Dr. Andy Woods
Jesus Christ, One of a Kind
Easter Sermon 4-21-19 John 2:18-22
Good morning everybody; a very happy Resurrection Sunday to you. He is risen! [audience says He is risen indeed] That was so good let’s just close in prayer. [Laughter] That’s the most enthusiasm I’ve had since I’ve been here.
Let’s open our Bibles, if we could, to John 2, beginning around verse 18. It is, as you know, resurrection Sunday, taking a break from our typical verse by verse study through the Book of Revelation to bring a special message this morning on this special Sunday, entitled Jesus Christ, One of a Kind. Why in an age of enlightenment would anybody give any credence to this man, Jesus? Why would in an age of enlightenment and science and scientific and sophisticated thinking would anybody place their personal faith, in a man they’ve never seen, for eternity?
What I’d like to share with you this morning as time permits are seven sign posts, if you will, seven reasons pointing to the uniqueness of Christ. I think any one of these would be impressive but when taken together cumulative, because it’s obvious that this Man, Jesus Christ, is something that is completely… He is something that is completely unique. Of all of the people that have walked the face of this earth there have been none like Jesus Christ. So, let’s start here. Number one, Jesus is a man of verifiable history. You know, today when you mention the name Jesus a lot of people think you’re talking about a myth or a mythology, it’s no different than Veggie Tales or Jack and the Beanstalk. In fact, this mindset is becoming more and more common place in our day.
The late atheist, Christopher Hitchens is quoted as follows: “Jesus of Nazareth is not a figure in history. There is no reason at all to believe that this so-called Jesus of Nazareth ever existed.” And I think a lot of times we, as evangelical Christians and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, do a dis-service by talking about Bible stories, stories of the Bible. We use that sort of vernacular. But the reality of the situation is these are not stories. These are not fables that we are reading. When we explore the pages of God’s Word we are reading history.
And so how do we really know that Jesus Christ ever really existed as a historical character and as a historical personage. Let me ask you a question? How do you know anybody existed? How do you know our Founding Fathers, who existed historically before the photographic era existed? How we know Benjamin Franklin existed, George Washington existed? We know they existed because we have eyewitnesses to their existence that wrote about this eyewitness testimony. And that, in essence, is what you have in Scripture. You have in the New Testament 27 New Testament books.
What are those books revealing? They are revealing the eyewitness testimony to the life and times and ministry of Jesus Christ. Do you believe their testimonies? I happen to think that their testimony is highly valid. One of the reasons is devout Jews, who wrote the New Testament, one of the Ten Commandments the last time I checked was “Thou shalt not lie!” Beyond that, when you study the lives of the writers of the New Testament what you’ll discover is that many of them went to their graves for advocating the things they taught in the pages of the New Testament. We’re not talking about just minor deaths, we’re talking about some of the most horrific deaths a person could ever experience, brutal, torturous deaths. James, for example, the Lord’s brother who wrote the Book of James was thrown off the Jerusalem wall. Peter was crucified upside down. John, as we’ll see today, they attempted to take his life by boiling him to death. Why in the world would they go to their graves for something that would appear fabrication?
And you say well, wait a minute, pastor, do we actually have the original writings of these 27 books and these eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ? And the answer to that is we do not have the originals; the originals no longer exist and so you say to yourself and you might be asking yourself well then how in the world can I believe what we’re holding in our hand, the Bible. I mean, these are just copies (aren’t they?) of something that masquerades as an original writing.
Well, when you actually begin to look at this very carefully what you’ll discover is that we, as evangelical Christians and Bible readers come out of this smelling like a rose. You can look at the number of manuscripts that we have and the distance between the earliest manuscript and when the actually events transpired. Compare that to any other work of antiquity. Caesar, I notice people aren’t running Easter specials against Caesar, ten manuscripts and a thousand-year time period. Plato, seven manuscripts and a twelve-hundred-year time period. Elucidates, eight manuscripts and a thirteen-hundred-time period. Tacitus, twenty manuscripts and a thousand-year time period. Suetonius, eight manuscripts and an 800-year time period. Homer’s The Iliad, 643 manuscripts and a 500 year time period.
What do we have in the Bible? We have manuscripts that number up to 24,000. Compare that to the Iliad, the highest ranking one that we have and you see how far ahead we are at the game. Why do we have so many? Part of the reason is Christianity from its inception has always been an evangelistic message, get the gospel to the lost. That’s why we have so many copies of the originals. And what is the distance between the earliest copy we have in the originals? A mere 25-50 years. Compare that to the other time spans mentioned on this chart. ———————————————————————————————————————— Author Date Written Earliest MSS Time Span No. MSS
Caesar 100-44 BC A. D. 900 1000 years 10
Plato 427-347 BC A. D. 900 1000 years 7
Thucydides 4460-400 B.C. A. D.900 1200 years 8
Tacitus A.D. 100 A. D. 1100 1300 years 20
Suetonius A.D. 75-160 A. D. 950 800 years 8
Homer (Iliad) 900 B.C. 400 B.C. 500 years 643
New Testament A.D. 400-100 A.D. 1125 25-50 years 24,000!
You start to question the historical reliability of the New Testament and you’ve got to throw out Caesar, Plato, Thucydides, Tacitus, Suetonius, and no one wants to do that because what would all of our college departments teach? Not only is the story of Jesus Christ revealed in the Bible, which is historically accurate, but it’s also revealed in the writings of secular authors. Here’s Cornelius Tacitus [AD 55‒120] talking about Christians who got their name from this man, Christus, another name for Christ.
[Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” Cornelius Tacitus (AD 55‒120) Annals XV, 44]
Take for example the writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus is his name. He was a Jew that sort of became a traitor and went to work for Rome and spent the waning years of his life, following the events of A.D. 70, writing history. Notice what he says in this quote. I’ll read this whole quote to you because I’ll be referring to it several times in this presentation.
Josephus says this: “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. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate” that would be Pontius Pilate, “had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life,” isn’t that what we’re celebrating this morning, we’re not even reading the Bible here, “for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians,” that would be us, wouldn’t it? “so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.” [Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3]
I wish I had time to read all these quotes but you find statements like this in countless secular historians. Look at the dates of these individuals, when they wrote and when they lived, right around the time of Christ, a bit after.
Secular Historians Mentioning Christ
Tacitus A.D. 55-120
Lucian A.D. Second Century
Suetonius A.D. 69-122
Pliny the Younger A.D. 112
Thallus A.D. 52
Mar Ben Serapion A.D. 70
Josephus A.D. 78
Tacitus, Lucian, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Thallus, Mar Bar Serapion and of course Josephus. Do not let people sell you on the idea that Jesus was not a historical figure. In fact, He split the very calendar that we use today, did He not, B.C., Before Christ, A.D. Latin meaning year of our Lord. And as I was researching this I was trying to pull up some quotes by the atheist, Christopher Hitchens and he starts to sort of go on and on about how Jesus was not a historical figure and then he starts quoting one of the people that he thinks were historical figured and he starts quoting Socrates and he actually gives the date of Socrates and he defines Socrates day with the acronym B.C. And I thought to myself, what a sense of humor God has, the very calendar that we use is dated because of the first advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, that’s the first thing that really makes Him unique. He is, number one, a man of verifiable history.
Something else about Jesus, what else can we learn about Him. Number 2, He is a man of fulfilled prophecy. Jesus Christ is the only man in history that I know of where an entire script written about Him hundreds and thousands of years in advance that we call Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. In fact, when you look at Luke 24:44 Jesus made this statement. “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses” that’s what we call the Tanach, Torah, “the Prophets” Nabiim “and the Psalms” another way of saying the writings, Ketuvim, “must be fulfilled.”
The Law of Moses, Prophets, Psalms, Tanach, three major division of Hebrew Bible and He says the whole thing points towards Me. In other words, what He’s saying is theirs is there’s a script about Me even before I set foot on this planet. Jesus, in John 5:46 says this: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he” Moses, going all the way back to 1500 B.C., “he” Moses, “wrote about Me.” And what a script this is. In fact, Josephus himself mentions this script. You’ll notice in the quote I read earlier “for the prophets of God foretold these things.”
Even secular writers are acknowledging the fact that there was a script written about Jesus in detail before He existed. Now what a script that is when you think about it. The manner of His birth is predicted, Isaiah 7:14. [Isaiah 7:14, “”Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”] Born of a virgin, given 700 years before He existed. The place of His birth, Bethlehem is given, Micah 5:2, another seven hundred years before He was born. [Micah 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”]
Even His nationality as a Hebrew or a Jew was given, Numbers 24:17, one thousand four hundred years before He was born. [Numbers 24:17, “”I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.”]
Within the nation of Israel and its many tribes His tribal identity is given, the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49:10, one thousand eight hundred years in advance. [Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”]
Actually, the exact time that He would present His Messianic credentials to the nation of Israel is predicted as well, as well as the reaction of the nation to His proclamation that He is the Messiah. Their rejection of Him is predicted, that’s in Daniel 9:25-26, six centuries in advance. [Daniel 9:25, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.  Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.”]
And think about how He would die. We’ve been thinking about His death as we were thinking about this at Good Friday, crucified between thieves predicted, Isaiah 53:9, seven hundred years in advance. [Isaiah 53:9, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”] Pierced, Isaiah 53:5, seven hundred years in advance. [“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”
In fact, His death would not break a single one of His bones, think about that for a prediction, a thousand years in advance, Psalm 22:17. [Psalm 22:17, “I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me;]
That His persecutors would gamble for His clothing a thousand years in advance. Psalm 22:18, [“They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.”] That He be buried in the tomb of a rich man, Isaiah 53:9 roughly 700 years in advance. [“His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”]
I don’t know how you look at these prophecies but to me they’re so impressive because when you look at the writings of Jeanne Dixon or Nostradamus, to my way of thinking their prophecies are so ambiguous that you can read virtually anything into those prophecies you want. NOT the Bible, the Bible reveals a precise script. Did you know that there are probably about 109 of these prophecies? And I just gave you a handful.
Dr. Peter Stoner, a mathematician calculated the probability that any one man could fulfill just eight of these prophecies. He said it would be 1 in 10 to the 17th power, meaning a 1 with 17 zeroes after it. How likely is it that a human being could fulfill just 8 prophecies to illustrate how unlike a chance that would be Stoner gave this illustration—Cover the entire state of Texas… (now we know this guy is Spirit-filled because he’s using Texas as an illustration). [laughter] Cover the entire state of Texas with silver dollars to a level of about two feet deep; now choose one silver dollar, mark it and put it back and then thoroughly stir all the silver dollars over the entire state. Now blindfold someone and tell them they can travel wherever they want in Texas but at some point, they must reach down and pick up one of the silver dollars. The chance of finding one silver dollar marked in the pile two feet deep covering the state of Texas would be the chance the prophets had for just eight of these prophecies coming true in one human being.
I was working one time as a newspaper journalist, (believe it or not) a very liberal atmosphere. I would sit at my desk doing my thing and right next to me was one of the most ardent liberals I can think of that I’ve ever really encountered in my entire life. He was sitting at his desk doing his thing. And you can imagine all day long some of the conversations that we had. I started talking to him don’t date Micah the way we do, or Isaiah, or the Book of Numbers, or the Book of Genesis? And I said, “Here’s the bottom line, we know for a fact, it’s not even a matter of interpretation, this is fact, that 200 years minimum before Jesus lived all of these Old Testament books were in existence. How do we know that? Because we have something called the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it’s a fact that that was created two centuries before Christ. And so at the very bottom, most minimal level, all of these prophecies were in existence at least two centuries before Jesus was born. And I could see that got his wheels turning a little bit.
And he said to me this: Well how do you know Jesus didn’t just walk around and deliberately fulfill these prophecies to convince people that He was the Messiah. And I said to this individual, his name was Mark, I said Mark, how do you fake where you’re going to be born? How do you fake your nationality? Isn’t that something that’s sort of outside human control? How do you fake how you’re going to be buried? And you’ll notice that so many of these prophecies deal with things that are outside of human manipulation and human control. And I can think of no other religious figure in world history that has a script written about him like the Lord Jesus Christ before Jesus was ever born. Not only was Jesus a man of verifiable history, now only was He a man of fulfilled prophecy, but He was also a man that made His own predictions.
In the Upper Room two times within the span of just a chapter Jesus made this statement. “From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass so that when it does occur you may believe that I am He.” John 13:19. And then in John 14:29, the very next chapter Jesus says, “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” And what He’s saying is this: I’m putting my reputation on the line here. I want to give you (to His disciples) a series of short-term prophecies, most of which are going to come to pass hours, days and in some cases a few years later, but they will all come to pass.
And you can imagine how they would have immediately rejected Jesus had the things He had prophesied not materialized. Under no circumstances would they have put their lives on the line for this man Jesus, being a testimony to Him to the point of death if the precise things He had spoken over their lives had never materialized. You say do you have some examples? Yes I do! He said in the Upper Room, I’m going to betrayed by a friend, speaking of Judas. John 13:21, “Then He turned to Peter and He said, Peter, you’re going to deny Me three times, not two times, not four times, three, exactly 3. Matthew 26:34 and verse 75. [Matthew 26:34, “Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”]
John 13:21, “When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” He predicted how He was going to die just a few days later, Matthew 20:18-19. He said, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and they will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.’” He says number one, I’m going to Jerusalem to die. Number two, it’s not the chief priests and the scribes that are going to kill me; they’re going to turn Me over to the Gentiles. Number three, once I’m in the hands of the Gentiles I’m going to be scourged but not to the point of death. And then finally I will be crucified by the Gentiles.
And wouldn’t it be an interesting thing if what He said didn’t materialize just a few days later. Why would these disciples do to their graves for this man? Because everything He said was like clockwork, in fact, He told them in the Upper Room I’m giving you these prophecies as an intellectual basis for believing that I am He. He even started making predictions, I don’t know how comfortable this made them, about how the disciples would die. How would you like that being spoken over your life?
He said in John 21:18-22 concerning Peter, you know, when you were young you clothed yourself and you went where you wanted but someone is going to take you somewhere when you’re older against your own will. And what did Peter say? He looked at John and said well, tell me what happened to Him. And Jesus said concerning John, what business is that of yours, if I want him to remain alive until I come that’s between me and John. You follow Me!
[John 21:18-22, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.”  Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”  Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”  So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”]
And isn’t interesting that that’s exactly what Jesus said to Peter materialized, three decades later. We know from tradition he was crucified upside down to glorify God. How was John, did he die? Well they tried to kill John, the guy wouldn’t die. We learn from Tertullian in his Prescription Against Heretics that John was first plunged unhurt into boiling oil and he survived that. Why did God allow him to survive? Because God had another purpose for John, that he would be remitted to his island exile (a book that we’re studying here on Sunday morning at Sugar Land Bible Church) Patmos where he would receive the apocalyptic vision of the future. What did Jesus just do there in John 21:18-22? He revealed two different destiny’s that happened within the lifespan of the apostles.
What else did He predict? He predicted something horrific that would come in A.D. 70 where the Romans would come and they would destroy the city and the sanctuary. He says, Luke 19:43, “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side,  and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”’
Now you study the accounts of Josephus concerning A.D. 70 and that’s exactly what happened. The Romans came against Jerusalem and built a barricade preventing people from getting out of the city. And the Romans actually tore open the wombs of the pregnant Jewish women and strangled to death the child that was inside of those wombs. And Jesus said of the temple, “Not one stone will be left upon another.” [Mark 13:2, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.’”]
Read Josephus, that’s exactly what happened, because the temple caught on fire and it caused the gold in the temple to melt and as that gold melted it oozed down between the stones of the temple and dried there. And what do you think the greedy Roman soldiers did to that temple to get their hands on the gold? They took it apart stone by stone, brick by brick, exactly like Jesus said. In fact today in the land of Israel there are archeological remnants of the temple stone being torn apart, the temple structure itself exactly like Jesus said would happen.
And what if those prophecies had failed? How could the disciples have died for this man and lived for this man to the bitter end? And I don’t know about you but there’s a lot of prophesies in the Bible made that Jesus made that are still yet to come, I don’t know how you look at those prophesies, I look at those prophesies with great respect because Jesus has a track record. His short term prophecies happen, therefore His long-term prophecies will happen as well. I can’t think of a person in history that is able to predict the future with such precision in mere time which can be validated the way this man, Jesus Christ was able to do.
He was a man of history, He was a man of fulfilled prophecy, He was a man of predicted prophecy, but there’s something else about this man Jesus you need to understand. He was a man of unimpeachable character, unimpeachable morality. In fact His personal life was at a level of morality that the ha had never seen. You say well how do I know that? Because of statement He made in John 8:46. “For he said to his enemies” the people trying to kill Him, “Which of you convicts me of sin?” You remember Gary Hart, [can’t understand word] Presidential candidate, 1988, challenged the press, go ahead and follow me around, see if you can dig up any dirt. Well, that took a week and a half.
Think about standing in front of people that hate your guts and are looking for an excuse to kill you and saying to them find some dirt on me, find a skeleton in my closet. In fact, all we have to do is read the testimonies of those that were closest to Jesus. Who was the inner circle? Peter, James, and John. What did Peter say about Jesus? Peter watched Jesus go through every circumstance you could imagine, good times, bad times, pressure, difficulties, adversity. Peter said I never saw this guy crack under the pressure; I never saw in Him a manifestation of what we might call the sin nature. I never found a sin in Him. What does Peter say of Jesus? Peter says this three decades later: [1 Peter 2:21] “For You have been called for this purpose since Christ also suffered for you leaving an example for you to follow in His steps:”  Who committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth..…  and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
What about John, doesn’t John refer to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved? Wasn’t it John in John 13:23 that leaned against Christ’s chest in the Upper Room. [John 13:23, “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.”] What does John think about Jesus? He tells you in his little book, [1 John 2:1, he calls Him Jesus Christ the righteous. [1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’”]
What about His enemies? What about this man, Pontius Pilate? By the way, just as Jesus is a historical figure so is Pontius Pilate; he’s mentioned in the writings of Tacitus, he’s mentioned in the writings of Josephus as the one who condemned Jesus to the cross. In fact, there’s an actual archeological discovery that’s been found in the land of Israel in a place called Caesarea Maritima which reads as follows. “Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Judea, erected a building dedicated to the Emperor Tiberius.” You mean Pontius Pilate, like Jesus, shows up in the records of secular history in archeology? You bet your bottom dollar. This is history that we’re reading here and it survives any reasonable scrutiny.
What about this man, Pontius Pilate, didn’t he see Jesus abused, mistreated? Didn’t he see Jesus rushed through the judicial system of the Jews to get this man dead? What did Pontius Pilate think about Jesus? Did he ever crack under the pressure that Pilate could observe? Not at all! They were saying “crucify Him,” and Pilate said this, verse 23 of Matthew 27, “And he said, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ [But they kept shouting all the more, saying, ‘Crucify Him]’” And then finally in verse 24, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd saying ‘I’m innocent of this man’s blood.” [Matthew 27:24, “When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.’”] He’s innocent… he’s perfect, he’s without flaw, he’s without sin.
How about the Roman soldier? Talk about a time when the sin nature would come out, the ordeal of the crucifixion itself, the horrors of that ordeal, the mistreatment that Jesus experienced through that ordeal… what did the Roman soldier standing there observing these events say about Jesus? Just one simple statement, it’s in Mark 15:39.“ …this man was the Son of God!” [Mark 15:39, “When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!”] No flaws, no defects, no anger, no bitterness, no retaliatory spirit, he didn’t scream from the cross, I’m going to get you guys when I come back a second time. He said what? “forgive them Father, for the know not what they do.” That’s Jesus, Jesus is a man by eyewitness testimony of unimpeachable morality and character.
Compare that standard to other world religious leaders. Isn’t it interesting that when you put the leaders of other religions, whether it be a world religion or even a cult under the scrutiny and the microscope how quickly their character flaws will rise to the surface? Would Mohammed survive this scrutiny? How about Jim Jones? Joseph Smith? Charles Taze Russell? I could give you countless people that started worldwide movements and yet they’re all flawed. The sin nature is there. Not so Jesus Christ! I mean, would those closest to you, think about this realistically, your husband, your wife, your parents, your children, your friends, could they look at your life and say is flawless? What would the people who know you the best say about you? You’d probably be afraid to get the answer. Don’t talk to my wife, she’ll give you the truth! I say to my wife man, these people think I’m great, they like me teaching. She says to me well, they don’t have to live with you. [Laughter] And it’s interesting how fast people’s character can be exposed for what it is and the people that loved Jesus, this new Jesus, follow Jesus, examine Jesus, were with Jesus couldn’t find a single blemish in Him. He’s a man of unimpeachable morality and character.
But there’s something else you need to know about this man, Jesus Christ. He’s a man of profound teaching. He is a man who has unleashed upon the world the greatest level of teaching or ethics the human race has ever seen. One anonymous writer in a poem called The Incomparable Christ puts it this way: He never wrote a book, yet all the libraries of the country could not hold the books that have been written about Him. He never wrote a song, yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all song writers combined. He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students. He never marshalled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun, yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have under His order made more rebels, staff arms and surrender without even a shot being fired. He never practiced psychiatry yet he’s healed more broken hearts than all doctors near and far.
Jesus unleashed something upon this world that the world has never seen—His teaching, His ethics. Do you realize what we have in the Sermon on the Mount, with Jesus? Something that no philosopher or ethicists has ever come up with. He put morality into the human heart; it’s not the actions that are important, it’s what’s transpiring in the heart.
In Matthew 5:21-22 He says, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’  “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” He says just a few verses later, Matthew 4:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Do you realize what He just did for morality and ethics? And how far ahead He put His new movement, Christianity, above and beyond anything that any philosopher or Ephesus had ever come up with.
In fact, what did they say when He finished the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:28-29, it says this: “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching;  for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” And believe me, He had His detractors, people as adversaries, as opponents came after Him constantly to try to get Him to make a mistake, catch Him in a contradiction, catch Him in an error, and finally this goes on and on and on and finally you get to Matthew 22:46 where Jesus answers question after question after question with such eloquence and brilliance that it says this: “‘No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.’” This is Jesus, this is the quality of the teaching that He brought to the world.
You may be familiar with the late Christianity theologian and philosopher, C. S. Lewis, it is this point that I’m making here that convinced him to consider seriously the claims of Jesus Christ. You may have seen this, it’s called The Lord, Lunatic, Liar, Trilemma. It starts with the tope that Jesus claimed to be God. I hope you realize that’s what Jesus claimed to be. Another was raised in a home where she was told over and over again that Jesus was a good moralist, a good philosopher, but He never claimed to be God. What Bible are people reading? Of course, He claimed to be God; He did it over and over again. In John 10:31-33 it says this: “The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.  Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”  The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
When Jesus said “your sins are forgiven” isn’t that a claim to be deity, since only God can forgive sins? His enemies knew exactly what He was saying. There’s no ambiguity there; He made a direct appeal to deity. And C. S. Lewis said you’ve only got two choices here, it’s either true or false. Let’s pretend it’s false for a minute; if it’s false you’ve only got two choices, he knew it was false or he didn’t know it was false. If He knew it was false that makes Him a liar and why would a man go to his grave for a lie? That doesn’t make any sense, does it? But if He didn’t know it was false that makes Him insane, a lunatic. Are you telling me that a lunatic, a crazed person gave us the Sermon on the Mount? Are you telling that a lunatic changed the course of human history through the quality of his teaching? It’s unfathomable.
So, C. S. Lewis says the only other option we have is that He claimed to be God and it’s true, which places the onus back on the listener; now the choice is yours. You can accept it or you can reject it. But it was this level of teaching that C. S. Lewis saw in this man Jesus Christ that pushed him in the direction of taking seriously the claims of Christ, a man of a verifiable history, a man of fulfilled prophecy, a man of predicted prophecy, a man of unimpeachable character and morality, a man of profound teaching. But there’s something else Jesus did. He was a man of signs and wonders. He was a man of miracles. In fact, the miracles or the signs which He was performing was what initially attracted Nicodemus to Christ in John 3, a chapter that I like to call Nic at night. He was secretly hanging around Jesus, investigating, don’t let anybody know I’m doing this. Doesn’t John 3:2, “this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”’
Over in Matthew 11:2-5, when John the Baptist was starting to have doubts about Jesus, it says this: “Now when John while in prison heard of the works of Christ he sent word by his disciples, and said,  and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’  Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:  the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.” He appealed to His signs as an authentication of His deity. In fact, there on the Sea of Galilee He calmed a storm in such a nanosecond that the disciples in the boat with Him didn’t know what to do. Are we going to be afraid of the storm or are we now more afraid of Jesus who has authority over the storms?
Mark 4:41, it says, “Then they became very much afraid,” I mean the storm was easy, what we’re dealing with now causes even greater fear—who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, summed up the miraculous ministry of Jesus Christ as follows: Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested” in other words proven, “a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—“ [Acts 2:22] You all know what He did, because it was common knowledge. In fact, if you read the Gospel of John what you’ll see is the whole book is set up based on the signs that Jesus did. John, as an eyewitness having seen many of these signs, John says this: [John 20:30] “Therefore many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this Book,  but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
If you don’t believe in Christ for any other reason believe on Him because of His miracles. His miracles aren’t there to tantalize curiosity, they’re there to communicate His identity. And once you clearly see His identity what can a person do other than to respond to His free offer of salvation? John is so thorough on this point that he goes through his gospel and he communicates seven signs Jesus did, beginning with water to wine at Cana of Galilee, John2, his first sign, concluding with the resuscitation or the raising of Lazarus from the grave, John 11.
In fact, these signs were so real that the enemies of Christ Himself were forced to acknowledge the reality of those signs. They were signs that could not be explained away so the only option they had left, having no ability to explain the sign away, is to say he’s tapping into the power of the devil to do these signs. That’s the whole turning point in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew 12:24, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” In other words, they couldn’t dismiss what He just did in terms of miracles. They couldn’t explain it away so they just said it was done by another power source other than God. In that concession, in that admission, the enemies of Christ themselves are acknowledging the authenticity of His signs. Did you know His signs show up in secular literature, in the quote concerning Josephus which I read a little earlier? “
“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 feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly.” His teaching is wonderful. His teaching changed the world but it was accompanied with signs and wonders as Josephus talks about this man, Jesus, who was called the Christ. And tell me Josephus, what is the greatest sign He did. He tells us, “He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life.” That’s His greatest sign. I mean, many, many signs He brought forth that they were eyewitnesses to and attested to but there’s a sign that is higher than all the signs and that’s His bodily resurrection from the dead which we are celebrating today on resurrection Sunday.
Which takes me to a seventh and final thing that makes Jesus unique. He is not just a man of history, He is not just a man of fulfilled prophecy, He is not just a man of predicted prophecy. He is not just a man of unflinching character. He is not just a man of profound teaching. He is not just a man of miracles but He is a man of bodily resurrection. This is why we opened with John 2:18-22, “The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”  Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”  But He was speaking of the temple of His body.  So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered” this is another short-term prediction, isn’t it? “remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.”
What did Jesus do? He said I’m going to die and I’m going to rise from the dead. Now countless people in human history have made that claim. But Jesus is different, don’t you think, because He pulled it off. I believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most well attested facts of history. You say well how can you be so sure? A lot of reasons, not the least of which is it altered when these devout Jews started to worship. For 1,500 years they had worshiped and had their sabbath on the last day of the week; all of a sudden, this man Christ shows up and this little band that started, called Christians, started worshiping on the first day of the week. How do you get a Jew to do that, that’s steeped in tradition for 1,500 years? How do you to get them to change the day of worship like that? Because something happened special on Sunday, only the bodily resurrection from the dead could pause a change of thinking that way.
Have you read what Paul says about the resurrection of Jesus. I challenge you today to read the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, called the resurrection chapter. This is just a couple of verses here. [1 Corinthians 15:6] “After that He,” that’s Jesus, “appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time,” watch this, “most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;  then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
[1 Corinthians 15:and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.  For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.  Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;  and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.  Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;  and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”]
Jesus came out of the grave and He appeared to 500 people. Now Paul makes a point here when he writes to the Corinthians from Ephesus, check out my story, most of them are still alive. What if Paul’s story hadn’t checked out? What would have happened to the Book of 1 Corinthians? Would it ever been embraced and revered and passed down to the generations? Absolutely not, it would have been discredited right out of the gate. Paul stakes his own authority as an apostle and his own writings in terms of their credibility on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What if I wrote a book and I said you know, J.F.K. died of natural causes. Well, some of you were there seeing that’s how J.F.K. died, he died of unnatural causes, he was assassinated. Well, what would happen to my book? It would be discredited immediately because of existing eyewitnesses. Do you understand that that’s what would have happened to 1 Corinthians? Do you understand what absolutely would have happened to Paul’s whole anointing and mantle in ministry as an apostle? He’s tying the whole thing to eyewitness testimony.
And I’m reminded of that great theological movie, Jerry McGuire—have you seen that movie! What’s the word that shows up over and over again in that movie? Show me the money! Can I change the words around a little bit. Show me the body! SHOW ME THE BODY! Because I think as Christianity spread like wild fire throughout the Greco Roman world it would have been a very easy thing for someone to go into the tomb and to get the body and bring it out in open display and say all of this resurrection stuff is a myth, here’s the corpse, here’s the body, and yet they never did that. The Romans never did it, the Jews never did it, those that hated Christianity from its inception could have done it and they never did it. Do you know why? Because the tomb was empty, that’s why! That’s why I think it’s a historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead.
Oh and the crazy theories people have come up with to try to explain the obvious, try to explain away the empty tomb. You’ve heard of the swoon theory, this is the idea that Jesus really didn’t die, He just looked dead, everybody thought He was dead but they put him in the tomb and He really was alive and He kind of woke up from his swoon and He moved the rock and got out of there.
Well, we have some problems with that, don’t we? We have John 19:32-34 which says this, “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and those of the other.  But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.  Instead, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” Now I know some medical people they say the separation of blood and water is systematic of death, it’s a ruptured heart. These soldiers had they been wrong on this it could have cost them their lives because that was their job, to make sure that the people on the cross dying that afternoon in Jerusalem are in fact dead!
And how would Jesus, in His weakened state, I know He was God and all but there’s a pretty big stone there that an angel had to move, and beyond that how was He supposed to stand in front of the disciples in this weakened condition and convince them that he’s a conqueror over the grave to the point where they’re willing to die for Him. It’s ridiculous!
And then some popular theories are the theft theory, somebody stole the body… well who stole it! Well, Rome stole it. Why would Rome steal it? They were against Christianity, why would they make it seem as if He had risen from the dead. Well, the Jews stole it? Same problem, unbelieving Jews hated the new group called Christians, why would they steal the body out of the tomb and make it look like all these things these crazy Christians are talking about is true? And then people say well, the disciples stole the body. Are you telling me that the disciples went to their graves for a fabrication? I mean, if you know something has been tampered with because you tampered with it and fabricated it, why would you go to your grave proclaiming a resurrected Christ. Nobody goes to their grave for a fabrication.
My favorite is there was a hallucination, the five hundred eyewitnesses that Jesus appeared to all had a hallucination. Really, the exact same ones. I can’t even get two of my dreams on the same night to correlate, I wake up in the middle of the night with one weird dream and I go to bed and I have another really weird dream, it has nothing like the first dream. I mean, it takes more faith to believe something like that than going to the simple record of the Scripture.
And this is one of my favorites, well, they all went to the wrong tomb. They went to a tomb they thought was Christs but it really wasn’t and that’s why they all thought it was empty. ALL of them went to the wrong tomb? I mean, not a single one of them had it right. I mean, they loved Jesus, He was everything to them. They would certainly remember, someone would remember wouldn’t they, the exact tomb He was laid in?
No, beloved, it takes far more faith to believe in these contraptions and we laugh at these things but this is real stuff. I’m not giving you things that I just thought of; these are things that actual critics of the bodily resurrection of Christ have come up with. In my humble opinion I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. I don’t have enough faith to believe something like this. Why not just believe what the Bible says? The bottom line is Confucius’s tomb is occupied, Buddha’s tomb is occupied, Mohammed’s tomb is occupied, but Jesus’ tomb is what? It’s empty. That’s a historical fact! This is not religious feelings and sentiments that I’m describing to you; these are objective verifiable facts of history.
And so, what can we conclude with all of this? We conclude something very simple, that Jesus Christ, whatever you believe about Him, whatever you think about Him stepped out of eternity into time to do things that no human being has ever done. No human being has had all seven of these arguments converge on one person, let alone one or two. He was a verifiable historical character who fulfilled prophecy and made many short-term predictions Himself. His character could not be questioned or impeached. He unleashed upon the world the greatest teaching the world has ever seen. He performed authentic signs and wonders to the point where even His enemies themselves had to acknowledge the authenticity of the sign or wonder and the most powerful thing He did is He rose bodily from the dead on the third day.
Well so what? Here’s the “so what!” Jesus here is speaking to, I think it was Martha, [John 11:25] “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,” will live.  “and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Good theology lesson, right? Look at what He says there at the end of verse 26, “Do you believe this?” I can’t think of a more pertinent, relevant, significant question than that.
What do you believe? We’re not talking here about generic humanity, I’m talking about you as a person. What do you believe about this? Because that determines heaven or hell. That determines a relationship with God or no relationship with God, right there, that statement, “Do you believe this?” Fortunately, she gets the right answer, [27 “She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” Right answer. She fulfilled the condition for justification through a simple childlike faith or confidence in Jesus Christ.
Have you done that? Do you specifically believe this? Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to hear all this data and information and leave this place having never done this, gambling with your eternity? Foolishness! And yet the gospel is so simple it’s so clear. We call it the “gospel,” that means good news; it’s good news because Jesus did everything necessary to bridge the gap, through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension between fallen humanity and a holy God. In fact, what were His final words on the cross? “Tetelestai,” PAID IN FULL! It’s not a scenario where gosh, you know, I’ve got to kick in about two percent because Jesus bought the lunch, I need to leave the tip. NO! It’s done, Christianity is not a doing thing, it’s a done thing, it’s all been done, the evidence is in! The act of Christ and what He did has all been admitted as evidence. The only real issue is what do you do with it? And our exhortation to people at Sugar Land Bible Church, our exhortation to people that may be listening online, or listening to this sermon long after it’s given, is to respond in the only way that God requires a response from us, from the human heart where we trust or believe in what He has done for us. We’re not trusting in ourselves any more, our good works, what our parents believe, what church I attend, my resume, whatever the issue is is nonsense. You trust in Christ by Himself, He’s your ticket, He’s your eternity, He is the one you trust in for the safe keeping of your soul. What a great time to make that kind of decision for Christ by way of faith on Easter Sunday, better said Resurrection Sunday where we commemorate the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. If it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for this man Jesus and what He did and what He accomplished. We’re grateful for the proofs that validate and authenticate the message. Help us to tuck these things deep in our hearts as we share Christ with others this week. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen!