Thursday, 13 April 2017


Two thousand years ago, in the Middle East, an event occurred that permanently changed the world. Because of that event, history was split. Every time you write a date, you’re using the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the focal point.

What’s so important about Easter? It’s important because it proved that Jesus was who He claimed to be. He was God in the flesh, and He came to earth to save us.
Three events occurred in a dramatic succession on that Easter weekend: the trial of Jesus, then the death of Jesus, and finally the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s look at each of those events and their implications.

The Trial

Jesus actually went through six trials. In that one night, He was brought before Annas, Caiaphas (the high priest), the Sanhedrin (the religious Supreme Court), Pilate (the governor of Jerusalem), Herod (the governor of Galilee), and then back to Pilate. At the end of those six trials, what did they find to accuse him of? Nothing. He had done nothing wrong. They brought in people to make up phony charges, but those didn’t stick. Finally they convicted him on one count: claiming to be the Son of God. That’s the sole reason Jesus went to the cross. They didn’t like that claim.
Everyone who has ever been presented with Jesus has already made some kind of decision about who He is. You either believe He’s a liar, or you believe He’s a lunatic, or you believe He’s the Lord. It can’t just be: “I believe He was a good teacher.” He couldn’t be just a good teacher, because a good teacher would not say, “I’m God, and I’m the only way to Heaven.” A good person would not say that unless it was the truth.

Jesus claimed to be the Savior of the world. In John 12:47b, He is recorded as saying: “I have come to save the world and not to judge it” (NLT). He allowed himself to be put on trial so there would be no doubt about who He was. He could have stopped the trial at any moment. He knew He would be proven guilty and put on the cross — but He allowed it to happen. It was all part of the plan.

The Death

After a night of beatings and mocking, after being crowned with painful thorns, Jesus was crucified. Crucifixion is probably the most brutal and torturous death penalty ever devised by men. His hands were stretched out wide against the cross and nailed through the two bones in each wrist. As the nails went through this part of the flesh, they would strike the nerve that travels up the arm and cause excruciating pain.

If you hung this way for any period of time, the muscles around your chest cavity began to be paralyzed. You’d be able to breathe in but you couldn’t breathe out. Death on a cross would have been a simple matter of suffocation — except the Romans didn’t want to make it that easy. They’d take a person’s knees and bend them a little bit and nail the feet to the cross. So a man would hang there in absolute agony until the pain in his chest was about to explode — and then He would lift himself up on his nailed feet to grab a breath. When the pain in his feet grew unbearable, He’d let himself back down again — until the pain in his lungs became unbearable. It was an incredibly torturous event. Eventually, the soldiers would break the legs of the criminal to hasten death by suffocation.

In the case of Jesus, they didn’t have to break his legs, because He had already died. But just to make sure, they stuck a spear in his side. Water and blood came out of the chest cavity, which, doctors say, only happens if the Heart rips. You can call it what you want, but Jesus died of a broken Heart.
Why did Jesus have to die? Because He alone was able to pay for our sins. We deserved punishment, but Jesus paid the penalty.

The Resurrection

After Jesus died, they took his body down and put him in the tomb, and a giant millstone was set in front of the cave. The religious leaders — worried that Jesus’ body might be stolen — asked for Roman guards to be posted in front of the tomb. They didn’t want him coming out! But of course, He did.

You know the story. But it’s important to remember that Easter is not some memorial to a nice, good religious teacher who lived 2,000 years ago. It’s a celebration of the fact that He is alive today. I’m living proof — and so are the billions of  Christians who will celebrate Easter this weekend.

“By being raised from the dead He was proved to be the mighty Son of God, with the holy nature of God himself” (Romans 1:4 TLB).

Easter is the Good News about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came as a human baby, born into King David’s royal family line. Four historical records say He showed himself to 500 people at one gathering. Can you imagine witnessing his death and then seeing him walking around Jerusalem three days later? What an amazing thing! When Jesus was hanging on the cross, the skeptics and critics mocked him and in effect said, If you’re the Son of God, why don’t you just pull yourself down from that cross? Why don’t you just come down and show that you’re really God? Jesus had something more spectacular planned. He essentially said, I’m going to let you bury me for three days, then I’ll come back to life to prove that I am what I am.

What does this mean to us today? In one sense, Jesus Christ is still on trial. He’s on trial in the Heart and mind of every person who has not yet acknowledged him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

What’s your verdict? You see, Easter really boils down to only two issues. One, is Jesus who He says He is? Is He God? Or is He a lunatic or a liar? And two, if He is who He says He is, how will that change how you think and live your life?

Friday, 7 April 2017

Why does Jesus call Himself the Son of Man

Why is Jesus called "Son of Man"?
Let me give a common understanding and then a more sophisticated historical understanding.

The common understanding is that "Son of God" implies his deity—which it does—and that "Son of Man" implies his humanity, which it does too.

He was a son of man, that is, a human being. And he is the Son of God, in that he has always existed as the Eternally Begotten One who comes forth from the Father forever. He always has, and he always will. He is the Second Person of the Trinity with all of the divine nature fully in him.

He is born of a virgin. He had a human father but he didn't have sex with this virgin until Jesus was conceived. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. Thus he is human—fully human. The Bible wants to emphasize that he is fully human.

So that's the common understanding: he is both divine and he is human—two natures, one person.
The more sophisticated and important historical insight is that the term "Son of Man" doesn't merely align him with humanity. It is probably taken from Daniel 7. And if you read that chapter you'll see that the Son of Man is a very exalted figure: not just a human figure but an exalted figure. It was Jesus' favorite self-designation.

If you do a study of the term "Son of Man" in the Gospels you'll see that he didn't refer to himself most often as Son of God but as Son of Man. He said things like, in Mark 10:45, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." So he calls himself Son of Man very often.

I think the reason he did so is because, on the face of it, Son of Man is an ordinary phrase for "human being." He was born of a man. And there's no offense there: who isn't a son of man? But those with ears to hear could hear Daniel 7, in which he was claiming a very exalted role in the history of redemption. And he meant to do it.

Jesus was very subtle in that he was always opening his identity to those with eyes to see, but he wasn't opening it so blatantly that everybody would come and make him king. He had to steer a very narrow course in disclosing his identity, not just openly saying, "I'm the Messiah, I'm the King of the World. Come and acknowledge me as King." He didn't talk like that.

He was quiet. He was subtle. And he would make claims that were explicit in certain settings and implicit in others. And only when the time was right—mainly when he was on trial for his life, and they said, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the living God?"—did he say, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man coming with great power and glory." So he confessed his open deity right at the point where he knew he would be crucified for it. 

So I hope that helps. "Son of Man" has the double meaning of human being and, according to Daniel 7, exalted heavenly one. And Jesus means to communicate both of those.

Did the Resurrection Really Happen?


Every year around this time churches are full of people celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and God’s promise that salvation from death has been given to us. However, almost every year some atheist somewhere releases a new program, book, or video, proclaiming they have discovered some purported evidence that destroys orthodox biblical Christianity. These are always debunked later on, but the damage is already done and the “debunking” article, book, or video never gets the hype and exposure that the damaging one received. So this year I want to take a look at the resurrection before Easter so we can truly celebrate on Easter.

Unlike Thomas, we don’t have the luxury of placing our fingers in the wounds of the resurrected Christ. For us the greatest source of information concerning the resurrection is the Bible. When I was in law school we were taught that if you have absolutely no defense and don't have solid ground to stand on, discredit the source of their claim. Those who say the resurrection didn’t happen usually attack the Bible saying that it can’t be trusted; that it is a bunch of stories and legends written down long after Jesus died and twisted to give power to those who wrote them. Therefore, we must ask, can the history Scripture teaches be trusted?

Again, I can’t reproduce the same kind of things that stopped Doubting Thomas from doubting, but there are several things that we can look at to test if the resurrection taught by Scripture is historically credible and can be trusted.

The date of original writing is extremely close to the actual events.

The timing between the events occurring and the writing of the events is far too short for the Gospels to be legends. The Gospel accounts were written at the very most forty to sixty years after Jesus' death. Paul's letters, written just fifteen to twenty-five years after the death of Jesus, provide an outline of all the events of Jesus' life found in the Gospels (his miracles, claims, crucifixion, and resurrection). The two earliest biographies of Alexander the Great were written more than four hundred years after Alexanders' death, yet historians consider them to be generally trustworthy. Why? Because legendary material only began to emerge in the centuries after the early writings, i.e. five hundred years later. So whether the Gospels were written forty or sixty years after the life of Jesus, the amount of time is negligible by comparison. It is therefore very unlikely that those writings would have fallen victim to legend or faulty memories. Professor Sherwin-White, a respected Greco-Roman classical historian from Oxford University established that the passage of two generations was not enough time for legend to develop in the ancient world and wipe out a solid core of historical truth. In the case of Jesus, we have reliable information about his divinity and resurrection that falls safely within that span.

Written accounts circulated during time of eyewitnesses (other than NT writers).

The dates of the NT documents indicate that they were written within the lifetime of contemporaries of Christ. People were still alive who could remember the things he said and did. This includes hostile eyewitnesses who would have served as a corrective if false teachings about Jesus were going around.

Written by eyewitnesses.

All NT writers were either apostles or associated with the apostles as eyewitnesses and/or contemporaries. Matthew and John were disciples of Jesus. Mark was a contemporary and associate of the apostle Peter (1 Pet 5:13). Luke was a companion of Paul (2 Tim 4:11) who interviewed many eyewitnesses to produce his account (Luke 1:1-4). James and Jude were closely associated with the apostles in Jerusalem and were Jesus' brothers. Paul received his apostleship by a revelation from Jesus. In each case there is a definite link between the writer and the apostles who gave them information.

The accounts were meant to stand up to scrutiny and court challenge should blasphemy charges be laid

The way Mark (Mark 15:44-47) reports the burial is significant: He is “certifying” that Jesus was really dead. Joseph of Arimathea is named here as an identified witness who actually had Jesus’ body wrapped up and sealed it in a tomb. A Roman centurion (who would be an expert) bore witness of Jesus’ death to Pilate (who would be the legal authority on the matter). Finally, two women are cited as eyewitnesses to the burial. So multiple experts and witnesses prove He was really dead. Anyone at that time could go and track down witnesses to see what had happened.

Corroborated by non-Christian accounts.

There are numerous references to Jesus as a historical figure who died at the hand of Pontius Pilate. Some even noted that He was reported to have risen from the dead. Tacitus, a Roman historian, made at least three references to Christ. Josephus, a Jewish historian working for the Romans in the first century, mentioned Jesus, His death and reports of His appearance after death. The fact that neither Josephus nor any other contemporary of the apostles made any attempt to refute the resurrection is significant. Also, the Talmud, a rabbinical commentary on the Torah, mentions Jesus and the Gospels are cited in other first-century works, including The Epistle of Barnabas, The Didache, Clement’s Corinthians, and Ignatius’ Seven Epistles.  The Nazareth Inscription is one of the most powerful pieces of extra-biblical evidence that the resurrection of Christ was being preached right from the earliest beginnings of Christianity.

They died for their story.

As French mathmetition Blaise Pascal put it, “I believe those witnesses that get their throats cut.” All the disciples who ran away in fearful flight (John 20:19) following Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion were so convinced of the resurrection that they were willing to risk their lives testifying to it. What gave these cowards the backbone to do this?  Virtually all the apostles and early Christian leaders died for their faith, and it is hard to believe that this kind of powerful self-sacrifice would be done to support a hoax. People might live with a lie if it brings them money or power, but people won’t die for a lie. In short, we must ask, what caused these remarkable transformations?

The Empty Tomb

This fact is supported by three considerations. First, Jesus was buried in a well-known tomb. This is important, because if the location of Jesus’ tomb was uncontroversial, the claim by the early Church that Jesus had vacated His tomb could have been easily verified (or, for that matter, discounted). That Jesus’ tomb was well known is attested by material both early and non-legendary. Mark’s gospel, written no more than 30 years after Jesus’ crucifixion and itself based on even earlier sources, mentions that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Mk 15:43). This early detail can’t be a fictitious insertion by later Christian authors. After all, Joseph was a member of the Jewish Council (or Sanhedrin; Mk 15:43). In other words, why would later Christians invent a story about a Jewish Sanhedrist helping Jesus? Had the early Christians created this detail, the Jewish authorities could have disproved it easily. They could have checked the records to find out whether or not Joseph had been a member of the Council and/or whether or not his tomb had been used, not to mention vacated, by Jesus.

Second, not only was Jesus’ tomb well known, it was also found empty. This detail is also found in very early sources, this time not only in Mark’s report (16:1–8) but also in Paul’s (implied in 1 Cor 15:4).7 In fact, many scholars date the tradition Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 15:3 to within five or six years after Jesus’ death. Moreover, Mark’s report that the tomb was found empty by women. Celsus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century A.D., was highly antagonistic to Christianity and wrote a number of works listing arguments against it. One of the arguments he believed most telling went like this: Christianity can’t be true, because the written accounts of the resurrection are based on the testimony of women—and we all know women are hysterical. And many of Celsus’ readers agreed: For them, that was a major problem. In ancient societies, as you know, women were marginalized, and the testimony of women was never given much credence.
Do you see what that means? If Mark and the Christians were making up these stories to get their movement off the ground, they would never have written women into the story as the first eyewitnesses to Jesus’ empty tomb. If Mark and the early Christians were inventing stories, it would have been fine, upstanding, reliable male witnesses being first at the tomb. The only possible reason for the presence of women in these accounts is that they really were present and reported what they saw.

The Resurrection Appearances

Paul’s early account speaks of hundreds of witnesses who claim to have seen Jesus risen (1 Cor 15:5–9). Paul indicates in this text that the risen Jesus not only appeared to individuals and small groups but he also appeared to five hundred people at once, most of whom were still alive at the time of his writing and could be consulted for corroboration. Paul’s letter was to a church, and therefore it was a public document, written to be read aloud. Paul was inviting anyone who doubted that Jesus had appeared to people after his death to go and talk to the eyewitnesses if they wished. It was a bold challenge and one that could easily be taken up, since during the pax Romana travel around the Mediterranean was safe and easy. Paul could not have made such a challenge if those eyewitnesses didn’t exist. There are many instances of sightings of Jesus’ resurrection but I like to go to Paul where he says that Jesus appears to 500 people. I like this one because it flies in the face of the argument that these were just hallucinations of distraught people. If it was just one or two that would be one thing, but 500 at a time is unheard of.

No one Believed in Resurrection

Quite often I hear “Well, people back then believed in the supernatural so they believe people could come back from the dead.” The trouble with this statement is that if there is one thing that modern day atheist and 1st century Jews hold in common is that they cannot believe in the resurrection. The resurrection was as inconceivable for the first disciples, as impossible for them to believe, as it is for many of us today. Granted, their reasons would have been different from ours. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection; in the Greek worldview, the afterlife was liberation of the soul from the body. For them, resurrection would never be part of life after death. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. The people of Jesus’ day were not predisposed to believe in resurrection any more than we are. Even today with global communications at our finger tips, it takes at least 20 years for a new idea to take hold and start to be accepted. In the case of the resurrection it went from not being believed to widely accepted overnight. Therefore, we must ask, from whence did this belief in a bodily resurrection come from, if not from the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances?

Explosion of the Christian Church

After the death of Jesus the entire Christian community suddenly adopted a set of beliefs that were brand-new. Their view of resurrection was absolutely unprecedented in history. They believed that the future resurrection had already begun in Jesus. There was no process or development. His followers said that their beliefs did not come from debating and discussing philosophical ideas; they were just telling others what they had seen themselves. Even if you propose the highly unlikely idea that one or two disciples did get the idea that He was raised from the dead on their own, they would never have got a movement of other Jews to believe it unless there were multiple, inexplicable, plausible, repeated encounters with Jesus.

How could a group of first-century Jews have come to worship a human being as divine? It was absolute blasphemy to propose that any human being should be worshipped. Yet thousands of Jews began worshipping Jesus literally overnight. The hymn to Christ as God that Paul quotes in Philippians 2 is generally recognised to have been written just a few years after the crucifixion. What enormous event broke through all of that Jewish resistance? If they had seen him resurrected, this would certainly account for it.

My Conclusion

Most people think that, when it comes to Jesus’ resurrection the burned of proof is on believers to give evidence that it happened. That is not completely the case. The resurrection also puts a burden of proof on its nonbelievers. It is not enough to simply say “I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” You must come up with a reason why, overnight, history changed course and the Christian Church was born. Yet no reasonable answer has ever been given. Every account flies in the face of everything we know about 1st century history and culture.

I can sympathize with a person who says “I don’t know history and culture but I just can’t believe the resurrection happened.” But you know what, the 1st Century Jews and gentiles felt exactly the same way. They found the resurrection just as inconceivable. The only way anyone embraced the resurrection back then was by letting the evidence challenge their preconceived notions of life and the world and their views as to what is possible. They opened themselves to the evidence, both of the eyewitness accounts and the changed lives of Christ’s followers – and it was overwhelming.