Back to Basics – Who Is Jesus

This is necessarily the beginning of our basics series, because the very best that we know about God we know through the life of Jesus, which in turn we know mostly and best through the New Testament of the Bible, in particular the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

So first of all, is Jesus a part of history or a legend created for religious purposes?

The answer from all credible historians is that he is absolutely history. There is more evidence for his existence than most historical characters and events, and as historical records go the evidence is compelling.

This man well known as “Jesus of Nazareth” really existed.

More than that, it is considered incontrovertible that he was executed by crucifixion on a Roman cross.

The meaning of his life, his death, and the claims of his resurrection are not historically proven. The first two of those are not the sort of things you can prove, and while there are good arguments for the historical authenticity of his resurrection it does not constitute proof.

But very importantly he was a real person, born somewhere around 3BC (which is rather funny), and died on that cross somewhere around 30AD, though the years are unable to be identified clearly.
There is also evidence outside the Bible that he was a miracle worker. Some contest this and claim that Christians added this in rewriting manuscripts, but there is no evidence that this is true.

There is also clear evidence through Roman history that Jesus’ followers multiplied, and persecutions against them rose and fell as Roman Emperors and circumstances came and went.

So we are dealing with the “true” story as history goes, though one has to remember that the biblical accounts are memories, not news stories written as they happened. But it is generally accepted that the stories reflect real events and real teachings of Jesus.

Can you find time to read Mark’s gospel during the next few weeks?

The authority of Jesus is the big issue we are considering in the teaching this week.

It is strongly recommended you take the time to read Mark’s gospel in the Bible over these next couple of weeks – especially the first 5 chapters this week. You’ll find many stories of Jesus displaying his authority.

What kind of Jesus do you actually meet when you read Mark’s gospel?

What you will also find in Mark’s gospel (and the other gospels) is a strong, commanding, daring Jesus. He dares to take on evil. He dares to take on the authorities without concern for the consequences. He insists upon the truth. Where they don’t know the truth he teaches them; if they do but they don’t practice the truth he corrects them.

What you will see is a Jesus who is in charge, confident that he is doing what his Father in Heaven wants him to do.

While we are on that point, this is the other reason we say Jesus is the “Son of God” – because he referred to God as his Father (actually Aramaic “Abba” which means “daddy” without any childish tone).

In truth, “Son of God” is just the best language we have to describe Jesus’ relationship with God.

We do not imagine God had a wife who conceived and bore a Son who was Jesus. This is the sort of talk the Greeks were famous for in their pantheon of Gods. No, we believe there is but one God.

However, the things Jesus did and taught, and especially his death and resurrection, convinced his first followers that he really was God among them. However we prayed to God as his Father. So what other language could they use to describe him? Son of God was the nearest they could come, though they always insisted there was but one God. The Holy Spirit presents a similar problem, but we will discuss that later in the series.

We shouldn’t be surprised that God is too complex to describe.

So I encourage you not to get stuck on the “Son of God but same as God” problem. Our language and understanding falls short of describing God. That really shouldn’t be a surprise. Rather it would be very surprising if our language and minds COULD describe God.

The big challenge from this week is whether you will accept Jesus’ invitation to be one of his people. The invitation is open to all and no one is excluded.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” That is why it is called the gospel – the good news about Jesus.

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