Who is the historical Jesus? What did Jesus Christ claim about himself? C.S Lewis Professor at Oxford wrote In his famous book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes this statement, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher – He has not left that open to us. Jesus could only have been one of four things: a legend, a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God. There is so much historical and archaeological evidence to support his existence that every reputable historian agrees he was not just a legend. If Jesus were a liar, why would he die for his claim, when he could easily have avoided such a cruel death with a few choice words? If he were a lunatic, how did he engage in intelligent debates with his opponents or handle the stress of his betrayal and crucifixion while continuing to show a deep love for his antagonists? Christ said he was Lord and God. The evidence supports that claim.
1. What Jesus Claimed 1.1. Jesus claimed to live a sinless life John 8:46-47 “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
1.2. Jesus Christ claimed to be the ONLY way to God John 14:6 Jesus said – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
1.3. Christ claimed to have shared the glory of God in Heaven John 17:5 Jesus said – “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” 1.4. Jesus Christ claimed to be able to forgive sins Luke 5:20-21 Jesus said to the paralysed man – ‘your sins are forgiven’. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Luke 7:48-49 Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?'”
1.5. Christ claimed to be a Heavenly king Luke 22:69 “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Luke 23:1-3 “Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.’ So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied.” John 18:36-37 “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.'”
1.6. Christ claimed to be able to give everlasting life Jesus didn’t just tell people how they could find everlasting life, or deepen their own life experience. He actually claimed to give life himself. John 6:40 “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:47 “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” John 10:28-30 “I give [my followers] eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die…'”
1.7. Jesus claimed that he would die and come back to life John 10:17 “Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
John 12:32-33 “‘But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” John 16:16 – “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” Luke 18:31-33 – “Jesus took the twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up into Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.'”
1.8. Christ claimed that he would return again to judge the world Matthew 24:27-30 “So as the lightening comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man be. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” Matthew 25:31-32 -“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats.” Mark 14:61-62 – “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'”
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT: What an amazing life the Lord Jesus lived. Do you realize that Jesus never corrected, withdrew, or amended any statement He ever made? Jesus Christ never apologized for anything He ever did or said. Jesus Christ never sought advice from anyone, never had to ask for forgiveness.
Jesus Christ doesn’t have any strong points. For Him to have strong points, He would have to have weak points. Robert Clark has rightly given this assessment of his character:
“There was meekness without weakness, tenderness without feebleness, firmness without coarseness, love without sentimentality, holiness without sanctimoniousness, lowliness without lowness, truth without error, enthusiasm without fanaticism, passion without prejudice, heavenly‑mindedness’ without forgetfulness, carefreeness without carelessness, service without servility, self‑exaltation without egotism, judgment without harshness, seriousness without sombreness, mercy without softness.”
What a person was the Lord Jesus Christ!
The greatest question that can be asked was the question Pontius Pilate asked the crowd when Jesus stood before him: “Pilate said to them, What shall I do then with Jesus, which is called Christ?” Now I’m going to ask that question of you. What will you do with Jesus? No greater question could be asked.
2. What ancient Historians said about Jesus. 2.1 Flavius Josephus (37-97 AD), court historian for Emperor Vespasian: “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
2.2 Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 AD), “the greatest historian” of ancient Rome: “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 Judaea, 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. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”
2.3 The Jewish Talmud, compiled between 70 and 200 AD: “On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.”
3. ANCIENT CHRISTIAN SOURCES (extra-biblical) 3.1 Clement, elder of Rome, letter to the Corinthian church (95 AD): “The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore received a charge, and having been fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their first fruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe.”
3.2 Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, letter to the Trallians (110-115 AD): “Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under the earth; who moreover was truly raised from the dead, His Father having raised Him, who in the like fashion will so raise us also who believe on Him.”
3.3 Ignatius, letter to the Smyrneans (110-115 AD): “He is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, but Son of God by the Divine will and power, truly born of a virgin and baptised by John that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him, truly nailed up in the flesh for our sakes under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch (of which fruit are we–that is, of his most blessed passion); that He might set up an ensign unto all ages through His resurrection.” “For I know and believe that He was in the flesh even after the resurrection; and when He came to Peter and his company, He said to them, ‘Lay hold and handle me, and see that I am not a demon without body.’ And straightway they touched him, and they believed, being joined unto His flesh and His blood. Wherefore also they despised death, nay they were found superior to death. And after His resurrection He ate with them and drank with them.”
3.4 Quadratus, to Emperor Hadrian about 125 AD: “The deeds of our Saviour were always before you, for they were true miracles; those that were healed, those that were raised from the dead, who were seen, not only when healed and when raised, but were always present. They remained living a long time, not only whilst our Lord was on earth, but likewise when He had left the earth – some of them have also lived to our own times.”
3.5 Justin Martyr, to Emperor Antoninus Pius about 150 AD: After referring to Jesus’ birth of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, and that His physical line of descent came through the tribe of Judah and the family of Jesse, Justin wrote, “Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea.” “Accordingly, after He was crucified, even all His acquaintances forsook Him, having denied Him; and afterwards, when He had risen from the dead and appeared to them, and had taught them to read the prophecies in which all these things were foretold as coming to pass, and when they had seen Him ascending into heaven, and had believed, and had received power sent thence by Him upon them, and went to every race of men, they taught these things, and were called apostles.”