Years ago during a family vacation, we passed a sign advertising “Jesus’ Fruit Stand – 100 meters.” The children wanted to stop and see ‘Jesus’.
As it turned out, that Jesus was a Portuguese orchardist.
Many voices in our world presume to tell us who Jesus is. Almost everyone has an opinion on the subject.
How do you answer these two crucial questions?
A street musician told me that he neither accepted Jesus as divine, nor as a savior. He preferred to think of Jesus as a wise teacher and an example for life – nothing more.
Today, some aggressive atheists are denying that Jesus was a real person at all.
Some pseudo-Christian religious groups such as those calling themselves Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses portray other ‘Jesus-es’. One group argues for a ‘Jesus’ who became a god as they think other humans are becoming gods; the other group contends for a ‘Jesus’ who is supposedly the archangel Michael.
Muslims deny the deity of Jesus Christ but allow that he is a prophet – although they claim that Mohammad is greater.
Hindus may include a ‘Jesus’ among their millions of gods.
All of these ideas about Jesus come from people who do not rely upon the Bible. Most, if not all, of these ideas about Jesus are drawn from a combination of thinking and literature that attempts to supplant or replace the Bible.
Most of these people may be well-intentioned, but they are ill-informed.
The ‘Jesus’ they depict is no more the historical Jesus of the Bible than the Portuguese fruit farmer. We might even go farther – at least the Portuguese farmer was a real human. The ‘Jesus-es’ of the street musician and the others I’ve mentioned are products of their imaginations, disconnected from the Bible, history, and reality.
Despite the similarity of names, the Jesus of the Bible is quite different from Jesus the Portuguese orchardist. Apart from the obvious, here are a few differences:
You might say, “John, that’s just your opinion.”
Fair enough – if I’m only basing this on what I think. But there is lots of evidence for the real Jesus both from the Bible and other sources. I want to explore some of this evidence with you.
My goal is that you hold not a vague opinion about Jesus, but a solid conclusion based on the evidence.
Eye-witness testimony is strong evidence. If it is reliable, it withstands honest critical inquiry. If it doesn’t hold up then it isn’t reliable and should not be trusted.
John was a young fisherman when he met Jesus. After a life-time of following Jesus and serving his interests, John wrote the Gospel according to John as well as a number of other documents. He was probably over 80 years of age when he composed the gospel account that bears his name. In it he tells us some of the things he had personally seen Jesus do, and heard Jesus say.
Near the end of his gospel account he states his purpose (John 20:30-31):
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John tells us that he selectively recorded certain actions or signs that Jesus did for two reasons. First, that we might know who Jesus is – “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Second, that we might experience life that is life indeed – “that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Over the next number of posts let’s explore John’s answers to these questions. We’ll look at the “signs” he writes about, what they reveal of who the real Jesus is, and the impact they had upon the lives of his disciples and others.
Does it matter who Jesus is? You bet it does! It makes all the difference – if you’re wrong on this one, you’ll be wrong on most everything that really matters.
I recommend that you begin reading John’s Gospel. As you do, listen to what John is saying about Jesus, and the difference it makes.
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