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Jesus – Divine or Mythological?

I thought what I would do just to start this morning would be to go back and do a very quick review on what I talked about back in August, because what I’ll talk to you about this morning and the message back in August are linked together. The title of the talk was “The Bible: Truth or Fiction”. That’s a huge issue. Now, just for time’s sake, I wrote down a quick review. I’m just going to read it to you. Like I said, I’m not sure it does it justice, but I think I need to do that to get us started.

I started by making some observations that should be true if the Bible is what it claims to be. I spent a good bit of time on why God has chosen to reveal Himself in a permanent written document, instead of some other means. In other words, why isn’t God – people ask me all the time – why isn’t God more direct with us? Why didn’t He give us more than just the Bible? Why didn’t He speak to us from Heaven? And I concluded that God has deliberately chosen to surrender His greatest advantage, which is the power to compel belief. He’s chosen not to overwhelm us nor enslave us by His awesome power. We spent some time talking about the fact that if we truly believe in good and evil, then we believe in some type of moral law, which delineates good from evil. But if you have a moral law, you have got to have a moral law giver who dispenses this law and really look at the moral argument for the existence of God. We spent almost half the time looking at the historical and archeological record to determine the historical accuracy of the Bible and the fact that it has been passed down to us over the centuries unaltered. And we closed by looking at the lives of a number of skeptics who, as scholars, had set out to debunk the Christian faith and the Bible and how all of them, after many years of research and study, converted to the Christian faith. However, at the end, I left open the burden of proof on the Bible’s validity. I left it kind of up in the air because ultimately Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God, because Jesus says it was.

In other words, as you read the New Testament, as you read the New Testament record, you see where Jesus, who claimed to be God, said that the Holy Scripture, though written by men, was God’s own words. And He would often say, ‘God has said’, ‘God has spoken’. And then He would quote the Old Testament. He would quote Deuteronomy or Malachi or the Psalms or Isaiah. And He says, I didn’t come to change God’s Word, I didn’t come to change the law. I came to fulfill it. In other words, He didn’t say there are a bunch of errors here, we need to correct them. He never says that. He says, ‘I came to fulfill the law’. And then after the Resurrection, before His final departure, He appointed certain men, mostly as disciples, as apostles and apostleship was never passed down. When those men died, that was it. And He told the apostles and John, He says, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, will guide you into all truth and will bring to remembrance all that you’ve seen and heard, and that they were to write out and or approve the New Testament record. And that is why the books that you find in the New Testament had to have that apostolic authority. So, in effect, Jesus was confirming that the written Word, both in the past and in the present and in the future is God’s primary means of communicating with His people. And therefore, the real issue becomes, or I guess you could even say the burden of proof shifts to not is the Bible the Word of God, but is Jesus the Son of God, is He truly God in the flesh? You say, I don’t have the authority to tell any of you that the Bible is the Word of God. I can tell you; I believe it is, but I don’t have the authority to say that it is. Only God can say that. Only Jesus can say that if, and I would underscore if, He was the Son of God, because the Bible tells us in the first chapter of John, that the Word, that God became flesh and dwelt among us. In Hebrews, it says, “He is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of God’s nature.” And then, in John 14, Jesus says, “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.” And then, interestingly, when He was in His trial, right before the Crucifixion, He stands before the high priest and was asked in Mark 14, are you the Christ? Are you the son of the blessed one? And this is His response: “I Am. And you shall see the son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of Heaven.”

And so, the issue I would like to consider this morning is this claim that He made; is it true? And if it wasn’t true, then who was He? You know, we have got to give some kind of account for this extraordinary life. You just can’t dismiss Jesus as you look back on history. You know, was He a great moral teacher and that’s it? Or was He a magician as some might contend. Was He an illusionist? Because, if you think about it, if Jesus claimed to be God, but He wasn’t, then what are we to think of Him? I mean, what are we to think of Him if He made this audacious claim, but it wasn’t true? You know, C.S. Lewis makes a big deal about that issue. He thinks it’s significant. In an essay that he wrote years ago, he said, “We may note in passing that Jesus was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He didn’t produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. The people that encountered Christ in the New Testament, what you see is He produced three effects in the people’s lives, hatred, terror, or adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval for Christ.” And then, what apologists use quite often, there’s a quote that Lewis leaves us with in his book, Mere Christianity and it’s worth sharing. He says, “I’m 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 must make your choice. Either this man was, and He was the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. 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 and He didn’t intend to.”

And you know, you think about that’s true, great moral teachers don’t make the kind of claims that Jesus made. If He wasn’t God, then either He was lying, as Lewis says and was evil or He was deluded. He was crazy. But to say He was a really good man who did good things is not an option that’s left open to us. So, whether we believe Christ was the Son of God or whether we don’t, or whether we’re not sure, I personally believe that every one of us should ask the question, well, what is the evidence that would lead me to believe, or that would lead one to believe that Christ is the Son of the living God.

And so, what I’d like to do this morning is to consider that issue, consider that question, because is it reasonable? Is it rational for an educated man living in the 21st century? Is it rational for us to believe a claim such as this? And I want to point towards four, I don’t know what you want to call it, four different parts of evidence, or make four important points for you to consider. And the first one is going to be very brief, and it probably could even be left out, but it’s maybe worth mentioning. And that is the fact that Jesus had such an impact on history. Consider this simple carpenter and the impact that He had upon history. There’s a lot of material you can draw from. And most skeptics would say, well, there are a lot of people that had an impact on history, but I think Jesus was truly unique. Let me read to you this one comment that Henry Bosch has made comparing Christ to other great men, other great teachers.

He says, “Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only three years. A lot of people aren’t aware of the fact that Christ taught for only a three-year period, yet the influence of Christ’s three-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Jesus painted no pictures yet some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo DaVinci received their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry, but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music and yet still Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the hymns, symphonies, and oratories they composed in His praise. Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by this humble carpenter of Nazareth.”

Recently, I spent some time reading about the impact of Christ on the Roman empire. And I came away really amazed at what I read, here and around 33 A.D., Pontius Pilate, who was married to Caesar’s daughter, presided over the trial where Jesus was executed in this desolate part of the Roman empire, that he hated being there, but it was just part of the job to move up. And when Jesus died, he was convinced that he would never hear from Him again and His movement was dead. Then what’s interesting though is for the next 280 years, the Roman government did everything they could to suppress, destroy, and demolish the Christian faith from executing Christians, having them fed to the lions, to burning them at the stake, everything they possibly could, starting with Nero, and they couldn’t eliminate it. In fact, it grew strong. It reached into every part, every sector of the Roman empire, every country, every region until in 312 A.D., at the edict of Milan, it was declared that Christianity was no longer unlawful. And ironically, 60 years later, around 380, it was declared the official religion of the Roman empire. Now, how is that? That Rome would chuck everything that they had believed, all of their gods, for this simple carpenter who lived in their empire at a point in time in history.

And then something very obvious that I think we take for granted, we don’t even think about, but the Romans made this decision that all of our time would revolve around His life. The calendar revolves around the life of Christ. Why is that? Why isn’t it somebody else? Everything, as we gaze in time, is before His life, before His birth, or after. And then a quote that I want to share with you that I think is quite powerful, and there are a number of quotes I could give, but just for lack of time, I want to share this one quote, it comes from a guy that many of you probably are familiar with. His name was Will Durant. You may be familiar with his book, The Story of Philosophy, you find it in a lot of philosophy, introductory philosophy classes in colleges, and he and his wife Ariel wrote this massive 11-volume series on the story of civilization. His specialty was the history of philosophy. He wrote this huge one work. And in this work, he spends a good bit of time talking about Jesus and the impact. And you need to know this; Durant was not a Christian. He was an agnostic. He was no friend of Jesus or Christianity. But listen to what he says, just a couple of sentences. He says that “A few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty in ethic, and so inspiring a vision human brotherhood. It would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the gospels.” In other words, if anybody could invent this guy, that would be the great miracle. Then he says, “After two centuries of higher criticism, the outlines of the life, character and teaching of Christ remain reasonably clear and constitute the most fascinating feature in the history of Western man.” Jesus had a huge impact on history and He still does.

Last month I shared how in all of my research and reading how I was surprised to find that I was continually encountering scholars, who at one time had been skeptics and opponents of Christianity, but how their research led them to change their minds. And I said, part of the reason was because of the reliability and the authenticity of the Bible, but the primary reason is because of the evidence that pointed very clearly and very convincingly, that Jesus was the Son of God. And the evidence I speak of is the Resurrection and the changed lives of the disciples. And I want to take a minute just to run through this and lay this out for you because it’s quite fascinating, and as I learned from preparing this, maybe you pick some up on it as well.

At the age of 30, after living a very inconspicuous life with His parents, Jesus, a carpenter in Nazareth began, you can call it what you want, a movement, a ministry, a work, accompanied by twelve very ordinary men, primarily fishermen, a tax gatherer, and He started this really more of a teaching ministry very slowly. And from time to time, He would perform a miracle, primarily healing sick people. And yet He would always say, don’t tell anybody, keep it quiet. He was starting very slowly, but as you can imagine, if you go into a community and somebody has been blind all their lives and they receive their sight, or somebody has been crippled all of their lives and they’re able to walk, word travels pretty quickly. And so, it was not long before Jesus would wake up in the morning and all the sick in a community would be at His doorstep and He would heal and would teach. And so, as you can imagine, His movement began to grow, but nevertheless, He still spent most of His time with these twelve men, the twelve disciples. And during that time with them, He spent a great deal of His time speaking and teaching on the kingdom of God. In fact, in the book of Matthew, He makes reference to the kingdom of God 53 times, and in doing so, it’s interesting to see how those disciples reacted to this teaching.

Philip Yancey says, “Anyone who declared the kingdom of God has come upon you would surely awaken in his listener’s minds the image of a political leader who would arise, take charge, and defeat the most powerful empire ever known – the Roman empire. The kingdom of Heaven is near Jesus proclaimed in His very first message. Each time He spoke it, the word stirred memories to life, bright banners, glittering armies, the golden ivory of Solomon’s day. The nation of Israel restored to its glory. What was about to happen Jesus said would far surpass anything from the past for, I tell you that many prophets and Kings wanted to see what you see the Messiah but did not see it. And to hear what you hear but did not hear it. On another occasion, he announced provocatively, ‘Now one greater than Solomon is here.’”

And so, as you can imagine, the disciples were pretty pumped up. They were part of a movement. They were part, they were going to be part of the restoration of Israel with a great and mighty King who would overthrow the Romans. And they argued with Jesus. Can I sit on your right and on your left when your kingdom comes?

And as you can imagine, the following was growing to the point. He couldn’t even teach in a city. He’d have to go out in the countryside, he’d have 5,000 people. He’d even feed them all and He’d teach and speak. And so, it was gaining momentum. It was growing. And as you can imagine, His opponents were seething with rage because they were losing the people. And then an event happened that changed everything. And you read about it in John chapter 11. Jesus receives word that His good friend Lazarus, who He loved, was sick and dying. And Jesus was a good distance off. And He tarried and waited. And four days later, He shows up, Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary, and he was dead. He’d been dead for four days. He was already in the tomb and Jesus says, He goes to the tomb and He says, roll it away. And they said, you know, Lord, are you sure you want us to do that? By now, His body’s decomposing. It probably stinks. And Jesus says, roll back the stone. And He commands Lazarus come forth and Lazarus comes walking out of the tomb.

And the thing about it was there were a lot of witnesses there. So, you can imagine the reaction, the explosion to the point that that was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. And that’s when the religious leaders began to plot with Judas to do Jesus in. So, it was soon after that, in the middle of the night that they approach Christ with soldiers and they took Him captive and to the disciples’ surprise, He doesn’t fight back. You know, Peter gets His sword out. He’s ready for a fight. Jesus says, put it up. He doesn’t fight back. He doesn’t defend Himself. He’s tried at night. The next morning, they strip Him of His clothes. They beat Him with 39 lashes. They spat on Him. They mocked Him and then they crucified Him, and He died, died a very long, painful, public, very public death. Imagine what that did to His followers. Imagine what it did to their thoughts, their plans, their vision of the future. Imagine how it devastated them. Where was He? Power. Why didn’t He fight back?

Yancey says, “The crowd’s expectations crumbled. By the time Jesus was nailed to the wooden cross beams, everyone had lost hope and fallen away. Scholars report that first century Jews had no concept of a suffering Messiah. As for the twelve, no matter how often or how plainly Jesus warned them of His impending death, it never sank in. He always alluded the fact He would die and then be raised this body. This temple will be torn down and three days later built again, no one could imagine a message dying. The word kingdom meant one thing to Jesus and quite another to the crowd. Jesus was rejected in large part because He did not measure up to a national image of what a Messiah was supposed to look like.”

And the Bible tells us the disciples went into hiding, fearing for their own lives. If they got Jesus, they may come after me. And so, guys, if you think about it, here, the followers, the twelve, really, the eleven, because Judas had killed himself. The eleven were in hiding, fearing for their lives. Plenty of what do we do next? If you think about it at point, at that moment, Christianity was dead in the water. It was dead. But then something happened that obviously turned that place upside down; something so dramatic that the disciples who were fearing for their lives several days later were out in the streets, proclaiming the message to the people that wanted to kill them.

It’s interesting. A number of years ago, US News & World Report, did a long series and they had a picture of Jesus on the front cover, “The Last Days of Jesus”. And it was not necessarily a pretty picture that they painted of Christ, they had all these skeptics agreeing and disagreeing on what happened in the last days. But this one statement really caught my eyes. He says, “Yet, even the most skeptical Biblical scholars concede that something extraordinary happened in Jerusalem after Good Friday to account for the radical change in the behavior of the disciples who at Jesus’ arrest had fled to their own houses and fear God Jesus’s Resurrection account for the fact that within a few weeks, they were boldly preaching their message to the people who sought to crush them, the people who they had been hiding from.”

And then you see that the disciples come together and go out and proclaim a very specific message that Jesus was the Messiah. He died on a cross. He returned to life and was seen alive by them. And within five weeks, this is what’s incredible, within five weeks, 10,000 Jews had abandoned Judaism to follow this new religion and the disciples went out into all the world and proclaimed this message, eventually suffering, torture, and finally execution, all but one; what transformed them? What changed their lives so dramatically so quickly? Well, Paul tells us very clearly in I Corinthians 15. Jesus rose from the dead. He was seen by Peter. He was seen by the twelve. He was seen by 500 people in a gathering. He says, most of them are still alive today, even though some are dead, most of them are alive. You can check it out. He was seen again by the apostles. And then Paul says, He was seen by me. Historians will acknowledge this, that the body of Christ did turn missing. There’s almost unanimity in agreement that His body turned up missing. And what’s also interesting and very significant is that His body was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a very wealthy man. You think about it, the Romans weren’t about to give His body to the disciples or His followers. Joseph, who was a very influential and wealthy man says, I’ll take Him in and put Him in one of my tombs on my property. And that’s important because everyone knew where His tomb was. It wasn’t a mystery. And yet three days later it turned up missing. The skeptics would argue that just because it turns up missing doesn’t mean that He Rose. The problem they have with it though is accounting for what happened; what happened to the body?

And I didn’t realize this, but scholars over the centuries have spent so much time on this issue, theories and counter theories to the point that they’re really two primary ideas that people use to account for Jesus’s missing body, but neither one of them hold much weight. The first is that that the Romans took the body. The Romans took the body, but we know that that wouldn’t make much sense because there’s this message of Jesus’ Resurrection was being proclaimed in the streets. All they had to do was pull out that decomposing body and say, here’s Jesus and Christianity would have died. In fact, the famous British historian, Arnold Toynbee said find the body of that Jew and Christianity crumbles into ruins.

But the only other real plausible explanation is that the disciples somehow stole the body and then they took it and they probably burned it so that there was no evidence to show that Jesus had not risen. But the problem with that is that it would not explain their sudden burst of courage in the zeal that they had in proclaiming the Resurrection if they knew it was a lie and furthermore, they would never allow themselves to be tortured and executed over the something they knew wasn’t true.  J.P. Moreland says people will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they are true. We witnessed that on September the 11th, but he goes on to say, people won’t die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false.

Now I’ve got several quotes that I would like to share, but I think I’m going to run out of time. So, I want to go to the third piece of evidence and I’m going to probably have to cut it short. The third part of the evidence I used to not think was very compelling or very, but I’m finding it’s hugely significant and very controversial. A number of years ago, a guy came to our firm to work. He moved down from Hartford, Connecticut, and he was Jewish and he was marrying a girl and joining the Southern Baptist church. Now that’s, you know, there’s something not right with that picture when you think about it. And as I said, he didn’t work for us very long. In fact, they ended up moving back to Connecticut, but he said, how did this tell me about this? And he shared with me how he had started to study the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. You see the Jewish people believe that a Messiah one day will come. And that they know He will come because he’s prophesied God foretells of His coming. And yet, as this guy shared with me, he said, the more I studied and read them and compared them to what I could see in the New Testament, I began to realize that Jesus was the Messiah. And then, I’ll never forget this statement. He said, my people, I don’t understand, my people are so blind to this. Then, a year ago, Mike McManus, and if any of you want this article, put it on that card that set your table and I’ll send you a copy of it. Nationally syndicated columnist wrote about seven women who had gone through the Holocaust, Jewish ladies and how, over the course of their lives, they too had come to recognize that Christ was the Messiah that they were waiting on.

He said, you read Isaiah 53, and I would invite you to go home and read the 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah, clearly points to Christ as being that Messiah. And then this book that I read from last month, Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ. If you remember, he was the attorney, graduated from Yale law school became legal affairs chief for The Chicago Tribune. His wife became a Christian. He thought she was nuts. He went out to prove, he spent years trying to prove that she was a fool. And he came to the startling conclusion that maybe she was right. And he spent several years flying around the country, interviewing scholars. And one of the scholars he interviewed was a guy by the name of Louis Lapidus, who a theologian taught at a seminary. Lapidus too, had been Jewish. He’d been raised Jewish.

He went to Vietnam. He said a very dark period in His life. His parents went through a divorce. He decided he’d rejected His religious heritage. When he returned from Vietnam, he embraced Eastern religion. He said, the problem with that was, it made no sense to him and considered suicide. He said, one day I was walking the streets of California and there were these Christians who are out kind of evangelizing. And he said, I got in a conversation I kind of was making fun of them and challenging them with my Eastern religious beliefs. He said, one of them brought up the name of Jesus. He said, well, I’m Jewish. And they said, well, listen, don’t you know what the Old Testament says about Jesus. They pointed out the prophecies to him. He didn’t believe it. He thought they’d cooked the books. He wrote to his stepmother who was devout Jewish woman and said, please send me a copy of the Jewish Bible, which is the Old Testament. She sent it to him, and he was stunned at what he read. And he said, I decided to read the New Testament for the first time. And he said, I came to realize Jesus was the Messiah. And then one final guy that he speaks of, a Jack Sternberg, prominent cancer physician in Little Rock, who too was very alarmed at what he found in the Old Testament. And so, he went and challenged three different rabbis to disprove that Jesus was the Messiah. He says the problem was they couldn’t.

And he too has claimed to have found the true Messiah. I wish I had time to read to you all of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Let me just read two, and I would ask you to go back and read Isaiah 53, which I’d planned on reading this morning. I just don’t have time. But Micah wrote 500 years before the life of Christ. And this is what he said, “but it’s for you Bethlehem.” This is where the Messiah was going to be, “born for you Bethlehem, too little to be among the clans of Judah. From you, One will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel.” And it says “One” is capitalized. It’s divine. “One” would come. And then as Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah was written 700 years before Christ. It says, “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a Virgin will be with child and will bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel” and Isaiah 59 says, “and a Redeemer is going to come”. That’s who the Jews are waiting for, but it says, “and He will redeem you from your transgressions, from your sin.”

That’s why the Messiah was to come; to redeem us from sin. Now, I want to read the final area of evidence in a tiny bit, a minute, because it’s the most compelling to me personally. It just, it somehow resonates with me. And I think it may also with you.

I want to read from Philip Yancey’s book, Reaching for the Invisible God. He says, “In recent years, a French philosopher, an anthropologist named Rene Girard has explored Jesus’s death, explored it so deeply. In fact, that to the consternation of a secular colleagues, he converted to Christianity. It struck Gerard that Jesus’s story cuts against the grain of every heroic story. From His time, the myths from Babylon, Greece and elsewhere celebrated strong heroes, not weak victims. In contrast, from the very beginning, Jesus took the side of the underdog, the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the marginalized, indeed, Jesus chose to be born in poverty and disgrace. He spent His infancy as a refugee, He lived in a minority race under a harsh regime and died as a prisoner, unjustly accused. Jesus admired people like a Roman soldier who cared for His dying slave, a tax collector who gave away His fortune to the poor, a member of a minority race who stopped to help a man accosted by thieves, a sinner who prayed a simple help prayer, a shamed woman who reached out in desperation to touch His clothing, a beggar who ate crumbs from a rich man’s table. He disapproved over religious professionals who refuse to help the wounded for fear of soiling themselves, a proud clergyman who looked down on sinners, the rich who offered only crumbs to the hungry, a responsible son who shunned His prodigal brother, the powerful who lived on the backs of the poor. When Jesus himself died, ignominiously as an innocent victim, it introduced what one of Gerard’s disciples has called the most sweeping historical revolution in the world, namely the emergence of an empathy for victims. Nowhere but in the Bible, can you find an ancient story of an innocent, yet heroic victim dragged to His death. To the ancients, heroes were heroic, and victims were pitiable. According to Gerard societies have traditionally reinforced their power through sacred violence. The larger groups, sa,y German Nazis or Serbian nationalists, pick a scapegoat minority to direct its self-righteous violence against which in turn bonds and emboldens the majority. The Jewish and Roman powers try that technique against Jesus, and it backfired. Instead, the cross shattered the long-standing categories of weak victims and strong heroes for the victim emerged as the hero. God’s expression in Jesus took the world by surprise and two millennia later, the reverberations have not stopped. In a culture that glorifies success and grows deaf to suffering, we need a constant reminder that at the center of the Christian faith hangs an unsuccessful suffering Christ, dying in shame.” You see, Jesus did not impact the world through power or wealth, or by setting up a worldly kingdom or by any other means that generally lead to greatness. He chose the path of humility.

Think about this for a moment. I ask you to use your imagination just for a minute. If God came to you and said, I’m going to give you the ability to create the perfect life for your child. You can determine anything you want and give it to your child. You can determine how gifted they’ll be, how talented they are, their achievements and position in life, their net worth, whatever you, you can make that determination. Let me ask you, what would you choose for your children? I mean, if you had it in your power. A U.S. Senator, a Supreme court justice, President of GE, an Academy award winning actor or actress, a Heisman trophy winner, knowing the number of golfers we have here, Tiger Woods’ golf swing? Pulitzer prize winning author, Daniel Boorstin said, or would tell us that if you ask that question to parents a hundred years ago, they would say I want my child to be some type of hero that impacts society. He says, but if you ask parents today that question, they’ll answer some type of celebrity. You see, we’re in a culture that worships celebrity, well-known-ness, notoriety, impressing others. And I share this with you because, you know, if you thought that God had that opportunity with Jesus, He could have put him in a wealthy Roman household, where He had all the advantages you would want. He could have put him in Athens where all the scholars were. He could give him the ability to write beautiful literature. I mean, with God, the possibilities were unlimited. He could have created the most talented, wealthy, beautiful person to ever live. But instead, what did He do? Jesus was born and lived in a place called Palestine, which was considered the most desolate spot in the Roman empire. And He lived a very quiet life with His parents for 30 years. He truly lived out of the limelight because it’s interesting in Luke chapter four, verse 22, for the first time He started His ministry, He said, He’s in Nazareth where everybody should know Him. He stands up, He reads an Old Testament prophecy, puts it down. And He says, I’m fulfilling this prophecy today. And they just were all stunned. They look back and they look, and they say, who is this guy? Finally, somebody says, isn’t that Joseph’s son. It’s like, they didn’t even know who He was. He lived there for 30 years and they didn’t even know who He was. He truly lived out of the limelight. He left almost no traces of himself on earth because He never owned anything. There are no possessions or belongings, you know, that we could take and enshrine in some museum, He owned absolutely nothing. And as I shared with you a little while ago, He died a humiliating death in front of the entire community. And His last words, Father forgive them, forgive them. I mean, what a paradox, what an incredible life. I contend, it’s only the life of God because God’s ways are truly contrary to human reason. And I guess when you consider it, when you look at Jesus’s life and example, it shouldn’t surprise us that God tells us, there’s only one way to approach Him; with a humble heart, with a surrendered heart. To follow in the footsteps of Christ. As someone has wisely said, “Humility is the eyes through which we can see God.”

Let me wrap this up; take two more minutes. In I Corinthians 15, Paul tells us that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, He was not the Son of God, and if that’s the truth then Christians are a bunch of fools to be pitied. And I share that because back in college, I’ll never forget a guy saying to me, He says, you know, even if they found Jesus’ body today, I’d still be a Christian, I’d still believe in Christianity. And I remember thinking to myself, I didn’t know much, but I remember thinking I wouldn’t. And I share that because in Christianity, truth is paramount. What is the truth? You remember, Jesus spoke to Pilate when He was about to be crucified. And He says to Pilate, I came into the world to bear witness to the truth. He who loves the truth. He who is committed to the truth. He who is on the side of the truth will hear My voice.

Do we love the truth? You know, I have read that account of Lazarus a number of times, but just recently hit me in a way that it’s never hit me before. You know, Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead and everybody’s excited and the word’s going around. But what’s interesting is the Pharisees, the religious leaders hear the same thing. Now they believe that a Messiah is coming. You would think, they’d say, let’s go check this guy out. He may be the one we’re waiting on, but they didn’t. Instead, what did they say? We need to find a way to get rid of Him.

And what struck me powerfully guys is this; their agenda was more important than the truth. Their agenda was more important than the truth, and what was their agenda? The Bible is very clear. They loved the approval of man rather than the approval of God.

And so, I would ask you this morning as we break, isn’t this our great struggle; living for the approval of men, seeking to oppress the world that we live in, struggling with the pride of life, and in the process, we allow our agenda to become more important than the truth of God. I remember a number of years ago, meeting with a guy who was interested in the Christian faith and we met several weeks, and we got to the end and I’ll never forget this as long as I live, he said to me, I believe everything that you have told me is true, but I’m going to stay on the same path that I’ve been on. And it struck me as I was preparing, that came back to my mind because it struck me, there’s a perfect example of a man saying my agenda, my life is more important than the truth of God. Guys, if the Bible is the Word of God, if Jesus is the Son of God, then how is this relevant to my life? Particularly as we live in a very complex world, how is this relevant to my life? And that’s what we’ll cover when we meet again. I think it’s going to be October the 25th. And so hopefully you’ll be there. You’ve been a great audience.

Let me close with a prayer. Father, I thank You for these men and I thank You for their lives. We thank You, what You’ve given to us in the person of Jesus Christ, Father. I pray that we would think very seriously about the issue of who is Jesus and what does it mean to me, but more significantly Father, I pray that we would ask ourselves the question, what is more important, my agenda, or the truth of God. We’re grateful for the example that Jesus left us. We’re grateful for the gift of humility Father. We thank You for just all the friendships and the relationships that exist here in this room. We realize it’s relationships that make life so rich. And finally, we do thank You that You have revealed Yourself to us in the Person of Christ, that You don’t remain hidden. It is in His name that we pray. Amen.

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