1) There are an extremely large number of people that I interact with everyday that say "I used to go to church" but for whatever reason dont any more. To them, I would like to talk about Christ on earth. For that reason, feel free to share the link on social media to people you may know that need to be reintroduced to Jesus.
2) I am making a video of some of the faith questions people have. If you have been around for a while, you may also remember a video I wrote towards Christians... well this one is directed to skeptics and people with just general questions. (If you have questions you would like me to research or respond to in some way, leave me a comment. I promise this will be the longest answer ever).
Officially this response is answering: Why is Jesus so important?
I know of one Christian school (Mennonite, actually) who does private school right... and one of my friends there had a project once: a timeline of Jesus’ life. It required that she read all the Gospels and really study the life of who we call our Savior and Lord. At the moment I dont have time for lots of Bible studying and outlining, but I want to give this a go myself:
So apparently Mary was one of the good guys. They say 12-16 years old. Joseph thought she was pretty awesome and they were engaged... But then: she comes back pregnant one day. Joseph knows this kid isn't his and you can imagine the questions running in his mind: When? Who? Why did you do this to me? And she's all like: But Joseph! It was God!
And Joseph just wasn't buying it. He was hoping to leave the relationship before they were to be married because a) maybe she was crazy to say such a thing. Imagine if your partner said that and b) apparently she was less than faithful c) in those days teen pregnancy was not taken lightly. Everyone in Mary's life would have been judging her to the max which was half of why she went off to family.
But then, an angel goes to Joseph: Look, get off her case, man. It was Gods doing. I want you to to let her go to her Aunt (Or was Elizabeth a cousin?) for a while. This is your kid now, raise him well and call him Jesus. It means "He will save the people"
And you see, Jesus fit in right with what people had been prophesying/ predicting for thousands of years. Starting right in Genesis, the Messiah was was to be born to the line of Shem, a child of Abraham also, and Isaac and his kid, Jacob. Each of his 12 sons got a tribe of Israel and God said which would Jesus come from: Jesse’s Judah. Jesus met all that.
Crucifixion was not invented until 200 BC but in 1012 BC David talks about how "nails will pierce his hands and feet" to save us from our sins. This was nearly 1000 years before Jesus died! The Bible also tells he would be born to a virgin, not accepted among his fellow Jews, and following John the Baptist. God chose Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth, population <1000 and they already knew he would be betrayed, by a friend. They knew he would ride in to Jerusalem on a donkey.
Fun fact: The OT says 5x he would go to the Jerusalem Temple, a place destroyed in 70 AD. If you are Jewish or otherwise looking for a new Messiah because Jesus doesn’t meet the cut for you, the temple hasn’t stood since 70 AD and I don’t believe that would be very pleasing to ISIS…. Its pretty safe to say that the person we are looking for (to save us from eternal separation from God) was born before 70 AD, we find only one such person who fits all these things before then. Jesus. *inserts Christianity, the religion embracing the Jewish Messiah*
•But maybe the people writing the Bible were just good guessers? Micah somehow prophesied where he would be born, could it be he just made up a city? It seems justifiable to turn the question around: since absolutely no Bible prophecy has ever failed (and there are hundreds), how can one realistically remain unconvinced that the Bible is of Divine origin? How can we say that God who has kept promises in the past will not in the future?
Where were we? Ah, Mary went to visit family. So then, Mary comes back in time for the census and Mary and Joseph leave for that. When they get to the city, it's time for Mary to have her kid but they can't find anywhere to stay.
I guess I haven't said so far, but these people were on the poor side. The Bible says that there was no room in the inn, but I can imagine that any rooms left would have been very highly requested and sold out for way more than their pockets had anyway. (Personal assumptions there-- I mean, we're talking all the people coming to the city, those businesses would be looking to make some money, don't you think? Its the supply/demand relationship)
So they hang out in a cave or barn depending on who you talk to. Pretty lousy place for the Son of God to be born even in those days. But here's the thing: the story doesn't end with that.
There are some "wise men" who are pretty much people who would study the stars and read into prophesies to see if there was going to be anything big happening. They worked for King Herod who had been hearing some of these rumors going around any didn't like the idea of this Iittle kid taking over his thrown. In fact, he was out to kill Jesus right from the start because the people were thinking Jesus was going to be a military guru. You can only imagine that the King was afraid of overthrow. Of course, God is wayyy more concerned with spiritual matters than political ones.) The wise men know that something big is going to happen and all of a sudden there is a new star in their sky. It's bright and they follow it, because it couldn't be a coincidence. So they stop in for a visit. Some shepherds get a text (okay, but you know what I mean) and head over too.
On the way back to wherever they lived, the Wisemen take a different route than they were supposed to: they don't want Jesus to be killed at all. Unfortunately Herod doesn't like this "fooling around" so he gets the idea to kill all the baby boys younger than two. :(
So now, Mary and Joseph are on the run! They're off to Egypt. I think being poor helped Jesus get the real picture and stay down to earth on things. There was pain, longing, want in the world....Finally Herod dies and we believe that for most of his childhood Jesus lived in Nazareth, north of Jerusalem, and within a place called Galilee.
One year everyone goes off, they say Jesus was 12 or so. His parents think they have things under control, but he was left in the temples. They mess up too I guess. But at the temple, Jesus knew what he was talking about like he had formal training in all this. Sure he was raised a Jew, but not every kid was this into the scriptures. Even as a kid, he explains himself saying "Guys, come on. I was just hanging out in my father (ahem. like God the Father)'s house. Its chill.
And we dont hear from him for a long while. Lots of people say he was probably working as a carpenter but history tells us he was more than just a carpenter for the record.
When he begins his ministry, people are confused. Like in Matt. 13, we can imagine them saying ""Is this [Jesus] not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get [learn] all these things?""
But before that, John the Baptist (Elizabeth's kid) comes along, calling people to repent and be baptized. Its another prophesy, ha! In essence, this was an eye opener. He makes it clear that he is not Jesus, but only one to privide the way for him. Interestingly, Jesus is baptized too.
Jesus, about age 30, spends the next three years or so of ministry: teaching, healing, etc. People listened to things like the Sermon on the Mount ( where he spoke of the law and its fulfillment, dealt with difficult topics of anger, adultery and covetousness, retaliation, and resisting evil, and a huge message about love) among approx. 32 parables. His first miracle was turning 6 barrels of water to really good wine, showing he was awesome and that he was concerned with the needs of people.
More practical, perhaps, the Bible tells in Matthew how "Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them." He walked on water, calmed a storm, fed the hungry, and before he is arrested at the very end, attaches someone ear back where it belonged. The Bible gives us 34 (or is it 37?) such cases, some of which were just "Everyone there was healed". The Bible says we could not write down all the good things he did, that the world could not contain enough books to say all of them. Somewhere else, it says some other cool fact... that I cant find. :/
We might sum it up with Matthew 4:23: And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
In Matt 21:23-27 some leaders ask "How are you healing? Why did you just kick out all of these merchants from the temple? Who is giving you power to do all this?". But he answers them with a question. He says "Who gave John the Baptist authority, gave it to me too. Tell me, was of divine institution or of human invention?" If the authority is from man, the actions and teachings are worthless; if from God, they are valid and should be accepted.
They think John is crazy, self-authorizing, someone they have an issue with altogether. They know if they voice this, the others- who believe that John was legit and from God- will throw a riot. However if they admit the otherwise, they will destroy there credibility; to say that it was God, means that Jesus would be the Messiah he has said he was. So they say that they cant answer and yeah. They start to begin a plan to arrest him.
And once Jesus was in Nazareth where they were reading from Isaiah, things about him. So after he read the passage, he mentions "Yeah, that guy, the Messiah its me" and they try to run him off a cliff :(. Eventually, we find that this (rejection) is a pattern and his days become quite numbered. He rides in to Jerusalem on a donkey like Zechariah knew he would just days before it all went down.
I'm sure some of you reading this are totally not liking this "God incarnate" being. Like yourselves being uneasy with this idea, the Jews were shooting down anything unbiblical (well unscriptural) and only trusted eyewitness, perfectly written fact. They would have never written books and books if he was lying or crazy- we can eliminate the below.
- Liar: He said he was God and told people to trust him for eternity as their Savior. If he was living the hugest lie ever, or if he just wanted to be God, wouldn’t he have made people bow down? Why would a person go out of there way to be crucified? (Yet this was the only case ever where the King died for the subjects…. No evil plan to rule the world at all)
- Lunatic: Yet he never wavered and had the best answers, see Sermon on the Mount. He predicted his own death and showed no signs of insanity. He lined up perfectly as the Messiah, and healed people, and all sorts of things that no mere person could accomplish.
I'm also going to counter the Muslim argument that Jesus was a prophet, because in what sense was Jesus a 'Good Man' if He was lying in His claim to be God? Obviously, Muslims are offended by any language that would refer to Jesus as anything other than a great prophet but historically we find this is an impossibility. None of his teachings of justice, peace, or love should matter at all if his credibility is adjusted to that of a liar/lunatic.
This is all said nicely in a quote from C. S. Lewis' book, Mere Chrisitanity: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
EDIT: This adds another option, that he was lived not of God but as a worker of Satan. Jesus thought this was silly and he was like: "Excuse me, I did you not just see me heal that guy? If I was of the Devil, why would I be setting people free from sin and sickness and all these issues of your fallen world you got here? Why would I be preaching the truth? Have I twisted scriptures? Um, no." He continues, actually, saying something like "And you see, the only one that can forgive sins is God. Therefore..... I and the Father are one. Let that sink in".
^ Poor Jesus. The Jews were about to stone him right then and there. (I'm getting this from John 10). He says "What did I do to you?" And of course they say "Well you see, you called yourself God. We have a minor issue with that" And he has to escape because they are all mad :(
(keep reading, we're almost done)
Why do they hang him on a cross like a murderous criminal in the first place if he was "sinless"? Well, the Bible says they could find no fault with him except that he called himself God incarnate. A lot, actually.
Here is how it went down: After the last supper and the beginning of the feetwashing tradition, Jesus does get arrested. He was up praying but not anymore: First they beat the guy to a pulp, beyond recognition, and mocked him as a “king” which he claimed he was by pounding a crown of thorns into his head. Many say that they would have let the wounds in his back scab over within the fabric before they removed it... and the scabs. #ouch
Next on the agenda, they had him carry the bar of his cross until he couldn’t keep going.... and they made Simon do it at that point. And then they put nails into his wrists and feet to keep him hung on the cross. Breathe in: push up on feet. Breath out: lower yourself. Finally you, as a person on the cross, suffocated because you could not fill your lungs. People started gambling for his clothes as he was hanging there without any sort of pain killers.... and of all things he said “Father, forgive them”. Then God let him die because he did his job.
What was his job? The central problem with the world, according to Jesus, is the wickedness of the human heart. When we look at the “deadly sins” pride is right there in the woodwork. Its easy to be proud of stuff: accomplishments, personality traits, etc. yet none of us can boast for being good: James 2:10 - For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.
In the Old Testament (OT) they used animal sacrifices as a temporary representation of restoring the relationship between us and God. Sin separates us from God, the spotless sacrifices point back to a payment that God provided for Abraham in place of his son... also this points to God giving up his own son for us for the real deal. Idk if that makes sense, you can always look any of this up :)
•The Bile says “Pride goes before a fall” and we could relate it to so many things. Adam and Eve did things that were right in there eyes, followed their desires unquestioningly, and set up the human race to sin by default. More than “making a mistake” they were de-God-ing God and rebelling against a perfection of sorts. People who die too proud to serve God but just wanted to serve them selves…..
Well he was the sacrifice for us. Since the beginning, we have been "de-goding" God and live lives of complete separation from our Creator. We love the sins which keep us proud and deceived but while we were still busy "de-goding" God, sent his son to die for us. We believe him to be without sin, therefore he is like an innocent lamb whose blood was spilt as the payment we could not pay ourselves with any sort of "good works"
Big words? In other words: I read a story where a girl was charged for a crime and her father was the Judge. After stating the fine she could not pay, he took off his robe and went out of his way to pay the fine for her. To wave it would be unjust but to provide the payment to make things right. This is the sort of thing that God did for us.
•Our wills and desires and such need to be put away, the pride turned back a few clicks, and if we would listen to God, I think that would make a huge difference. To consider: Is it possible that your unbelief in God is actually an unwillingness to submit to Him? If all this was fake and untrue, how do you explain the fact that a single, relatively uneducated and virtually untraveled man, dead at age 33, radically changed lives and society to this day?
Back to Jesus:
•They get out 1000 lbs of spices for his body and wrap him in linen. He gets put in a tomb behind a 2 ton rock that levers roll out. A Roman guard was to guard the place with his life…. Apparently grave robbing was a pretty intense issue back then.And yet it is empty when Mary Magdalene stops by, never an account written to deny it. We call this Easter morning, when the rock appeared like it had been picked up and set out of the machinery, Roman seal broken, and Roman guard missing from the scene. We can assume the guard was killed for being a deserter, btw, this was totally a crazy situation and you can find the rest of the story online or in a Bible.
•People cry out “I bet he didn’t really die!” but that’s hilarious. You try hanging on a cross and see if you don’t die. Then try to convince people in groups of 1 and 2 and 11 and 500 that you have conquered death. If Jesus did not actually die and rise from the dead, how could He (in His condition) have circumvented all of the security measures in place at His tomb? If Jesus merely resuscitated (revived from unconsciousness) in the tomb, how did He deal with the Roman guard posted just outside its entrance? Have you ever considered the fact that Christianity is the only religion whose leader is said to have risen from the dead?
I was reading a book that explained how it wasn’t a stolen body, wrong tomb, or any other hoax if you think about it and look at history. Instead it talked about how we can have joy in prophesies fulfilled, in eternal life in heaven because of every sin forgiven.
"Have you sinned? Have you failed? Are you failing now? Have you been weak? Do you bear a difficult secret or shame? God loves you and is waiting for you with His open arms of mercy. Live in the strength of His grace, go in the power of His resurrection love, and then, by your gratefulness, extend the mercy to others that you have so longed for in your life."
If we accept this, here is what God wants from us: