It’s really important that we be able to explain why we believe what we believe. Otherwise, everybody will just think, “Cool, that’s your opinion. Everybody’s got an opinion.”
So I hope I don’t insult you when I ask, “Why do you believe Jesus is God?”
I am quite sure that if any human being—regardless of personality, charisma, moral purity, wisdom, or miracle-working—were to approach you with the claim, “I am God,” you would think, “Nooo, you’re not! You’re deluded, and right now you’re kind of frightening!”
Hulon Mitchell, Jr. (aka Yahweh ben Yahweh) claimed to be the son of God. He passed away in 2007. Sun Myung Moon claimed to be the Messiah. He passed in 2012. Around the time of Jesus, a guy named Theudas claimed to be somebody magnificent. He was killed, and it all came to nothing (Acts 5:36).
So, why are we persuaded—some of us beyond any doubt whatsoever—that Jesus of Nazareth is God?
Quite simply, the most convincing single factor has to be the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Who else—religious or otherwise—in history has predicted that, in fulfillment of prophecy, he would be
- arrested by his own people,
- turned over to the those who were not his people,
- spit upon,
- put to death by crucifixion (Matthew 16:21; 20:19; 26:2; Luke 24:7), and
- raised again to life on the third day (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 18:32; 24:7)?
All that remained was to wait and see whether what he foretold about himself would actually come to pass.
Even though it was in perfect agreement with prophecy from the Tanakh or Old Testament (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53:4-9), Jesus’ self-prophecy about his death and resurrection was, at that moment, so out of harmony with the general excitement over his teaching and his miracles that even his own followers were pretty clueless as to what Jesus meant … until the resurrection actually happened.
The Ultimate Miracle
Now most people who know anything about Jesus believe that he was a compassionate and loving person. And without argument, Jesus did many miracles out of his compassion and love for people (Matthew 9:36; Mark 1:41). At the same time, though, Jesus’ miracles served another very important purpose—to validate the truth of his claim to divinity (John 2:23; 20:30-31).
According to Jesus himself, the ultimate miraculous sign that would confirm his claim to deity would be “the sign of Jonah.”
Jesus declared, “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:39-41) And when he said that, the minds of Jewish people then and there would have turned immediately to one thing–Jonah coming out of the fish alive!
The historical fact of Jesus’ crucifixion has gone almost undisputed from ancient times till today. Even ancient, non-Christian, extra-biblical writers such as Tacitus and Lucian of Samosata believed Jesus died by crucifixion. Tacitus was quite specific in his confirmation, and he even alluded to a “superstition” about Christ’s resurrection. The article “Ancient Non-Christian Support of the New Testament” goes into more detail about this evidence if you’re interested.
But the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has been questioned by plenty of people from ancient times till now. Why? Essentially because
- dead people don’t usually come back to life days later, and
- for some reason, too many people treat the written records of Jesus’ resurrection as “religious.” and not historical.
There is a false notion that if something is spiritual, then it is based on
- opinion, not objective truth
- personal faith, not facts
- emotions, not reason
- feelings, not thought.
Hey, the effects of the testimony about Jesus’ resurrection rocked the ancient world, eventually changing the whole tone of imperial Roman society! Something highly unusual actually happened around 33 A.D. that acted almost like hitting a restart button for the whole world!
While belief in the resurrection of Jesus is indeed a matter of faith, it is absolutely not a matter of blind faith. It’s a matter of believing propositional truth. It’s an issue of believing corroborative evidence. What do we know for sure?
- Jesus’ disciples claimed to be eyewitnesses who saw, touched, ate with, and spoke with the bodily resurrected Jesus. (1 John 1:1-3)
- Thousands of people in the very city where Jesus had been crucified believed in the resurrection within weeks of the crucifixion. (Acts 2:41)
- People who claimed they saw, touched, ate with, and spoke with the resurrected Jesus were willing to die violent deaths rather than deny the resurrection. None of the apostles “copped out” after the resurrection.
- Within two or three years of the crucifixion, former enemies of Jesus made dramatic turnarounds and began to proclaim Jesus as the resurrected Son of God, mankind’s Savior from our sin and death.
- Christians became widely known for sharing, for rescuing abandoned children, and for caring for widows.
- Christianity eventually brought about the end of legalized slavery in Roman lands.
If historical evidence has not yet convinced you that Jesus Christ is God, then I encourage you to read some of my articles under the “Supporting Evidence” tab at the top of the page. I think you’ll find them thought-provoking. Feel free to ask questions or to make comments. I’d be honored to respond to you.
If Christ was not resurrected from the dead, then even the apostle Paul agreed that Christians’ faith would be useless and that Christians should be pitied more than anyone. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). If on the other hand, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is indeed historical fact, then the implications for all of us are HUGE. If Jesus lives, then we can have life, too—life of a totally different quality, richness, purpose, glory, joy, and duration. But those are yet other reasons for believing that will be examined in future posts! I hope you’ll come back to read them!
Meanwhile, here’s a great, related article by outstanding Christian thinker Eric Metaxas: “The Annual Debunking of Jesus: Can We Rely on the Gospels” .
Also, check out the excellent books in the sidebar ad. They’re some of my favorites.