The Heart of the Matter - Jesus
Jesus was fully human
Born in a humble family, attested by secular sources, he shared a human body (he was tired, hungry, tough — John 4:6; Matt. 4:2; John 19:5). He shared human experiences (he grew up in a big family, worked for a living and knew the force of temptation — Matt. 12:46; Mark 6:3; Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 4:15).
Jesus was more than human
Jews were the last people in the world, with their strict monotheism, to allow that any human being could be one with God. Yet many were convinced. Why?
1. They listened to his teaching (Matt. 5:44; Acts 20:35; John 7:16). Nothing like it had appeared before or since.
2. They watched his behavior. It was utterly sinless. His own claims (John 8:28) and the evidence of his friends (1 Pet. 1:18-22; 1 John 3:5; Heb. 4:15), his enemies (Luke 23:13-16; 47; John 8:46), and onlookers (Matt. 27:4, 19, 54) show that his life was utterly unique, a moral miracle.
3. They witnessed his miracles. If recorded of someone else, they would be bizarre. With Jesus they fit. Never for selfish ends, never to show off, they were signs, dramatic illustrations, of who he was. Feeding the crowd (John 6), raising the dead (John 11:43-44), healing disease (Luke 4:39), and controlling nature (Mark 6:47-52) highlight his claims and stand or fall with them. "The only Christ for whom there is a shred of evidence is a miraculous figure making stupendous claims" (C.S. Lewis).
4. They assessed his claims. He claimed to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12), to accept worship (John 20:26-29), to be the final Judge of men (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46), to be the only bridge between God and man (Matt. 11:27; John 14:6). They could not believe he was deluded or a deceiver. Could he be what he claimed?
5. They saw him die. He went there voluntarily (Luke 9:51). His innocence, his care for his murderers, and the way he died convinced them that he had come to give his life a ransom for the world's sin, that he was the Suffering Servant of God foreshadowed in the Old Testament (Mark 10:45; Isa. 53) — that he was indeed "Jesus," God the Savior (Matt. 1:21).
6. They met him risen. Jesus and his followers based their convictions about him on his resurrection (Matt. 12:39-41; Rom. 1:3-4). The evidence is compelling: the empty tomb (all the Gospels), the resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:3-11), the emergence of the church with its special practices (baptism and the Lord's Supper) all rooted in the Resurrection, and the experience of believers ever since (1 Pet. 1:3; Eph. 1:19-20).
Jesus demands a verdict
There are only three options — he was a deceiver (Matt. 27:63) or mad (John 8:52) or "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28). The one thing that is not open to us is to say he was just a good man. The challenge was well understood by Pilate, though he made the wrong choice: "What shall I do with Jesus?" (Matt. 27:22). The wise response is to "receive him" and so enter the family of God (John 1:12-13).
Verse to learn
Learn Matthew 16:16 (NIV): "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Bible study section
The Bible passage for study is Philippians 2:1-13.
1. What does this passage tell us of Jesus before his birth?
2. What does it mean that "he made himself nothing" (v. 7) and "humbled himself" (v. 8)?
3. Look up Isaiah 45:22-23. There it is "at the name of God" that every knee will bow. What is that saying when applied, as here (v. 10), to Jesus?
4. What difference should the example of Jesus make to us in practical behavior?
5. When did your knee bow and your tongue confess that Jesus is Lord?
It might be good for members to choose a verse that has struck them tonight, mention it, and pray that God will make it true for them or thank him for it.
Richard Bewes, The Resurrection — Fact or Fiction?
John Drane, Jesus and the Four Gospels.
Michael Green, Why Bother With Jesus?
Val Grieve, Your Verdict.