Do We Have Accurate Information About Jesus?
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2001|
|Were eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus life still around when the Gospels were written? If so, what does that tell us about the trustworthiness of those accounts? Dr. Ankerberg explains and illustrates.|
Do We Have Accurate Information About Jesus?
Do you remember exactly where you were, who you were with, what you were doing when you heard these words: “The President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, has been shot”?
Do you remember watching Jackie Kennedy come off that airplane with her pink dress splattered with the blood of the President? Do you remember seeing Lyndon Johnson put his hand up in the airplane, solemnly taking the oath of office?
Do you remember how the nation shut down? We watched the casket being rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue, the horses carrying the flag-draped casket of the President? We watched John-John and Caroline walking down the street, and John-John ripped our hearts out by giving the salute at the gravesite. Do you remember that? Just a few sentences and you can bring back the very emotions that you had.
But now, what if somebody came along and said, “You know, here’s how Kennedy really died. There was an Indian standing on the street in Dallas, and he had a bow and arrow, and he took the bow, shot the arrow and got Kennedy right in the head and that’s how he died.”
You would say, “No, that’s not how it happened.”
Why? Because you were an eyewitness via television or maybe you actually were on the streets in Dallas.
Oliver Stone came out with a movie trying to reconstruct how Kennedy was shot. How did they dispel what he was saying? They went to the eyewitnesses. They got the doctor to come out and say, “No, no, no. Here’s the way it actually happened.” The eyewitnesses were there and they said, “That is not how it happened. This is how it happened.”
So people just can’t manipulate historical facts, especially when the eyewitnesses are still alive. Now, how long ago was President Kennedy shot? 1963. It’s been nearly forty years, but you can still recall vividly where you were and what was going on. You have not forgotten. Nobody could pull a fast one on you.
The books of the New Testament came out 15, 20, 30 years after Jesus passed off the scene and they came out while eyewitnesses were still alive. And if anybody was going to pooh-pooh these accounts, if anybody was going to say these are not right, they should have done it then. But they didn’t.
You remember Mark, Chapter 2. What happened? Jesus is in a meeting and these guys ripped up the roof and they let down a fellow that had never walked. And Jesus looked at the fellow that had never walked and what did He say? “Your sins be forgiven.” Why didn’t He just say, “Be healed”? Well, immediately when Jesus said, “Your sins be forgiven,”—the religious leaders were there in the room, the place was jammed out—the religious leaders said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have said that.” Why? What was happening?
Josephus talks in his Antiquities about a fellow by the name of Theudas. And Theudas claimed to be God’s messiah and he was going to have to do a miracle. So he went down to the Jordan River with a large crowd of Jews. He said, “Part, Jordan!” Nothing happened. And he shouted at the water for four hours. And when nothing happened, they had a “rock party” and they killed him. It’s a very dangerous thing to claim that you’re God’s Messiah or God’s Son and be a false one. That’s blasphemy.
Jesus said, “Your sins be forgiven.” The religious leaders said, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Only God can forgive sins. Who do you think you are? God? Come on! That’s blasphemy.” And they thought they were going to have another rock party.
Now, it’s very interesting. The skeptics say Jesus never said He was God. But Jesus, in Mark, Chapter 2, if He realized that these guys had misinterpreted Him to think that He actually had the power to forgive sins, He should have said, “Oh, guys, wash my mouth out. Cancel that last statement. I’m not saying I’m God!” But He didn’t say that.
What did Jesus say? They said, “This is blasphemy!” He asked them a question, He said, “Let me ask you this: Which is easier for me to say in this situation: ‘Your sins be forgiven’ or ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”
Let me ask you: What would be the easiest thing for Jesus to say in that situation? Well, understand what the situation is. They’re saying, “Jesus, you are claiming to be God and you’re a phony. But anybody that comes and claims to be the Messiah or claims to be the Son of God, they’ve got to do a miracle. (That’s what the prophets said: You’ve got to do a miracle.) So Jesus, you’re trying to pass on to us a phony miracle to back up your phony claim that you’re God.” If that were true, what would have been the easiest thing for Jesus to do in that situation if He was not God and He was a phony? Would it have been to say to the fellow that had never walked, “You’re healed. Go on home”?
If you were in that position and you had no power, would you say to a guy that’s never walked, “Fellow, get up”? Because what’s going to happen? The guy’s not going to get up. And then what’s going to happen? They’re going to stone you right on the spot. So you don’t want to say that. You want to say the other statement that Jesus made.
What was the other statement? You want to say, “Now, look at this. I’m God’s Son. I’m the Messiah. Now, watch this, I’m going to give you a miracle. Are you ready? You’re healed!” Well, if he doesn’t get up then you’re dead. But if you say, “Watch this. Your sins are forgiven. Did you see that?” No, you didn’t see that. So if I say, “Hey, his sins are really, really, really forgiven,” you say, “That’s a lousy miracle, Jesus. We can’t see that. That’s why you’re a phony. That’s why we know you’re not God.” That’s what they were saying.
And Jesus said, that would be the easiest thing if I were a phony. That would be the easiest thing for me to get out of the situation with my life is just to say, “Here’s the miracle: your sins are forgiven.” And walk out of here because you couldn’t prove it one way or the other.
But did you ever read what Jesus said? He says, “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say unto you, ‘Take up your bed and walk,’” and the man got up and walked out in front of all of them and they were all amazed. And Jesus was saying, “Look, when you see this thing that you can understand, that you can see, namely this man walking, you’ll know that I can do this other thing that you can’t see, namely, forgive sins.” To me He was saying, “Folks, I’m God,” and pushing it right in their face.
You know what’s fun is that came out in the book of Mark, the first book that was on the newsstands, according to the skeptics. What’s fun is that the religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, were sitting right in the audience. If that was on the newsstands five, ten, fifteen years after the time that Jesus passed off the scene and those religious leaders were there, they could have said, “That never happened. We were there.” But nobody said that.
And that’s why we know we’ve got accurate, historical information about Jesus. These books came out too early. They were written by people who claimed to be eyewitnesses and we ought to trust the eyewitnesses.
Maybe you’re getting the idea that we have information about Jesus in history—you can’t walk away from it. It really happened. Jesus in Mark, chapter 2, claimed He could forgive sins. When we get to heaven there’s only going to be one person with an “S” on His sweatshirt and that’s Jesus. He is the Savior. Remember what the angel said at Christmas: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.”
Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. He is the one that can forgive sins. He is the only one that can forgive sins. If your sins are going to be forgiven, He’s the only one that can do it. It doesn’t happen any other way. He went to the cross; He died on the cross; He paid for the sins of the world. He was put into a grave. He arose the third day. He’s in heaven now. He’s living.
He sent out His eyewitnesses of those events to say it happened and go and tell them that if they want to have a relationship with God, if they want to be forgiven, they can have it immediately. It’s free. It’s grace. He’s done all the work. He’ll change your life. He’ll put the Holy Spirit of God in your life. And that’s how the Church started and it spread across the world and it’s come down to this day and we’re preaching the same message.