The Cove 2017

Read the notes to The Most Unique Person Who Ever Lived as presented by Dr Woodrow Kroll at The Cove July 10-14, 2017.

“Join us next year at The Cove in Asheville, NC – July 9-13, 2018” –WK

 

The following is the teaching of
Dr. Woodrow Kroll at

THE COVE

July 10-14, 2017

THE MOST UNIQUE PERSON WHO EVER LIVED

 

Session 1  

HOW WE KNOW JESUS REALLY LIVED

 

  • In a recent Research Poll, 88% of people said they believe Jesus was a real person.
  • Yet there are still many who say that Jesus never really lived and the stories about Him are simply myths or legends.
  • So the question you and I need to think about today is this: How can we know that Jesus actually did exist?  How can we know He is real, and not like a Leprechaun or some other mythical character? 
  • How do we know Jesus really lived? What proof is there that He existed?

THE NEW TESTAMENT EVIDENCE

  • There’s plenty of evidence from the New Testament for the existence of Jesus.
  • In fact, four separate writers wrote individual biographies of Jesus.
  • But in addition to these four biographers, there are 23 other books and letters in the New Testament that speak of Jesus as a real person.
  • These were all written during the first century, just a few years after Jesus walked on this earth.
  • And they were written by eyewitnesses, or by those who had access to eyewitnesses, to give them accurate information about Jesus.
  • If you don’t believe Jesus was real, you have to ask why people who lived at the same time as He did didn’t come forward to say the accounts of His life weren’t true.
  • So, are there other proofs that Jesus was a real person, proofs that don’t rely on the New Testament?

 

NON-BIBLICAL, HISTORICAL REFERENCES TO JESUS

The earliest piece of historical evidence concerning Jesus from a non-biblical source can be dated with certainty between A.D. 40 and 50.

  • This evidence consists of two inscriptions on caskets found in a burial chamber in Talpioth, which is a suburb of Jerusalem.
  • The inscriptions both mention Jesus by name.
  • Another inscription had the Greek words which mean “Jesus, let him (who rests here) arise!”

Cornelius Tacitus lived between A.D. 55 and 120.  That means he was born only two decades after Jesus’ death.

  • Tacitus was a Roman historian; he’s considered to be one of the most accurate historians of the ancient world.
  • He is telling us that the Roman emperor Nero “inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class…called Christians ..Christus [Christ], 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….”
  • This Roman historian is both mentioning Jesus by His title [Christ], and the historical fact of His crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.

Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian.   He was born within the first 10 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection and he lived until the end of the first century A.D.

  • Josephus wrote about Jesus in his book called Antiquities of the Jews.
  • Josephus wrote: “We learn that Jesus was a wise man who did surprising feats, taught many, won over followers from among Jews and Greeks, was believed to be the Messiah, was accused by the Jewish leaders, was condemned to be crucified by Pilate, and was considered to be resurrected.”

He wrote about what was going on during the entire 1st century AD.

Suetonius lived from about A.D. 69 to 122 and was considered to be one of the premier historians of ancient Rome.

  • Suetonius made a statement that gives indirect witness to Jesus’ existence. He said, “Claudius [that’s the Roman Emperor] expelled the Jews from Rome because of their continual quarrelling at the instigation of Chrestus.” 
  • Now, it’s likely that Chrestus is actually “Christus” or “Christ” and the “quarrelling” points to the Jewish-Christian controversies in the first century.
  • Acts 18:1-2 refers to the edict of the Emperor Claudius that expelled the Jews from Rome. Again, the evidence is air-tight.

Pliny the Younger was one of the greatest letter writers of the ancient world.    Ten volumes of his correspondence have survived until today.

  • In one of those pieces of correspondence, dated about A.D. 112, he wrote to the emperor Trajan about the Christians. “They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god.”  He’s describing a Sunday morning worship service.
  • Even the Jewish Talmud, which is certainly not biased toward Jesus, testifies to the major events of Jesus’ life.

 

SCHOLARS OF ALL THEOLGICAL POSITIONS AGREE THAT JESUS LIVED

Professor James Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary: “Jesus did exist and we know more about him than almost any Palestinian Jew before 70 A.D.”

 

British theologian N. T. Wright says, “The historical evidence for Jesus himself is extraordinarily good. …. From time to time people try to suggest that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, but virtually all historians of whatever background now agree that he did.”

 

Even Evangelical turned Liberal Scholar Professor Bart Ehrman from the University of North Carolina has to admit, “I don’t think there’s any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus …. We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period.”

 

According to Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, an expert on first-century Christianity, said “We know over 100 facts about Jesus, even without consulting the New Testament.”

 

Christian apologist and professor of religion Dr. Gary Habermas says that 18 non-Christian, non-biblical sources mention beliefs and teachings from the life of Christ.

 

IT IS ABSURD THAT THOUSANDS OF 1st-CENTURY CHRISTIANS WOULD FOLLOW AND MANY WOULD DIE FOR A PERSON WHO NEVER EXISTED. According to the Bible, within 65 years after Jesus walked this earth, by approximately A.D. 100, there were more than 25,000 people who called themselves Christians.

  • And even more amazingly, within 200 years by A.D. 300, those who followed Jesus Christ grew to over 20 million people.
  • It’s just inconceivable that this many people believed in a myth or a legend.
  • Many of His followers actually died for their belief being stoned, crucified, tortured
  • People are willing to die for what they believe to be true, but nobody is willing to die for what they know is not true.

 

THE GREATEST PERSON WHO EVER LIVED

Michael Hart – The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History.  Mohammed, Sir Isaac Newton, Jesus Christ. 

Reason #1.  JESUS IS THE ONLY PERSON BORN OF GOD AND MAN

Matthew 1:20-21, “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Jesus’ birth was prophesied: (1) born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); (2) born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2); (3) born of David’s seed (Isaiah 11; Jeremiah 33; Zechariah 6).

 

Jesus’ birth was anticipated: every young Jewish girl prayed she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah; it made their life bearable.

 

Jesus’ birth angered the authorities:  Herod killed all male babies (Matthew 2:16).

 

Jesus’ birth divided history: BC and AD; BCE and CE (before the common era).


Reason #2.  JESUS IS THE ONLY PERSON CRUCIFIED FOR SINS OF OTHERS

Luke 23:21-23, 39-41, 47, “They kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”   A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?  I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. . . One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. . . Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”  

  • Many were crucified. Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, Book 4, Chapter 11 says, “So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught to the crosses, by way of jest, when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.”  (this was during Titus’ destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70).
  • Many died for their country – WW1 & WW2, Korea, Viet Nam, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sinai, Falklands, Persian Gulf, Iraq, etc., etc.
  • Many died as martyrs – John Hus, William Tyndale, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Chet Bitterman and many Iraqi Christians.
  • Many die because of their own sins – STDs, drugs, drunk driving, heroin, etc.
  • Many die because of the sins of others – hostages, war heroes, etc.

But only Jesus died FOR the sins of others – 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he (God the Father) made him (God the Son) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.”

 

Avis B. Christiansen: “Up Calvary’s mountain, one dreadful morn, walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn.  Facing for sinners death on the cross, that He might save them, from endless loss.  Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer.  Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree; wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading, blind and unheeding, dying for me.”
Reason #3.  JESUS IS THE ONLY PERSON RAISED FROM THE DEAD TO BE EXALTED FOREVER.

Matthew 28:5-7, “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.”

Philippians 2:5-11, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

  • Others have been raised from the dead: Peter raised Tabitha; Paul raised Eutychus; Elisha raised the Shunamite’s son; Jesus Himself raised Jairus’ daughter, the widow of Nail and His friend Lazarus.
  • I have visited the places where the great are buried: Dole, France (Louis Pasteur); Arlington National Cemetery (JFK, war heroes), Paris (Napoleon’s tomb) – all are the same, a grave with bones in it.
  • Jesus not only was raised never to die again, He was raised as a down payment on our own resurrection. He is the firstfruits; we are the fruit that followers.

Jesus was raised and exalted, not raised and interred again.  No one else was.

 

Reason #4.  JESUS IS THE ONLY PERSON CAPABLE OF SAVING THE WORLD    

“Born in a Bethlehem stable and nestled in the straw of a borrowed manger, His first visitors were simple shepherds.  His only journey from His tiny homeland came in response to an attempt on His infant life by a jealous monarch.  Raised a carpenter’s son in a frontier town, His family lived in poverty and obscurity.  As a child He astounded intellectuals with His godly wisdom and understanding.  His gentle spirit and compassion were reciprocated by hometown hatred.

As a man He called rugged fishermen to leave their nets and in silent submission they followed Him.  From a borrowed boat He promised His disciples little but deprivation and death.  Still, multitudes came.

As His life neared an end, He borrowed a colt upon which to ride in victory.  He borrowed a room where He breathed new life into an old feast.  He borrowed a garden in which to pray.  When envy and hatred rose against Him, mockers borrowed a robe to scorn Him.  When He was condemned to die, they borrowed a shoulder to carry His cross.  Once he was dead, they borrowed a tomb in which to bury Him.  And when He was raised from the dead, His enemies borrowed a lie to deny His resurrection.

One who never wrote a book, never composed a song, never received an award of any kind should likely have passed from the pages of history without notice.  But if He had, we wouldn’t know the only name that brings salvation, the only name at which ever knee shall bow—Jesus, the only Savior the world will ever know.

Of all the prophets, monarchs, sages or artists who ever graced this globe, none so changed it as Jesus of Nazareth.  His life, death and resurrection have become the focal point of history.  He is not traced on our memories as much as He is plowed into the soil of our history.  More than anyone else, He is the difference maker.  He certainly made a difference in my life.  He will in yours as well.”

Session 2
THE BIBLE CALLS JESUS GOD

 As Christians, we believe that Jesus was born as a baby to His mother Mary.  But how could that baby also be God?  That’s what we believe, but do you know why we believe it?  When those of other religions scratch their head and deny that Jesus is God, do you know what to say to them?  Today we’re going to find out why we Christians believe Jesus is God and how we can be certain He is.

What does the Bible say about Jesus of Nazareth also being God the Son?  Here are some reasons from the Bible to support our Christian belief that Jesus is God.

JESUS IS CALLED GOD.  THE BIBLE CALLS JESUS “GOD.”

Isaiah 9:6 is the prophet Isaiah’s great prediction about the coming Messiah of Israel.  He says, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  

We know this prophecy is talking about Jesus because it’s quoted in Luke chapter 2 and verse 11 and applied to Jesus.

  • Luke 2:11 says, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
  • That Luke applied this passage to Jesus is very significant, because the expression “Mighty God” is used in the Old Testament only of God the Father and of no one else or no other god.
  • In Isaiah10:21 we are told that, “The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.”
  • Deuteronomy 10:17 reminds Israel that “The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.”

The Apostle John also does what Luke does—He calls Jesus God.  In the very first verse of the very first chapter of the Gospel of John, the apostle says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

  • That’s a direct statement about the deity of the Word and we know the Word has to be Jesus because verse 14 of John 1 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The disciple Thomas also called Jesus God.  Eight days after Jesus rose from the grave, He came into a room where the disciples were gathered.  Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:28).

The Apostle Paul definitely said that Jesus is God.  In writing of Israel’s rejection of Jesus their Messiah, Paul speaks in Romans 9:5 of Jesus as being Jewish, as coming from Israel’s fathers, and says, “According to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.” 

  • Speaking of the difference between Jesus and the angels Hebrews 1:7-8 notes these words from God the Father: “And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

 

JESUS IS CALLED GOD.  THE BIBLE CALLS JESUS “GOD”

Think about the many, many verses in the Bible that either are prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament or historical narratives about Him in the New.

  • In both the Old Testament prophecies and the New Testament gospels and epistles, Jesus is constantly referred to as God.
  • Have you ever asked yourself why this is true? Here are some examples.

Isaiah 9:6 is the prophet Isaiah’s great prediction about the coming Messiah of Israel.  He says, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  

  • We know this prophecy is talking about Jesus because it’s quoted in Luke chapter 2 and verse 11 and applied to Jesus.
  • Luke 2:11 says, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
  • That Luke applied this passage to Jesus is very significant, because the expression “Mighty God” is used in the Old Testament only of God the Father and of no one else or no other god.

In Isaiah10:21 we’re told that, “The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.” 

  • Isaiah’s predicting that although the Jewish nation will wander in sin far from God, they will one day repent and return to the Mighty God.
  • Now put that on the sticky side of your mind.
  • The God of Heaven is called “the Mighty God” to distinguish Him from all the useless gods made by man’s hands.

Deuteronomy 10:17 reminds Israel that “The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.”

  • Now if Luke didn’t believe that Jesus is God, He would never have disrespected the Mighty God of Israel by using that title for Jesus.
  • So, the Bible calls Jesus God; that we know for sure.

The Apostle John also does what Luke does—He calls Jesus God.  In the very first verse of the very first chapter of the Gospel of John, the apostle says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

  • Well, there it is. “The Word was God.”  That’s a direct statement about the deity of the Word and we know the Word has to be Jesus because verse 14 of John 1 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Now that can only mean Jesus.
  • The Word, who was God, became flesh and lived among us. So in John 1, the Bible clearly calls Jesus God.

You remember the disciple Thomas?  He also called Jesus God. 

  • Eight days after Jesus rose from the grave, He came into a room where the disciples were gathered.
  • Now Thomas hadn’t yet seen the resurrected Lord, but when He did, and Jesus invited him to place his fingers in the nail prints of the Savior’s hands, Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
  • There’s no mistaking what Thomas said. He claimed Jesus is God.
  • So again the Bible calls Jesus God.

The Apostle Paul definitely said that Jesus is God as well. 

In writing of Israel’s rejection of Jesus their Messiah, Paul speaks in Romans 9:5 of Jesus as being Jewish, as coming from Israel’s fathers, and says, “According to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.” 

  • Now did you catch that? Paul said Jesus came from the family of Israel which describes His humanity, but he also said Jesus is “the eternally blessed God.”
  • The apostle said Jesus is Lord over all of creation.
  • He said Jesus is eternal; and He said that Jesus is God.
  • There is absolutely no question: the Bible calls Jesus God.

In the first chapter of Hebrews the writer is making a distinction between Jesus and the angels.  Jesus is not an angel; Jesus is God.  Angels are not God; they are angels, created by God.

  • Speaking of the difference between Jesus and the angels Hebrews 1:7-8 note these words from God the Father: “And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.’ But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” 
  • Oh, you dare not miss that! God the Father speaks to God the Son and calls Him God.
  • The eternal, sovereign God of the universe calls the Son of God, Jesus Christ, “God.” The Father uses the divine title God for His Son, Jesus.
  • Now let that sink in. You can’t get any stronger proof than that.
  • The Bible called Jesus God because God the Father did.
  • If you want to argue about whether or not Jesus is God, you have to argue against God the Father and I don’t think any of us wants to do that.

So, it’s clear by these and many other verses, that the Bible calls Jesus God.  And here’s the reason.

  • God’s Word speaks of Jesus Christ as God because He is God.
  • When those whose doctrine is not based on the Bible come to your door, and they say that Jesus was an angel, or that He was the first being created by God, remember that’s not what the Bible says.
  • The Bible clearly calls Jesus God. Jesus is every bit as divine as God the Father and God the Spirit is.  Oh, but there’s something else.

 

THE BIBLE USES EXPRESSIONS THAT DESCRIBE JESUS AS GOD

Not only does the Bible specifically call Jesus God, there are many expressions used of Jesus in the New Testament that also indicate He is God.  Consider three examples.

 

PHILIPPIANS 2:5-6, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.”

  • When Paul said Jesus was in the “form” of God, He’s not talking about a spirit form as opposed to a fleshly form.
  • He’s not saying Jesus didn’t have a body before He was born a man.
  • Now that’s true, of course; Jesus didn’t have a body before He came to earth.
  • But that’s not what Paul is saying here. Paul means that the “form” of God is the deepest thing that makes God God.
  • It’s what God is down deep inside, what He is within Himself.
  • Paul is talking about the essential nature of God, the character of God, what it is about God that sets Him apart from all His creation. He is deity; He is God.
  • Jesus has the same essential nature or character as God the Father. Jesus is God.

Because Jesus knew who He was, that He always has been God even before He became a man . . .

  • Jesus didn’t think He needed to hold onto the trappings of being God.
  • Jesus didn’t think His equality with God the Father and God the Son would be lost if He was obedient and became a human being.
  • So Paul’s expression about Jesus being in the “form” or the “essence” of God and His not needing to cling tenaciously to all that identified Him as equal with the other persons of the Trinity, is a strong declaration about Jesus being God.
  • Jesus knew what He is made of, and He knew that setting aside His position in the heavens would not jeopardize His deity at all.
  • Jesus is, was and always will be God. He didn’t have to be in Heaven just to prove that.

Okay, here’s another expression the Bible uses to show that Jesus is God.

COLOSSIANS 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God.”

This again is Paul writing, but this time he’s writing to his friends in the church at Colossae.  The apostle says that Jesus is the “image” of the “invisible” God.

  • Two words are important here, well, three actually. Every Christian knows what every Jewish person knows, that the God of the Bible cannot be seen.  He is invisible.
  • So the word “image” means that God the Son is “the visible image of the invisible God.”
  • It means that Jesus, as God in the flesh, is the way we can see God and know what He is like.
  • Jesus is the person of the Godhead who explains, defines and reveals God.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 4 Paul again speaks of Jesus Christ as “the image of God.”  What the apostle means is that because our eyes cannot behold God, if we want to see Him we have to look at Jesus.  Why?

  • Because Jesus is God, God we can see. Bible says Jesus is God.
  • Can you take one final passage that speaks about Jesus being God?

HEBREWS chapter 1, the first 3 verses: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who [is] the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.”

Now, that’s quite an expression.  The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is “the express image” of the person of God the Father.

  • This is very similar to what Paul said earlier in Philippians 2:6.
  • Jesus Christ has the exact same essence, the exact same character, as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
  • Let me say it this way, Jesus has all the stuff the Mighty God has.
  • Whatever it takes to make the one true God, Jesus has it and He has just as much of it as the God the Father and God the Spirit do.
  • Now the word Hebrews uses for “express image” originally meant the instrument used in engraving or stamping coins.
  • Here in Hebrews 1:3 it means that God the Son is the exact repre-sentation of God the Father’s character, His essence and His being.
  • Since God’s nature is invisible, and the Son’s express image of the Father lets us know what God is like, even if we can’t see the Father with our eyes, we can see Jesus and that’s as good as seeing the invisible God the Father.
  • Jesus bears the image of the Heavenly Father just like a coin bears the image of the tool that stamped it.

So, what have we learned so far?  We’ve learned that the Bible is very straightforward about calling Jesus Christ God.

  • There is no hesitation in God’s Word about saying God the Son is every bit as divine as God the Father and God the Spirit.
  • We looked at several passages both from the Old Testament and the New Testament that directly call Jesus Christ God.
  • The Bible said it; we should trust it and believe it. Jesus is God.
  • We also thought specifically about three New Testament passages that use expressions about Jesus’ deity. These expressions indicate that Jesus is, in fact, God the Son.
  • Those three expressions were “the form of God”; “the image of the invisible God”; and “the express image of God’s person.”
  • Now each of these expressions is a power phrase, communicating that Jesus Christ has exactly the same essence, the same nature, the same character or, if you will, the same “stuff” that God the Father and God the Spirit have.
  • As I said, whatever it takes to make God, Jesus has all of it.
  • And, equally important, no one but God the Son, God the Spirit or God the Father has any of what it takes to make God.
  • So our conclusion has to be that the Bible calls Jesus God because Jesus is God. And that you can believe.

Here are our choices on this matter:

(1) We can believe that the Bible is inspired by God and accurate in all it records.  If we do, we must believe Jesus is God because the Bible says so many times; or

(2) we cannot believe the Bible and not understand Jesus to be God.  What we cannot do is adopt option

(3) We claim we believe the Bible but we deny that Jesus was God.  This is the egregious error of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They are wrong; the Bible is right.  Jesus is God.

Session 3

JESUS DEMONSTRATED GOD’S ATTRIBUTES

What attributes does He have that are the same as the divine qualities God possesses?

JESUS EXISTED BEFORE HE WAS BORN

  • The angel of the LORD announced to them, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger” (Lk 2:11-12). 
  • And a few verses later Luke records of the shepherds, “And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child” (verses 16-17). 

How do we know Jesus existed in eternity long before He was born in Bethlehem?  We know because the Bible says so.  Read what the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 4:4-5, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” 

The Apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2).

  • “In the beginning” means at the beginning of everything—the beginning of creation, the beginning of time, the beginning of history.
  • But notice that John said the Word, which we know is Jesus, was with God when everything had a beginning.
  • And look. John was careful to say that in the beginning WAS the Word, not in the beginning became the Word or was born the Word.
  • When time began, Jesus the living Word of God already was.

Those who believe Jesus was created when God created the rest of the world are really going to have a problem with what Jesus said in John 17.

  • “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.   And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” 

Let’s think about one more passage from the Apostle Paul.  This is a pretty amazing text too.  Colossians 1:16-17 says of Jesus, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.   And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” 

He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Revelation 1:11).

So, if Jesus always has been God, we should expect Him always to have possessed the qualities of God. 

If in Jesus “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” as Colossians 2:9 claims . . .
. . . and if Jesus is in the “form of God” and “equal with God” as Philippians 2:6 claims
. . . and if He is the image of the invisible God” as Colossians 1:15 claims. . .
. . . and if Jesus is “the express image” of God” as Hebrews 1:3 claims. . .
. . . then Jesus must have all the same attributes of God.

What attributes of God the Father do we also see in God the Son?

 

Jesus demonstrated His perfect RIGHTEOUSNESS.  While Peter was preaching to the crowd in Jerusalem, he reminded them of their crime against God.  The apostle said, “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14).

Acts 22:14, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth.” 

2 Timothy 4:8, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Jesus demonstrated His GOODNESS.   Acts 10:38 records Peter preaching to the household of Cornelius.  He said,  “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

 

Jesus demonstrated His LOVE.  As people watched Jesus they saw Him demonstrate His love for people.  Twice in the story of the raising of Lazarus, recorded in John 11, Jesus’ love for that family is mentioned.  Verse 5 says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” and again verses 35 and 36 at Lazarus’ death, “Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”  “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

Jesus Himself spoke of His personal love for His disciples when He gave them a new commandment:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

And once He said to His disciples, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9).

Jesus’ love was much more than just a human emotion; it was a divine attribute because He “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5).
Jesus demonstrated His SOVEREIGNTY.  Often we think of Jesus setting His sovereignty aside when He came to earth to become a man, but His life and ministry prove otherwise.

  • Jesus chose the time, the place and even the words He would speak as He was crucified on Calvary’s cross (John 19).
  • During His trial before Caiaphas and the one before Pilate, even though Jesus was on trial, it actually appeared as if He were in charge, controlling everything that happened to Him.
  • What an incredible display of His sovereignty during the dark hours that led to His death.
  • But He demonstrated His sovereignty most especially by coming back to life on the third day after He was crucified (John 20).

Jesus demonstrated His OMNIPRESENCE.  While His human body would not permit Jesus to be in two places at one time, it’s clear that His presence could be felt in more than one place at the same time.

  • In Matthew 18:20 Jesus promised, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” 
  • And in Matthew 28:20, His final promise to His disciples was, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
  • To the Colossian believers God revealed “the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Jesus demonstrated His OMNISCIENCE.  It’s true that as a boy, the human part of Jesus had to grow and learn.  His father Joseph faithfully taught Him.  Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”    When things got tough and some of Jesus’ followers began to leave Him, John 6:64, “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.”

Jesus demonstrated His OMNIPOTENCE.

  • Once Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children with a boy’s tiny lunch of just five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6).
  • Jesus walked on top the water of the Sea of Galilee and did not sink (John 6).
  • He gave sight to a man who was born blind (John 9).
  • He raised His friend Lazarus from the dead after he had been in the grave four days (John 11).
  • Jesus demonstrated qualities only God could have. Throughout Jesus’ life, He gave evidence that He is God.

Session 4

JESUS’ ACTIVITY PROVES HE IS GOD

Let’s see some of the things Jesus did that only God can do.

Jesus was active in CREATING ALL THINGS.    The Bible begins with a profound statement: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). 

  • Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “There is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.”
  • Speaking of Jesus Christ John 1:3 tells us, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
  • Nothing could be clearer than Hebrews 1:1-3, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom He made the worlds.”
  • As if these verses weren’t enough, Colossians 1:16 also affirms that Jesus Christ had a role in creation.

Jesus is active in SUSTAINING ALL THINGS.  Not only does the Son of God create, He keeps in place what He has created.  He sustains His creation.  He keeps it moving forward.  He keeps it alive and energized.

  • Paul says it this way in Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

Jesus is active in REVEALING GOD THE FATHER.  Earlier we took special note of expressions like “the form of God” in Philippians 2 and “the image of the invisible God” in Colossians 1 and “the express image of God’s person” in Hebrews 1. 

  • Immediately after telling His disciples that He is the way, the truth and the life, Jesus said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”   Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:7-9).  Now think about this.

Jesus is active in FORGIVING OUR SINS.   In Luke 7 a Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus into his house.  While they were eating, a woman with a sinful past washed Jesus feet with her tears of contrition.

  • He turned to the woman and said, “Your sins are forgiven” (v. 48).
  • And this. Luke 7:49, “And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 

There’s another account that makes this same point even clearer.  Luke 5 tells the story of four friends who brought a paralyzed man to Jesus while He was in Capernaum.

  • When Jesus saw the amazing faith of these men, He said to the one who was paralyzed, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
  • Verses 21-24 record the rest of the story. “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”   But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
  • When Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5, the Pharisees were upset because it was the Sabbath.
  • Jesus brushed their criticism aside saying, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working. . . Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” That’s John 5:17-18.

Jesus is active in GIVING US LIFE.   Who has the power to give life?

Read these words from Jesus:  “I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  John 5:24. 

  • In John 6:34 Jesus identifies Himself as “the bread of God who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
  • Once when Jesus was accosted by the scribes and elders of Jerusalem because of His divine claims, He scolded them saying, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

 

Jesus is active in EXERCISING JUDGMENT.   For those of us who know Jesus as the Good Shepherd, or the Suffering Savior or the Lamb of God, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the One who taught us to turn the other cheek, the One who taught us to love our enemy, is the same One who will judge both our enemies and us.

  • In this same passage of the New Testament, John 5 verses 22-23 tell us, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
  • And the idea of Jesus being the Judge is repeated in verses 26 and 27: “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,  and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” 
  • The Judgment Seat of Christ. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).    

 

Jesus is active in TEACHING THE TRUTH.  If you want a very concise statement that tells you what Jesus’ ministry was like, look no further than Matthew 4:23, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”

  • Luke 13:22 says, “And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.”
  • Luke 19:47 tells us, “And He was teaching daily in the temple.”
  • One third of Jesus’ Great Commandment, the third third, the third that is most often neglected by the Church today, commands us to be: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
  • Perhaps the most famous of all teachings of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 5-7.
  • Matthew 6:19-20 the Savior taught: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
  • That’s why Jesus also teaches us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
  • Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’   And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” 

Jesus is active in PERFORMING MIRACLES                                                                                        Event number 4 that helps us gain some insight into Jesus is actually many events.  In fact, they are 37 events; we call them miracles.  In your notes you have those miracles in somewhat chronological order:

Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.

 

He healed the royal official’s son in Cana.

 

Jesus healed the demon-possessed man who lived in Capernaum.

 

And He healed Peter’s mother-in-law in Capernaum.

 

Also Jesus healed many sick people during the evening in Capernaum.

 

He assisted His fishermen disciples in a large catch of fish.

 

Jesus healed a leper demonstrating that He was both willing and able to heal him.

 

Jesus healed the servant of the centurion stationed at Capernaum.

 

He healed a paralyzed man let down through a roof.

 

Jesus healed the man who had a withered hand.

 

Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead.

 

He calmed the waters of the Sea of Galilee during a fierce storm.

 

After this He healed the man from the country of the Gadarenes of demon possession.

 

Jesus healed the woman who had a problem with continual bleeding

 

Jesus also raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead.

 

He healed two blind men at Capernaum.

 

Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak.

 

He also healed an invalid of 38 years of suffering.

 

Jesus fed 5,000 men plus their families on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

 

Then Jesus did the impossible by walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee.

 

Jesus healed many, many people in Gennesaret.

 

He healed a girl possessed by a demon.

 

And Jesus healed a deaf man with a speech impediment.

 

Jesus fed 4,000 men and their families.

 

Jesus healed two blind men near Jericho.

 

He healed blind Bartimaeus at Jericho

 

Then He healed a man born blind at the entrance to the Temple.

 

Jesus healed a boy with epilepsy.

 

The Savior helped Peter catch a fish with a coin in its mouth.

 

He healed a blind and mute man who was demon possessed.

 

Jesus healed a woman who had an infirmity for 18 years.

 

He also healed a man with swelling due to an accumulation of excess water.

 

Jesus healed 10 lepers at one time.

 

He raised His friend Lazarus from the dead.

 

Jesus cursed a fig tree with no fruit on the Mount of Olives.

 

He restored the severed ear of Malchius that Peter cut off in Gethsemane.

 

Jesus assisted His disciples in catching 153 fish when He met them in Galilee.

 

And these miracles don’t include His miraculous Virgin Birth, His Resurrection or His ascension into Heaven.

Jesus is active in RECEIVING WORSHIP

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all include this story in their Gospels.

  • Let’s start with Matthew. “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. . . . So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.   And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.   Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:  ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’  Hosanna in the highest!”  Selected verses from 21:1-9.
  • To this Mark 11:11 adds that, “Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple.”
  • Luke’s account tells us that the whole event was a boisterous and noisy one. “The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen” (Luke 19:37).
  • And John 12:14 fills in what Jesus said. “Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” 
  • When Jesus said, “Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt” Jesus was identifying Himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 

Revelation 5:11-13, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’   And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” 

Read the words of Matthew 8:1-2, “When He [Jesus] had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.  And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 

Take note how different this is from when Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, met Peter.  Acts 10:25-26 says, he “fell down at his feet and worshiped him.  But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I myself am also a man.’”

  • Peter wouldn’t dare allow himself to be worshipped; he was not worthy.
  • And the same thing is true of the angel in Revelation 22:8-9.
  • When he showed the Apostle John what would happen in the future, John says, “I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

Session 5 

THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO MARY

God sent one of His chief angels named Gabriel to a young woman living in the Galilean town of Nazareth.

  • Nazareth is in northern Israel, about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • It was a poor town, not known for having any of the finer things that more upscale towns had.
  • Yet God sent Gabriel to Mary, to give her the greatest news anyone ever heard.
  • Mary would become pregnant, even though she was only engaged to her future husband Joseph, and had never been intimate with him, or any other man.
  • Mary was a virgin, yet this virgin would give birth to the Son of God.
  • There could not have been any more astounding news to come to a tiny village like Nazareth.

 

We’re back in Luke chapter 1 in this session, and I’d like to read the verses that record this announcement by Gabriel.  Listen to verses 30 through 35 of Luke chapter 1.  “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’  Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’   And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” 

That’s some passage of Scripture.  It’s totally awesome, and every Christian should be familiar with it.  It’s the game-changer with regard to the debt of sin that you and I owe.

Well, let’s concentrate on how Mary responded to the news that she would bear a son.  Take note of . . .
MARY’S NATURAL RESPONSE

Here’s what Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 

  • Would you have expected her to say anything else? Well, maybe.
  • Perhaps you would have expected Mary to be concerned about her reputation.
  • After all, the prospect of her being pregnant, while still engaged to Joseph and not married to him, that would have cast a dark cloud over Mary’s virtue.
  • But Gabriel’s news is so shocking, so surprising, so unexpected that Mary can do nothing but blurt out, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

 

Now I think it’s important to notice that Mary did not doubt the truthfulness of Gabriel’s announcement.  She didn’t ask for a sign proving the announcement was genuine, as Zechariah did when he learned Elizabeth was to have a baby.

  • Mary was startled, but her faith was not shaken.
  • She simply wanted to know how this thing could happen.
  • The angel’s explanation is absolutely unheard of. It’s astonishing, mind-boggling, extraordinary, almost preposterous.
  • Let’s examine carefully what Gabriel said and take a closer look at every phrase of the angel’s announcement and young Mary’s response. We begin with:

1)  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”   Now I find it interesting, don’t you, that it’s the Third Person of the Trinity who is active in Mary’s pregnancy.

  • Obviously it couldn’t be the Second Person, Jesus, for He is the object of the pregnancy.
  • What’s amazing is that it’s not God the Father who is active here.
  • I have no explanation for that, other than to say that we know each person of the Holy Trinity had separate and distinct roles to play in their dealings with their creation, and this was the Spirit’s role.
  • So what does it mean that the Holy Spirit would “come upon” Mary as she conceived?
  • The words chosen by Luke have no special meaning. They’re the ordinary words for meeting up with someone or overtaking them.
  • The key is that it’s the Holy Spirit of God who is coming upon Mary.
  • We have to remember that the unique work of the Spirit of God is sanctifying people, that is setting people apart for special use by God.
  • Luke is saying that the Spirit of God came upon Mary, that is He sanctified her, He set her apart from all other women for a special purpose, a purpose He had for no one else.
  • The Spirit overtook Mary so He could sanctify her, set her apart for bearing the Son of God. But you know the next expression Gabriel used is even more amazing.  He said . . .

 

2)  “The power of the Highest will overshadow you.”  Again, Gabriel refers to God as “the Highest,” that’s God Most High, or Most High God.

  • You may remember when David was on the run from King Saul and he hid in a cave, David’s prayer, recorded in Psalm 57:2-3, was: “I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me.  He shall send from heaven and save me.”  
  • It’s that same God Most High whose power would overshadow Mary when she would conceive and give birth to Jesus. And that’s pretty special.

So what does it mean that the power of the Most High God will “overshadow” Mary?

  • I think it means the Holy Spirit somehow hovered over or around Mary, and His very presence was used to impregnate the young virgin.
  • Gabriel’s expression, “the power of the Highest shall overshadow you” reminds us of those beginning words of Genesis.
  • Moses says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).
  • At the very dawn of creation, the Spirit of God hovered or brooded over the face of the waters.
  • The Hebrew word for “hovered” or “brooded” is used only 3 times in the Bible.
  • The second time it’s found in Deuteronomy 32:11 where Moses was rehearsing how God tenderly cared for His people as they wandered in the wilderness.
  • He said, “As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him.” Now the image is clear.
  • Like an eagle hovers above her young in the nest, the Holy Spirit hovered over Mary when she conceived the baby Jesus.

While I don’t know exactly what that means, and maybe God never intended us to fully understand it, I do know what it doesn’t mean.

  • It doesn’t mean Mary was impregnated by Joseph.
  • It doesn’t mean she became pregnant by the agency of any other man.
  • It doesn’t mean that Mary’s conception was ordinary in any sense of the word.
  • This was a miracle of God, and if we take the Scriptures at face value, we have to believe that Mary’s conception was not just extraordinary, it was astonishing, it was staggering, it was even bewildering.
  • The Word, Jesus, was conceived in the womb of a virgin.
  • He was not conceived as all the other children ever born were, but by the singular, powerful, invisible, immediate action of the Spirit of God.
  • This is a conception well outside the laws of human nature.
  • This is the miraculous conception of a virgin, who continued to be a virgin throughout her pregnancy.
  • This is what Mary was chosen for, what she was sanctified for and set apart by the Spirit of God for.
  • But the most amazing, most miraculous aspect of this conception is that it was by the Holy Spirit of God.
  • Even if a virgin birth wasn’t miraculous, conception by God’s Spirit certainly was.
  • That’s exactly what we see happening when Jesus was conceived.

Well finally, the angel explains to Mary . . .

3)  “That Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”  Just as Mary was sanctified by the Holy Spirit, set apart for the specific purpose of bearing the Christ child, so too, the baby she would carry would be sanctified by God.

  • He would be totally holy, untouched by inherited human sin.
  • Since Jesus was not conceived in the normal human way, He does not share the normal corruption and pollution of our human nature.
  • As Galatians 4:4 tells us, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.”
  • But the Bible does not say that God’s Son was born of a man.
  • In fact, the Bible goes out of its way to show that Jesus was not born from the seed of the man, but only from the seed of the woman.

Now that’s important when you remember that the first promise of our redemption from sin in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:15.  Listen to this.  “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  

  • You noticed, didn’t you, there is no mention of the seed of a man.
  • The hostility and antagonism would be between Satan’s seed and the woman’s seed.
  • Jesus was born of woman, but not of a man.
  • No other religious leader even dares make such a claim, not Buddha, not Muhammed, not Joseph Smith, not L. Ron Hubbard, no one.
  • No other religious leader makes the claim of a virgin birth because they cannot.

The Holy One that Mary carried for nine months in her womb was God Himself.  And the angel’s final explanation of how a virgin could conceive and bear a child pointed out that Jesus “will be called the Son of God.”

  • Now that, too, is significant. Christ’s flesh was formed out of the Virgin’s flesh.
  • Jesus took shape as a body from His mother. She gave Jesus the human substance to create a tiny body that was fully human.
  • But Mary did not create the Son of God. Jesus, God’s Son, was never created.  He is eternal.  He always has existed.
  • The Spirit of God implanted the divine nature into Mary’s womb and used her human nature to create the unique person that Jesus is.
  • Mary is legitimately called the Mother of Jesus, but it would theologically wrong to call her the Mother of God. She contributed nothing to Jesus’ divinity.
  • God has no mother. Jesus possessed His divine nature throughout all of eternity past.  So, the child Mary conceived would be called the Son of God.
  • He is the “Emmanuel”, God with us, fulfilling one of the greatest prophecies in the Old Testament–Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”   

Session 6

THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO JOSEPH

 

We’ve been concentrating on the announcement from the angel Gabriel to Mary.  That announcement indicated that she would conceive and have a son, even though she was a virgin.  But now we turn our attention to the announcement to Joseph.  There’s additional information in that announcement that helps us understand why we Christians believe Jesus was a complete human being as well as being a complete divine being.  So, let’s get started; let’s think about . . .

THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO JOSEPH

First, let’s listen to the words of Matthew as he describes how Joseph found out about the birth of Jesus.  They’re written for us in Matthew 1:18-21. Listen to this.  “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.   And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’”  My, my, my, my, my, what an announcement that was.

  • It’s completely filled with good news. In fact, that’s what the gospel is-good news.  That’s what the word “gospel” means—good news.

While this announcement is somewhat similar to Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, there are some significant differences.  And we learn some details here that we didn’t learn in Luke chapter 2.

Let’s notice together what the differences are.  What do we learn from this announcement that we didn’t from the announcement to Mary?

  • It is evident that the angelic announcement came to Mary first. Gabriel said to her, “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.”
  • Mary had not yet conceived; it was still a future event when the angel announced her pregnancy to her.
  • And when Mary questioned Gabriel how such a thing could take place, because she had never been intimate with a man, he replied, “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’”
  • Every one of these promises is future at the time they were made by Gabriel. The Holy Spirit will come upon Mary.  The power of the Most High God will overshadow her.  The Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  All future.
  • But that’s not the case with the announcement to Joseph. He is being told what is already a fact.  Matthew says, “she was found with child” not “she will be found with child.”
  • Jesus’ mother was the first to receive the news, but Joseph, His legal father, now needed to know as well. I think we all agree on that.
  • Matthew’s account confirms that Mary was already pregnant with a child by the Holy Spirit, not by Joseph or any other man. Jesus was God in the flesh, not some illegitimate baby as some may have suspected.
  • Today, ignorant people still believe Jesus was just a child born out of wedlock.
  • They say He compensated for His dishonorable birth by having a Messiah complex. But that’s just foolish.
  • Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, notice this . . .

 

  • When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant, he had a real dilemma on his hands. In each society, each culture, each period of history, people have dealt with an unexpected pregnancy in different ways.
  • Today, many people just deal with an unwanted pregnancy by killing the baby through abortion. But in the 1st Century, that was not an option.
  • Joseph’s options were three:

Option #1, he could make a public declaration of Mary’s shame and bring her before the Sanhedrin for trial and punishment;

Option #2, he could quietly write a divorce document that would send her back to her family with the child, never to have contact with her again; or

Option #3, he could marry her because he loved her and together they could face the consequences of her humiliating pregnancy.  Joseph chose option #2.

  • He did not want to embarrass Mary any further, by making a public display of what he thought, had to be the consequences of her sin.
  • He decided to draw up a document of divorce and send Mary back home to her parents.
  • It was hard on Joseph, because Mary and he had never actually married.
  • They were bound by an oath or promise of marriage, much like a binding engagement, but they had never really been married.
  • This all happened before the wedding could take place.
  • Matthew says Joseph chose option 2 because he was “a just man,” meaning that he lived righteously, he strictly followed the teachings of the Mosaic Law.
  • He was honorable, he was reasonable, he was innocent.
  • He certainly didn’t want to hurt Mary, the young woman he loved.
  • But something changed Joseph’s mind, something pretty unusual.

Here’s something else we learn from Matthew.

 

  • While option 2 was his choice, Joseph never was able to exercise this option because something amazing happened before he could. Verse 20 says, “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” 
  • It was not uncommon for God to reveal things to His people through dreams, especially in the Old Testament.
  • But this may have been the most important dream in history.
  • It changed the course of future events. It even changed our destiny, yours and mine.  Notice also this . . .

 

  • The subject of God’s dream message to Joseph changed the direction of Joseph’s life. How different our Bibles would be had it not been for this dream.
  • Here are the phrases, the pieces of information we get about Jesus’ humanity, from God’s announcement to Joseph. consider these phrases carefully.
  • “Joseph, son of David.” This is how the angel addressed Joseph and it’s an important greeting.
  • It indicates that, just like Mary, Joseph was in the direct line of King David. He, too, was an heir of David, but not an heir to David’s throne.  Let me explain.
  • It’s believed that Matthew’s genealogy, the list of David’s descendants through Jesus, records Joseph’s family, the legal but not physical father of Jesus.
  • This means that because Jesus legally became Joseph’s firstborn son through his marriage to Mary, Jesus received all the rights and privileges of the firstborn.
  • It also means through His legal father, Joseph, Jesus could trace His roots all the way back to David through David’s son Solomon, through whom God chose to establish David’s kingdom forever.
  • That means Jesus has the legal right to sit upon the throne of King David whenever He chooses to do so. Ah, but here’s the next phrase.

“Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife.”  Now I think this is just God’s way of calming Joseph’s heart.

  • Remember, he was not present when Gabriel appeared to Mary and gave her the news she would have a child.
  • And, apparently, Mary couldn’t bring herself to tell Joseph she was pregnant.
  • That may be because of the unique and mysterious way she became pregnant.
  • I mean, who would believe her? Would Joseph?  She didn’t know.
  • Likely Joseph discovered her pregnancy when Mary’s belly began to show that she was pregnant.
  • So the angel’s first task was to change Joseph’s choice of options with regard to Mary. That being done, the angel would go on to explain how all this happened.  The angel said . . .

“That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”  Now, I think if I found my wife-to-be in Mary’s situation, I would need a little more detail than that.  And so would you.  This is pretty unbelievable.

  • Mary is pregnant by the invisible Holy Spirit of God? Surely there must be a better explanation than that.
  • But, of course, we know from Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that this is exactly what happened.
  • The Holy Spirit somehow hovered over Mary, and without the usual steps in becoming pregnant, Mary found herself carrying a tiny baby.

Next the angel said:

“She will bring forth a Son.”  Now this is a second confirmation of the gender of this baby, even before it was born.

  • Both Mary and now Joseph are informed that the baby would be a boy baby.
  • This was important for several reasons. #1) if Mary’s child could in fact be the Messiah, he would have to be a son.
  • #2) if Mary’s child could ever become king of God’s people Israel, he would have to be a son too.
  • And from our perspective as Christians, #3) if God the Son was ever to come to earth and take on flesh, it would be the flesh of a boy baby in order for Him to be the “Son of God.”
  • So Joseph is informed that the baby Mary is carrying is a son.

And then this remarkable directive . . .

“You shall call His name Jesus.”  As you remember from our investigation of the announcement to Mary, Joseph was not given the father’s privilege of naming his son.

  • Both Mary and Joseph were instructed by the angel that God had a specific purpose in mind for this baby, and thus He also had a specific name picked out for Him.
  • Now my wife Linda and I have three daughters and one son. When our son was born I chose to call him Timothy because that name means “One who honors God.”   Above all else, I wanted my son to grow up to honor God.
  • I’m grateful to God that he has, as well as my daughters.
  • But Joseph was not permitted to name his son. Rather, Joseph proved his character by obeying the will of God and he named the baby boy Jesus, just as he had been instructed.

And then there is this explanation from the angelic announcement to Joseph . . .

“For He will save His people from their sins.”  This helps us understand why God chose this baby’s name as Jesus.

  • Names were important, especially in ancient times. A name represented the wishes of the parents for their child.
  • For God the Father to communicate through an angel to Joseph, that the name of this child should be Jesus, establishes two things in our minds.
  • 1) God the Heavenly Father has exercised His right to name His Son Jesus.
  • And 2) God chose Jesus as the Son’s name because this baby was destined to become a man, minister for approximately three years in Israel, be unjustly tried and beaten, and crucified at a place called Calvary.
  • And why was this done? Because, as the angel said, “He will save His people from their sins.”    

I think someone has correctly summed up why the name Jesus was important when they said:  If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.  If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.  If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.  If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.  But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.

The Son of God became a man so that men could become the sons of God.

  • It’s the miracle of salvation through God’s grace.
  • And while it would take years before God would reveal His Son as Savior, the full oak tree of salvation was first displayed in the acorn of the virgin birth.

Well finally, the angel told Joseph . . .

“So all this was done that it might be fulfilled . . .”   Now often the Gospel writers make reference to Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled in the birth, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • It’s not that the writers rearranged historical events to make it look like Jesus was fulfilling prophecy.
  • And it was not that the Gospels looked for things in Jesus’ life they could use to prove He was the promised Messiah.
  • They record hundreds upon hundreds of details about Jesus that were not specifically the fulfilment of prophecy.
  • But in this case, in the announcement to Joseph, it’s apparent that the phrases in this announcement demonstrated how Jesus’ birth fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

See Isaiah’s prophecy tells us three things that were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.  #1)  It would be a virgin who would miraculously conceive.  As unlikely as this must have seemed to Isaiah, it’s exactly what happened when Jesus was conceived.

#2) The virgin would be a son.  Now you might say that there were only two options here, a boy or a girl, and Mary had a 50/50 chance of bearing a son.  But in the context of Jesus’ birth stories, there is a 100% chance the baby would be born a son because God ordained it.

And #3) that Son’s name, the one born of a virgin, would be called Immanuel.  Now, we already know that God told both Mary and Joseph the baby’s name must be Jesus and that’s the name they gave Him.

  • So what about this command of Isaiah 7:14, You “shall call his name Immanuel”? Would Jesus also use the name Immanuel?
  • No, not as a formal name because Immanuel at that time wasn’t a proper name as it is today. It was a Hebrew word meaning “God with us.”  That’s why Matthew translated it in verse 23.
  • When Jesus was born it meant that God was with us. It meant God was actually dwelling with people in Galilee and Judea.
  • It meant the God who is in Heaven is also the God who is on Earth. “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.”
  • The announcement to Joseph has been captured in story and song for generations. That’s how important it is.
  • But what about Joseph himself? How important is he to the Virgin Birth?   Let’s conclude our session by thinking about . . .

JOSEPH THE MAN

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, but what it does tell us makes us like him very much.  Here’s what we know about Joseph.

  • Joseph was a just man, an honorable man, because when he learned that the woman he was engaged to was pregnant, he wanted to do what was best for her, not for him.
  • Joseph was an obedient man. Denied the privilege of naming his son, Joseph was told to give the baby boy the name Jesus.  The last verse of Matthew chapter 1 says, “And he called His name Jesus.”  Joseph obeyed.
  • Joseph was a noble man. Even though he would forever know he had not fathered Jesus, Joseph took Mary’s baby as his own son.  In fact, Jesus was identified by people around Nazareth as “Joseph’s son” (Luke 4:22).
  • Joseph was a working man. It’s only through references to Jesus that we learn of Joseph’s trade. Twice Jesus is referred to as “the carpenter’s son” (Mark 6:3). Joseph was not a carpenter in our sense of the word, for houses were built mostly of stone and earth in the Middle East in antiquity. He was a woodworker, and probably most of his work was with furniture and agricultural implements.
  • Joseph was an admirable man. It couldn’t have been easy for Joseph to teach moral and ethical principles to Jesus as a father does to his son.  Still, Joseph raised Jesus as any Jewish father would his son, teaching Jesus’ human dimension about His divine dimension.

During the ministry of Jesus, Joseph is not mentioned.  In fact, after the incident of Jesus being lost when Joseph and Mary found Him in the temple amazing all the scholars with His knowledge, we never hear of Joseph again.

That incident is recorded in Luke 2:41-50.    Luke 2:51-52 tells us, Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.   And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

When I get to Heaven, I want to see Jesus first, of course, but I’d also like to spend some time with Joseph.

  • We pay little attention to him, but he had the honor of being the earthly father to the Son of God. And apparently he did a good job.
  • So far we’ve investigated Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would have a baby even though she was a virgin.
  • And we’ve now investigated the announcement to Joseph, the legal father of Jesus.
  • But there is one issue with regard to Jesus’ birth we definitely need to spend a little more time investigating and that’s the whole issue of Jesus being born of a virgin.
  • How do we know Mary was a virgin? You know, many scholars have said she was a young woman, but not a virgin?
  • Does it matter? Well, it mattered to Jesus and it should matter to us as well.

Next time we’ll focus our attention on how we know the Virgin Mary was really a virgin.

Session 7

THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST

 

We’re going to explore why Christians believe in Jesus’ Virgin Birth.  There are two main passages that talk about the Virgin Birth; one is in Matthew 1 and the other is in Luke 2. You know that chapter—Luke 2; it’s the Christmas story.  But it has great importance for all of us who believe that Jesus’ conception was nothing short of a miracle.  That miracle we call the Virgin Birth.

 

Let’s first read the account from the Bible and then we’ll explore more deeply how Jesus could be virgin born.  Listen to . . .

Luke chapter 2, the first seven verses.  “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This census first took place while Quirinius [Keer-a-noose’] was governing Syria.  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.  Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” 

  • Caesar Augustus, was the Roman Emperor at the time of Jesus’ birth.
  • Next to Julius Caesar himself, Augustus was probably the most influential man in Roman history.
  • Caesar Augustus, whose real name was Gaius Octavius, Caesar Augustus was just a title, he ruled Rome from 27 BC to AD 14.
  • He actually founded the Roman Empire and became its first Emperor.
  • The other man mentioned by Luke is Quirinius [Keer-a-noose’], governor of Syria.
  • Quirinius was elected governor of Syria in 12 BC and conducted the census for the Roman government to determine how much tax could be collected from conquered peoples, like the Jews.
  • There’s some controversy about the date of the census, but that’s not an issue for us right now.

Luke says that Joseph and Mary left Nazareth in Galilee and traveled south to Bethlehem in the territory of Judea.

  • The route they would have taken, through the Jordan Valley, meant they traveled about 90 miles. It would likely have taken them almost a week.
  • The key phrase in the passage I just read is that Joseph traveled “with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.”
  • Joseph’s family and Mary’s family would have arranged their marriage.
  • They would have entered into a betrothal contract approximately a year before their anticipated wedding.
  • But during this period it was discovered that Mary was pregnant.
  • However, by the time they made the journey to Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary had already become husband and wife, and were awaiting the arrival of a baby.

There are two important things to notice before we explore Jesus’ virgin birth.

  • First, in the Christmas story of Luke 2, there is no mention of the Virgin Birth.
  • Nowhere in this story is the word “virgin” even used. It’s just not there.
  • But that doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, it just means that Luke’s birth narratives don’t mention it.
  • And Second, I have to tell you that I cannot prove the Virgin Birth of Christ.
  • I don’t have the means to prove He was virgin born.
  • Now I have faith that He was born of the Virgin Mary, and I trust the Bible accounts that say He was, but I was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ miraculous conception. That’s why I cannot give you definitive proof.
  • Ah but take heart; the critics of the Virgin Birth, those who say it couldn’t have happened, they weren’t eyewitnesses to Jesus’ miraculous conception either.
  • So they cannot offer any definite proof that it didn’t happen.
  • We have to trust someone here, and I prefer to trust God rather than man.
  • So with that in mind, why do we Christians believe Jesus was born of a virgin?

 

You may have heard of the Apostles Creed.  It was an early Christian statement of faith, the earliest form of which appeared around AD 215.   It was fully developed over the next few centuries.  Now the first lines of the Creed say this: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth.  I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

  • The Apostles Creed is not inspired by God as the Bible is.
  • But every line of this creed can be traced back to what is recorded in the Bible.
  • The creed gives evidence that the Virgin Birth of our Lord has already been part of the Christian faith, all the way back to the 3rd And it still is today.

 

Many Christians see the Virgin Birth as a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  One verse in particular from the Old Testament that seems to point to Jesus’ Virgin Birth.  That verse comes from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 7, verse 14“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.  

  • In these few words you find a summary of the angelic announcements made both to Mary and then to Joseph. All the elements are there.
  • Virgin means any woman who has never had intercourse with a man.
  • A Son, the promised gender of both Isaiah’s prophecy and the Gospels’ fulfillment.
  • The choice of a name by God instead of by the baby’s parents.
  • And the name Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
  • All of this seems to be an Old Testament prophecy that was fulfilled when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost.

But as with any evidence for the Virgin Birth, Isaiah has his critics.

  • There are some today who say that understanding the Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 as “virgin” isn’t the only option.
  • It could just as easily mean “young woman,” and they’re right.
  • The word can be translated either way. In fact, this Hebrew word almah, A-L-M-A-H, is used just 7 times in the Old Testament, with Isaiah 7:14 being the last.
  • And in each case, the context of these verses, what’s being said in them, would allow for either translation “young woman” or “virgin.”
  • So while I believe that this is a genuine prophecy of Jesus’ birth, it may not provide us with conclusive proof.

The same is true in the New Testament.  Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as an indication that the Messiah was virgin born.  It says: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’” 

  • Matthew chose a word in Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word used by Isaiah.
  • And Luke 1:26-27 says, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.”  

Twice in these verses Luke uses a word translated “virgin.”

  • That word is parthen’os which means a “maiden” or a “virgin.”
  • So we have the same situation we did with Isaiah 7:14.
  • The word can either mean a young woman or a virgin. So, which does it mean?
  • Ah, that is the question, isn’t it? But we still don’t have absolute proof that Mary was a virgin when she conceived.
  • So, where will we find such proof? Where else? The Bible.
  • Let’s think together about 10 reasons Christians believe Mary was a virgin and not just a young woman.  We’re going to have to go fast, so hold on.

 

Reason #1.  During the year of her betrothal to Joseph, there was no evidence that Mary had been intimate with any man.

  • She was deemed acceptable to be the bride of a Jewish man.
  • Gabriel said to Joseph “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Mary would not have been a favorable candidate to bear the Son of God had she not been a virgin.
  • That she found favor with God, well that implies she was pure, chaste and a fine candidate to bear Israel’s Messiah.

 

Reason # 2.  Most critics of the Virgin Birth say that Paul was unaware of such a belief because he never mentions it in his letters.

  • And it is true that the words “virgin birth” are not found in Paul’s epistles, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know about His Savior’s virgin birth.
  • Remember, Paul wrote his epistles before the Gospels were written.
  • However, if you investigate Paul’s letters closely, you know he believed in Jesus’ unique conception.
  • Galatians was written near AD 50, one of Paul’s earliest letters.
  • In chapter 4 verse 4, Paul says that Jesus Christ was “made” of a woman not “born” of a woman.
  • The word means “to cause to be” and that’s a very unusual word.
  • If Mary became pregnant in the usual way, why did Paul use such an unusual word?
  • If Paul had never heard of the Virgin Birth, we would expect him to identify Jesus as the seed of David, as he did in Romans 1:3, or maybe even as the seed of Abraham, as he did in Galatians 3:16.
  • This unusual language in Galatians 4:4 would indicate something unique–a virgin birth. Well, here’s . . .

 

Reason #3.  Let’s think about that expression “made of a woman” some more.

  • In the Roman Empire, it was a man’s world of armies and emperors.
  • Women were not treated with equality or even dignity.
  • In Jewish society the patriarch, the male head of the house, he made all the decisions because that was his role.
  • So, when Paul says Jesus was “made of a woman” instead of something like “born the son of Joseph” or “the child of Joseph and Mary,” he obviously is stressing something special.
  • He wants us to know that Jesus was uniquely “made” by the flesh and blood of a woman, not a man.
  • Had Paul not been aware of the Virgin Birth he might have said, “God sent forth His Son as a man made under the law,” but he didn’t.
  • Paul knew Jesus was virgin born.

Reason # 4.  It is very possible that Jesus also used the word “woman” as an allusion to His Virgin Birth.

  • You may remember at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, recorded in John 4, Jesus said to His mother, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
  • And in John 19:26 as Jesus hung on the cross, when He saw His mother and John standing at her side He said, “Woman, behold your son!”
  • Two times Jesus used the unusual term “Woman” when speaking to His mother.
  • Could it be that He deliberately called Mary “Woman” because Genesis 3:15 was on His mind?
  • Could Jesus have been connecting the dots between the first promise of salvation and the fulfillment of that salvation?
  • Genesis 3:15 is the promise, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
  • Jesus understood Mary to be the woman prophesied in Genesis 3:15.
  • And as the woman’s seed, the crusher of Satan’s head, Jesus knew He was about to have His heel bruised on Calvary’s cross.

 

Reason # 5In all 13 verses where the Greek word parthen’os for virgin or young woman appears, the contexts always permit the translation “virgin,” but they do not always permit the translation “young woman.”  Let me give you an example.

  • Using the wedding analogy to challenge his friends at Corinth to remain true to Christ in the face of competing religions, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
  • The apostle speaks of pledging the Corinthian Christians as a bride to Christ.
  • Paul wants to present them pure and chaste, as undefiled, as a virgin, to Christ.
  • Now, think about this. It doesn’t make much sense for Paul to say he wants to present his friends as a young woman to Christ.
  • There is a world of difference between a “young woman” and a “chaste virgin.”
  • Here I think the word cannot mean anything but virgin.
  • If there is precedent for translating the word virgin in one place, there is a higher degree of probability that it should be translated as “virgin” in Matthew 1 and Luke 2.

Reason #6The doctrine of the Virgin Birth is so controversial it is absurd to think that the early Christians would introduce this conviction if they didn’t really believe it.  Think about it.

  • Would you preach about the Virgin Birth while you were struggling to keep from being killed by the Romans?
  • Would you insist on this kind of doctrine if you wanted rapidly to spread the new Christian faith? Of course not.
  • You would keep your beliefs as simple as possible.
  • You would certainly not complicate them by including something so improbable as the Virgin Birth.
  • And yet there it is. . . a cornerstone of our Christian faith right from the start. It must be true.

 

But each of these six reasons for believing Jesus was born of a virgin are logical conclusions based on what we know.

  • Is there any solid evidence from the Bible attesting to Christ’s Virgin Birth? Well, yes there is.
  • My final reasons for believing that Jesus was born of a virgin all come out of the New Testament and they are direct statements about His Virgin Birth.

Let’s look at them.

Reason #7.  The direct statement of Matthew 1:18,  “before they came together she was found with child by the Holy Spirit.”  That’s a definitive statement.  That’s a virgin birth.

Reason #8.  The direct statement of Matthew 1:20: “do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”  That’s a definitive statement.  That’s a virgin birth.

Reason #9.  The direct statement of Matthew 1:25:  “and did not know her [sexually] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.”   Again, that’s a definitive statement.  That’s a virgin birth.

Reason #10.  The direct statement of Luke 1:34:  “Then Mary said to the angel ‘How can this be, since I know not a man’” [meaning sexually].  That’s a definitive statement.  That’s a virgin birth.

  • Here four times the Almighty God said that Jesus was to be born of a virgin.
  • Once should convince us. Four times should clinch it for us.
  • So if you believe the Bible is God’s Word and accurate in what it says, you’ll believe in Jesus’ Virgin Birth as well.

Session 8 

JESUS’ FAMILY TREE

 

We’ve been considering why we know Jesus was human.  Protestant Reformer Martin Luther observed, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.”

  • I agree, but while it’s difficult to understand, the Bible is very definite in declaring that God the Son came to Earth, He assumed a human body, and He returned to Heaven after His crucifixion and resurrection.
  • Now in our last session we chatted about how we know Jesus’ Virgin Birth was real. It actually happened, just as the Bible said.
  • Now we focus on Jesus’ ancestors. What was His blood line?
  • How far back can He trace His human family.
  • Remember, Jesus always has been God, but the day came He was made of a woman and became a man as well.
  • Can we trace His family tree? Well, the answer to that is yes we can, but his parents, both His mother Mary and His adoptive father Joseph, came from two distinct blood lines.
  • We want to trace those lines because they both lead us back to King David. How amazing is that?

Well, let’s look first at the conditions God established so Israel would know when His Messiah had arrived among them.  We begin with . . .

THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS IN MATTHEW                                                               Matthew’s first verse demonstrates that Jesus legally meets God’s requirement to be Israel’s Messiah.  The requirement was that the promised Seed was to come through Abraham.
Genesis 22:17-18
record God’s promise to Abraham: “Blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”   

  • All nations would be blessed through Israel’s Messiah, the seed of Abraham.
  • The very first verse of the NT proves that Jesus meets this condition.
  • It says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” READ MATTHEW 1:1-16
  • Jesus Christ was a Son of Abraham and thus the promise that all nations of the earth could be blessed by Abraham’s seed could apply to Jesus.

But there was another condition.  Israel’s Messiah must also be a descendant of King David.  Listen to the messianic prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 11, verse 1: “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”  And also 2 Samuel 7, verse12 and verse 16: “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom …  And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” 

  • Now this was exactly the promise given to the Virgin Mary when she was told she would bear a son. Listen carefully to Luke 1:32-33, “The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.   And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”   
  • Here’s what you want to remember.
  • Jesus meets both criteria for being Israel’s Messiah.
  • His family tree goes back to Abraham but it goes through King David to get to Abraham. Both of the criteria are met by Jesus.

Let’s focus on Matthew’s genealogy; then after that, we’ll look at Luke’s.

  • In the second verse of chapter 1, Matthew begins with Abraham and descends down through his offspring: Isaac, Jacob, etc.
  • When he gets to verse 6, Matthew reaches David.
  • But David had many sons. Which one would be the heir to his kingdom?
  • 1 Kings 1:30 gives the answer. David’s tells Bathsheba his wife, “Assuredly Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place.” 
  • So of all of David’s sons, only Solomon was David’s choice, and God’s choice, to carry on David’s line and to rule from David’s throne.
  • Now that fits perfectly with Matthew 1:6 which continues David’s ancestors as the kings of Judah.
  • It was a dynasty, an unbroken line, the seed royale. Everything is as God planned it to be.

But you really have to see this.  There is an interesting side note to the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.  Verse 16 says, “Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” 

  • Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus doesn’t include Jesus.
  • It gives us the line of Christ through Joseph, who became the legal father of Jesus when He married Jesus’ mother Mary.
  • Jesus became Joseph’s legal heir, and thus an heir to the throne of David through Solomon.

But here’s what we dare not miss.  In each verse of Matthew 1 there is a word that connects each name.  It’s the word “begot” which, in the original language of the New Testament, is the Greek word gennao.

  • That’s G-E-N-N-A-O. Gennao.   It means “to give seed to,” “to father” or to “make a baby.”
  • It’s used of a father giving seed to or life to his sons or his daughters.
  • It refers to the actions of the man in a pregnancy. Now watch this.
  • Every verse in this genealogy uses this word gennao.
  • “Abraham gave seed to Isaac, Isaac gave seed to Jacob, etc.”
  • Every verse uses the word meaning “to father.”
  • In verse 16, Matthew says “And Jacob begot Joseph.”
  • That would be Jacob, the carpenter’s father, giving seed to or “fathering” his son Joseph.

But then something unique and wonderful is recorded, and it’s very, very important.  Please allow me to continue reading Matthew 1:16, “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.”

  • Now did you hear it? Did you see what’s missing in the last half of that verse?
  • It does not say that Joseph gave seed to Jesus. Let me repeat.
  • The Bible does NOT say that Joseph “fathered” Jesus, begot Jesus, gave seed to Jesus, or “gennaoed” Jesus. I think I just made up that word.
  • Instead, it says “Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.”
  • That is an absolutely dramatic and deliberate change in the language.
  • The emphasis switched from “fathering” to the fact that Joseph was Mary’s husband and it was Mary who gave birth to Jesus.
  • Matthew deliberately excludes Joseph from the act of “fathering “Jesus.
  • And that, my dear friend, is an amazing proof for the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ.
  • It’s the only time in this long genealogy that this switch is made.
  • It’s proof that Jesus is different. He is unique.
  • He did not become a human being in the way that every one of His ancestors did all the way back to Abraham.
  • You can’t miss that, and you can’t help but be impressed by it.
  • Jesus was born as the result of the Holy Spirit of God hovering over a virgin, not the result of a man impregnating a virgin. And that nails it.
  • That is the rock-solid proof we have been looking for.
  • Jesus is the product of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.
  • Jesus was virgin born, not naturally born. Only Jesus can say that.
  • No one else who has ever walked on this earth can make that claim – not Joseph Smith, not Muhammed, not Buddha, no one else. Only Jesus.

One last thing about Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew.   Because Matthew is presenting Jesus as the coming Messiah to the nation of Israel, his genealogy begins with the father of the Hebrew nation, Abraham.

  • It shows Abraham’s descendants through David and then follows David’s line through Solomon.
  • This is the record of Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, His legal father.
  • It presents Jesus’ legitimate right to the throne of David, to be Messiah from the Tribe of Judah.
  • Now when Joseph married Mary and Jesus became his legal heir, Jesus assumed the position of the first-born son with all the rights and privileges that came with that position in families of the Ancient Near East.
  • Therefore, Jesus was heir to all Joseph had, which likely wasn’t very much.
  • But Jesus was the legal heir to Joseph’s family line back to King David through his son Solomon, and that’s worth more than we can ever know.

SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
#1.  Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus begins with Abraham.
#2.  Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus works its way down through history.
#3.  Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus does not include Jesus.
#4.  Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus uses the Greek word gennao [gennao] 39 times.
#5.  gennao is the word for “to father” or “to give seed to.”
#6.  Each father is said to have “gennaoed” his son, the next generation.
#7.  But Matthew carefully avoids saying joseph “gennaoed” Jesus, because he didn’t.

Now let’s investigate the genealogy in Luke 1

 

THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS IN LUKE

Just as Matthew wanted his Jewish readers to know Jesus as their Messiah, Luke was interested in his Gentile readers knowing Jesus as the Son of Man.

  • Matthew stresses Jesus’ messiahship; Luke stresses His humanity.
  • Luke was a physician, so I guess it makes sense for him to depict Jesus as a human being.
  • Matthew traces Jesus genealogy down from Abraham to Joseph.
  • Luke begins with Joseph and traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Adam, the first man.
  • Listen to Luke 3:23, “Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli.”
  • Now from here Luke traces Jesus ancestry all the way back to Adam whom verse 38 calls “the son of God” because you can’t go back any further than that. But here’s a question we just have to ask . . .

WHO WAS JOSEPH’S FATHER?

You may have noticed what some thought was a discrepancy in these two genealogies.  In Matthew 1:16 Joseph the carpenter’s father is named Jacob, but here in Luke 3:23 Joseph is said to be the son of Heli.  It that a problem?

  • Not if you understand an Old Testament law found in Numbers 36.
  • Basically the law says this: if a man has no son, he may adopt a son in order to have someone to pass his inheritance onto.
  • Heli was Mary’s father, but apparently had no sons, only daughters.
  • Without any sons, Heli adopted Joseph as his son for the purposes of inheritance.
  • So while Joseph is listed in Luke 3 as the son of Heli for the inheritance record, Heli was actually Mary’s biological father. Here’s what that means.
  • The genealogy of Matthew 1 is the family of Joseph traced down from Abraham.
  • The genealogy of Luke 3 is the family of Mary traced back to Adam.
  • And where do these two genealogies meet? Why at King David, of course.
  • Both Mary and Joseph were from the Tribe of Judah.
  • Both were descendants of David. Both were in David’s blood line.
  • But there was one difference. In Matthew, the ancestry of Jesus, through his legal father Joseph, is traced back to David through the king’s son Solomon.
  • In Luke, the ancestry of Jesus, through his mother Mary, is traced back to David through the king’s son Nathan. Now that difference is crucial.  Let’s find out why.

THE CURSE OF CONIAH

1 Chronicles 3:10-16 records all the male descendants of Solomon who would eventually become the Jewish kings, those who would rule over God’s chosen people.  You will likely recognize some of their names: Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.  Now that next-to-the-last king, Jehoiachin, is sometimes referred to in the Bible as Jeconiah or Coniah, a shortened form.  It’s all the same man, just variations of his name.

  • But there was a problem with this Coniah. He was a wicked king; so wicked in fact, that God spoke in unusually harsh terms against him.
  • Jeremiah 22:24 says, “As I live,’ says the Lord,’ though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off.”
  • You can almost feel God’s righteous anger against the excessive sins of this man, a man who is the legal descendant of King David. But it gets worse.
  • Not only does God display His anger, He placed a curse on Coniah and his descendants. This curse was irreversible.
  • Listen to how the Prophet Jeremiah recorded the curse: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless,  a man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.’”  That’s Jeremiah 22:30.

You might say, “So what’s that a problem?” or “What does that have to do with Jesus?”  It has a great deal to do with Jesus, because Jesus is in the line of David, and God’s curse prohibits anyone in David’s line after Coniah from sitting on David’s throne.  Let me say that differently.

  • In order to sit on the throne of David, the king had to be a direct descendant from David through his son Solomon.
  • But anyone born into the line of Solomon after Coniah could not sit on the throne of David.
  • Now you have to be a descendant of Coniah in order to be king, but if you are a descendant of Coniah, you are cursed and will never prosper on David’s throne.

That is a BIG problem.  But God is a BIG God and has already dealt with this problem.

 

In this session we’re investigating the two genealogies of Jesus Christ.  The one in Matthew 1 traces Jesus’ ancestors down from Abraham.  The other in Luke 3 traces Jesus’ genealogy from Mary all the way back to Adam.  They meet at King David.

  • But while Matthew 1 connects Jesus to David through David’s son Solomon, Luke 3 connects Jesus to David through David’s son Nathan.
  • This is critical because of the curse of Coniah.
  • For while Jesus is in the royal line of David through His legal father, Joseph, He is in the physical line of David through Mary His mother.
  • It was the legal line through Coniah that was cursed.
  • No blood descendant of Coniah can ever sit on the throne of David, but remember, Jesus is not a blood descendant of Coniah, because He was not “fathered” by Joseph, so the curse doesn’t apply to Him.
  • Jesus is both the legal heir to the throne of David through the king’s son Solomon and protected from the curse of Coniah by His Virgin Birth.
  • Now, that’s amazing.  Only God could handle a problem this significant and make certain that His purposes would be fulfilled.
  • You can clap at that, or shout if you want. That’s the wisdom of God at work.

So, what have learned in this session?  Well, several things.  Remember them with me.

 

1).  Genealogies are important because they connect us with the past and with our ancestors.

  • For the Jewish people, there were extremely important because every Jewish person is descended from a specific tribe, from one of the sons of Jacob.
  • Jesus was from the tribe of Judah.

2).  As far as Jewish genealogies are concerned, the greatest privilege among God’s chosen people was to be able to trace your lineage back to King David.

  • Only those of the tribe of Judah could do so. In fact, the very name “Jew” comes from that name–Judah.
  • When Jesus Christ was born, he descended from David’s line and Judah’s tribe.

 

3).  There are two lists of ancestors for Jesus presented in the Gospels.

  • In Matthew 1 Jesus’ ancestors are traced down the line from Abraham to Joseph, Jesus’ legal father but not his biological father.
  • In Luke 3 Jesus’ ancestors are traced up the line from Mary to Adam.
  • That accounts for the differences in the two genealogies.

4)  The curse of Coniah presents a problem for all those who are blood descendants of this wicked Jewish king.

  • None of his descendants would prosper sitting on David’s throne, and that would include Joseph because He was a blood relative of Coniah. But Jesus was not.
  • Joseph did not “father” Jesus. Jesus escaped the curse of Coniah because He was born of the Virgin.  Now how amazing is that!

Session 9
JESUS’ LIFE PROVED HE WAS HUMAN

In this session we’re going to focus on the things Jesus experienced in His life that you and I also experience.  We’re doing that to prove that Jesus is just as human as we are.

  • The difference is that He also is God, and we are not.
  • So what does the Bible say? What evidence does the Bible give that Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions, human problems, and human activities as well?
  • Let’s investigate some Scriptures that indicate Jesus had to be a human being. In looking for reasons why Jesus was human, we’ll begin with  . . .

 

#1.  Jesus was born in the normal, human way, just like any other baby.

  • Remember that when we talk about the uniqueness of Jesus we’re talking about His conception, not His birth.
  • His conception was accomplished by God’s Holy Spirit.
  • Listen to Matthew 1:35 for the angel’s explanation to Mary as to how she would become pregnant even though she was still a virgin. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
  • That’s conception. That’s unique.
  • No one else in the history of mankind has ever been conceived where the male agent was God the Holy Spirit. No one, only Jesus.
  • But from the moment of conception, everything about Jesus’ birth was quite natural.
  • Mary carried Jesus in her womb for the full nine-months.
  • She would have put Joseph’s hand on her belly when Jesus moved.
  • She would have greeted each new day with the promise of being a mother, even though the circumstances of her conception were under a cloud.
  • And when she gave birth to the baby Jesus, she experienced the same birth pains that any mother would.
  • Jesus cried when He took His first breaths of the mountain air of Bethlehem.
  • Jesus was born in the normal, human way, and nobody knew that better than Mary. Okay, here’s something else that proves Jesus was human . . .

#2.  Jesus grew from infancy in the normal, human way, passing through His teen years into adulthood.  Jesus was born a baby and grew through all the human processes of eating, exercising, drinking, working, etc.

Luke 2:40 tells us, “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” 

  • Everything about Jesus growth to manhood was normal.
  • There are wild stories about Jesus as a child in some of the apocryphal books, those books not deemed fit to be included in the Bible, but they are not to be taken seriously.
  • Jesus’ development into an adult was completely human and completely normal.
  • Jesus played around Joseph’s shop as a young boy.
  • He walked in Joseph’s footsteps following the only human father He would know.
  • Everything about his growing into manhood was normal.
  • Jesus grew from infancy in the normal, human way.

And now, something else that shows He’s human . . .

 

#3.  Jesus growth was in all areas of life, physical, mental social and spiritual.  In His human nature, Jesus needed to grow in every way we do.

Luke 2:52 tells us, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” 

  • Now, don’t let this slip by you too quickly. Jesus humanly grew in the four areas we all grow in.
  • Jesus increased in wisdom—that’s His intellectual growth.
  • He learned everything a young Jewish boy would be taught by his father.
  • Joseph adopted him and Jesus became His number one son.
  • As a human, Jesus started from scratch to learn the facts and lessons all humans have to learn.
  • But, Jesus also increased in stature—that physical growth.
  • Jesus grew from an infant to a child, from a child to a teenager, from a teenager to a young adult, and then full adulthood.
  • He experienced every stage of human growth.
  • Luke also tells us that Jesus increased in favor with God—now that’s spiritual growth.
  • As a human, Jesus grew spiritually under the faithful example of His parents.
  • Joseph followed the instructions of Deuteronomy 6:7 about the things of God, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
  • And finally, Jesus increased in favor with man–social growth.
  • Jesus was not a hermit. As a child He played with the other kids from Nazareth.
  • He was just as social as any other human being.
  • He both had friends and younger siblings to hang out with.
  • Jesus humanly grew in all four areas of life that we all must grow in.

And now something else that proved Jesus became a real human being  . . .

 

#4.  Jesus showed signs of being completely human in how life affected Him.  You may remember the story of Joseph and Mary taking Jesus up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover when He was a 12-year-old boy.  Luke 2:43 says, “When they had finished the days as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem.  And Joseph and His mother did not know it.”

  • Now doesn’t that just sound like a 12-year-old to you?

And verse 46 of that chapter says, “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.” 

  • That sounds like an inquisitive young boy to me. He was responding to life in a completely human way.

 

#5.  Another way we see how life affected Jesus is that He sometimes grew weary.  When He came on the road from Jerusalem to Galilee that passed through Samaria, John 4:6 says, “Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well.” 

  • Once after a particularly difficult day, the day Jesus fed the 5,000, the Master said to His disciples, “’Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.”   That’s Mark 6:31-32.
  • Throughout His life Jesus demonstrated human qualities like these.
  • In doing so, He proved conclusively that He was just as human as the rest of us. Oh, and how about this:

 

#6.  Jesus also showed that He experienced human emotions.  You know, throughout His life here on Earth, Jesus expressed the full range of human emotions.

  • Consider these Scriptures. Just like you and me, Jesus knew how to love.
  • When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life, Mark 10:21 says, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”
  • See Jesus had compassion on a man who didn’t really understand that only Jesus could provide eternal life.
  • The same was true when Jesus learned His friend Lazarus had died.

John 11:35-36 say, “Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’”   

  • Occasionally Jesus even showed some anxiety in the stressful times of His life.
  • Just before His crucifixion, Jesus said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).
  • And at the Last Supper, as Jesus was about to reveal the disciple who would betray Him, John 13:21 says, “When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” Jesus was troubled in spirit.

 

#7.  And, Jesus even got angry, but His anger was not of the sinful kind; it was of the righteous kind.  He was angry at sinners and their sin.  It was much like God the Father’s anger which was stirred at His complaining, disobedient people Israel.  Hebrews 3 quotes the record of God’s anger.  Speaking of Israel, God said, “Your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years.   Therefore I was angry with that generation” (verses 9-10). 

  • All of these emotions we share with Jesus; they are all human emotions.
  • God shares them too, as we just saw, but Jesus wasn’t expressing these emotions from His divine nature; He was expressing them from His human nature. Finally let’s consider this . . .

 

#8.  Jesus did things human beings do.   Jesus got hungry, just as we do.  After He had fasted for forty days in the wilderness Matthew 4:2 says, “Afterward He was hungry.”  Jesus got hungry and ate when He did.

  • As Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover meal on the night He was betrayed, He ate with His disciples and Jesus revealed one of them would betray Him.
  • Here’s what Mark 14:18 says, “Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.”
  • And even after His resurrection Jesus proved He still had a human body with human needs.
  • Luke 24:41-43 records Jesus entering the room where the disciples were gathered and He said, ‘“Have you any food here?’  So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.   And He took it and ate in their presence.”  
  • It’s normal for human beings to eat and by doing so, Jesus proved He was a human being.

 

#9.  Jesus also demonstrated His humanity by drinking as well as eating.  Animals drink, reptiles drink, but we people drink also don’t we.  Jesus is often mentioned as being thirsty and needing to drink something.    Matthew 11:19 says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking . . . “ 

  • When Jesus invited His disciples to drink the wine at the Last Supper He said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” That’s Matthew 26:29.
  • And Mark 2, verse16 says, “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?’”
  • The Jewish religious leaders were upset with Jesus because, while they kept their distance from people they thought were sinners, Jesus ate and drank with them.
  • He didn’t condone their sin, but He gave them the message that would convict them of their sin.

Oh, and one of His final words from the cross?  You remember: “I thirst” (John 19:28).

  • I’m sure you remember the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.
  • Jesus left Judea and was on His way through the hill country of Samaria, heading for Galilee.
  • When His disciples and He arrived at Samaria, they stopped at Jacob’s Well which had provided water for the area for centuries.
  • That well is still there today. I have drunk water from that very well myself.
  • As the disciples went into the neighboring village to buy food, Jesus rested by sitting on the well. Suddenly a woman of Samaria approached the well and Jesus shocked her when He said, “Give Me a drink” (John 4:7).
  • Her shock was not because the Son of God asked for a drink.
  • Jesus appeared entirely human to the woman because He was human.
  • No, she was shocked because a Jew asked a Samaritan for a drink; Jews and Samaritans rarely spoke to each other.

 

If Jesus were not human, none of the things He did or the emotions He expressed would have been possible.

  • There is, however, one huge difference between Jesus and the rest of us.
  • Jesus received His humanity entirely from His mother Mary.
  • The rest of us are human because we are the product of the union between a man and a woman, our father and mother. But not Jesus.
  • He is the one-of-a-kind product of the Spirit of God and the Virgin Mary.
  • At His conception Jesus did not receive a divine nature; He already possessed a divine nature.
  • He had possessed this divine nature for all eternity past.
  • But through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ divine nature was joined with a human nature so that He is both God and man.
  • Jesus has a divine nature and Jesus has a human nature. They are not the same.  They are not co-mingled into one.  They are distinct and separate.
  • Still they make up one person, the person we call Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world.
  • That’s the Jesus Christians like you and I worship and serve all over the world.

Let’s stop and catch our breath for a moment and then we’ll think together about . . .

 

WHY JESUS HAD TO BECOME A HUMAN BEING

In this session we have concentrated on how we know Jesus was a human being.  But the question may still be, “Why?”  Why was it necessary for Jesus to become a man?  That’s question many people have asked.  Maybe you have asked it yourself.  Here’s what the Bible says.

 

#1.  Jesus had to become a human being because it was God’s intent to save human beings.

  • God doesn’t have a plan for the salvation of angels or else Jesus might have emptied Himself of the glory of Heaven to become an angel.
  • But Jesus never was an angel, is not now an angel, and never will be an angel.
  • He was born a human being so He could be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of human beings.
  • Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He [that’s God the Father] made Him [that’s Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
  • Now that’s why Jesus became a man; to take our sin upon Himself, to die to pay the penalty for our sin, and rise from the dead to justify us, to allow God to treat us as if we were righteous, all because of what Jesus did for us.

 

#2.  Jesus had to become a human being so He could be the one-and-only mediator between God and human beings.

  • To be a mediator means to be a go-between, to be a moderator between two parties. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”  All right, think about this.
  • If a husband and wife are at odds with one another, they are wise to seek a third party who can be impartial and mediate their differences to save their marriage.
  • Well that’s what Jesus is for us. He is God so He can represent our Father in Heaven.
  • Jesus is a man so He can stand before God and represent us.
  • In fact, since Jesus is the only mediator we have between God and us, had Jesus not become a man we would have no one to represent us to God at all.

 

#3.  Jesus had to become a human being so He could empathize with our human condition.  Hebrews 2:18 tells us, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” 

  • Had Jesus not become a man, had He not suffered, had He not been tempted in the same things that tempt you and me, how would it be possible for Him to understand what you are going through?
  • How could He sympathize with your temptations and show you how to overcome them, as He did?
  • How could He empathize with your pain, had He not suffered even greater pain while being crucified on Calvary’s cross?
  • No, Jesus couldn’t possibly be our intercessor, our “High Priest”, our sympathizer or our mediator if He had not been human.
  • Everything we read in the Bible about Jesus proves that He is human.
  • He feels what we feel, He does the things we do, He interacts with the world around Him as we interact with it.
  • While being completely divine, Jesus has proven that He is completely human as well. That’s what the Bible says and you can believe it.

Session 10

JESUS AS THE UNIQUE GOD-MAN

 

As Christians we believe that Jesus is completely God, and we also believe that He is completely man.  Now, that doesn’t seem possible, I know, so in this session we’re going to chat about how this is not only possible, it is certain.

  • How can Jesus be both God and man?
  • Some say He is 100% God and 100% man. But this would make Jesus 200%.
  • So it doesn’t seem right to say he is composed of two 100%s of anything.
  • And Jesus was not a perfect combination of 50% God and 50% man, making Him 100% but only half God, just 50%, and half man, another 50%.
  • Jesus is not half of anything. He is completely God and completely man.

So how are we to explain this unique combination created when God became man?

Let me be honest.  This may not be completely understandable, but the Bible does give us an answer.  Let’s see what it is.  But we’ll begin by . . .

COMING TO TERMS

Before we can talk about the relation between Jesus’ divine and human natures, we have to ask, “What do we mean by Jesus’ nature?”

  • When I use this word, I mean Jesus’ essential substance, what it is that is necessary for Jesus to be Himself.
  • I’m talking about all the characteristics, all the power, all the qualities that Jesus has that identify Him as who He is. Let me say that another way.
  • Jesus has all it takes for Him to be considered a human being, man.
  • He also has all it takes for Him to be considered a divine being, God.
  • Whatever a divine nature requires to be God, Jesus has every bit of it.
  • And whatever a human nature requires to be a man, Jesus has every bit of that.
  • Now, let’s do some real thinking. Let’s try to solve the mystery of how Jesus can both be fully God and fully man.  The secret is in our understanding of . . .

 

TWO NATURES: ONE PERSON

  • From eternity past, God the Son was a Person.
  • Now by “person” I mean that He is aware of who He is, He is conscious of Himself and He can assert Himself as an individual.
  • The same is true for you and me.
  • As a person, you and I possess a certain nature and who we are and how we express ourselves is dependent on the qualities of that nature.
  • So we act like human beings because of our nature and we express our nature through our personality, the person we are.
  • God the Son has always been a Person.
  • But when the Holy Spirit hovered over Mary and she became pregnant with Jesus, God the Son took on a new nature, a human nature.

 

  • So does that mean He lost or gave up being the Person He always was?
  • Did this new nature somehow destroy His divine nature? No, no, not in the least.
  • When Jesus took on a human nature at His incarnation, when He assumed real flesh and blood, He continued to enjoy the divine nature He always had.
  • So, for the first time, someone had two natures.
  • Someone had both a divine nature and a human nature.
  • And that someone was Jesus of Nazareth, the virgin-born descendant of King David, and the Son of God.

 

The union of these two natures, one divine and one human, is called by theologians “the hypostatic union.”  Now, those are big words so we won’t use them often.

  • They come from the Greek word “hypostasis” which literally means “that which stands under.”
  • Simply stated, the union of two natures—divine and human—is that which “stands under” the Person of Jesus Christ. It’s what He is made of, what makes Him who He is.
  • It is the substance of His person. It’s what makes Jesus both God and man.
  • And, it is also what makes Him unique, because in the history of the world, no other person has ever had two natures in one person.
  • No other person has ever been both divine and human. Only Jesus.  How’s that for unique?   So . . .

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THESE TWO NATURES IN ONE PERSON?

That’s a great question.

  • What can we say about Jesus having two natures, yet being only one person?
  • What are some of the features of this union of two natures in Jesus Christ?
  • Well, let me tell you what we know for sure. No speculation here.  This is what the Bible says.

 

1).  We know that Jesus is not two persons.  Jesus is not a human person and a separate divine person.  He is not just a divine person living in a human body.

  • Jesus is one Person. He does not have a split personality. He is one.
  • But as one Person He possesses two natures—one human and one divine.
  • At the moment of Mary’s conception, Jesus did not assume a human person; He assumed a human nature.
  • God made Jesus’ human nature from Mary’s body.
  • His incarnation, which means taking on flesh, made Jesus human but it did not make Him divine. He always was divine.  Also…

 

2).  We know that the two natures in one Person are inseparably united.  Jesus is just one Person with two natures, human and divine, but those two natures are not one.

  • They are separate and distinct from one another.
  • Jesus’ two natures, human and divine, are not co-mingled, they have not blended into one.
  • In the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States, two rivers join.
  • The Alleghany and the Monongahela. The Monongahela flows 130 miles north from the highlands of West Virginia and the Alleghany flows 325 miles south from the hills of north central Pennsylvania.
  • The two rivers meet in Pittsburgh and where they flow together they form the great Ohio River.
  • After the point where the rivers join, there is no more Alleghany or Monongahela, just the Ohio River.
  • The two rivers lose their identity when they become one.

 

But listen now, that’s not the case with Jesus.  His human nature and His divine nature did not flow into one new nature.  The properties of one nature never become the properties of the other.

  • Jesus’ two natures are never mixed, they are never combined so as to lose their distinctiveness or to form a third nature.
  • There was a time in eternity past when Jesus possessed only one nature, that was His divine nature.
  • For all eternity, Jesus has been God. But when He was made in the likeness of a man, as Philippians 2 suggests, Jesus added a human nature to His already existing divine nature.
  • Again, that makes Jesus unique. There is just no one like Him.
  • He has two distinct natures, a human one and a divine one, in one unique person. And finally. . .

 

3)  We know that in assuming a human nature, Jesus never abandoned His divine nature.  While here on Earth, Jesus continued to be God as He always had been.

  • At times Jesus would express His divine nature, but He still possessed a human nature when He did.
  • And at times Jesus would express His human nature, but He still possessed a divine nature when He did.
  • At times we see evidence of Jesus expressing both His divine and human natures, yet they acted independently of each other.

Okay, listen to how John recorded Jesus arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified.  This is John 18:1-5, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.   And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples.   Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.   Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’   They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’  Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’”

Now, I hope you noticed this.

  • Here we see Jesus exercising His divine nature in His omnipotence.
  • Verse 4 says, “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him . . . .” Only God could know “all things.”
  • But we also see Jesus exercising His human nature in asking the question, “Whom are you seeing?”
  • The troops were looking for the man they called Jesus and they found Him.
  • What they didn’t realize was that in finding the human Jesus they also found the divine Son of God.

 

Now often Jesus’ own disciples failed to recognize His deity.  In the account of Jesus stilling the waves of the Sea of Galilee, Matthew 8, verses 23 to 27 says, “Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.   And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’   But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’” 

  • Here Jesus shows all the evidence of possessing a human nature.
  • He stepped into a boat. He slept in the boat.  His disciples awakened Him.
  • He spoke to them. Each of these we associate with a human nature.
  • But He also displayed His divine nature when He simply spoke to the winds and the sea and they became calm. Only God could do that.
  • That was evidence of Jesus divine nature.
  • In fact, it was this demonstration of Jesus’ divine nature that caused the disciples to gasp, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” This again is evidence that Jesus possessed both a human nature and a divine nature in one person.  But I know that . . .

QUESTIONS REMAIN

Remember I said this would not be understood easily because we have no one to compare Jesus to.  He is the only person ever to possess two natures, human and divine, and there will never be another who has both these natures.

  • But since this uniqueness of Jesus is not understood by most people, a lot of questions remain.

I know you have them too, so let me ask them before you can, and try to give an answer from the Bible to questions that remain.  Okay. Here we go.
Question #1.  If Jesus is God, why does His knowledge seem to be limited on occasions?  Speaking of the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus Himself said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  That’s Mark 13:32.

  • How is it possible for Jesus to possess a divine nature and still not know the day or the hour God has Him scheduled to return to Earth? That’s a tough question.
  • As God, the Lord Jesus knows all things. Speaking of Christ the Apostle Paul said, “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
  • But as man Jesus’ knowledge was limited to what God the Father had revealed to Him. In fact, once Jesus said, “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel” (John 5:20). 
  • Again John 8:28, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.”
  • See, since Jesus has two natures in one person, the human and divine natures, He has both human knowledge and divine knowledge.
  • When He speaks as a man, His human nature displays His limited human knowledge, but when He speaks as God, His divine nature displays His unlimited divine knowledge.
  • Now He’s unique that way, and it’s hard to understand because we have no one to compare Jesus to. Okay, here’s another question people are asking . . .

 

Question #2.  Since Jesus is both human and divine, could Jesus have sinned?  That’s a question that has been asked hundreds of times, but my personal belief is that Jesus could not have sinned.  Let me tell you why.

  • By itself, the human nature causes a person to be capable of sin.
  • Adam and Eve are examples of that.
  • Human nature carries the ability to choose right or wrong, to sin or not to sin.
  • After Adam and Eve sinned, human nature continued to carry that ability but was more prone to sin than not to.
  • So by itself, Jesus’ human nature could choose to sin or not. He chose not to.
  • But please remember, it is not our nature that sins, but us.
  • It’s the person who sins, not the person’s nature.
  • Our nature just makes us capable of sinning, it doesn’t make us sin.
  • But by itself, Jesus’ divine nature causes God not to be able to sin.
  • So Jesus, who is one Person with two natures, is not capable of sin because when His human nature was tempted to sin, His divine nature would not permit it, so the Person who is Jesus would be prevented from sinning.

Now that doesn’t mean Jesus’ temptations were not real; they were.  Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” 

  • Foolishly even Satan thought He could get Jesus to sin.
  • That was the point of Him tempting Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
  • But Satan is not God, and even the devil couldn’t get Jesus’ divine nature to participate in sin.
  • So, my thinking is that Jesus did not sin because His human nature chose not to but His divine nature made it impossible. Okay, let’s tackle one final question . .

 

Question #3.  Jesus died on the cross.  If Jesus is God, how could God die?

  • Actually, God didn’t die on the cross. Death means separation.
  • On the cross Jesus was separated from His father. He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). 
  • See that’s separation, but it wasn’t death. It was God making Himself absent while Jesus bore the weight of our sins at Calvary’s cross.
  • Later, however, Luke 23:46 reports, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.”
  • Jesus died, but His death was entirely a human experience.
  • He died as a man, He did not die as God.
  • So when we speak of Jesus, God the Son, dying, it’s not His deity that dies but His humanity. God can never die.

I know this whole teaching of the hypostatic union of Christ, the two natures, human and divine in one Person, this is really difficult to grasp.

  • But it’s important for us to know that Jesus was not like us in this way.
  • We have one nature [human] for one person [human].
  • Jesus had two natures [human and divine] for one person and that’s one of the things that makes Him absolutely unique.

Session 11

QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS’ CRUCIFIXION

There is a delightful, blessed hymn of the Church with these lyrics:  “Up Calvary’s mountain, one dreadful morn, walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn; facing for sinners death on the cross, that He might save them from endless loss.  Blessed Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!  Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree; wounded  and bleeding, for sinners pleading, blind and unheeding—dying for me!

 

We’ve already spent some time talking about Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth and many of the events in His life that help us understand who Jesus is, and why we love and worship Him.  But in this session, we want to focus on the death that Jesus died.  Luke 23:33 records, “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.” 

  • I wondered to myself, what would be the best way for you and me to think about Christ’s crucifixion, and I came to the conclusion that the best way may be the question and answer way.
  • So let me pose some questions about Jesus’ crucifixion, you think about how you would answer them, and I’ll do my best to share with you how I would answer them. Fair enough?   Okay, let’s begin.

 

Question:  Did Christ really die by crucifixion?  Is there evidence to prove He did?

  • If people choose not to believe what the Bible says, is there any evidence, apart from the Bible, that proves Jesus died on the cross, and the answer is a big YES.
  • I don’t want to over burden you with a lot of historical facts, but since you need to be certain that Jesus died this most horrible death, I thought a few historical references outside of the Bible would be appropriate. So, here goes.
  • Who besides Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and other biblical writers talk about Jesus’ crucifixion? Well, we’ll start with perhaps the best-known historian of the New Testament era.  His name is . . .

 

JOSEPHUS.  Titus Flavius Josephus was a 1st century Jewish historian and scholar.  He also was a military commander.  He led the Jewish forces in Galilee against the Romans in the first Jewish war with Rome.

  • In AD 67, however, Josephus surrendered his troops to the Roman commander Vespasian, who later became the Roman Emperor.
  • Josephus defected to the Roman side and became a Roman citizen.
  • He wrote two famous works, The Jewish War about AD 75, and The Antiquities of the Jews almost 20 years later.
  • Antiquities was a history of the world from a Jewish perspective.
  • In his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3.3 Josephus says: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man. . . He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day. . . And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
  • Now, think about this. This is a Jewish historian.  He’s loyal to Rome.
  • He’s a Roman citizen, speaking openly about the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection the third day.
  • That is genuine proof of Jesus’ crucifixion. That’s proof apart from the Bible.

But let’s consult another Roman historian.  His name is . . .

 

TACITUS.  Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a Roman senator and trusted Roman historian. He wrote two works, one called Annals and the other called Histories.

  • These works examine the reigns of the Roman emperors from the death of Caesar Augustus in AD 14, to AD 70 which was the year of the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • In his Annals, Tacitus describes the Roman Emperor Nero’s actions after the great fire of Rome in AD 64.
  • Listen to what he says, “…Nero fabricated scapegoats-and punished…Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilatus.”
  • There it is again—positive proof that Jesus was crucified by Pontius Pilate, just as the Gospel writers said.
  • You should never doubt that the crucifixion took place.
  • We have the authority of all four Gospel writers and now we have two historians outside of the Bible.

But wait, there’s more.  We also have Greeks writing about the crucifixion.

 

LUCIAN.  Lucian of Samosata [Samo’-sata] lived between AD 125 and 180.  He was a Greek satirist who was noted for his witty and scoffing nature.  He often satirized or poked fun at the early Christians.  Lucian was no friend of the Christians.

  • He wrote a satire called The Passing of Peregrinus [Pere-grin’ us] in which the lead character, Peregrinus Proteus [Pere-grin’us Pro-toose’], takes advantage of the generosity of Christians.
  • Now this is one of the earliest surviving pagan perceptions of Christianity.
  • Listen carefully to Lucian’s words as he described Jesus. He calls Jesus, “…the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world…. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws.”  Wow!  “That crucified sophist” the guy that Lucian so disdains. . . that is the crucified Jesus.
  • Here again, we have another reference, outside of the Bible, to Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • It’s obvious that Lucian is not a follower of Christ, and has no reason except his own contempt, to mention Jesus.

Look at one more source outside of the New Testament.  Surprise.

 

THE JEWISH TALMUD.  The Talmud records centuries of Jewish oral tradition committed to writing between AD 200 and AD 500.  The whole Talmud consists of 63 tractates, and is over 6,200 pages long.

  • A tractate is just an essay or a written teaching on something. One of these tractates says, I’m quoting now: “On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going to be stoned in that he has practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing anything in his defense come and plead for him. But they found nothing in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover.”
  • There are other non-biblical sources that mention Jesus’ crucifixion, but I think these are enough for us to be able to say to our friends, “Jesus was crucified just as the Bible says and there are many sources outside the Bible that confirm this.”
  • The crucifixion is on good, solid, historical grounds.
  • As a Christian, you can be very, very confident that Jesus died on the cross, just as the Bible says.

Okay, let’s go on to a second question about Jesus’ crucifixion and that is . . .

 

Question.  How horribly was a crucified person treated?

I’m going to be careful not to be too graphic in what I know about the way people died when they were crucified.

  • Those who died on a cross were absolutely inhumanely treated.
  • They were ruthlessly beaten and then they were nailed or tied to a cross until they died in the hot sun.
  • Justice was not swift in the Roman Empire, but it was certainly cruel.
  • The Roman executioners were trained killers, skilled at causing the crucified person to experience the most excruciating pain possible.
  • The process of inflicting pain began long before a person was hung on the cross.
  • After a criminal’s condemnation, it was the custom for the victim to be scourged or mercilessly beaten with the flagellum [fla-gell’-um] a whip with leather strips.
  • This whip usually had pieces of metal and bone attached to the end of each strip of leather.
  • This was done to inflect even more pain and damage on the body.
  • Victims were tied to a post with their back exposed to the whip.
  • It was the normal procedure of the Romans to flog the victim until his blood began to flow.
  • Roman scourging was so severe that victims often died just as a result of it.
  • But after scourging, the bloody victim would be compelled to carry his cross to the crucifixion site.
  • Now it would not be the entire cross, but only the cross piece called the patibulum [pa-tib’-u-lum].
  • The upright part of the cross was already implanted in the ground at the site of the crucifixion.
  • So once at the site, the victim would be laid on the ground with the cross piece behind his shoulders, and his hands would either be tied or nailed to the cross piece.
  • In Jesus case, He was nailed to His cross.

 

  • A large mallet would drive the iron nails, perhaps 6 or 7 inches long, through the wrist just at the base of the hand of the crucified victim, fastening him to the cross.
  • Once the cross was in place and the victim was hanging on it, the soldiers would simply allow the victim to die a slow death.
  • Because the place of execution was usually a public street or a crossroads, maybe even an elevated spot, the crucified person would often be subjected to abusive words or mockery from passersby.
  • Death came slowly and eventually the body, if not taken down from the cross, would become food for flesh-eating birds.
  • A sign was usually placed on the cross to tell passersby what the charge was that caused this victim to suffer in this most horrendous way.

This leads us to think about yet another question  which is . . .

 

Question.  Did Jesus endure all these tortures when He was crucified?

The answer is yes, and even more.  Listen to some selected verses from John 18:3-24.  “Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.  Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.  And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year . . . One of the officers who stood by struck Jesus . . . Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. “ 

 

Matthew continues in chapter 26, “Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.  Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none.  But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, ‘This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days . . .’ Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, ‘He has spoken blasphemy!  What further need do we have of witnesses?  Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!  What do you think?’ They answered and said, ‘He is deserving of death.’  Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ!  Who is the one who struck you?”  These were selected verses from Matthew 26:59-67.  All these atrocious things happened at the house of Caiaphas, but once Jesus was escorted to Pilate’s Praetorium, his judgment hall, even worse torture took place.

  • As you may know, Pilate appears not to have found any reason to punish Jesus, but the Jewish leaders wanted Him dead anyway.
  • So each time Pilate expressed his opinion that he had found no fault in Jesus, the crowd called for His crucifixion.
  • In fact, the crowd preferred a ruthless murderer named Barabbas to be released to them instead of Jesus. Matthew continues the story.  “Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.   Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him.  And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.  When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand.  And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head.  And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.”   I’ve just read verses 26-31 of Matthew 27.
  • Please remember. All of this happened before Jesus was crucified, nailed to the cross and left to hang in agony for you and me.
  • Allow the horrible things done to our Lord Jesus to settle deep into your heart.
  • He didn’t have to endure these painful tortures, but He did. And He did it for us.

What a wonderful Savior we have.  Let’s go to another question.
Question.  What was the place like where Jesus was crucified? 

The Bible tells us repeatedly that Jesus was led out of the city to a place called Golgotha [Gol’-ga-tha].  John 19:17-18 says, “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,  where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.”  Now the Hebrew name Golgotha means “the Place of a Skull.”

  • We don’t know for certain why it’s called that.
  • Some have suggested that the rock formation that provided the backdrop for these crucifixions resembled a skull and that’s why it was called Golgotha.
  • Some early historians referred to Golgotha as a hill resembling a skullcap, located very near to a gate of Jerusalem.
  • Since the 6th century the location has been referred to as a mountain, and since 333 AD it has been called a small hill.
  • So, if the location of Jesus’ crucifixion is Golgotha, why do we Christians sometimes call it Calvary?
  • Well that’s because when the English translation of the Bible was made by King James of England in 1611, Luke 23:33 was translated, “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.”
  • Calvary is a form of the Latin word used for the Hebrew word Golgotha.
  • So Calvary and Golgotha refer to the same place.
  • Calvary is a Latin word and Golgotha a Hebrew word.

 

Now the Gospels describe Golgotha as a place near enough to the city that those coming in and out could read the inscription “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.”  John 19:20 says, “Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.” 

  • So, Golgotha or Calvary, may have been a hill, it may have resembled a skull, but it definitely was just outside the city wall by one of the gates of Jerusalem.
  • That’s where Jesus died for you and me.
  • That’s where our atonement was made.
  • That’s where the wrath of God for our sin was taken away.
  • That’s where the Lamb of God took upon Himself the sins of the world and paid the penalty for them.

Now doesn’t that make you love Him more?  I hope so.

 

Okay, here are several questions I am frequently asked about Jesus’ crucifixion.  One of them is a real tough one. . .

 

Question.  On which day of the week was Jesus crucified?

Now, there is an answer to this question, but it’s quite complicated and detailed, and we really can’t give an adequate answer in the time we have during this session.  But let’s think about some of the answers Christians have given.

  • Of course, the long-standing tradition is that Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night, held through the night at the House of Caiaphas, tried early in the pre-dawn hours of Friday, sent to Pilate early Friday morning and crucified on Friday.
  • Christians often call this day “Good Friday” and you may wonder what was good about it.
  • Well, among early English and Dutch Christians the word “good” meant “holy” so they were really calling this day “Holy Friday” because it brought redemption to us, forgiveness for our sins.
  • This is the traditional understanding of the day on which Jesus died.
  • There are some Christians, however, that believe Christ had to be crucified on Wednesday and the reason they give is Matthew 12:40.
  • Jesus was answering the Pharisees who asked Him for a sign and He said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
  • Those who hold to a Wednesday crucifixion say you cannot get three days and three nights squeezed into a Friday crucifixion with a Sunday resurrection.
  • But a Wednesday crucifixion creates other problems.
  • One problem is that a Wednesday crucifixion places too many days and nights for Jesus in the grave.
  • Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night make four days and four nights, not three.
  • Another problem is that while there is only one reference to three days and three nights, there are no less than twelve references to Christ rising on the third day, including Matthew, Luke, John, Acts and 1 Corinthians.
  • If Jesus were crucified on Wednesday, the third day would be Friday—Wednesday the 1st day, Thursday the 2nd day and Friday the 3rd
  • But we know it was Sunday, first day of week when Jesus rose from the dead.
  • So Wednesday doesn’t appear to fit with the flow of the Passion Week.

 

Other Christians think Thursday was the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.  They see the three days and three nights possible with a Thursday crucifixion.

  • Now, I have to tell you this is an attractive view, but would be much less attractive if it were not for the Matthew 12:40 reference to three days and three nights.
  • Again, this is mentioned but once whereas Jesus rising the “third day” is mentioned a dozen times.
  • And if we’re to give more weight to one reference than we do to a dozen, we are not careful interpreters of the Scripture.
  • But there are problems with this view as well. For one, with a Thursday crucifixion, the third day would be Saturday, not Sunday—Thursday the 1st day, Friday the 2nd day and Saturday the 3rd
  • In addition, those who hold this view are forced to make the expression “the day of preparation” refer to the preparations for the Passover rather than to its normal meaning of preparations for the Sabbath.
  • A statement in Mark’s Gospel appears to rule out Thursday. He says, “Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,  Joseph of Arimathea . . . went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”  That’s Mark 15:42-42.

 

This leaves the traditional understanding of a Friday crucifixion.  The way the Jews reckoned days in the NT era was that any portion of a day was considered a full day.

  • Thus, Friday, Saturday and Sunday would be the three days Jesus was in the tomb.
  • This, of course, does not address the three nights reference, but that, too, can be understood as meaning the dark hour portion of three full days.
  • Jesus predicted He would be raised on the third day.
  • This is found in Matthew 16, Mark 8 and Luke 9.
  • His body was laid in the tomb on the evening of the day of preparation (that’s Friday), the day before the Sabbath.
  • The women returned to their homes and rested on the Sabbath (Saturday), as the Law required.
  • Then early on the first day of the week (Sunday), they went to the tomb and found it empty.
  • And while each proposed day for Jesus’ crucifixion presents its own problems, it seems that a Friday crucifixion has the fewest of these problems.
  • Besides, the overwhelming majority of Bible scholars down through the centuries have held to Friday as the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and I think we should as well.
  • But remember. The day Jesus died has no bearing at all on the fact that He died and that’s what is important for our salvation.
  • Whichever day it was, Jesus died for our sins, and that’s all that matters.

Well, let’s think together about another question of the death Jesus died.

 

Question:  When Jesus said from the cross, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” what did He mean?  How could God forsake Jesus at such a critical time?

Jesus was quoting David’s opening line of Psalm 22:  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?

  • Some things mentioned in Psalm 22 can refer to David’s own experience, but many cannot.
  • If you look carefully at that Psalm, however, everything mentioned can be applied to Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus Himself applied the first words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” to His helplessness on the cross.

 

  • The question is, what did Jesus mean when He said these painful words?
  • Did God the Father really abandon God the Son while He was on the cross?
  • Everything in us wants to say, “No, no, it can’t be,” but the fact is that is exactly what Jesus meant.
  • The physical pain of the crucifixion could never equal the pain of when Jesus totally absorbed the wrath of God, took all of our sins and the sins of the world, for all the ages, on His shoulders, and died to pay the penalty for them, every one of them.
  • At that moment, God the Father had to turn away because, as the Prophet Habakkuk said, “O Lord my God, my Holy One . . . You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.”  That’s Habakkuk 1:12-13. 
  • During Jesus’ hours on the cross, He was made sin for us.
  • That means He accepted the penalty for the sin that belonged to you and me.
  • And as a result, He had to bear that sin alone, because He alone was the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin.
  • This is the only time that the fellowship between God the Father and God the Son was interrupted, a fellowship they had enjoyed throughout all of eternity.
  • So, while the cry “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” is exceedingly painful for us to hear, you can imagine how difficult it was for Jesus to say.
  • And while this painful separation lasted only a few hours, it must have seemed like an eternity, both for the Father and for the Son.
  • We’re all glad that once Jesus bore the weight of our sin and guilt, His fellowship with the Father could be restored immediately.
  • God the Father did what He had to do and that was to allow Jesus to bear the weight of our sin alone.
  • Thank God for the cross. Thank God for our Savior on the cross.
  • It makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it?

Well, let’s think about another question relating to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Question.  What did Jesus accomplish on the cross?

Well, more than we’ll ever know.  So much was going on during those hours that it’s difficult for us to understand it.  But let’s try.  Let’s think about some of the things Jesus accomplished while hanging there on Calvary’s cross.

 

#1.  Jesus made an atonement for our sins.

  • By the word “atonement” we mean the work that Jesus did by dying on the cross to earn our salvation.
  • While Jesus’ life was important for our lives, and provided an example for us to follow, I believe that His atonement did not begin until He was on the cross and it was completed with His death.
  • Atonement is what Jesus accomplished on the cross in our behalf.
  • Let’s just think for a minute about what was involved in Jesus’ atonement.
  • When Jesus died, He fully dealt with our sins.
  • That means He decisively paid the debt that our sin brought to us. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • The wages paid by sin, the debt that sin pays is always death.
  • Do you remember what God said to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?
  • He said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” That’s Genesis 2:16-17.
  • As you know, Adam and Eve disobeyed, and that day they died spiritually and began counting down he days until they died physically.
  • Each of us has sinned and as a result each of us will die—physically, spiritually and eternally.
  • That means we will forever be separated from God, who’s the giver of life.
  • But Jesus paid that debt with His own blood. That’s what atonement means, and that was one of His major accomplishments on the cross.

Oh, but it wasn’t His only one.

 

#2.  Jesus’ death on the cross took away the sins of Old Testament saints.

  • For all of us who enjoy the grace of God and the knowledge that Jesus died on the cross for us, we must remember that there were many, many people who had faith in God and His promises, who died before Jesus lived.
  • What Jesus did on the cross paid the debt for their sins as well as ours.
  • While their sins were temporarily covered by the blood of animal sacrifices, they had were dealt with in a final, permanent way at Calvary.
  • God reminded His people in Old Testament times, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).
  • Yet, all these sacrifices were insufficient to pay the debt of sin that was owed.
  • The writer of Hebrews explains: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. . . .For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” That’s Hebrews 10, verses 1 and 4.
  • But a few verses later the writer tells us how Jesus’ death provided atonement for all those of the Old Testament who had faith in God and His promises.
  • He says, “Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man [Jesus], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God . . . .  For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”  That’s Hebrews 10, verses 11 through 14.

 

  • Full atonement for sin could not be made by the Old Testament sacrifices because these sacrifices were just to show them that God had a perfect sacrifice for sin coming in the Lord Jesus.
  • And as a result, these Old Testament believers could not enter Heaven when they died.
  • Instead, they went to a place called “Abraham’s bosom” where they awaited the cross and Jesus’ full atonement for their sins.
  • But now their debt has been paid by Jesus’ sacrificial blood and they now await the resurrection of their bodies.
  • Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31 shows us this was true.
  • So, Jesus’ death accomplished salvation both for us and for our Old Testament counterparts in faith. But did it accomplish anything else?  Oh, absolutely.

 

#3.  Jesus condemned God’s enemies by dying on the cross.

What do we mean when we say Jesus condemned God’s enemies by His death?

  • Well, the demands of justice require that an accused offender must be found guilty of his alleged crimes before he is sentenced to punishment.
  • In Romans 3, the Apostle Paul lays out the case against all mankind, showing that each of us has sinned, and each of us deserves the penalty of sin, which is eternal death in Hell—separation from God forever.
  • Paul demonstrates that all the world is guilty before God.
  • Listen to some of the things Paul said in Romans 3. “There is none righteous, no, not one. . . there is none who seeks after God.  There is none who does good, no, not one . . . Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways. . . Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” 
  • All the world, guilty before God. What a devastating statement that is.

But the value of God’s judgment that everyone in the world is guilty of sinning against the Holy God, that’s what gives Christ the legal right, and the basis, to deal with God’s enemies as they deserve.

  • Jesus Christ is righteous, He’s sinless, He’s the perfect redeemer.
  • But each of us in the world is unrighteous, filled with sin and in need of the perfect redeemer.
  • As a result, Jesus has every right to condemn us.
  • God the Father has already condemned us because of our sin.
  • But Jesus also has every right to save us.
  • So, on the cross, Jesus defeated the control of sin over our lives.
  • He defeated Satan and his evil angels.
  • He defeated the sinful system that today dominates our world and produces murderers, terrorists, abusers, adulterers and much more.
  • The cross was the place of Jesus’ victory over God’s enemies.
  • And on the morning of the third day, Jesus defeated the last enemy of God, which is death.
  • Jesus Christ will prove He is the victor when He reigns over the earth in justice and righteousness, and after that the end will come, and we will be with Him in Heaven forever and ever.

Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.   For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.   The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” 

  • All this and more is what Jesus Christ accomplished by shedding His blood, by giving up His life, for you and me on that terrible day at Calvary.

 

As we come to the end of this important session, I want you to be thinking about the cross.

  • Sir John Bowring was a 19th century British economist and the 4th Governor of Hong Kong.
  • One day he traveled across the Pearl River Delta to the former Portuguese colony of Macau, on the south coast of the China Sea.
  • There Bowring saw the ruins of the 17th century Cathedral of St. Paul.
  • The cathedral, built by Portuguese colonists, had been leveled by a typhoon.
  • All that remained was the front façade of the building with a gigantic bronze cross lifted high above it.
  • Seeing that cross, Bowering was inspired to write these words.

“In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time; all the light of sacred story, gathers round its head sublime.” 

  • Spend some time today thanking God for the cross, the symbol of our Christian faith, that towers over the wrecks of time.
  • Our salvation may cost us nothing, but it cost our Savior His life.

Session 12
JESUS’ RESURRECTION: THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL

 

Jesus’ birth was miraculous.  His life was a model for us.  His death was horrifying.  But His resurrection was astounding.  For Jesus to suffer and die as He did, and then rise from the dead on the third day, the world has never seen anything like that before, or since.

Contrasts in Christ’s Death and Resurrection to Other Religious Leaders           

  • Those who follow the Buddhist religion honor Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. But Buddhists are divided on how the Buddha died.
  • We know he was poisoned, but some scholars believe it was a special delicious dish of mushrooms, while others think it may have been a dish of wild boar’s flesh. Either way, apparently Buddha accidently poisoned himself and died.
  • Those who follow Islam honor Muhammed, the founder of Islam.
  • Muhammed’s death occurred when he was invited to dinner by a woman.
  • The woman had poisoned the lamb and Mohammed’s death was certain.
  • He went home to his youngest and favorite wife, Aisha, whom he married when she was 6 and had intercourse with her when she was only 9. Muhammed was 56 at the time.  Muhammed died in Aisha’s lap.
  • Because while the dead body of the Buddha and Muhammed have a definite location where they decomposed, Jesus’ body is nowhere to be found. Why?
  • Because He’s not in His grave. He has risen.  He is alive forevermore.

The New Testament Evidence for Christ’s Resurrection                                           Christ’s resurrection is recorded in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20 and it is mentioned 17 times in the Book of Acts and 23 times in the epistles.

The Kind of Resurrection Christ Experienced                                                        

  • Elijah raised the son of Zarephath’s widow in 1 Kings 17.
  • Elisha raised to life the son of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4.
  • A dead man came back to life when he touched Elisha’s bones in 2 Kings 13.
  • Jesus raised to life the son of a widow in the village of Nain in Luke 7.
  • Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead in Matthew 9:25.
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11.
  • Peter raised to life a female disciple named Tabitha in   Acts 9.  And . . .
  • Paul raised Eutychus from the dead after he fell from a window in Acts 20.
  • What makes His resurrection so different from all these others, is that each of these people died again and stayed dead.
  • Jairus’ daughter died. Tabitha died.  The Shunnamite woman’s son died again.
  • But Jesus was raised to life never to die again.

Jesus’ resurrection, however, is different for another reason.  1 Corinthians 15: 20, 23 tell us, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

  • Paul tells us in Colossians 3:1-2, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
  • Maybe that’s why Paul’s wish was “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

How Are We Certain Jesus Was Raised from the Dead?                                  

#1.   Matthew 28:9  —  the angel at Jesus’ empty tomb told Mary Magdalene, Mary and the other women, to go quickly and tell the disciples that Jesus is alive.  Listen:  “But as they went, they met the risen Lord “so they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.”  These were not imaginary feet; they were feet of flesh.  Next . . .

#2.   John 20:15  — As Mary Magdalene lingered in the garden where Jesus’ tomb was, the Risen Lord appeared to her.  You remember she mistook Him for the gardener.  That wouldn’t have happened if He did not have a genuine, human-looking body.

#3.   John 20:17  — Once Mary recognized Jesus we are told she tried to restrain Him, to keep Him there with her, but Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father.”  You can’t restrain someone who isn’t there.

#4.   Luke 24:13-27 – Later that same day Jesus appeared to Cleopas and a friend on the road to Emmaus.  They saw him with their own eyes and once God lifted the restrictions from their sight, they knew they had seen Jesus. Next there’s . . .

#5.   Luke 24:30  —  Jesus ate with these two when they arrived at Emmaus.  “As He sat at the table with them, He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.”  Ghosts don’t eat, people eat.  Jesus had a body after His resurrection.

#6.   Luke 24:39  —  when Jesus entered the room where the disciples were gathered, He offered them proof that he had been raised from the dead.  He said, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”  You don’t ask people to touch you if you don’t have a body.  Jesus clearly had a body after His resurrection.

#7.   Luke 24:40  — Jesus “showed them His hands and His feet.”  They were real; the disciples could see them, including the holes made by the nails on the cross.

#8.   Luke 24:41-43  —  When Jesus saw that His disciples doubted He was real, He asked, “‘Have you any food here?’   So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.   And He took it and ate in their presence.”  Real people eat; imaginary people don’t.

#9.   John  20:22  —  Jesus “breathed” on His disciples and spoke to them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Without the actual breath of Jesus the disciples would not have been able to receive the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.  And . . .

#10.  John 20:27  —  A week later, Jesus again appeared to His disciples, this time with Thomas present who had been suspicious about Jesus’ resurrection.  Jesus said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.”  That’s the kind of offer you don’t make unless you have a physical body to back it up.

#11.   John 21:1  —  The Apostle John introduced the final chapter of His Gospel with the words: “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself.”   John was an eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus.  He knew Jesus was alive.

#12.   John 21:4-5  —  Once in Galilee “Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”  Asking for food indicates He could eat; that means Jesus had a body.

#13.   Acts 10:39-41  —  Finally, when Peter was preaching to Cornelius’ household he proclaimed, “And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree.   Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.”  Peter knew that Jesus was raised from the dead and was alive.

HOWEVER, not everyone in your family or among your friends is convinced that Jesus rose from the dead.

  • And those who will not believe will look for anything to prove Jesus’ resurrection was a hoax, even if the explanation is ridiculous.
  • Here are some of the popular theories that men have come up with to explain away what is recorded as fact in the Bible – that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after He was crucified.
  • Let’s first look at the theory and then we see how each theory fails.

 

THE WRONG TOMB THEORY

  • Mary Magdalene and the other women who intended to anoint the dead body of Jesus, simply ended up at the wrong tomb.
  • Perhaps in the pre-dawn darkness they mistook one tomb for another, and when they found the tomb they mistakenly discovered empty, they innocently but incorrectly announced that Jesus must have risen from the dead.

But there are so many things wrong with this theory.  It is almost too ridiculous to warrant our time, but let’s answer it anyway.

  • These women had witnessed the hurried burial of Jesus less than 72 hours earlier. It’s unlikely they would become confused this quickly.
  • Maybe they simply became disoriented because of the pre-dawn darkness.
  • But the Gospel account in John 20:15 indicates that there was enough light for the women to believe they saw the gardener, the caretaker of the private tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
  • Besides, it wasn’t just the women who saw the empty tomb.
  • Peter and John came to the same tomb when it was light enough to notice details like the grave clothes and head cloth inside the unlit tomb.
  • No, it’s not very likely that all these people were at the wrong tomb.
  • What we have here is not the wrong tomb but the wrong theory.

Now, remember.

  • Jesus was not buried in a normal cemetery. He was buried in a family rock-cut sepulcher.
  • He was buried in a tomb located in a garden, not some hillside city of the dead.
  • It would be hard to confuse the tomb of a wealthy man like Joseph of Arimathea in a well-kept garden with other tombs.
  • Of one thing we can be certain; the Jewish authorities, who asked for a Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent Jesus’ body from being stolen, they would not have been mistaken about the location of the tomb.
  • Nor would the Roman guards who had been stationed there.
  • No, there was no mistaking the tomb. This was not the wrong tomb; it was just the empty tomb.

 

THE STOLEN BODY THEORY

There are people who think the body of Jesus did not rise from the dead but was stolen from the tomb.

  • Some believe the Jewish authorities moved Christ’s body.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for them to do so, but if the Jews did move the body and had it in their possession, why didn’t they reveal it when the disciples troubled them by preaching the resurrection?
  • Acts 3:14-15 record Peter’s preaching in the portico of the Temple. These verses say, “You denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.”
  • If the Jewish religious leaders knew where the body of the Lord was hidden, don’t you think they would have shut down Peter’s preaching by producing the body?
  • Of course they would, but they couldn’t because they did not remove Jesus’ body

An even more absurd twist to the stolen body theory is held by those who believe the Romans removed Jesus’ body and hid it somewhere.

  • But what would be the reason for that? I can’t think of any, can you?
  • Besides, the Jewish authorities requested a unit of tough Roman soldiers to guard the tomb and prevent this very thing from happening.
  • The guards knew that if Jesus escaped or if it was reported that His body was stolen, this is the kind of offense that would be punishable by their death.
  • No, there isn’t a chance the Romans took the body of Jesus.

A more reasonable option for those who wish to believe that someone stole the body of Jesus is to think His disciples stole it to make the people of Jerusalem believe that Jesus rose from the dead as He had predicted.

  • Now, this is the most common view of those who will not permit themselves to believe the truth.
  • But stop for a moment and realize how unlikely even this possibility is.

These disciples had abandoned Jesus just hours earlier.

  • The cowardice of the disciples provides a substantial argument against their suddenly becoming so daring as to face a detachment of soldiers at the tomb and steal the body.
  • They were not in the frame of mind to attempt anything so dangerous.
  • Also, these disciples had just spent nearly 3 years in the company of Jesus, hearing His teaching, viewing His honesty and compassion.
  • For them to have removed the body, lied about where it was, and then continued to preach God’s holy moral code and Christ’s ethical teachings—well, that just seems to me to be highly improbable.
  • Besides, each of these disciples except John died horrific deaths partly for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • If they stole Jesus’ body, do you think they would have died in order just to preserve their dishonesty? I don’t either.
  • It would be insane to die for something you knew wasn’t true.
  • So, let’s forget about the stolen body theory and think about another one. It’s . . .

 

THE HALLUCINATION THEORY
Another attempted explanation claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations.

  • Now, this is really a stretch for the imagination.
  • Jesus presented Himself to all His disciples and friends. Paul says in                  1 Corinthians 15:6 that Jesus “was seen by over five hundred brethren at once.”  
  • Are we to believe that more than 500 people all hallucinated at exactly the same time? Doesn’t that require just a little bit too much faith to believe?
  • No, there were too many witnesses for all of them to be having a hallucination.
  • Hallucinations are private matters; they’re individual and very subjective.
  • Christ’s appearances were always public and most often to groups of people instead of individuals.
  • Hallucinations usually last a few seconds or perhaps minutes; on rare occasions they may last a few hours.
  • But Jesus presented Himself alive to witnesses for 40 days and hallucinations don’t hang around for 40 days.

 

Listen to Luke’s first words in the Book of Acts“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  That’s Acts 1, the first 3 verses.

  • The fact that people kept seeing the resurrected Jesus for nearly six weeks is not a hallucination; it is a fact of history.
  • It appears to me the only ones hallucinating are those who believe the hallucination theory. So, let’s move on to:

 

THE SWOON THEORY
Now this theory has gotten the most attention over the last few decades is the swoon theory.

  • To swoon means to faint, black out, or lose consciousness. It means a person passes out or collapses and appears to be dead.
  • With regard to Jesus’ death and resurrection, people who believe the swoon theory say that Jesus didn’t really die; that He merely fainted from blood loss, and the sheer exhaustion of His horrible crucifixion.
  • Everyone thought He was dead—the Jewish religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, Pilate, and even His disciples—but He wasn’t, say these swooners.
  • He only swooned. He fainted and was unconscious, just appearing to be dead.
  • But in those hours alone in the rock tomb, where the heat of the spring sun would be shut out, in the coolness of the tomb, Jesus revived and managed to roll away the stone covering the opening of the tomb and escape.
  • I have to say, that’s certainly an amusing and entertaining theory, but it’s not a very credible theory. Here’s why.

There is no way Jesus could not have survived His crucifixion.  The Roman soldiers made certain of that.

  • The spear in Jesus’ side eliminated any possibility that He survived crucifixion and only swooned in the tomb.
  • The Romans just would not allow Jesus to leave the cross alive, because these Roman executioners were very skilled at crucifying people.
  • They were the best in the world. They would never have been fooled into believing that Jesus was dead if He wasn’t.
  • Besides, Roman law placed the death penalty on any soldier who let a capital prisoner escape in any way, including bungling a crucifixion.
  • The fact that the Roman soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, as they did to the two crucified on either side of Him, means they were sure Jesus was dead.

 

And in addition, John, who was an eyewitness to Jesus’ crucifixion, reported that he saw blood and water come from Jesus’ side.  Listen to what he said: “When they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.   But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.   And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” That’s John 19:33-35.

  • Not only does John report what he saw as an eyewitness, he also certifies that what he reported is true and is to be believed.
  • John knew Jesus was dead, just like he knew Jesus had come alive again.

 

Now, come with me to the tomb. If Jesus was laid in the tomb and then in the coolness of His solitude He revived and decided He would leave the tomb, He still had two very big problems.

  • One was the huge stone that was rolled in a trough in front of the tomb.
  • It had to be rolled there by hand and fit over the opening that allowed people into the tomb.
  • How would Jesus roll this stone from the inside? He couldn’t just push it over because it was heavy and sat in a small trough in which it rolled.
  • A swooning Jesus would have a real problem in removing such a stone.
  • Ah, but there’s more. Even if Jesus discovered a way to roll the stone away from the opening of the tomb and made His escape possible, there were two Roman soldiers just outside whose lives depended on keeping Jesus securely in the tomb.  How would Jesus get past them?  The answer is, He wouldn’t.
  • People who hold to the swoon theory are just grasping at straws and it isn’t working for them.
  • So, let’s consider one final failed theory that people have believed because they just could not bring themselves to believe Jesus is alive today. It is . . .

 

THE CONSPIRACY THEORY                                                                                          The conspiracy theory maintains that the disciples made the whole thing up.

  • There was no resurrection; it was a fanciful lie from the master deceivers who were the followers of Jesus Christ.
  • Somehow these disciples, who had scattered at Jesus’ crucifixion, pulled themselves together and fabricated a story that was so compelling the entire Christian faith was built upon it.

Now, if this sounds a little unreasonable to you, that’s because it is.  Just think this through with me.

  • First, these disciples were not university professors. They weren’t clever lawyers.  They were simple, uneducated men, some of whom were fishermen.
  • What do you suppose the chances are that they guys could pool their intellectual resources and quickly come up with a story that would last for 2,000 years?
  • Now, I’m not trying to disparage these disciples; I’m just facing the reality that the odds of them coming up with such a story are extremely high.
  • Ah, but there’s another problem.

 

Second, the disciples had spent enough time with Jesus over the last three years to know that those who wanted to think like Christ and act like Christ didn’t go around lying about something as crucial as the resurrection of Christ.

  • These men weren’t great deceivers; they were humble, simple, honest, common peasants who only reported what they saw with their own eyes. And…

 

Finally, what possible motive would the disciples have for deceiving us about the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

  • Every lie has a motive behind it. For most deceptive people the motive is for some selfish advantage.
  • People want to improve their position or diminish the position of their enemies.
  • Lies are told for reasons. But what reason would this rag-tag group of disciples have?
  • What advantage was there to them to deceive the Roman government, the Jewish leadership, and the residents of Jerusalem?
  • The disciples were not looking to improve their station in life with this kind of deception.
  • These were people who in the Roman Empire were never going to have the finer things of life anyway.
  • They were hated, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, scorned, and sent against wild beasts in Roman amphitheaters.
  • They were not going to have an easier life by deceiving anyone and they knew it.
  • There just doesn’t seem to be a good reason for the disciples to be deceivers, nor is there any good reason to think that they were.

The deception theory has to be abandoned because it is illogical.  In fact, put it with all the other theories men and women have come up with to dismiss the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.  Abandon all of them.  They’re just silly.

 

WHAT JESUS’ RESURRECTION ACCOMPLISHED

 

We’ve seen plenty of reasons why we know Jesus rose from the dead, but the question we need to answer now is, “What does it matter?”  “What was accomplished by Jesus’ resurrection?”  To say the least, this is a very important question, because Jesus didn’t rise from the dead just to prove His critics wrong.  No, just as God has a plan for everything else, He had a plan in raising Jesus to life again.  So, let’s investigate what Jesus’ resurrection accomplished.  First, there’s this . . .

 

Jesus’ resurrection means His task on earth has been completed.

Before time began, before Satan rebelled against God and deceived Adam and Eve into joining his rebellion, before we ever needed a Savior, God had a plan to save us.

  • Now that plan required God the Son to come to earth, take on a human nature, live a sinless life, and die in our place, as our substitute on the cross.
  • One of Jesus’ final words from the cross was “It is finished.”
  • The wrath of God had been absorbed by Jesus and shielded from us.
  • The price for our debt of sin had been paid.
  • The atonement was over; Jesus could say, “It is finished.”

But there was one more thing that God’s plan called for and, coupled with the crucifixion, this made the plan of God complete.

  • Jesus needed to rise from the dead, lead the way for the rest of us, and ascend back into Heaven to His royal place at the right hand of the Father.
  • This would complete the cycle of His coming to Earth and returning to Heaven again.
  • So, the resurrection was not just a show of divine ability; it was the end of Jesus work on Earth for human beings.
  • Jesus lived on this Earth for nearly six weeks after He rose from the dead.
  • Acts 1:3 says Jesus “presented Himself alive after his suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them [that’s His disciples] during forty days.”
  • But His work on Earth was essentially completed with His resurrection from the dead.
  • God worked His plan and nothing stood in His way of fulfilling every detail of His plan to save us. The resurrection marks the end of Christ’s earthly ministry.
  • But it does even more. Think with me about something else it accomplished.

 

Jesus’ resurrection secured a hope for us the world does not share.

When the Apostle Peter wrote to his Christian friends scattered throughout the regions of Asia Minor, they were experiencing trials, difficulties, harassment, stresses, testing, just about anything that might shake their faith.  Peter mentions these trials in each chapter of his first letter to them.  But he also reminds them of something that will help them endure their trials, even triumph through them.  In 1 Peter 1:3 the apostle says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 

  • It was Christ’s resurrection from the dead that secured a “living hope” for us.
  • This is a present hope, a constant hope, a there-when-you-need-it hope.
  • But Christ’s resurrection also provides a hope for our future.

 

The Apostle Paul understood this relationship between Jesus’ resurrection and our own hope.  Once he said, “I have hope in God . . . that there will be a resurrection of the dead” (Acts 24:15).  Paul reminded the Romans in chapter 8, verses 23 & 24 that they were “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.   For we were saved in this hope.”

  • What does Paul mean by “the redemption of our body”? Essentially, he is talking about God redeeming our body when it is raised from the dead.
  • That only comes as a result of Jesus’ resurrection.
  • If Jesus’ body had not been raised from the dead, our bodies would never be raised from the dead. Jesus paved the way for our bodily resurrection.
  • In that great resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul paints a dim picture of what would be true if Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead.
  • Then he says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
  • If there is no hope of a bodily resurrection for us, we are to be pitied because of our foolish belief that we would someday be raised from the dead.
  • And who could forget Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4 where he says, For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”
  • That’s verse 14 and it’s a strong statement of the hope for us that accompanies Jesus’ resurrection.
  • The hope of our bodily resurrection rests squarely on Jesus’ bodily resurrection.
  • So don’t just think of Jesus’ resurrection as a victory for Him; think of it as a victory for you too. It’s a victory for all who have faith in Jesus as Savior.

 

Jesus’ resurrection insures our justification.

One Scripture passages about what Jesus’ resurrection accomplished is Romans 4:25.  Paul is writing about the faith of Abraham, how it was not the deeds of Abraham that brought a smile to God’s face, but the faith of Abraham.

  • And Paul argues that it’s the same way with us. It’s not our works that are imputed or credited to our account with God, but our faith.
  • Listen to the words of the apostle. “It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” 
  • Now, those are Paul’s words in Romans 4:24 and 25 and the most important phase is that last one, that Jesus “was raised because of our justification.”
  • It was Jesus’ death that bought our redemption, but it was His resurrection that insured God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for our sins.
  • By raising Christ Jesus from the dead, the Heavenly Father was saying that He approved of Christ’s work on the cross.

Ben Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.  He was a world-renowned author, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, statesman, and diplomat; in fact he was the first ambassador to France from the United States.  Now I don’t know much about Franklin’s relationship with the Lord, but I do know he believed in a bodily resurrection because this is what he had chiseled into his tombstone.  Listen to this carefully:  The Body of B. Franklin, Printer.  Like the Cover of an old Book, Its contents torn out, and stripped of its Lettering and Guilding, Lies here, Food for Worms, but the Work shall not be wholly lost:  For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more in a new & more perfect Edition, corrected and amended by the Author.”  Now that’s a very colorful way of saying Franklin believed he would be raised with a new and better body than the one they put in the grave.  As Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).

Session 13

JESUS’ EXALTATION AND ASCENSION

 

Immediately after Jesus promised His disciples they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and He would enable them to carry the Gospel message to the ends of the earth, Acts 1:9-12 say, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’  Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem.”
 

Paul outlined exactly what would happen in Philippians 2:5-11.  Hear the words of the Apostle Paul.  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

  • This passage of Scripture is often called Christ’s condescension and exaltation.
  • That means Christ Jesus came “down” from Heaven, leaving its glory behind so He could die for us, and once He accomplished everything God planned on the cross, He began to rise “up” again to His father.
  • The first step in His exaltation was His resurrection from the grave, but it didn’t stop there. These verses in Acts show that Jesus continued to rise from Earth to Heaven in what we know as His ascension into Heaven, and His glorification at the right hand of God.
  • Let’s see exactly what happened as Jesus ascended back to His Father, after His work on Earth was complete. We’ll begin with a definition of . . .

 

CHRIST’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN

What do we mean when we talk about Christ’s ascension?  It’s quite simple.

  • It means that 40 days after His resurrection the Lord Jesus departed physically and visibly from the Earth into the clouds and all the way to God’s Throne in Heaven.
  • What a sight that must have been. Get an image of that in your mind.
    For almost six weeks after His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus proved He was alive by being seen in public both in Galilee in the north of Israel, and in Judea in the south.
  • We have no idea how many people actually saw Jesus alive, but there were hundreds.
  • Then Jesus, His disciples and many of His followers, gathered on the top of the Mount of Olives.
  • This is part of a range of mountains just to the east of the city of Jerusalem.
  • In fact, you get the best view of Jerusalem from on top of this mountain.

Paul provides a summary of Jesus’ activity at the end of the 3rd chapter of 1 Timothy.  He says, “God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).  So what do we know about Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.

  • First, like His resurrection, the Lord’s ascension was a human experience.
  • The ascension meant Jesus transferred His home from Earth where He had lived for 33 years, back to Heaven where He had lived forever before His incarnation.
  • His ascension was not just a disappearance into the clouds; it was a physical change in His location, His environment, His activity and His citizenship.
  • Secondly, we know that His ascension into Heaven marked the end of His first advent, which means the first time Jesus came to Earth.
  • It was the end of His earthly mission “to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10.
  • He had accomplished all God the Father and God the Spirit sent Him to Earth to do, and now it was time to come home.
  • Third, Jesus’ ascension made it possible for Him to begin His present work in our behalf.
  • Jesus didn’t stop working for those who follow Him when He ascended into Heaven.
  • He simple wore a different hat; He worked in our behalf in a different way.
  • What does this include? Today He is building His church through His people.
  • In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
  • And Christ is governing His church from Heaven. Ephesians 1:22 says that God the Father “gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body.”  
  • Jesus is the head of the church, not a preacher, not a pontiff, not a prophet, a priest or a pastor.
  • It’s His Church; He died for it; He established it; He sustains it; and He governs it.

But Christ’s present work in Heaven also includes preparing our future home there too.  In John 14:2-3 Jesus promised, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  There’s even more. . .

Jesus is also currently praying for His Church as the great intercessor.  Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

  • And Jesus is currently acting in the role of our advocate to God.
  • He stands before God on our behalf and whenever someone tells a lie about us, or Satan tries to convince God that we have been disloyal to Him, Jesus speaks up and makes the truth known in our behalf.

1 John 2:1 says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

  • With His ascension into Heaven Jesus didn’t just sit back in a Heavenly easy chair, put His feet up and relax.
  • His work on our behalf continues, and will continue throughout all eternity.
  • Jesus rose slowly, deliberately and visibly from His followers gathered around Him on the Mount of Olives. He went back to Heaven.  He returned Home.
  • He physically rejoined God the Father and together they sent God the Spirit to live in those who have trusted Christ as their Savior all over the world.
  • But there is one more aspect of Christ’s ascension we should think about.

 

CHRIST’S ENTHRONEMENT IN HEAVEN

When Jesus left Heaven and His Father to become a man, He knew one day He would be welcomed back to Heaven by His Father.  Two of the most beloved verses in the Bible are found in Hebrews 12:1-2. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  • Jesus was able to look beyond the stable to the throne, beyond the cross to the crown, beyond Earth to Heaven.
  • In fact, He even prayed for this when He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion.

As He prayed to His Heavenly Father Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,  as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.   And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.   I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.   And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:1-5).

  • In ascending from Earth to Heaven Jesus rose up to a place, not just to a cloud or to the vastness of deep space. He rose to His home–Heaven.
  • He rose to the place from which He came when He left Heaven to become a man.
  • But He not only rose to a place—Heaven, He also rose to a specific place in Heaven–next to God the Father.

The closing verses of Luke remind us of that.  Luke 24:50-53 say, “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.   Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.   And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.  Amen.”

  • Jesus ascension into Heaven was an enthronement as well as an ascension.
  • He was seated on a heavenly throne next to His Father.
  • What do we know of this enthronement? What does the Bible say?

First, we know that the Lord Jesus was given the position of the highest rank possible, far above all things He created.  He was enthroned at the Father’s right hand.  Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

  • The Bible always depicts God’s right hand as the hand of power. Exodus 15:6 says, “Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces.”
  • And 1 Kings 2:19 tells us that King Solomon so respected his mother Bathsheba that “He sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand.”
  • The Psalms are filled with references of the importance of being at the right hand. In Psalm 16:8 David said, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”
  • And David says in Psalm 18:35, “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up.”

There are just too many references in the Bible to the power and importance of God’s right hand for us to mention here.  But you should know that God’s right hand is mentioned almost 30 times in the Psalms alone.  That’s how important the place at God’s right hand was.

But there was more than symbolic importance to Jesus enthronement at the Father’s right hand.  Something was accomplished of great historical importance.

  • Christ’s ascension into Heaven and His enthronement at the right Hand of the Father meant that His visible glory, the glory which He once enjoyed with God the Father and God the Spirit, would now be returned to Him.

A few minutes ago, I read from John 17 where Jesus said to the Father, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.   And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” 

  • Jesus’ enthronement meant a return to that brilliant light which radiates from the glory of God.
  • We know this glory was returned to Jesus because it is mentioned in the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.

Acts 26 records Paul recounting his conversion to King Agrippa and verses 12-15 say, “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.   And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’” 

Well, there it is.  The bright light from Heaven that blinded Saul of Tarsus, a light brighter than the sun, emanated from the Lord Jesus.

  • We know that the glory Jesus shared with the other persons of the Trinity before He became a man, was restored to Him when He was enthroned in Heaven.
  • Jesus is now back in Heaven but He continues to minister to our needs, yours and mine.

“Man of Sorrows!” what a name, for the Son of God, who came, ruined sinners to reclaim!  Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

  • God’s plan for our salvation couldn’t fail, and it didn’t fail.
  • He devised the plan in concert with all the persons of the Trinity, so He had the best minds available working on how best to save you and me.
  • He put the plan in place long before we needed it, because the plan was set even before the world came into being.
  • It was a plan prepared in eternity past.
  • It also was a plan that couldn’t fail because God established the requirements of the plan, then He met those requirements Himself.
  • The plan called for death to bring life.
  • It called for a perfect sacrifice, without spot or blemish, absolutely free from any sin, to be made to pay the penalty for our sin.
  • But since as sinful people we couldn’t provide that sacrifice for ourselves, God became the sacrifice for us.
  • God the Son became a man so that men could become the sons of God.
  • Jesus offered Himself on the cross to bear the full weight of God’s wrath on sin, to pay the full penalty that came as a result of our sin.
  • Jesus Christ died on the cross for you, and for me.
  • Jesus paid a debt He didn’t owe, because we owed a debt, we couldn’t pay.
  • And now that the plan was completed perfectly, without a hitch or a single failure, Jesus ascended into Heaven.
  • He has returned to His Father, seated at the Father’s right hand on the seat of supreme majesty, far above all things created.
  • 1 Peter 3:22 refers to “Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”
  • The Lord Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
  • In Acts 10, Peter calls the Savior, “Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all.”
  • Jesus is supreme over all things, all religious leaders, all the angelic host, and all the world. He is worthy of the highest honor and our deepest worship.        

Majestic sweetness sits enthroned Upon the Savior’s brow;
His head with radiant glories crowned, His lips with grace o’erflow,

No mortal can with Him compare, Among the sons of men;
Fairer is He than all the fair, Who fill the heav’nly train,

He saw me plunged in deep distress, And flew to my relief;
For me He bore the shameful cross, And carried all my grief,

To Him I owe my life and breath, And all the joys I have;
He makes me triumph over death, And saves me from the grave,

To Heav’n, the place of His abode, He brings my weary feet;
Shows me the glories of my God, And makes my joys complete,

Since from His bounty I receive, Such proofs of love divine,
Had I a thousand hearts to give, Lord, they should all be Thine,
PRAYER: “All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name!  Let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.  O that with yonder sacred throng we at His feet may fall!  We’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all; we’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all.”

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