We’re continuing our chronological study of the bible; last week, Chris brought us into the time of David and the end of King David’s life. Throughout David’s life, he was a man after God’s own heart, even though David was an adulterer, murderer, deceiver. Yet, God rescued David, just as He rescues you and me.
Man is corrupt; we have a fallen nature. God gives us free will to choose Him, and also gives us an opportunity not to choose Him. Beginning in the Garden of Eden, Adam was in God’s perfect will, and Adam still chose to rebel. And each one of us have had an opportunity to be in God’s perfect will, and yet we can all look at aspects of our lives and say, you know, I made choices contrary to God’s plan, and those poor choices led me here.
There is an opportunity for each person to be righteous in the eyes of the Lord. If we are perfect, as He is perfect, God says we qualify to be in His presence in heaven. And that’s what heaven is, isn’t it? Perfection with the Lord? Heaven isn’t a place of “good enough.” That wouldn’t be heaven. That’s hardly an improvement over this world. No, heaven is perfection, and God’s perfect justice will destroy all evil and sin and “good enough”. All it takes to enter heaven is to be free of sin. And throughout history, do you know how many men and women have succeeded in living a life free of sin?
David’s son Solomon tells us centuries ago in Ecclesiastes 7:20,
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.
And centuries later, Paul repeats in Romans 3:10,
As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one.
That’s right. Nobody. No one is righteous, no not one.
And King David, a man after God’s own heart? He wasn’t perfect. Oh no, he set all sorts of bad examples of how to fail spectacularly.
But God didn’t wind up this planet, stick a bunch of people on it, give the world a spin and say, “well, Good luck. Hope to see you again sometime.” God’s justice is perfect, sure, and perfection is required to enter into His presence, but God also has perfect love for us and He doesn’t condemn us to destruction with no hope.
All the way back in the garden of Eden, God tells of a coming Seed who will redeem man. God amplifies this promise to following generations by promising Abraham that his descendants will be a blessing to the nations, and by providing a substitute for Abraham’s son Isaac. He continues to layer that promise with clearer pictures of redemption by accepting the blood of the lambs on the doorposts in the Passover, by establishing the Day of Atonement, and by giving Israel the sacrificial system.
In the book of Numbers, 24:17-19. Balaam blesses Israel,
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…
Out of Jacob One shall have dominion.
And Isaiah writes full chapters of prophecy about the coming redemption of man through a Messiah who will win the victory for us sinners, including the entire chapter of Isaiah 53 which reads in part, verses 2-6,
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Because King David was a man after God’s own heart, God blesses David with details about the King and Messiah yet to come: the Messiah’s life, His death, His Resurrection and His Reign forever.
David wrote in Psalm 25:14,
“The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He shall show them His covenant.”
II. The Messiah’s Life
God reveals details of the Messiah to David. In Psalm 69:8-9, David describes the life of his future savior like this –
I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
This prophecy is fulfilled many times in the life of Jesus, such as in John 7:1-9. Jesus’ brothers taunt Him and try to get him to go up to the Feast of Tabernacles, where the Jews want to kill Him. Verse 5, John writes,
For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
In Mark 3, Jesus gathers His disciples and gives them power to drive out demons, but in verse 21-22, his family thinks he’s lost His mind and the rulers think Jesus serves the devil –
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
III. The Messiah’s Death
David also writes about the death of Jesus on the cross. In Mark 15:34 as Jesus was being crucified,
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Jesus is specifically directing us to read David’s words in Psalm 22, which begins,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
Psalm 22 is incredibly specific in describing the suffering and death of Jesus, including ridicule, abandonment by His friends, being surrounded by enemies, even His thirst, Psalm 22:15,
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
One of the soldiers gave Jesus vinegar to drink, a rag tied to a stick, but Jesus refuses it. And David even prophecies the soldiers gambling for His clothing in Psalm 22:16-18,
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
In John 19, Jesus’ own executioners end up wearing His clothing, His righteousness clothing sinners.
IV. The Messiah’s Resurrection
David write about the Messiah’s resurrection in Psalm 16:9-11
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Both Peter and Paul cite this Psalm as a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection, noting that not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but He would rise before any bodily decay.
V. The Messiah’s Reign
Then the triumph of Jesus shines through the last part of Psalm 22, verse 27-28,
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
Israel’s unique relationship with the Lord will expand to all nations and opens God’s grace to the gentiles.
VI. The Messiah’s Prophecies Fulfilled
God has built a careful plan of both prophecy and fulfillment of His prophecy to demonstrate His truthfulness, and yet, many Christians are unaware of the great lengths God went through to demonstrate His fulfilled promises. And if Christians aren’t confident in the truth about salvation through Jesus, how can nonbelievers be confident in the truth?
This is important – to know that Jesus lived and died, rose again on the third day, and sits at the right hand of the Father. In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul reminds us that our entire faith rests on this point –
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Like many of you, my wife and I pray for family members who do not know Jesus. My wife’s family can be very ugly when she talks about her faith. Imagine her joy when her sister called one Easter morning and left a voicemail that said she believed in Jesus! But when my wife called her back, her sister hadn’t come to faith. She was only agreeing that Jesus was a real person.
This shouldn’t even be a question – of course He existed. There is more documentation about the life of Jesus than about any other historical person. But when a non-Christian asks this question, they usually mean “not counting the bible”.
But there are multiple secular historians that wrote about an amazing man in a relatively unimportant small corner of the Roman Empire. Roman Tacitus, considered one of the most accurate historians of the first century, wrote about Jesus. So did Suetonius, chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian. Julius Africanus. Pliny the Younger. Lucian of Samosata. Mara Bar-Serapion. We can nearly reconstruct the life and ministry of Jesus from non-biblical sources. Of course Jesus existed.
One of the most important external sources about the life of Jesus is Flavius Josephus, a famous Jewish historian for the Roman Empire. Now, as a Jew and a Roman, Josephus would have been strongly opposed to the ministry of Jesus, but instead, Josephus wrote in Antiquities –
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats….He was [the] Christ…he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”
“At this time there was a wise man named Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who became his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
Yeah, but was Jesus the son of God? Certainly King David Isaiah wrote prophecies about the coming Messiah, and prophecies were written hundreds of years before Jesus –
|OT Prophecies About Christ
||Years in Advance
|Manner of Birth
|Place of Birth
|Time of & Response to His Messiahship
|Crucified Between Thieves
|No Broken Bones
|Gamble for His Clothing
|Buried in Rich Man’s Tomb
I read a list of 355 separate prophecies in the bible about Jesus, and Jesus fulfilled every one. A mathematical impossibility. In a book called “Science Speaks,” they calculated that the odds of one man fulfilling all the prophecies was one in 10^17 power. To put it in perspective, imagine the entire state of Texas covered in silver dollars two feet thick, and only 1 of those silver dollars is marked. Now imagine a blindfolded man, heading out of Dallas by foot, would manage to pick out that silver dollar on his first try. That’s the equivalent odds of one in 10^17th power.
I read that in a debate with an atheist, the atheist claimed that the only reason Jesus fulfilled those prophecies was because Jesus set out intentionally to fulfill those prophecies in order to deceive people. So the Christian asked him, “So how did Jesus choose to be born in Bethlehem?”
If that wasn’t enough proof, Jesus made His own short term prophecies that were fulfilled –
|Christ’s Short-Term Predictions
|Betrayal by a Friend
|Three-fold Denial by Peter
||Matthew 26:34, 75
|Manner of His Own Death
|Manner of Disciples’ Deaths
|AD 70 Events
When Jesus said in Matthew 24:2 that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed,
Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
The Jews looked at the massive temple and scoffed. But the temple in Jerusalem had a fortune in gold and silver inside for safekeeping, but during 70 AD the Romans set fire to the temple and the gold and silver melted and ran between the stones. The Roman soldiers tore each and every stone out and threw it over the temple mount wall trying to retrieve the gold and silver.
Well, ok, so there’s proof Jesus existed and fulfilled prophecy, but maybe Jesus was just a great spiritual leader.
Well, Jesus was indeed a great spiritual teacher. He never claimed to be God, did He?
That’s a narrow minded view of the life of Jesus. Jesus never used the words, “I am God,” but He claimed to be God nonetheless. In John 10:30, Jesus says,
I and the Father are One.
The Jewish leaders understood that to mean Jesus and God were the same. And when Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:58,
“I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!”
The Jews then took up stones to kill Jesus for blasphemy as the Mosaic Law commanded.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is quite unlike the Ten Commandments, it is the most amazing spiritual and prophetic sermon, and absolutely impossible for us to fulfill unless we allow Christ to remake us in His image. So could Christ both claim to be God and teach this Sermon and be wrong? C.S. Lewis grappled with this very subject and developed the Tri-Lemma.
If Jesus claimed to be God and knew it to be false, then he was a liar. But His teachings are those of compassion and love and truth. Or maybe Jesus claimed to be God and didn’t know, which means He was a lunatic. Hard to square that with the Sermon on the mount.
Or Jesus claimed to be God and knew it to be true. Then the choice becomes ours on whether to accept Jesus as Lord.
But great spiritual leader that wasn’t God? Jesus did not intend to leave us that option. Liar, lunatic, or Lord are the only options.
Well, ok, he fulfilled prophecy and was the Son of God. That doesn’t mean He was raised from the dead, does it?
Again, we have to look at the facts. In 1 Corinthians 15:6-7, Paul says,
“After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles…”
Paul is telling the church of Corinth something they had seen for themselves, Jesus walking among them after His death on the cross. They had eyewitnesses living among them. It could not have just been a lie, because the witnesses still were around.
Let’s say I told you that I remember when Hillary Clinton won the Presidential election in 2016, or Hurricane Harvey slamming California, or the Texans winning with Superbowl. You know those statements aren’t true – you remember the news. And even if you weren’t in Houston, you can ask witnesses who remember. In other words, there are people still alive who remember the truth. A story like a dead man rising from the grave was believable precisely because so many saw Him, and Paul said those witnesses are still alive and you can question them about the life and resurrection of Jesus.
Some skeptics might then admit all of this was true so far, but maybe Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, maybe He was only wounded, or perhaps somebody stole the body. There are lots of theories, but none of them make sense, especially in light of all the witnesses that saw Jesus. Here are some of the theories –
- Swoon theory. This theory suggests Jesus didn’t actually die, he survived the crucifixion. They put Him in a tomb, wrapped Him in linens like He was dead, but then He recovered and got up and walked around. But the Roman guards who crucified Jesus were very good at their jobs of torture and death, and their own lives depended on it if they failed. The Romans pieced him through the side with a spear and blood and water came out indicating hypovolemic shock followed by pleural effusion, the water from the lungs settling into the heart area, something that only occurs after death. Jesus was most certainly dead. And after having his skin flogged and beaten and tortured and hypovolemic shock and crucified, it’s not possible that being stored in a tomb for 3 days without food or water that a nearly dead Jesus could get up, untangle the linens that wrapped His body in a cocoon, and then walk around and mingle with His disciples and nobody notice that He was near death. If He had survived – which He couldn’t and didn’t – then He would have been in ICU for months.
- Ok, so He died on the cross. Maybe his body was placed in the wrong tomb. But that doesn’t make sense – there was again a Roman guard stationed outside the tomb. Both the Sanhedrin and the Romans were trying to destroy early Christianity, and Romans making a mistake like that would have been punishable by death. Besides, when the Christians claimed Jesus lived, the Jews or the Romans could just present the body to prove He was dead.
- Maybe somebody stole the body. But who would have done that? The Romans? No, that was punishable by death and they wanted Jesus dead. The Jews? They also wanted Jesus dead. Besides, when the disciples and the 500 started walking around the streets and word got around that Jesus was alive, again, all the Jews or Romans had to do was produce the body. That would have killed Christianity instantly.
- That only leaves the disciples themselves who had motive to steal Jesus’ body. But that doesn’t hold up, either – every one of Jesus’ disciples were tortured and killed for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. Maybe one person could survive torture and maintain a lie, but all twelve, enduring torture and prosecution and still proclaiming Christ lives? They all died proclaiming Christ, and I just can’t imagine they would all do that for a lie. No, they believe Christ died and rose again.
- Mass Hallucination. No really, that’s a theory. Not a good theory, but hey, I included it on the list.
Every person must make this decision about Jesus. Did Jesus live? Did He die? Did He rise from the grave? Is He a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord? The evidence is overwhelming, from a biblical view, a logical view, an historical view.
In John 20, Jesus has been crucified and raised to life, but Doubting Thomas won’t believe it unless he puts his hands in the holes left by the nails in Jesus. And Jesus appears and lets Thomas do exactly that, telling Thomas to stop doubting and to believe. Thomas’s reaction in John 20:28-29,
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
God has given us hundreds of fulfilled prophecies so that we may believe. Those of us that have already placed our trust in Jesus probably also have a personal testimony of Jesus in our lives to help eliminate all doubt. Jesus is real, our Messiah, our salvation, our rock and our fortress, and our redeemer. As King David writes in Psalm 22:29-31 –
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
To God be the glory.