If Jesus Wasn’t God, Then He Deserved an Oscar/Program 5
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2006|
|In this program, Dr. Ankerberg will teach you how to answer the questions, “How can we know for sure that Jesus claimed to be God? What evidence did Jesus offer to prove His claim was true? Was His character really unique? Can we really believe in His miracles?”|
Dr. John Ankerberg: Today on the John Ankerberg Show, recent surveys show that people are confused about what they believe about Jesus Christ. They think He was a great man, but are not sure about what He taught, who He claimed to be, and the purpose of His life. Through the years I have spoken to students on university campuses, to people in large gatherings, to conferences, and churches about the facts and evidence that can lead a person from skepticism to belief in Jesus Christ? Together let’s examine the evidence that can lead to a clear understanding of who Jesus is, resolve your doubts and answer your questions, and possibly lead you to faith in Him. Join me for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
Welcome to our program. I’m glad you joined me. This is the fifth program in this series where I’m taking you step-by-step through the facts and evidence that can lead a person out of skepticism to belief in Jesus Christ. In our first program I addressed those who claim to be atheists or agnostics, and began to lay a factual foundation that shows Christianity is totally based on a real man by the name of Jesus Christ who lived in real history. The reason we know Jesus lived is not only because of the emergence of the Christian Church, but because of seven authors who gave us historical information about his life. In programs two and three, we answered the question, how do we know that these authors gave us reliable historical information? Why do we believe that the four Gospels and other New Testament books came out during the lifetime of the apostles, as well as the friends and enemies of Jesus who had witnessed his life? In program four, did Jesus ever claim to be God? And today, we’ll examine the testimony of both the friends and enemies of Jesus to see if Jesus lived a perfect life and never sinned. Just think if somebody asked your family that question about you. Come with me now to Boca Raton, Florida, where we will examine the unique claims of Jesus Christ and the uniqueness of His character.
Excerpt from Boca Raton
- Now, before we go on to the next part, we’re looking at the claims of Jesus Christ and then we’re going to look at the character of Jesus Christ and look at the information and see if He is unique in any way. Is He unique in His claims? Is He unique in His character? Is He unique in His works, His miracles? This will bring us into the resurrection of the dead. And then I’m going to say, draw a line on this evidence and tell me, Who do you think that Jesus Christ is?
- But in finishing up the fact of Jesus’ claims, one of the questions that people ought to ask, did the enemies of Jesus Christ understand that He was claiming to be God? Obviously, if the disciples said that He was God, they could be padding the case. But did His enemies say that? If you go into a courtroom and you get the other side to admit what you want them to admit, then you’ve won the case. And the question is, is there any evidence that the opposition, those that were opposed to Him, heard Him say that He was the Son of God or God Himself? The answer is “Yes” to the question: Did they understand it that way?
- In Matthew 27:41-43 we find these words: “Likewise also the chief priests, mocking him”—He’s on the cross—“with the scribes and the elders.” Now you have the hierarchy of Israel before the cross. Jesus is on the cross. And they’re looking up at Him and they said, “He”—that’s Jesus—“trusted in God, let God deliver him now if he will have him.” And then look what it says. This is the chief priests, the scribes and the elders — “for He”—that’s Jesus—“said”—this is coming out of the mouths of the chief priests, scribes and the elders—“for Jesus said, I am the Son of God.” Well, where did they get that? They must have heard Jesus making those statements and they taunted Him with His own statements while He was on the cross. Now, sure, they didn’t think He was God but the very fact that they would use this against Him when He’s on the cross, He must have said it, right?
- Then take a look at John 10:30, 33. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” Okay? Now, there are different ways that you could interpret that. Actually, you should interpret that, because it’s a Greek neuter, one, “I am one in essence.” That’s not “I am one with the will of God,” but “I am one in essence with God.” But it can be translated different ways. But I want to know, how did the people that were standing there understand it, okay? Well, the context tells you. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” They reached for the rocks. “Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works have I shown you from the Father. For which of these works do you stone me?’ The Jews answered him, saying, ‘For a good work we stone thee not, but for’” what, shoplifting? No. “But for blasphemy and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself” what? “God.” So they understood when He said, “I and the Father are one.” Here they were, orthodox Jews, God is one, and Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” “That’s blasphemy! You are claiming to be God.” That’s how they understood Him. That’s why they reached for the rocks.
- John 5:18 is another place and there the Scripture says, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Jesus because he not only had broken the sabbath but said also that God was his Father”—and look at the next words—“making himself equal with God.” And so the Jewish leaders understood Him to be saying that He was God. This is evidence that’s on the table. Now, we have the claims of Jesus Christ—that He claims to be God.
- Now we want to turn and we want to go to point two, and that is, the character of Jesus Christ. What was He like? This guy that claims to be God, what was He like when you met Him? Okay? Well, let’s start off with this.
- Have you ever sat down with friends and asked them this question over a cup of coffee? “What did Jesus do wrong?” How long would your conversation be? Be a real short conversation, wouldn’t it?
- Alright, now turn that around. Let’s say that we’re with your family. Let’s say it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas. All the relatives, all the kids are there, and, dad, you stand up and you say, “Now, gather around, friends. I’ve got to ask you a question. I’d like to know, ‘Can anybody here remember one thing that I’ve done wrong?’ Would any guy here like to try and say that? “Write them down and hand them in.” The kids would say, “Hey, dad, could I have more paper?” I mean, none of us would say something like that.
- But Jesus made that exact statement to His enemies, not to the guys that loved Him. He asked His enemies: “Which one of you can convict me of one sin?” And nobody could say anything. Now, for a moment, if you can picture a man that has never made a mistake, has never made a sin in His life, what do you think it would be like to be around Him? We probably wouldn’t like Him, would we? Probably think He’d be kind of stuffy, kind of proud. Well, we’ll get back to that. Just hold on to that.
- What was Jesus like? Jesus possessed a keen moral judgment, if you want, a spiritual radar, is what I call it. When He looked at other people, it wasn’t that He didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. Do you remember when He looked at the religious leaders of His own day? He saw their sins and was not afraid to say something about it, was He? He called them “white-washed sepulchres.” They looked pretty on the outside; inside they were full of dead men’s bones. He called them “snakes in the grass.” He told them they were proud. He told them they were hypocrites. I mean, that’s pretty strong language. You say that to the pastor, right? “You’re a snake in the grass”? So, the fact is that Jesus, when He looked at other people, He had a moral radar that went right out there, and He was not afraid to say something.
- Even His own disciples, when they came and said, “Look, Jesus, we’ve got this little request. One of us would like to sit on your left hand, the other one on your right hand when you come into power.” Just a little request.
- Jesus said, “This thing of one-upmanship, it shall not be so among you, but the one that wants to be the greatest, you need to be the servant. And if you want to be the very top of the totem pole, you be the slave.” So Jesus was not afraid to rebuke His own disciples or the religious leaders of His own day. He had the spiritual radar that went out which didn’t quit.
- And yet, when He focused that spiritual radar on Himself, you never hear Him say that He did one sin. You never hear one prayer of His confessing to the Father that “I’ve sinned.” You never hear any of the disciples say, “He sinned. He blew it over here.” Now, that in itself is really remarkable. Do you know anybody else like that? No. We can’t think of one person in history that has those kinds of qualifications. We can’t think of one person in history, except Jesus Christ. He must be unique.
- Let me see if I can give you a better example. In Church history itself, there have been many great men, alright? There was Augustine. And Augustine, of course, in his memoirs and in his confessions, actually wrote about how he became a Christian and then as he grew closer with God, he started to talk about the sins of his life. And the closer that he got to God, the more he confessed his own sins.
- The same was true about Luther and Calvin and Wesley, and as you go through, Finney, and you get to our day of Billy Graham and so on. All of the men that have served God in a great way, the closer they get to God, the more they confess their own sins, right? Now, think about this. If that’s true, what about Jesus?
- The skeptics say Jesus was not God. He was just a great man and He got closer to God than anybody else. Well, if He got closer to God than anybody else and the standard practice down through Church history has been that the closer these men have gotten to God, the more they see their own sins, then where is it that Jesus confesses His own sin? Why don’t we see it? He breaks the mold.
- Let me give you another example. David Brainerd was the first missionary in America to the American Indians. He died at the age of what? Twenty-nine years of age. Why? Because he went out as a missionary to the American Indians of the Delaware Valley. Do you know who his father-in-law was? Jonathan Edwards. How would you like to have Jonathan Edwards for your father-in-law? Edwards was his father-in-law, and he thought this kid was a saint. Just thought this kid was terrific because the kid went on horseback, riding in the woods to go and visit the Indians. And he would get out there, he would lay on the ground, and the dew would cover him. He’d get cold; he would get pneumonia. He would get colds. But he was out there because he loved the American Indian and he wanted to reach them for the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Now, as I understand it, this fellow had quite a prayer life. He’d get up at 4:00 in the morning, get by a tree stump and start to pray. And he only prays for four or five hours and then reads his Bible for a couple of hours. And then he had a little diary where he would write. Something like us, you know. And Brainerd would write in this diary stuff like this. He would say, “I lament my moral corruption, my lack of prayer.” He would pray four or five hours every morning. “I lament my lack of prayer, my love for Christ. I am a poor worm. I am a dead dog. I am unspeakably worthless. I am a wretch.” He died at 29 years of age because he was so enthusiastic about reaching the American Indian.
- After he died, Jonathan Edwards took his diary and he opened it up and he started to read it. And he couldn’t believe it. This kid that was a saint had all of these things, downgrading himself, saying how unspiritual he really was and confessing his sins. Why? Because, again, the closer you get to God, the more time you spend in God’s presence, you’re like Isaiah who says, “Woe is me! I am an unclean man. I dwell among a people that have unclean lips.”
- That’s the way it is all the way through church history. Except for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ turns this moral radar on Himself and instead of saying, “Oh, look at all the sins that are there,” He asks, “Which one of you can convict me of sin?” And nobody could. Absolutely unique in His character. What do you do with a guy like that?
- Jesus taught that all other men were lost sheep but He had come as the good shepherd to seek and to save them, John 10:11. All other men were sick with the disease of sin. He was the doctor who had come to heal them, Luke 5:31. All other men were plunged into the darkness of sin and ignorance. He was the light of the world, John 8:12. All other men were sinners. He was born to be their Savior. He would shed His blood in death for the forgiveness of their sins, Matthew 26:28. All other men were hungry. He was the bread of life, John 6:35. All other men were dead in trespasses and sins. He could be their life now and their resurrection hereafter, John 11:25. Is Jesus unique? Yes, He is. Absolutely unique. But then there’s something else about Him.
- Remember, He said that He was the light of the world. What would you think it would be like to be around the light of the world? For those who say they’re the greatest, you say, “Let’s take five steps back and take a look at this really carefully.” You would assume they would be proud. You would think that they would be a snob. What do you think it would be like to be around the guy that says, “I’m coming back at the end of the world? I’m going to determine the eternal destiny of every man, woman and child that’s ever lived”? What do you think it would be like?
- Isn’t it amazing that the children loved to be with Him? That the sinners congregated around Him? That the people thought He was their friend? That’s all true. That’s how they looked at Jesus. The record says He had no touch of self-importance. He was not pompous. He was not proud. He was the Lord of all, but what did He do? He washed the feet of the disciples. He said He was going to judge the world. But He could take the little children in His arms. He made friends with simple fishermen and publicans. He touched the outcast, the lepers. At the end of His life when He was put on the cross, and as the cruel spikes were driven through His hands He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
- What did His friends say about Jesus? Obviously, if you want to find out about a man, you better ask His friends, ask His family. The disciples lived with Him, ate with Him, slept with Him for three solid years at least. They knew everything about the guy. What did they say about Him? Did they see any slip-ups? Peter described Jesus as a Lamb without spot or blemish. He states, “Jesus committed no sin; in fact, no guile, no deceit was even found on his lips,” 1 Peter 2:22. The Apostle John said, “In Christ there is no sin.” And he said that in the same book where he said, “All men are sinners and if we say we have no sin, we are liars ourselves who make God a liar too.” The Apostle Paul said, “Jesus knew no sin; rather, He was holy; He was blameless; He was unstained; He was separate from sinners” (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 7:26). He said Jesus was in every respect, what? “tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
- Pilate, after examining Jesus, said, “He could find no fault with Him” and publicly washed his hands of Jesus’ blood (Luke 23). King Herod said, “I can find nothing wrong with this man” (Luke 23:15). Judas, filled with remorse, returned the 30 pieces of silver and said, “I have sinned in betraying” what? “innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4). The penitent thief on the cross said, “This man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23). The Roman centurion said, having watched Jesus suffer and die, “Certainly this was a righteous man.”
- That’s what the record shows. His character was absolutely unique. So what do you do with this man? Who was He?
- But then we get down to His miracles. His miracles. You know, when you read the miracles in the New Testament, you don’t get the idea that they are like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Jesus never did miracles to entertain the crowd. The miracles always taught something. And when you read the accounts of the miracles, the people’s reaction is real. It’s as if we were there. Let me give you an example.
- Now, today we had down here in Florida six to ten feet waves on the surf. Those are pretty good waves out there. I heard that the fellows on our staff went down the beach and they looked at the waves as they were coming in! I’ve been in Hawaii where they had the waves up to 20 feet tall coming through when you have hurricanes, and I’ve seen those. You don’t go swimming in a 20-foot wave, do you? Why? Because if you’re going up while this wave is coming, and it comes over you, you can have 20 feet of water pushing you right straight down into the gravel and grinding you up down there. Gets pretty hard to come up. And then while you’re coming up, then the other wave’s coming over right behind that.
- Remember the account in Matthew, Mark, Luke, all three of them record the account of Jesus and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. And Jesus is tired so He goes and rests in the bottom of the ship and they are sailing across the Sea of Galilee and the wind comes down off the Golan Heights and you can have some real waves coming up. In fact, the way the account is written, Peter thought they were going to die. They were bailing for all they’re worth.
- Have you ever been in a small boat when the waves are filling it up and the wind is blowing like mad and you’re losing and you’ve only got these little cans and you’re trying to bail out? Well, you know you’re in big trouble. Nothing is going to help you and soon you’re going to be down and you’re going to be swimming out there in the waves and you don’t do a lot of swimming.
- So, Peter, a fisherman, seeing what the score was, got scared and said, “Where’s Jesus?” James says, “He’s sacked out down at the bottom of the boat.” “What? Wake Him up, get a bucket, let’s go. We’re going down.” So Peter goes running down to Jesus. This is a marginal reading of the Ankerberg translation here, you understand. Peter goes down and he says, “Jesus, get up!” Jesus wakes up and says, “What’s the matter?” He says, “The wind, the waves, it’s coming into the boat. We’re going down. Grab a bucket.” So Jesus comes on up to the top. He looks. These huge waves rolling by. Remember “Hawaii 5-O,” you guys that are really old. Do you remember those waves they used to have on “Hawaii 5-O”? See one of those wave coming at you. Peter says, “You see that. It’s coming toward us. We’re going down. Do something!”
- What does Jesus say? “Oh, ye of little faith.” “Yeah, right, Jesus. But this wave is coming, you see?” So Jesus turns and He looks at the wave, looks at the wind, looks at the elements and He says, “Peace, be still.” I can just see Peter looking at James, “Did you see that? I mean, that’s really going to help us out here. ‘Peace, be still.’ I mean….” And while he’s saying that, the wind drops off. And as the wind drops off, the waves start to smooth out and all of a sudden it’s just quiet and the water is just lapping up against the boat and Peter and James and the other disciples are absolutely drenched, standing there with their buckets in their hands looking around.
- What I like about all three of the accounts, what Peter said next, is exactly what I think we would have said. Peter looks over at James and he says, “Who is this man?! Who is this guy! Did you just see what happened? Nobody goes around and says to the elements, ‘Peace be still’ and everything stops. He just did. Who is this guy?” And Jesus didn’t do it to show off. There’s nothing after that. That’s just what happened and that’s their reaction. Jesus did the miracles to show that He was God.
- Have you ever watched these Hollywood movies about Jesus? Don’t you get a kick out of them? They fudge on most of the miracles. But what’s the one miracle that they all keep in? I remember Sir Lawrence Olivier was in one and he was one of the people that was standing there and he came up to Lazarus’ tomb. And the fact is that Jesus looks in and here’s this big stone over the door. Sir Lawrence Olivier is out there in the crowd and he’s looking at this with all the people and he’s got this smirk on his face because everybody is just ridiculing Jesus. And Jesus says, “Just roll the stone away.” And they’re laughing and having party time. “What do you want to roll the stone away for, Jesus? Come on. The guy’s dead.” Jesus said, “Just roll the stone away.” And so you see all this happening and you see them all around and then all of a sudden Jesus says, “Hey, Lazarus, come on out of there.” And then you see Sir Lawrence Olivier, his face, and he’s kind of got a smile and as only he can do, the smile starts to fade and all of a sudden you see Lazarus coming forth and all of a sudden fear goes into his eyes and then all of a sudden from fear and then wonder. He turns from Lazarus and he looks over at Jesus and he starts to look at Jesus with a penetrating stare to say, “Who in the world are you that can call forth the dead?” Fantastic bit of acting. But they captured that message correctly. Who goes around calling people back from the dead?
- Look, I spoke on the university campuses during the Vietnam War. I had friends that came home in a box. And I can remember going to a cemetery where one of my friends, 20 years of age who was shot in Vietnam, was buried. And there were about three people there. And it was a gloomy day, something like this, except Chicago cold, okay? And it’s rainy and it’s drizzly and it’s cold. And here’s the dirt that’s been put into the grave and you’re standing and looking at each other trying to fumble for words to say. And it’s a despairing situation. And I thought, “What would it be like if some fellow came along and said, ‘What’s the matter with you guys?’“
- You say, “Our friend here was in Vietnam and he got shot. He’s dead. Only 20 years of age.”
- And he says, “Well, hey, don’t be so gloomy. You see those shovels over there? Dirt’s not too bad. Get the dirt out. Get the shovels and dig the dirt out.”
- He says, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
- So you’re nuts enough to do it so you dig down six feet, you pile up the dirt six feet right next to the grave. You say, “Now what?”
- He says, “I’ll tell you what. You see the casket down there. It looks a little locked. Can you pry the cover loose just a little bit?”
- And so you pry the cover loose.
- And he says, “Leave it shut.” Yeah, you want to leave it shut because the body stinks down there. And then you climb out of the hole and you’re standing there and you say, “Well, now, what else are we going to do?”
- And he says, “I’ll tell you what. What’s the fellow’s name?”
- And you say, “Well, his name is Harry.”
- And so the guy says, “Hey, Harry, come out of there.” And you say, “You mean we did all of that work for nothing. I mean, you’re just going to talk to this fellow. Come on.”
- And while you’re saying this and kidding this fellow, all of a sudden the cover swings up and Harry sits up in the box. And you’re looking down there and Harry stands up and climbs out of the grave and he’s standing right next to you and you don’t know what to say. “Hey, Harry, how was the trip?” What are you going to say?
- And this guy that says, “Hey, Harry, come on out of there,” he says, “Harry looks a little cold and needs a little food. Take care of him.” And he starts walking away.
- Now, you’re dumb but you’re not that dumb and you say, “Hey, look, I’m going to die someday. Where are you going to be? Maybe you could come over and say, ‘Hey, Johnny, come on out of there.”
- That’s what happened at Lazarus’ tomb. “Hey, Lazarus, come on out of there.” If you had Jesus around and you went to a funeral, you would never know if you were going to come home with the guy you went to see. And we just don’t do that. But when Jesus said that He also taught, “When you see this, then remember, I am the resurrection and life. He that believeth in me, though you die, yet you will live.” Why? “Because I’m the resurrection. I am life. I’ll take care of it.” See, that’s empirical proof. “Want to see this, then let me teach you something.” That’s how Jesus did the miracles. But the capper is the fact of His own crucifixion and His resurrection from the dead.