Jesus of Nazareth
Vol: 112 Issue: 15 Saturday, January 15, 2011
No person in the history of mankind has had a more profound effect on human history than an unskilled laborer named Jesus from the Galilean town of Nazareth Who lived and died in the first half of the first century.
Jesus Christ was but a youth of thirty-three at His Crucifixion, barely enough time in the natural for anyone to make much of an impact on the world in which one lives. Especially given the fact that He lived in more-or-less total obscurity until He reached age thirty.
His public ministry lasted but three years – less time than a single US presidential term. But no US president that ever lived came even close to approximating His impact on history.
There are entire countries that never heard of Abraham Lincoln or George Washington. There is little doubt that there are places where nobody has heard of Barack Obama.
But it is hard to imagine a place so remote that nobody has heard of Jesus of Nazareth.
Yet there are entire organizations dedicated to disproving that He ever existed. Almost as much is written in this, the 21st century, that is dedicated to denying His existence as there is celebrating it.
There are so many views concerning Jesus Christ that the view Jesus didn’t exist almost serves as a primary source of evidence that He does. It seems counterintuitive that so much time, effort and scholarship would be devoted to disproving Him if there were any serious doubt of His historicity.
A quote from Shakespeare is illustrative; “Methinks he doth protest too much.” The Book of Proverbs expressed a similar sentiment thusly: “The wicked flee where no man pursueth.”
Christians believe Jesus was both God and man and that as such, He was uniquely qualified to pay the penalty due for the sins of the world. Look at the perfect symmetry of that belief in light of the existing evidence.
The case for Jesus as Savior begins with the covenant between God and Abraham. God had led Abraham out of Iraq to a land God promised would belong to Abraham and his descendants forever as part of a covenant relationship between God and Abraham and his seed.
Abraham demanded a guarantee from God.
“And he said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And He said unto him, Take Me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto Him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. (Genesis 15:7-10)
Abraham knew precisely what this was – it was a blood covenant of the type that was common among the Chaldeans of Abraham’s day. The Abrahamic covenant foreshadowed the Ten Commandments and the Mosiac Law.
The animals were butchered and arranged in piles to form an aisle through which each party to the agreement would walk, hands joined, while reciting its terms.
The implication of such a covenant was that if one party the covenant were unfaithful to its terms, then he would end up like one of those piles of animal parts. While Abraham waited, he fell asleep and witnessed what transpired as a vision.
“And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.” (Genesis 15:12)
Abraham and God were both parties to the covenant, but God signed it on both sides, binding God to the penalty instead of Abraham or his descendants.
This is where the story of Jesus of Nazareth really begins. Because Abraham’s seed broke the covenant, somebody had to pay the penalty demanded by its terms. God’s justice is perfect and perfect justice demands perfect adherence.
Even God doesn’t stand above His own standard of justice. That is what makes Him God.
The story of Jesus of Nazareth is too complex to be a myth. Much of the Old Testament is dedicated to prophecies concerning the Messiah – prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth.
The story plays out in a nutshell summary like this. Within three centuries of the Flood, God pledges Himself in a blood covenant with Abraham and his seed.
Two thousand years later, God steps out of space and time, fulfills the Abrahamic/Mosaic covenant by uniquely living a life perfect adherence, paying the penalty demanded by its violation on behalf its violators at the Cross.
The terms of the Old Covenant having been fulfilled makes possible the introduction of the New Covenant, purchased by His own Blood, of salvation by grace through faith. It IS the greatest story ever told.
Just think of it! The Bible says that before the world began, God already identified you as one of His own and made provision for your salvation.
That all sounds good in theory but it also sounds like predestination. And predestination is one of those things that Christians like to analyze and argue about until they miss the significance of what it teaches.
What it teaches that nothing occurs by chance, that God has everything under control, that the hairs on your head are numbered and whatever personal terror looms before us, God has already made provision for.
It teaches that you can trust His Promises, including the one that says, “I will never leave or forsake you.” And the one that says, “I will come again to receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Let’s put aside the argument about free will and predestination and ‘what about the non-predestined?’ for now by simply allowing for the fact that God already knew because He is God — and we argue about it because we are not.
The existence of Jesus of Nazareth as a man that lived and died during the first half of the first century (which, not coincidentally, is why we call that the FIRST century, AD) is attested to by a wealth of contemporary and extra-Biblical accounts.
Josephus was not a Christian but he confirmed that Jesus of Nazareth was executed on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem. Roman Senator Tacitus wrote of the crucifixion Jesus, mentioning that it took place during the administration of Pontius Pilate — and of the subsequent rise of Christianity in his ‘Annals’.
Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan mocking Christians and their willingness to die for Christ only seventy years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. And Suetonius referred to Jesus in his work, “Twelve Ceasars” – all within the first century.
According to the chronology of the standard Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible, Abraham was born in the year 1948 Anno Mundi, meaning “the Year of the World” [from Creation].
It was to Abraham that God gave the land grant that gave Israel the nickname, “the Promised Land.”
Two thousand years later, Jesus stepped into the world to redeem the Covenant under which that land grant was made, but was instead rejected and crucified, precisely as prophesied by the Prophet Daniel.
The Temple was torn down, as Jesus prophesied, the Jews were scattered into the Diaspora. Two thousand years after that, God began to regather the Jews to their homeland and Israel was reborn — in the year 1948 Anno Domini.
Full circle. . . from the birth of Israel’s eponymous patriarch in 1948 AM to the restoration of Israel as a nation after two thousand years in exile in 1948 AD.
Everything about everything that makes it possible for us to have fellowship with God was born in Ur in 1948 AM.
And the starting date for the restoration of ALL things, according to the testimony of Jesus, is the budding fig tree, symbolic of the nation of Israel, reborn after two millennia in the Diaspora, in 1948 AD.
How perfect is that? Maranatha! The Lord is coming!