Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's been a while...

... and I don't want to bore anyone with the details of the last 3 months. So let's just say, Isaac graduated, I did virtually nothing all summer, Isaac moved to college, and I am not considering re-entering the real world. I am not fully committed to that yet. Summer is so fun for me. Doing nothing can be so entertaining. But that's not the point of today's blog. I have something far more important to say.

"Historical Jesus"

In my quiet time this morning I was rambling on about all sorts of issues in my life when it dawned on me that if I were really in the presence of Jesus, would I really be able to just keep babbling like this? Wouldn't I be a bit more awe struck and perhaps silent? It would certainly take Jesus to hush this girl. So I confessed right away that I was allowing insignificant stuff to hinder my time with my Lord. I remembered the Psalm that says Jesus - even in a crowd - is enthralled with me. So I paused to soak all this in and to give proper respect and attention to my Jesus.

Now, I have been doing a Bible study on 1 John. I'm really only at the beginning, but I have already learned so much. Did you know John was the last living apostle? People sought him out from all over the Roman Empire to hear him tell his stories about Jesus. He was the world's last connection to Christ. Ok, don't read anything into that. I don't mean that when John died, we lost our way to God. I just mean, he knew the stories and by the time he was in his 80s he probably told them in such a way that people hung on his every word. Church officials would interview him to ensure their practices were in line with Jesus' teachings. He was a strong link between Jesus and the new church.

In his first letter, John wrote to dispute the claims of the Gnostics. Who would name themselves that? Anyway, do you know what they believed? Here are a few things:
1. Jesus was not a man. He looked like a man, but he really wasn't. Why not? Because they also believed
2. Flesh is evil and spirit is good. Jesus could not have had flesh and been good. In following that logic, the also concluded that
3. Sins don't affect the flesh, so they don't really matter, and from that they decided
4. Sins don't really exist. So they did what ever they wanted.
I know you are thinking they were crazy, and they were. What's the point of a Savior, with or without flesh, if you don't sin? They talked themselves out of needing Him. And still they were influencing the church. They were leaving congregations, and causing real believers to doubt their salvation.

Don't lose me here. I know this is a lot of head stuff, but hang tight. I have a point.

So John wrote 1 John to assure the believers that they were saved. He said there were two tests to prove it: 1. They had a proper view of the nature of Jesus. John reminds them that he saw Jesus, he touched Jesus, he studied Jesus. Jesus certainly had flesh. The recipients of his letter had received that truth and believed it.
2. They had a proper view of sin. They acknowledged that they had sinned. Therefore, God, who is faithful and just, had forgiven them.

Now this is where it gets fascinating. I started contemplating John's relationship with Jesus. He had been a fisherman and left his occupation to follow Jesus. He lived with Him, he ate with Him, he fished with Him. He even saw Him die on the cross. He saw the blood flow. Not only this, but John alone got the task of taking care of Mary after Jesus died. John certainly knew the humanity of Jesus.

But that's not all. In Matthew 17, we're told John saw Jesus transfigured. That means he saw Jesus in His glory, as He was in heaven before He came to earth. Veggie Tales says it like this: He was real shiny! John saw Jesus as Abraham did when Jesus came to tell him Sarah would have a baby, as Hagar did when she thought she and Ishmael would die in the desert, as Joshua did before he went into battle. John not only knew the humanity of Jesus; He knew and experienced the deity of Christ as well.

If that doesn't make you want to knock on John's mansion door some day, I don't know what would. I, for one, have lots of questions.

It's plain no one was better qualified to speak with authority on the nature of Christ than John.

At this point, the history buff in me was tingling all over. Call me weak in my faith, but I get excited when I get historical proof. Sometimes I just need the boost. I need to see the scars and put my hand in the wounds. So when my study led me to two other historical references to Christ, I just nearly came unglued.

1. Tacitus wrote around 109 AD, "Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus..."
2. Josephus wrote in 90 AD, "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."

Are you not blessed by this? As early as 60 years after Christ's death and resurrection, a historian, who never became a believer, made mention of Him. If you wanted to write down what happened 60 years ago, would you not find someone who was alive then and ask them? Wouldn't you expect a relatively accurate account of what went on in that time? This is like getting it straight from the horse's mouth. In courts, hearsay is not admissible, but witnesses are often called to testify on subjects that they are considered experts. Here we have 3 men, John, Tacitus, and Josephus, giving either their own expert witness or the written version of someone else's expertise. As my Bible study author said, "JESUS WAS A MAN IN HISTORY."

I still haven't made my point. I still haven't told you how He really led me this morning to worship. I sat in my bed pondering all this. Some of it I'd been digesting for a week; some of it was fresh on my mind. And here's what came to me:

Jesus must have been a huge deal. He worked miracles. He opened eyes, He raised the dead. Sometimes I think we dismiss those because we don't see them happening. We read Jesus' story like it's a fairy tale, but Josephus said Jesus' works were so wonderful he doubted calling Him a man did Him justice. Jesus stopped people from working, and they followed Him. He entered villages, and everyone stopped what they were doing to see Him. People crowded into strangers' houses to catch a glimpse of or to touch Him. Crowds of thousands followed Him for days without food. Don't overlook this. What if someone came to Austin and life as we know it stopped? What if Dell and Google employees walked away from their desks to see the newcomer? What if 5000 men were sitting on the shore of Town Lake, not for a concert, but for a sermon? What if they sat there 3 days? What if their kids weren't in school all that time? Would it not be on the news?

Jesus was a big deal. He was real. He walked on earth and dramatically rocked people's worlds. He altered history. He changed the calendar. He took over the Roman Empire. No one like Him ever existed. He is God eternal. He was a man so we could know Him. He alone is worthy of our praise.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

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