Imagine if someone walked onto this stage and said, “I am God. I can forgive sin because I am the Messiah. Feel free to worship me and pray to me.” How would you respond if someone made claims like that? About two thousand years ago, a Jewish man named Jesus of Nazareth made these claims about himself. Jesus claimed that he was God incarnate. There were several unique ways he let people know that he was God. In the book of Exodus we see Moses asking God for His name, and God responds,
Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Circle those words: “I am who I am.” Another word for that phrase is Yahweh. It was such a special name that a devout Jew would not even pronounce it. Those who wrote it would first do a special ceremony before they wrote it. Now notice something that Jesus said in John 8:58:
John 8:58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
What was Jesus doing here? When he called himself “I AM,” a Jewish person would have known exactly what he was doing. He was claiming to be Yahweh, God. The next unique thing about Jesus is that he accepted worship. In the Old Testament it’s forbidden to worship anyone but God.
Exodus 20:1-5 And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”
Yet if you read the New Testament you will see examples of Jesus accepting worship from people:
Matthew 28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Matthew 8:2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Kneeling was a form of worship. This man came and knelt down before Jesus. After he stilled the storm the Bible says:
Matthew 14:33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
As humans we are to worship God; since Jesus accepted worship, he was putting himself on the same level as God. The next unique thing Jesus did to state his identity was to teach people to pray in his name. Who do we pray to when we pray? God. And yet, Jesus taught us to pray in his name, again putting himself on the same level as God.
John 14:13-14 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
So think about this: Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be God, accepted worship like God, and told people to pray to him as if he was God. So the million dollar question is, was Jesus God? Or was he a liar and self-deceived?
Some people think that Jesus wasn’t the son of God, but he was a good moral teacher. However, it’s hard to put him in that category because how can you call him a good person if he made claims like ‘I am Yahweh, pray to me, worship me,’ when it wasn’t the truth? He wouldn’t be a good man, he’d just be a good liar.
Bono, the lead singer of U2, one of the most successful rock and roll bands of all times said, “I think it’s the defining question for a Christian: who was Christ? And I don’t think you’re let off easily by saying, ‘a great thinker,’ or ‘a great philosopher.’ Because actually, he [Jesus] went round saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God, or he was nuts.”
A bit later, the interviewer is direct: “Therefore, it follows you believe he was divine?” And Bono is clear in his response: “Yes.” Bono believed that Jesus was God. What about you? Do you think he was God, or a liar, or self-deceived?
CS Lewis, a former atheist who became a follower of Jesus, once said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” If Christianity is that important, it would be wise to think about the person which Christianity centers around: Jesus of Nazareth. Are there any good reasons to believe that Jesus was God?
1. His fulfillment of prophecy.
Imagine if someone who was living in the 1500’s had predicted that Community Celebration Church would be at this very location in 2021. Imagine if they also predicted that we would be known as the donut church and have a pastor who told bad jokes. Would you be impressed? I would. To be able to accurately predict an event hundreds of years before it happens would be miraculous.
This is what happened to Jesus. If you read the Old Testament, the part of the Bible that is written before Jesus birth, it predicted many things about Jesus before he was born. All these prophecies were written about him before he existed.
Could it be a coincidence that Jesus fulfilled a few Old Testament prophecies? However, it wasn’t just one prophecy he fulfilled, it was three hundred of them. Jesus fulfilled over three hundred prophecies. Is it possible that he read the Old Testament and saw what it said about him, made a to-do list, and then fulfilled those prophecies? The problem with this theory is that many of the things that were prophesied about him he had no control over, like where he’d be born and how he’d die. All of these prophecies that he fulfilled point to the fact that he was more than a mere man. The next reason it is reasonable to believe Jesus was who he claimed to be is:
2. His sinless and miraculous life.
When we read about the people who knew Jesus best, they spoke about his stellar moral character. Peter, one of his disciples, said this about him:
1 Peter 2:22 “He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth.”
That is the kind of reputation this man from Nazareth had. Now compare and contrast that to others who claimed to be the messiah, for example, think of David Koresh. He was the leader of a cult named the Branch Davidians. Back in 1993, their compound was raided by the government. The followers of David Koresh called him the “sinful messiah” because it was blatantly obvious to them that he had many flaws.
That wasn’t the case for Jesus. His followers and those closest to him described him as sinless. Perhaps this is a reason that Time Magazine called Jesus, “The most persistent symbol of purity, selflessness and love in the history of western Humanity.” In addition to his sinlessness, he was a miracle worker. Think of all the miracles that Jesus performed: turned water into wine, walked on water, multiplied bread, opened the eyes of the blind, made the lame walk, cast out demons, healed the multitudes, and raised the dead to life.
Josephus, a 1st century historian, outside of the Bible, wrote, “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ.”
Notice how Josephus notes that Jesus was more than a mere man: “if indeed one ought to call him a man.” Notice also how he said that Jesus did “surprising deeds.” Another word for that is miracles. So here is someone outside the Bible testifying that Jesus was performing miracles.
Question: how could a normal person live a sinless life and do all these miracles? Well, his sinless life and miraculous deeds point to the fact that he was more than a mere man, he was God in human flesh. The final reason it is reasonable to believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be was:
3. His resurrection.
Today we have been talking about this Jewish man from the 1st century who claimed to be God. He also made quite a prediction about his life.
Matthew 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Did you see how Jesus predicted that he would die and be raised from the dead? So the question becomes, did the resurrection actually happen? If the resurrection happened, it validates that Jesus was God and it teaches us that we don’t have to fear death, because at the resurrection death was defeated. But if it didn’t happen, it proves that Jesus was not God. Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection.
Lee Strobel was an atheist and a writer for the Chicago Tribune. One day he came home and he finds out that his wife has become a Christian. He freaks out. He thinks that Jesus is in the same category as the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. So he thinks, I’ve got to show my wife that this is a hoax. So he asks his friend, who is a Christian, ‘where would I start, if I wanted to disprove Christianity?’ He said, ‘that’s easy. Start with the resurrection, because the Christian faith hinges on it.’ So he went out and did his research to disprove the resurrection, and in the process he found all this evidence that it actually happened and eventually became a follower of Jesus.
That friend of Strobel’s was right, Christianity hinges on the resurrection. Listen to what Paul said when it comes to the importance of the resurrection and the Christian faith:
1 Corinthians 15:13-17 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
The moral of the story according to Paul was: Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection! So here is the question, if Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection of Jesus, are there any good reasons to believe it actually happened?
Professor Thomas Arnold, the author of the three volume work the History of Rome, a man who held the chair of modern history at Oxford, wrote: “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” This scholar believed that the resurrection actually happened and validated what Jesus said about himself.
Dr Simon Greenleaf was a royal professor of law at Harvard University. He wrote a three volume work called A Treatise of the Law of Evidence. The rise of Harvard law school to prominence was accredited to Dr. Greenleaf.
Dr. Greenleaf looked into the evidence when It comes to Jesus death and resurrection, using the same laws of legal evidence used in the courtroom, and came to the conclusion that there is more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ than there is for just about any other event in history. Dr. Greenleaf believed that the resurrection happened and validated what Jesus said about himself.
J. Warner Wallace was a forensic detective who specializes in cold case investigations. As an atheist he looked into the claims of Christianity. Specifically, he looked into the question: Did Jesus really rise from the dead. As he looked into this ultimate cold case, he came away utterly convinced of the truth of the resurrection. Wallace concluded: “The resurrection is reasonable. The answers are available; you don’t have to turn off your brain to be a believer.” This former atheist who is a cold case detective believed that the resurrection happened and validated what Jesus said about himself.
Francis Collins is an American physician-geneticist who discovered the genes associated with a number of diseases and led the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, United States. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. He began examining the evidence of the Jesus’s history and resurrection with the intention of strengthening his atheism, but his journey resulted in his conversion.
Two thousand years ago, a man from Nazareth made all these claims about himself, that basically he and God were equal, and then he backed up those claims with a fulfilled prophecy, a sinless, miraculous life, and the resurrection. Because of this, many people have decided to make him their leader and savior.
I typed this question in google this week: Who is the most influential person of all time? Here was the top five: Jesus of Nazareth, Leonardo Da Vinci, Nicola Tesla, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein. Notice who tops the list? This man from Nazareth. There are over 2.2 billion people who follow him. Why? Because he was more than a mere man, he was God in human flesh. And he is alive and active in the hearts and lives of his followers.
As we come to the end of this message, let me ask you a question: Who is Jesus to you? Liar? Lunatic? Lord? Maybe you have never really thought about it. But today God has spoken to your heart and you realize that there is something to this Jesus. If you want to begin a relationship with him, I want to encourage you to pray this prayer of faith with me:
“God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!”