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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: 10 Reasons to Trust the Bible

Don Stewart :: The Bible’s Main Character: Jesus Christ

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The Bible’s Main Character: Jesus Christ

Ten Reasons to Trust the Bible – Reason 9

The ninth reason to trust the Bible concerns the person and work of its main character, Jesus Christ. When one examines the life and teachings of Jesus, it becomes clear that He is in a class by Himself. We can make the following observations:

Jesus Is in a Different Class than the Founders of Other World Religions

Throughout history, many religious leaders have come on the scene and attracted large followings—the Buddha, with his teachings on how to cope with life’s suffering, gained millions of adherents. Confucius, with his precepts on how members of society should get along with each other, likewise numbers his followers in the millions.

The same can be said for Muhammad and the religion of Islam. Yet, Jesus has demonstrated that He is in a different class from these, as well as all the other founders of the major religions of the world.

A number of things make Jesus different. We will mention four:

1. The Person of Jesus Christ Is the Issue, Not His Teachings

First, He made Himself the issue while other leaders made their teachings the prime concern. Central to religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Confucianism etc. are the teachings. What is stressed in these particular religions are the various things which these founders taught; not so much who they were. The teachers, therefore, are secondary to the teachings.

However, in Christianity, the opposite is true. The all-important issue is not so much what Jesus taught, as whom He claimed to be. This is one of the major differences between Jesus and the founders of other religions—He made Himself the issue.

Jesus Acknowledges Himself to Be the Son of God

The claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God, is one which Jesus accepted. We read the following account:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13)

Jesus wanted to know what was being said about Him by the multitudes. Who did the people think He was? The disciples responded in this manner:

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14)

The people at that time had a number of different ideas as to Jesus’ identity. There did not seem to be any consensus among them.

Jesus then personalized the question. We read Jesus’ follow-up question:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

The Lord wanted to know what His disciples thought of Him. Who was He to them? We read their reply:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15)

Peter, speaking for the group, said that they believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Note Jesus’ response to this confession by Peter:

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16)

We discover that Jesus acknowledged Peter’s confessional statement about Him. He was indeed the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thus, Jesus believed Himself to be the Promised One.

Jesus asked this question to secure a commitment either for Him or against Him. He wanted people to make a clear declaration about Him. Was He a great prophet or a great teacher? Or was He something more, the Christ, the Son of God?

Eternal Destinies Are Based upon How We View Jesus

The identity of Jesus is not merely an academic issue. According to Jesus, eternal destinies are determined by how one responds to His claims. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day the following:

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:24)

We do not find the leaders of the other world religions ever making such claims. Indeed, they never made themselves the issue.

When the Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate, their accusation against Him was as follows:

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” (John 19:7)

Therefore, contrary to the founders of all the other major religions, it is the identity of Jesus Christ, not His teachings, that is the major issue.

2. Jesus Backed up His Claims by Performing Miracles

A second aspect that separates Jesus from other religious leaders is that He demonstrated that He had authority to make such monumental claims. While other religious leaders have made great claims, they have given no legitimate evidence to substantiate them. Jesus, on the other hand, backed up His claims with objective proof.

The account of Jesus healing a paralyzed man illustrates this point. When this man was brought before Him, Jesus said:

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)

This claim to forgive sins upset the religious rulers. Mark records the following response:

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:6-7)

They said it is only God who can forgive sins.

Only God Can Forgive Sins

They were absolutely right in their assertion that only God could forgive sins. The prophet Isaiah records God as saying:

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25)

But making the claim to forgive sins is something that cannot be publicly verified. How could anyone have known that Jesus had this authority? Realizing this to be the case, Jesus responded:

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:8-12)

We note how Jesus dealt with the situation. He asked, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven or rise up and walk?’” It is much easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because no one can tell, at that moment, whether or not they have been forgiven. There is no observable sign that accompanies the forgiveness of sin.

Everyone Will Know That Jesus Christ Has the Authority

But, if someone says to a paralyzed man, “Rise up and walk,” it will immediately become apparent to everyone whether or not the person has the ability to supernaturally heal. When Jesus instantly healed the paralytic, He showed the religious rulers He had God’s authority—since this miracle occurred where everyone could see it with their own eyes. Jesus, therefore, demonstrated His authority in the observable realm. It illustrated the fact that He also had supernatural authority to forgive sins in the realm we cannot see—the invisible realm.

Therefore, Jesus Christ did not merely make claims about Himself; He backed up those claims with observable miracles, which testified to His power and authority.

3. Predictive Prophecy Separates Jesus from Other Religious Leaders

A third thing that separates Jesus from other founders of the great religions is that His coming into the world was predicted by the Old Testament prophets. We can make the following observations.

One of the major themes of the Old Testament is that God would send a Deliverer, or Messiah (the Christ), to come into the world. He would eventually rule as king over Israel as well as rule over all the nations of the earth. A practical question arises, “How would the people know the identity of this promised Messiah when He arrived?” Theoretically, anyone could claim to be God’s anointed one.

This, however, was not the case. God narrowed it down in such a way that whoever claimed to be the Messiah would have to fulfill some very specific predictions. We will look at three specific areas that had to be fulfilled by anyone claiming to be the promised Messiah:

The Family Line of the Messiah Was Predicted

The first set of predictions, which we will consider, has to do with the Messiah’s genealogy, or family line. God narrowed down the family line of the Messiah in such a way that eliminated most of the people who have ever been born.

Prediction: He Will Come from the Family of Shem

The Bible says that the Messiah will be a descendant of one of Noah’s sons—Shem. We read about this in the Book of Genesis. It says:

He also said, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” (Genesis 9:26-27)

Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. God eliminated two thirds of humanity when He said the Messiah would come through the line of Shem.

The Fulfillment Recorded

Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus in which he records Jesus was a descendant of Shem. It says He was:

The son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech. (Luke 3:36)

Thus, Jesus was a descendant of Shem.

Prediction: the Christ Will Be a Descendant of Abraham

The Bible says that the Messiah will descend from Abraham. We read in the Book of Genesis the Lord saying the following:

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

Now God eliminates all the families of the earth but one—the family of Abraham. Whoever claims to be the Messiah has to be a descendant of Abraham, for God told Abraham that one of his descendants will bless all the earth.

The Fulfillment Recorded

In the first verse of Matthew’s gospel, he states that Jesus descended from Abraham. We read:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)

Jesus descended from Abraham. The promise to Abraham was literally fulfilled.

The Testimony of Paul

The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, also emphasized that God specified one from Abraham’s line would be the Christ. He wrote to the Galatians:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)

The Apostle Paul says that God uses the singular rather than the plural to emphasize it will be one particular descendant of Abraham who will bless the world—this one descendant was Jesus.

Prediction: He Will Be a Descendant of Isaac

Abraham had two sons: Isaac and Ishmael. God promised Isaac that the Messiah would be through his family line. We also read about this in Genesis:

Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed. (Genesis 26:3-4)

Therefore, the Messiah would be born through the line of Isaac, not Ishmael, the other son of Abraham.

The Fulfillment Recorded

According to Matthew, Jesus was from Isaac’s line. He stated:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father Isaac. (Matthew 1:1-2)

The promise to Isaac was fulfilled.

Prediction: the Messiah Will Come from the Family of Jacob

Isaac had two sons: Jacob and Esau. Scripture says that the chosen line was through Jacob. This continues to narrow the possible candidates for the Messiah. It says in the Book of Genesis:

And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” (Genesis 35:11-12)

Jacob, not Esau, would have the Messiah come through his line.

The Fulfillment Recorded

Jesus was also from the line of Jacob. Matthew records it as follows:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. (Matthew 1:1-2)

The promise to Jacob was fulfilled.

Prediction: He Will Come from the Tribe of Judah

Jacob had twelve sons. God eliminated 11/12 of the line of Jacob by saying the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah:

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. (Genesis 49:10)

Therefore, the line of the Messiah is narrowed even further.

The Fulfillment Recorded

Jesus descended from the line of Judah. Matthew records the following:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. (Matthew 1:1-2)

The promise that the Lord made to Judah was literally fulfilled.

Prediction: the Messiah Will Be from the Family Line of Jesse

There were many family lines in the tribe of Judah, but only through the family line of Jesse could the Messiah come. He is the Branch that will bear fruit according to the prophet Isaiah. He wrote:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)

The Bible says that Jesse would have a descendant who would be the Messiah.

The Fulfillment Recorded

Jesus was a descendant of Jesse. Matthew writes:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham…Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse. (Matthew 1:1,5)

Again, we find that God’s promise is fulfilled.

Prediction: He Will Descend from the House of David

God told David that the Messiah would be from His line. We read about this promise in Second Samuel. It says:

When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. (2 Samuel 7:12)

Jesse had at least eight sons. God eliminated 7/8 of the sons of Jesse when He said the Messiah would be through the line of David. Again, the list of potential candidates gets narrower and narrower.

The Fulfillment Recorded

The Bible records the fulfillment as follows:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)

The very first verse of the New Testament records the fulfillment of this prophecy.

When the angel appeared to Mary announcing Jesus’ birth, he confirmed that Mary’s child would be a descendant of David. Luke writes:

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:31-32)

The Bible says that Jesus descended from David. Again, the promises of God come true.

Summary—The Genealogy of the Messiah

Whoever the promised Messiah would be, He would have to be a physical descendant of David the king. All other individuals would not qualify. Therefore, from the predictions with respect to the genealogy of the Messiah, the great majority of the people who have ever been born are eliminated from contention.

Jesus, however, fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the family line of the Messiah by being a descendant of David.

The Place of the Messiah’s Coming Was Predicted

In addition, the exact place of His birth was predicted.

Prediction: He Will Born in Bethlehem

God predicted, through the prophet Micah, the exact city where the Messiah would be born. He said the following:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)

Every city in the world was eliminated but one ? Bethlehem of Judah or Judea. Thus if someone was a descendant of King David, yet was born in any other city than Bethlehem of Judea, he would not qualify as the promised Messiah.

What is interesting is that there was another city named Bethlehem in Israel at that time. However, this Bethlehem was not in the land of Judah. Thus, to fulfill the prophecy, the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, or Judah, not the other Bethlehem.

The Fulfillment Recorded

Jesus was not only born in the right family, He was also born at the right place; Bethlehem of Judea. Matthew records the following:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem. (Matthew 2:1)

Matthew records the fact that Jesus was indeed born in the predicted city; the city of Bethlehem of Judea.

The Time of the Messiah’s Coming Was Predicted

Finally, we have the prediction with respect to the time in history of the Messiah’s coming.

Prediction: He Will Be Killed Before the Temple and the City of Jerusalem Is Destroyed

The Old Testament predicts the death of the Messiah. This is found in the Book of Daniel. It reads:

After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. (Daniel 9:26)

We learn three things from this verse:

  1. The Messiah will come on the scene of history
  2. He will be killed
  3. After His death, the city of Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed

The Fulfillment Recorded

When Jesus came to the earth, the city of Jerusalem, and the temple, had not yet been destroyed. Teaching at the temple was an important part of Jesus’ ministry. The temple was destroyed in the year A.D. 70, along with the city of Jerusalem. This was forty years after His death and resurrection. Again, the predictions were literally fulfilled.

Summary—The Prophecies Concerning the Messiah

Therefore, Jesus fulfilled certain prophecies about the coming Messiah. They include:

  1. He was born in the right family line - David’s
  2. He was born at the right place ? Bethlehem of Judea
  3. He was born at the right time in history - before the city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed
There Are Two Important Points to Consider

These three areas of prophecy we have looked at reveal two startling things. They are as follows:

First, the prophecies were fulfilled literally—exactly as they were written. Jesus was literally a descendant of King David, He was literally born in the city of Bethlehem and He literally came upon the scene of history and was killed before the city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. In other words, the prophecies were fulfilled exactly as they were written.

There Was No Human Manipulation in the Fulfillment

Second, these three lines of prophecy were all fulfilled without any human manipulation. There is no way Jesus could have deliberately fulfilled them, seeing they were all fulfilled by His birth. Before He gave any sermons, before He did anything miraculous, Jesus supernaturally fulfilled these prophecies. He was born in the right family, at the right place and at the right time in history. Humanly speaking, there is no way Jesus could control these factors. Therefore, we find in the birth of Jesus Christ, miraculous fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

4. Jesus Christ Came Back from the Dead

A fourth and final fact, which separates Jesus from all others, is that He conquered the ultimate enemy that everyone faces—death. By coming back from the dead, He provided a solid answer to the question, “What will happen to us when we die?” No other religious figure has returned from the dead to verify his claims except Jesus of Nazareth.

In addition, the bodily resurrection of Jesus can be tested by the most rigorous historical methods. While many other religious traditions have an idea of spirit resurrections (an untestable hypothesis), only the New Testament proclaims a bodily resurrection that passes all tests of historical reliability.

The evidence testifies that Jesus Christ has risen! The only rational explanation for these historical facts is that God raised Jesus in bodily form, forever triumphant over sin and death. Lord Darling, the former chief law officer in England, has said it well:

We, as Christians, are asked to take a very great deal on trust; the teachings, for example, and the miracles of Jesus. If we had to take all on trust, I, for one, should be skeptical. The crux of the problem of whether Jesus was, or was not, what he proclaimed himself to be, must surely depend upon the truth or otherwise of the resurrection. On that greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favour as a living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world can fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true. (Lord Darling cited by Michael Green, The Day Death Died, Intervarsity Press, 1982, p. 15)

This provides the believer with a genuine hope of life beyond the grave.

Thus, the resurrection of Jesus Christ separates Him from all other religious figures, past or present, for He conquered the greatest enemy we all face—death.

Therefore, Jesus is different from the founders of other religions in at least four ways. They include the following:

  1. He made Himself the issue instead of His teachings. He claimed our eternal destiny depends upon how we view Him!
  2. He backed up His claims with observable miracles.
  3. He fulfilled Old Testament predictions made about His life and His ministry. These predictions were made hundreds of years before He was born.
  4. He conquered death to verify that He was the unique Son of God.

These four things separate Jesus from any other religious leader; past or present.

He Is Jesus—the Only

Carnegie Simpson offers a fitting conclusion on the uniqueness of Jesus. He wrote the following:

Instinctively we do not class Him with others. When one reads His name in a list beginning with Confucius and ending with Goethe we feel it is an offense less against orthodoxy than against decency. Jesus is not one of the group of the world’s great. Talk about Alexander the Great and Charles the Great and Napoleon the Great if you will…Jesus is apart. He is not the Great; He is the Only. He is simply Jesus. Nothing could add to that…He is beyond our analyses. He confounds our canons of human nature. He…awes our spirits. (Quoted by John Stott, Basic Christianity, Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1971, p. 36)

The matchless character of Jesus Christ is a true wonder of the Bible.

Summary–Reason 9
The Bible’s Main Character—Jesus Christ

While other religious leaders made their teachings the primary issue, Jesus Christ was different. Indeed, Jesus made His identity the key issue. He not only claimed to be God the Son, Jesus expected people to respond to this claim. Was He whom He claimed to be or was He not? Jesus went on to say that the eternal destiny of each individual will be determined on how they view Him. No other leader of a world religion has made such claims.

Scripture records that Jesus not only made astounding claims about Himself, we are also told that He backed up these claims by performing miracles during His earthly ministry.

In addition, Jesus also fulfilled predictions made about Him hundreds of years before He was born.

The ultimate evidence that His claims were true is that Jesus came back from the dead.

Consequently, Jesus Christ, the main character of Scripture, is truly unique. He said things that no one else has said and has done things that no one else has done. There is no one to whom we can compare Jesus ? He is in a class by Himself.

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