TiO 45 – {Un}Apologetic – Jesus

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The Main Idea

Many objections have been raised over the years to the existence and mission of Jesus. Is Jesus the same as Santa Claus or an Invisible Pink Unicorn? In this message, Todd examined the historicity of Jesus and the value of his mission.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Name three machines you use whose inner workings you are unfamiliar with. That is, if something went wrong you don’t think you could fix it.

Q2: If you have children, did you tell them about Santa Claus? When did you reveal to them that he did not exist?

Q3: Did you believe in the Tooth Fairy? When did you realize that she (he?) was not real? How important are these fictitious people in the lives of children?

Dig a Little Deeper

The question of who Jesus was and what he came to do is generally presented as a series of arguments:

  • Jesus was not a real person, he was just made up by people who had heard similar myths from other cultures and religions;
  • Even if Jesus was a real person, he was just a man who was a product of his culture and who just advocated the things his culture advocated, like slavery and the oppression of women;
  • Even if Jesus existed and was a good person, he was not God and had no effect on our relationship with God. In fact, even the idea that a human sacrifice could reconcile people to God is immoral.

Q1: What is the importance of the existence of Jesus, his death, and resurrection from the dead? Isn’t the message of the New Testament valuable even if Jesus was not a real person who did the things that people like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter reported? Discuss this.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-18 together.

There is a philosophical idea called Pascal’s Wager. What it says is, “If you had to bet on God’s existence—you are wagering your eternal life—then you are best off betting that God exists because you have nothing to lose if he does not but everything to gain if he does.”

Q2: What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 12-18 about this idea? Does Paul think that it is important that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead?

Todd dealt specifically with three objections to the idea and message of Jesus. Here are the objections with some evidence to counter them.

  • Jesus is not a historical person, there is no mention of him in history before 150AD and the gospel writers were too biased to be reliable.
  • This is not true, there were lots of people, Christians and not, who mentioned Jesus in their writings: Origen, Phlegon, Mara-Bar-Serapion, Lucian, Tacitus, Thallus, Josephus
  • Saying that the gospel writers were too biased is like asserting that you cannot write anything close to objective about a good friend or a relative.
  • Jesus was not even a good man as he taught, or at least supported, ideas like the oppression of women and slavery.
  • Jesus did not speak out against a lot of things but this cannot be used to imply that he supported everything that he did not speak out against: he was not in the business of changing outward behaviour but, instead, the relationships of people with God.
  • We cannot project our understandings of ideas like slavery back onto the first century and then make judgements based on 21st century concepts.
  • We need to take the actions of Jesus as being as important as his words: he spoke with women even when it was socially unacceptable, he spent time with sinners to demonstrate his love for all people, not just those with correct behaviour.
  • Even if Jesus were a good man, the idea that his torture, murder, and death could in some way take away our sins and change our relationship with God is ridiculous at best and morally reprehensible at worst.
  • God makes the rules, not us.
  • Sacrifice as substitution is well established not only in Judaism but in other religions in the first century and earlier.
  • Jesus sacrificed himself willingly, this changes the picture: God did not pick a random person to sacrifice for humanity, he chose himself.
  • Because Jesus is God, this changes the whole story: as Dawkins himself said, God was both the judge and the victim, this changed everything.

Q3: Discuss those objections and the times when you have been confronted by them.

Q4: Do the people you know have any other objections to Jesus?

In the video interview with Jim Wallace he talked about the four kinds of people we will encounter:

  • People who are convinced that God & Jesus are real and that the Bible is true
  • People who are not sure what is true but lean toward a Christian explanation of the world
  • People who are not sure what is true but lean toward a non-Christian explanation of the world
  • People who are convinced that God & Jesus are not real and that truth is to be found somewhere other than in the Bible

Q5: What do you think our response should be to people in groups 2, 3, and 4?

Next Steps

The question of Jesus is central to our lives as Christians. If he was not real, if he taught immoral ideas, if he was not God, if he did not rise from the dead, then we should reject him and with him we should reject our faith. But if he is real then we owe him everything because he gave us everything.

Read Isaiah 53:1-6 together

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote those words.

Q1: What did Isaiah say was the purpose of the life and death of Jesus?

Q2: What is your response to him?

Pray for faith in the evidence that Jesus is real. Also pray for grace for those we cross-paths with who are unsure of or antagonistic to the person and good news of Jesus.

The Depth (for optional study)

In this section we are providing an in-depth look into the scriptures that the message came out of. There are two critical steps in good interpretation of the Bible. First, we try to understand what the author meant when he wrote the words and how that would have been applied by the original audience. Second, we then take the principles that the original author was trying to get across to his audience and we apply those principles to our own lives. You may want to read some of these passages yourself and/or have people in your group read them together.

1 Corinthians 15:12-18

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Isaiah 53:1-6

Who has believed what we have heard?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by others;

a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;

and as one from whom others hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities

and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,

struck down by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,

and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Resources

Here are links to some of the videos that were played during the sermon (some of these are the full context of some snippets that were played during the message):

Warner Wallace:

https://vimeo.com/201707084

Pat Morrow:

https://vimeo.com/201706588

Here are references to some reading material you might find helpful:

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels – J. Warner Wallace

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