000 years before the second oldest manuscripts
  • do you know what they found?
  • the copies "proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling"
  • we can confidently say of the Old Testament that there has been no substantial change in the text of the Old Testament in the last 2,000 years, and very little change before that
  • it is said that the Bible is the single most documented piece of literature there is
  • simply put, there is no equal with respect to manuscript documentation

  • for you trivia buffs, of the 184,590 words in the New Testament, how many words have been put on the questionable list?
  • words that are on the disputed list, which means there is some question about the grammatical sense or their meaning or interpretation
  • of 184,590 words, guess how many are on the disputed list, that scholars are still working on? 400
  • and none of the 400 make any difference on any major teaching or doctrine
  • but that is a fraction of one percent
  • that is incredible accuracy in manuscript evidence!

  • Norman Geisler writes:

    We have 100 percent of the New Testament and we are sure about 99.5 percent of it. But if we did not have such good manuscript evidence, we could actually reconstruct almost the entire New Testament from quotations in the church fathers of the second and third centuries. Only eleven verses are missing, mostly from 2 and 3 John. Even if all the copies of the New Testament had been burned at the end of the third century, we could have known virtually all of it by studying these writings.

  • let me repeat: the Bible is the single most documented piece of literature there is

  • THE FOURTH REASON YOU CAN TRUST THE BIBLE IS THAT IT CONTAINS FULFILLED PROPHECIES
  • the Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years
  • since the very beginning of the Bible, hundreds of prophecies were made with great specificity
  • and time after time, these prophesies were fulfilled in meticulous detail in a way that is impossible to explain, unless you trust the Bible as the Word of God
  • for instance, over 300 prophecies talked about the first coming of Christ - things like what lineage he would descend from, what city he would be born in, his manner of birth, what his ministry would be
  • passages like Isaiah 52 and 53, and Psalm 22, record specific details about Jesus' death by crucifixion, hundreds of years before this terrible form of execution was ever practiced
  • it was predicted the succession of four great world powers, that certain cities would be destroyed, and so on
  • and in each of the hundreds of prophecies, they were fulfilled perfectly
  • somebody has written, "Only the Bible manifests this remarkable prophetic evidence, and it does so on such a tremendous scale as to render completely absurd any explanation other than divine revelation.
  • whenever the Bible has spoken prophetically, it has been accurate
  • hundreds of prophecies have been fulfilled
  • the Bible has proven itself over and over

  • FINALLY, YOU CAN TRUST THE BIBLE BECAUSE IT CHANGES LIVES
  • we can trust the Bible not only because of all the evidences we see within the manuscript, we can trust it because of the effect it's had on millions of lives throughout history
  • the Bible is unique in the effect it has had on individual men and women, as well as nations
  • it's the all-time best seller in the history of the world, and it appeals to both mind and heart
  • it has been received and loved by at least some in every nation, race, and people group to which it has gone - rich or poor, scholar or simple, king or commoner - people from every walk in life
  • no other book in the history of the world has ever had such universal appeal, or has produced such lasting effects

  • a final evidence is the millions of people who have believed it
  • multitudes of people, past and present, have found that it's promises are true, its counsel sound, its commands and restrictions wise, and its message of salvation appropriate for their souls, now and in eternity

  • a woman named Joan Olsen was an agnostic, although her parents were Christians
  • they had many discussions about the Bible, until Joan and her husband agreed to study Christianity
  • listen to what they found:
  • Dr. Olsen writes:

    I implied that our study would be honest and objective, a sincere search for truth. But our agnostic bias made us begin the search in a diabolically clever way. We would prove that the Bible is not the Word of God...

    "First," I said [to Joan], "we will review all the agnostic arguments we heard during university and medical college years. Second, we will pick out and list the scientific mistakes in the Bible. These mistakes will prove it to be the word of men, not the Word of some infallible Creator"

  • after an intense study, listen to the conclusions of these agnostics:

    The Bible...represents God, motivated by an eternal love, reaching down to tell us about Himself and His plan for us...We also noted the remarkable unity and consistency evident in the Christian Scriptures...

    Contrary to our previous understanding, we found the Bible to be historically accurate. To the science of archeology the Bible owes its vindication in the matter of historical accuracy...

    Then there is the remarkable scientific accuracy of the Bible. Here was the exact target of the attack Joan and I had launched to disprove Christianity and Christ...We encountered great difficulty, however, in finding scientific mistakes in the Bible. Again and again we were forced to cancel out seeming mistakes because of more up-to-date evidence or information.


  • after months of serious questioning, Dr. and Mrs. Olsen concluded that the Bible is indeed God's message to mankind
  • based on this belief, they both accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior
  • later, the journeyed to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) where they have served as missionaries since 1962
  • (Isaiah 40:8) The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

  • friends, the Bible is one book you can trust
  • it is an accurate historical document - one that reveals an important message, and one that is credible and life-changing
  • next time I preach, we're going to look at the credibility of Christ's claims
  • and the week after that, we'll look at the evidence that clinches it all - the remarkable evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead

  • but for this morning, let me ask you: do you believe the Bible?
  • you can't be neutral about its claims
  • you must either accept it, or reject it, and what it says about you
  • throughout history, the Bible has changed the lives of people - people like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Newton, and C.S. Lewis
  • it has transformed societies - from the Celts of Ireland to the Acua Indians of Ecaudor
  • and the Bible can change you

  • let me repeat again the words of Dr. Olsen:
  • The Bible...represents God, motivated by an eternal love, reaching down to tell us about Himself and His plan for us.
  • I invite you to return next week to examine more evidence about why Jesus' claims are credible
  • but I also invite you to respond right now to what we've seen this morning in prayer