Jan Hus said, “Rejoice that the immortal God is born that mortal men may live in eternity.” It is so ironic that all the synoptic gospels record how the demons believe in Jesus, but we have to persuade men (Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41; 8:28).
We are not advocating that you trust your experience through this special series of articles. We are asking you to use your mind calmly and weigh the evidence. If the evidence establishes the fact of Jesus’ existence and His claims to be the Son of God, then it is only rational and logical to follow it into the experiential realm by becoming a Christian. This truly is the final confirmation of the evidence.
The Identity Evidence: Was Jesus Convinced That He Was The Son Of God?
Virtually every book in the New Testament declares or assumes that Jesus is more than one of God’s messengers (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). There are 38 declarations in the New Testament that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Luke 3:38; John 1:34). Many reliable eyewitnesses left their observations and confessions of the deity of Christ throughout the New Testament (John 20:28; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1).
There are very important clues as to how Jesus viewed Himself. On many occasions Jesus claimed to be Jehovah (John 5:23; 8:58; 12:41; 20:28). He claimed to be equal with God (John 10:30, 33). He also put His words on an equal level with God’s (John 12:48). The Jews understood His claims of deity (John 5:18).
Jesus had an intriguing interrelation with His disciples. Jesus had twelve disciples, yet He was not one of them. If the Twelve represented the beginning of spiritual Israel, where did Jesus fit in? He was not part of Israel, not merely part of the redeemed group, He was forming the group — just as God in the Old Testament formed His people (Exodus 19:6) and set up the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:28).
To Jesus, miracles indicated the coming of the kingdom of God (Luke 11:20). They were a foretaste of what the kingdom is going to be like, and that sets Jesus apart. He saw Himself as the One in whom and through whom God’s promises came to pass.
In Judaism you needed the testimony of two witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). But Jesus witnesses to the truth of His own sayings. Instead of basing His teaching on the authority of others, He speaks on His own authority (Matthew 5:21-48). This shows that He considered Himself to have authority above and beyond what was possessed by the Old Testament writers. He believed He possessed not only divine inspiration, but also the power of direct, divine utterance.
He also made a truly radical statement that it is not what enters a person that defiles him but what comes out of his heart (Matthew 15:18-20). This set aside huge portions of the Old Testament book of Leviticus, with its meticulous rules concerning purity, and it was telling for His relationship with the Jewish leaders.
In its opening scene, the gospel of John uses majestic and unambiguous language to boldly assert the deity of Jesus (John 1:1-3, 14). Some popular depictions of Jesus, such as in the movie The Last Temptation Of Christ in 1988, show Him as basically uncertain about His identity and mission. He is saddled with ambiguity and angst. But at His baptism, temptation, transfiguration, and in Gethsemane, God confirmed His identity and mission (Matthew 3:17; 4:11; 17:5; Luke 22:43).
Jesus believed that He was the person appointed by God to bring in the climactic saving act of human history — He had been authorized and empowered by God, He spoke for God, and He was directed by God to do this task. What Jesus said, God said. What Jesus did was the work of God. His words in Mark 10:45 and Luke 19:10 was either megalomania or it is the evidence of somebody who really believes (cf. John 10:30).
The evidence that Jesus intended to stand in the very place of God is absolutely convincing. So extraordinary is Jesus’ assertion that inevitably the issue of His sanity has to be examined.
The Psychological Evidence: Was Jesus Sane When He Claimed To Be The Son Of God?
If you were to go to any state mental institution, you would find people who claim to be God. We would kindly say that they are insane, deluded, or mentally unbalanced. What about Jesus when He claimed to be God?
Psychologists know that disturbed individuals frequently show inappropriate depression, or they might be extremely angry, or perhaps they are plagued with anxiety. They are also often very paranoid. They think people are watching them or are trying to get them when they are not. They misinterpret the actions of others and accuse them of actions they have no intention of ever doing. They are out of contact with reality. Jesus never showed any irrationality or illogical thought or actions. Any psychologist can tell you that there were simply no signs that Jesus was suffering from any known mental illness.
People thought that Jesus was demon-possessed and mad (John 10:20), but this was hardly the diagnosis of a trained mental health professional. They were reacting because His assertions about Himself were so far beyond their understanding of the norm, not because Jesus was mentally unbalanced. Also, their comments were immediately challenged by others in vs. 21.
Jesus was not making outrageous claims about Himself. He did not just claim to be God — He backed it up with amazing feats of healing, with extraordinary authority over the demonic spirit world, with astounding demonstrations of power over nature, with transcendent teaching, with divine insights into people, and with His own resurrection, which nobody else has been able to duplicate.
Some have claimed that Jesus was a master hypnotist, explaining the supposedly supernatural aspects of His life. One author raised the question of whether this is how Jesus convinced the wedding guests at Cana that He transformed water into wine (John 2:1-11). This may seem like a clever argument, but it is full of holes for several reasons.
There is a problem with a large group of people being hypnotized because not everyone is equally susceptible. Hypnosis generally does not work on people who are skeptics and doubters. Concerning the resurrection, hypnosis would still not explain the empty tomb. In the miracle of turning water into wine, Jesus never addressed the wedding guests. He did not even suggest to the servants that the water had been turned into wine.
Occasions of “hypnotic healing” never last long, nor do they actually heal. Contrast this with Jesus in Mark 3:5 and Luke 17:13-14, where the man with the shriveled hand and the ten lepers were cured immediately and permanently. People in a trance would have eventually discovered the truth and told others.
The gospels record all sorts of details about what Jesus said and did, but never once do they portray Him as saying or doing anything that would suggest He was hypnotizing people. Historian Philip Schaff said it best when he wrote, “Is such an intellect — clear as the sky, bracing as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword, thoroughly healthy and vigorous, always ready and always self-possessed — liable to a radical and most serious delusion concerning his own character and mission? Preposterous imagination!”
The Profile Evidence: Did Jesus Fulfill The Attributes Of God?
One certainly could point to the miracles of Jesus to prove He was divine (Acts 2:22; 10:38). However, while this may be indicative, it is not decisive. Of course, according to Romans 1:4, the resurrection was the ultimate vindication of His identity. But of all He did, one of the most striking is His forgiving of sins (Mark 2:5). By virtue of healing the man sick of palsy, He demonstrated His power to forgive.
The only person who can say “I forgive you” meaningfully is God, because sin, even if it is against other people, is first and foremost a defiance of God and His laws (Romans 3:23). The Jews immediately recognized this as blasphemy (Mark 2:6-7). Not only could Jesus forgive sins, but He asserted that He Himself was without sin (John 8:46), and there is no doubt that sinlessness is an attribute of deity (1 Peter 1:16).
Part of what Jesus must match is that God is an uncreated Being who has existed from eternity (Isaiah 57:15). However, there are some verses which seem to strongly point to Jesus being a created being (John 3:16; Colossians 1:15). But “only begotten” means “unique and beloved” with no reference to Him in time. “Firstborn” carries the idea of the authority that comes with the position of being the rightful or supreme heir (cf. Colossians 2:9).
In Mark 10:18, Jesus seems to admit that He was not God. But He did not intend to disclaim divinity. He was calling attention to the man’s careless use of language. Jesus was saying in essence, “Before you address me with such a title, you had better think soberly about the implications, and especially what they are for you.”
Some have concluded that Jesus was a lesser god when He said in John 14:28, “… my Father is greater than I.” But Jesus was not admitting that He was a lesser God. Jesus was returning to the glory that was properly His, so if the disciples really knew who He was and really loved Him properly, they would be glad that He was going back to the realm where He shares in equal glory with God (cf. John 17:5).
According to the New Testament, the fact that God became man is not in any doubt. Every attribute of God is found in Jesus Christ.
- Omniscience (John 16:30).
- Omnipotence (Matthew 28:18).
- Omnipresence (Matthew 28:20).
- Eternality (John 1:1).
- Immutability (Hebrews 13:8).
The Old Testament paints a portrait of God by using such titles and descriptions as Lord, Savior, King, Judge, Light, Rock, Redeemer, Shepherd, Creator, giver of life, first and the last, forgiver of sin, and speaker with divine authority. It is fascinating to note that in the New Testament each and every one is applied to Jesus. When you look at the sketch of God in the Old Testament, you will see a likeness of Christ (John 14:7).
The Prophetic Evidence: Did Jesus Match The Identity Of The Messiah?
In the Old Testament, there are several dozen major prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. In effect, these predictions formed a figurative fingerprint that only the Christ would be able to match. This way, the Israelites could rule out any impostors and validate the credentials of the authentic Messiah.
Sitting at the apex of the Old Testament is Isaiah 53. With clarity and specificity, in a haunting prediction wrapped in exquisite poetry, here was the picture of the Messiah who would suffer and die for the world — the personification of God’s plan of redemption — all written more than 700 years before Jesus walked the earth.
Galatians 3:24-25 states that the law was our “schoolmaster” or “tutor.” The word means that the Old Testament was our custodian which insured that we made it to Christ. Just a brief sampling will prove the important role the Old Testament plays. Isaiah revealed the matter of the Messiah’s birth (of a virgin); Micah pinpointed the place of His birth (Bethlehem); Genesis and Jeremiah specified His ancestry (a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the tribe of Judah, the house of David); the Psalms foretold His betrayal, His accusation by false witnesses, His manner of death (pierced in the hands and feet although crucifixion had not been invented yet); and on and on. There are over 60 specific prophecies about the life of Jesus. However, considering only ten of them will prove a critical point.
- Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1).
- Preceded by John the Baptist (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:1-2).
- Entered Jerusalem by a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; Luke 19:35-37).
- Betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9; Matthew 10:4).
- Sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:15).
- Silver thrown in temple (Zechariah 11:13; Matthew 27:5).
- Silver bought the potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13; Matthew 27:7).
- Silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12).
- Hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16; Luke 23:33).
- Crucified with thieves (Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38).
Could Jesus have fulfilled these prophecies by accident? No! The odds of just these ten prophecies coming true in one Being are so astronomical that they rule out coincidence. The probability of just these few prophecies being fulfilled is one chance in one hundred million billion. That number is millions of times greater than the total number of people who have ever walked the planet. The odds alone say it would be impossible for anyone to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies. Yet Jesus — and only Jesus throughout history — managed to do it.
Could the gospel writers have fabricated details to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies? No! In God’s wisdom, He created checks and balances both inside and outside the assemblies of Christians. When the gospels were being circulated, there were people living who had witnessed what happened. Someone would have said to Matthew, “You know it didn’t happen that way!” Furthermore, the Jews would have jumped on any opportunity to discredit the gospels by pointing out falsehoods.
Could Jesus, having knowledge of the prophecies, lived His life to purposefully fulfill the scriptures? He could have done that with some of them. But there are many others for which this just would not have been possible. How could He control the fact that the Sanhedrin would offer Judas 30 pieces of silver to betray Him? How could He have arranged for His resurrection? Everything must be fulfilled concerning Christ (Luke 24:44). It was fulfilled, and only in Jesus of Nazareth — the sole individual in history who matched the prophetic fingerprint of God’s Anointed One.
If someone were tempted to think that Jesus could have lived His good, moral life and then gradually be elevated to the level of deity, the time span necessary for significant accrual of legend concerning the events of the gospels would place us into the second century A.D., just about the time when the legendary apocryphal gospels were born. Critics and skeptics desperately look for these legendary accounts to disprove the gospels. When German theologian Julius Muller in 1844 challenged anyone to find a single example of legend developing within the time frame between the death of Jesus and the gospels being written anywhere in history, the response from the scholars of his day, and to the present time, was resounding silence.
Are you swimming upstream against a strong current of evidence? You need to go in the same direction that the torrent of facts is flowing. That is reasonable, rational, and logical. Once you become His child, then His teaching, priorities, values, and character must become your own. I want to do everything I can to make His motives and perspectives my own as I go through my life (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).