This is my final column in response to my gracious reader who wrote in part, “The Bible is a book of mythological tales without any basis in historic fact other than a Jewish man named Jesus lived and died under Roman rule. So did many others in those times.”
Given the fact that so many died from Roman crucifixion in the first century, and indeed, in the centuries before and after, what made Jesus different?
Seriously: If Jesus was nothing more than a simple Jewish carpenter who lived in a remote part of the Roman Empire, why the fuss about him still today? That’s a question every one of us must answer.
He wasn’t famous, He wasn’t wealthy, even in Palestine He came from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks.
I cannot put it better than Dr. James Allan Francis who wrote in, “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons,” in 1926, these words: “Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was 30. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
“He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.
“While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth, His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
“Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.
“I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that ONE SOLITARY LIFE!”
You owe it to yourself to find out why such a person captured the imagination of history. We divide our calendars based upon his life. Why? Where is he different from other religious leaders?
C.S. Lewis said, “Jesus told people that their sins were forgiven. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin… I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’
“That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
“You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
The question then is before you. What was it that caused this man, one among many to die by crucifixion, to come to the forefront of history? If you hold that the New Testament is fourth century myth, you are left with a bigger problem. Why this man and how did His story last until the fourth century?
Both the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities did everything in their power to stamp it out. But they couldn’t, because it wasn’t about what He said, it was about what he did. It wasn’t about what His earliest followers believed; it was about what they saw — a risen Christ.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway Web site at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.