Foundations Course

The Foundations Course

Who is Jesus?

 

What evidence is there for Jesus’ existence?

What is the evidence for Jesus?

40% of people in the UK do not believe Jesus ever existed!

 

Roman historians: Tacitus and Suetonius

Jewish historian: Josephus

Pseudo-Christian writings: Gospel of Thomas, Philip etc

 

What evidence do we have for what he said and did?

Majority of evidence for Jesus comes from writings of:

5 eyewitnesses: Matthew and John, Peter, James and Jude

The friends of eyewitness: Mark re Peter; Paul

A historian: Luke

 

Are they reliable witnesses? Can we trust what they write?

 

Not disinterested witnesses!

John 20.30-31:

            "Jesus did many other miraculous sign in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

 

Does mean: John found that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and he wanted to share this good news so others could discover the same thing.

 

Doesn't mean: he made it up.

 

To question reliability of eyewitness accounts to Jesus purely on basis of the fact that the writers believed what they wrote and wanted to share it with others is madness.

We wouldn't question a journalist's report on famine in East Africa just because they wanted people to know that people were starving and they hoped people might do something about it.

 

Better test for whether we believe what the eyewitnesses to Jesus are those we might apply in a court of law:

1. Are the witnesses credible?

2. Is there corroborating evidence?

 

Lord Denning, former Chief justice of England wrote:

On… the resurrection we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favour as a living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.

 

Are the eyewitness accounts accurate?

Final question about the reliability of the evidence we have for the life of Jesus is whether we have accurate copies of what the eyewitnesses wrote?

Yes.

Disciple called textual criticism - comparing copies of a text and how they have been altered over time, possible to 'get back' to the original text with almost absolute certainty and accuracy.

No one doubts that we have accurate copies of other ancient texts - Caesar's Gallic wars or Livy's Roman History, when we have less than 20 copies dated from 900 years after the original was written. Bible we have thousands of copies from 30 to 310 years after its original composition.

 

Summary

Summary:

1. There is no doubt that Jesus existed

2. Eyewitnesses wrote accounts of Jesus - these exist today in the New Testament of the bible

3. We can be confident that we have these eyewitness accounts substantially in the form that they were written.

 

 

 

What was Jesus like?

 

If ask 'who is' anybody can answer in a variety of different ways:

1. Where they come from

2. What they said and did

3. What there character was like

 

Tackle Jesus in the same way:

 

Where did he come from?

 

1. Human being

  • Child of a woman called Mary, born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, lived out his life in Israel 2000 years ago.
  • Ate and drank; walked, talked and slept, experienced joy and sadness,
  • Enjoyed the company of family and friends

 

2. Divine

  • Matthew: virgin birth
  • John: roots Jesus' existence way back before time even began
  • St Paul: Philippians

 

How can be both human and divine at the same time?

  • Music - chord
  • Science – light is both a wave and a particle at the same time
  • Relationships – husband and a parent

 

Implications:

            Humanity

  1. Jesus fully understands us – eg suffering
  2. He can fully represent us

 

  •  
  1. If you have seen me, you have seen God – God has entered our world
  2. He is powerful to help

 

 

 

 

What Jesus said and did

  • Luke 4.18-19: Jesus manifesto!
  • Matthew 4.23: “Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people”
  • Matthew 10.7: “As you go, preach this message: ‘the kingdom of heaven is near’. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.”
  • Luke 10.9: “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God is near you’.
  • Matthew 28.18-20: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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”.

 

Jesus message was very much – through me, God is establishing his kingdom on earth.

He taught people what that kingdom was like through his words.

He showed what that kingdom was like by his miracles – of healing giving life, of exorcism driving back the forces of evil.

And he invited people, called people, to repent and get on board with his mission.

 

Jesus’ character

 

  • Philippians 2.1-11: complete opposite of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Completely obedient to God his Father and gave himself completely to the service of those he loved.
  • Completely loving, when understand love in the terms of 1 Corinthians 13.
  • Great kindness
  • But not a push-over – stood up to injustice; corrected error
  • Extreme courage – Garden of Gethsemane
  • All this with a twinkle in his eye – log and plank (Matthew 7.3-5)
  • And he knew how to party – water into wine

 

Jesus must have been the most exciting person to be around. Attracted great crowds of people who wanted to hear him teach and see the miracles he performed.

 

Most inspiring of leaders – after death and resurrection his followers scattered over the whole face of the earth telling people about him; even at great personal cost.

 

Billions of people world-wide now who claim to be followers of Jesus testify that he is the most loving and faithful friend.


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