Bud Collyer, presenter in 1956: “In 1956 there was a television program, To Tell The Truth. Four celebrities had to get to know four strangers. All with the same name. Only one of the four was the real holder of the name. The other three people were actors. At the end of the game, the real person had to get up – often to everyone’s surprise. In the midst of our modern information revolution and thousands of churches each advocating a different set of doctrines and practices, our hearts instinctively cry out, “Will the true Jesus, please rise!”
If Jesus had to live today, where would He stay? What would He look like? What would He keep Himself busy with? With whom would He mingle and make friends? When Shane Claiborne and some of his theological friends asked themselves these same questions, they ended up in Kolkata, India, with Mother Teresa. In 1950, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries Of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation that had more than 4,500 nuns and was active in 133 countries by 2012. The ministry runs homes for people who are dying of HIV / Aids, leprosy and tuberculosis. They also set up soup kitchens, pharmacies, mobile clinics, child and family counselling programs, as well as orphanages and schools. Members take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and also make a fourth vow – to “give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.
In Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution, he writes of his journey to rediscover Jesus among the poorest of the poor. This book has taken my life in a completely different trajectory, and still challenges me today, to be Jesus in my town, and to mingle and make friends with the poorest in informal settlements.
The many names of God are people’s reflection on and worship of what God has done and meant to everyone. Hagar, Sarai’s slave girl, called God El-Roi – the God who sees (Gen. 16: 11-14); Abraham – Jehovah Jireh – the God who provides (Gen. 22:13, 14); Moses and Joshua defeated the Amalekites – Jehovah Nissi – God our banner (Ex. 17:15, 16); the bitter water of Mara became drinkable – Jehovah Rapha – the God who heals (Ex. 15: 25-27).
The reality is: How God reveals Himself to you for the first time affects the framework of how you understand Him. People who have met God in a small group believe this is the best way to serve the Lord. Those who have accepted Him at a great evangelistic event believe that this is the essence of God’s heart. While this is of course partly right, we must remember that God is so much more! That is why the name God announces “I am what I am” is Yahweh, still the best description of who God is. (Ex. 3:14). God is healing, but He is also punishment. God is salvation, but He is also judgment. God reveals Himself, but HE is also mysterious. These paradoxical aspects of His character are what make Him ‘God’! We cannot locate Him, or limit Him in our framework of understanding.
The Reality of Jesus is Simple
The danger regarding religion through the ages is that we naturally make our own idols in our image. We have had a legitimate experience with God, but there is more. Through the ages, the danger is that we build monuments, to commemorate the supernatural experience, and then later we start worshiping the monuments. Even Peter stepped into the trap when he suggested that they erect three huts for Jesus, Elijah and Moses, during the glorification on the mountain (Luke 9:33). This is how we begin to worship idols.
Of the 293 times that the word ‘idol’ appears in the Bible, 39 are in the NT. Idolatry is always included in the lists of sins and works of the flesh in the NT (Gal. 5:20; Col. 3: 5). The same can even happen to Jesus. We begin to worship, and love, one aspect of His person. Therefore, my calling is to follow Him, not to worship Him. We worship what we understand of God. There is more! The most radical and simplest reality test regarding Jesus is: If you meet Him, you will never be the same again!
However, an encounter with Jesus is more than just an introduction. It’s like waking up from your sleep in a strange environment and becoming aware of a completely different world. When you see Him, you see Him everywhere. The more you see Him and get to know Him, the more your way of seeing changes: You now see yourself and the whole world in a different light. This awakening never stops, every day the Holy Spirit guides us through the Word and through His Body to awaken anew to more!
How We See Jesus
We see Jesus because the Scriptures open to us, or because we experience His love through another follower of Jesus who is obedient either because: we are convinced of our own sin; we have had some supernatural experience; we feel accepted in a congregation or small group; He healed us; He freed us from evil; He helped us to repair a broken relationship or because we discovered ourselves in Him!
It’s all Jesus’ work. We just have to be careful that we do not think that our experience of Jesus is who Jesus is. Therefore, Jesus’ call is that we should believe in Him, not only to worship Him. To follow Him and not just “like” Him. Jesus is a person, He is dynamic, He is paradoxical, He is God immeasurable, He is mysterious! Therefore no one can get a grasp on Him alone and speak on His behalf (1 Cor. 13:12).
“But you,” He asked them, “who do you say am I?” (Mark 8:29).
It is of essential importance, of eternal-life essential importance, that every human being will make sure they follow the real Jesus.
“Oh, come, come, come into the presence of Jesus and wait on Him, and He will reveal Himself to thee. I pray God that He may use His precious Word. It is simply the presence of the Lord Jesus that is the secret of the Christian’s strength and joy. Instead of indwelling sin, an indwelling Christ conquering it; instead of indwelling sin, the indwelling life and light and love of the blessed Son of God ”. – Andrew Murray, in Jesus Himself.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not preach in your name, and cast out demons by your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” Then I will say to them openly, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who break the law of God.” (Matt. 7: 21-23).
Jesus The Lighthouse
Religion capitalizes on the “brand name” of Jesus, but without the Person Jesus.
The Antichrist, or false-Jesus narrative, was a major problem in the origins of the Jesus movement, but is more so even today! (Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22; Mark 3:29; 1 John 2:22; 4: 3; 2 John 7). “They will still have the outward appearance of religion, but they will not know the power of religion. Stay away from such people. ” (2 Tim. 3: 5)
Jesus is like a lighthouse that shines on the horizon every now and then. In the boat, the waves toss you up and down, and you momentarily see the lighthouse, then you only see the giant waves. Jesus is like a ruler, a guide, a spirit-level that pulls your life straight. You can never just put Him aside and think you can keep building without “using” Him regularly. He’s like the music instrument tuner that should be used regularly to make sure we are still on the note.
To see Jesus right is therefore indispensable in every believer’s existence: “…the eye is fixed on Jesus, the Beginning and Finisher of the faith.” (Heb. 12: 2). May our spiritual ears and eyes become so enlightened and practiced, that we will immediately notice when we are off the note, and when we are no longer building straight.
Revelation Through Biblical Characters
There is no one recipe or method for how God meets people. There is no one method or recipe by which one is saved. Some pray a sinner’s prayer, others raise their hands, others openly confess their faith. People repent in different ways. Jesus is the center, He is the focus, but He chooses how He reveals Himself to each person.
The Samaritan Woman: “The woman said to him, ‘Lord, I see that you are a prophet.’ (John 4:19).
The sinner on the cross: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).
John: “Then the other disciple who came first to the tomb also went in, and he saw and believed.” (John 20: 8; Rev. 1: 10-18).
Thomas: “Because you saw Me, Thomas, you believed; Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. ” (John 20:29).
The Emmaus goers: “Then their eyes were opened, and they knew him, but he disappeared from their sight. Then they said to one another, “Did not our heart warm itself when he spoke to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:31).
Paul: “Who are you, Lord?” And the Lord answered, “I am Jesus whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And trembling and astonished, he said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9: 5-6).
Peter: “But who do you say I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven’”. (Matt. 16: 15-16).
John: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1: 1-4).
- Success without Christ is arrogance.
- Church without Christ is dead religion.
- Education without Christ is empty philosophy.
- Healing methods without Christ lead to addiction.
- Humanity without Christ is humanism.
- Laws without Christ are worship.
- Prayer without obedience to Christ is witchcraft.
- Prosperity without Christ is materialism.
- Unity without Christ is a man-made Babylon.
- Vision without Christ is ambition.
- Working without Christ is slavery.
- Worship without Christ is idolatry.
The True or The False
Throughout church history, one clearly notices the up-and-down fluctuation of times when we were “on the note” and times when we were “false”.
When people have really met Jesus and He is a reality for you: you are free from addiction and destructive lifestyles and habits; there is unity and a drive to convey His love to others; you want to pray and the Scriptures open for you; you are willing to endure persecution; there is an inner sense of right thinking and doing right; you can do what He did; there is a drawing to be part of the faith community; there is a desire to grow and receive rebuke; you are no longer ashamed of the Lord: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Rom. 1:16).
The list can still go on. But it’s simple: Where Jesus lives and reigns, He changes us every day. The more we get to know Him, the more we get to know ourselves (see Col. 3: 2).
Watchman Nee teaches in his book, Christ The Sum of All Things, that we do not sin, do wrong, miss the mark, overcome by some method. Jesus is the method! That is why we stay with Him, we follow Him, we seek Him and we are changed from glory to glory! (see 2 Cor. 4:18).
Jesus Really Existed Physically
Some teach that Jesus never really lived, but was some pseudo-archetype sham-Jesus. It is precisely His humanity that inspires us, gives hope and anchors, so that it is possible for ordinary people to live like Jesus. Jesus’ physical life between us is the power of the gospel. Otherwise, His teachings are merely philosophical in nature, without any practical implication. Jesus lived what He taught. His instruction to turn your cheek when your enemy strikes you, and to pray for those who abuse you, was literally fulfilled and applied during His crucifixion and trial (Isa. 50: 6; Matt. 5:39; John 19: 3).
Jesus Truly Rose Again
The further direct attack on our faith is the claim that Jesus did not really rise. In 1995, O.J. Simpson stood trial on the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. It is remembered as the most published criminal trial in American history. It appears that all the evidence indicated O.J. Simpson’s guilt. The most important piece of evidence that unraveled the prosecution’s case was a blood-stained glove found at the crime scene. O.J. ‘s high-profile lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, told the jury: “If it does not fit, you must acquit!” Simpson was eventually acquitted on the grounds of reasonable doubt. Many consider it one of the greatest injustices in the history of criminal trials.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the core proof and anchor of our faith. If Jesus had not risen, our faith would be meaningless and merely beautiful moral principles. Read the whole of 1 Corinthians 15: “Unless Christ has been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still trapped in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17).
Even in this chapter, and the way in which Paul writes about ammunition, as it were, the enemies of our faith, point to the resolve of his own conviction. After all, he was also at first a persecutor of the followers of The Way. This is the one aspect of our faith where the evidence for His resurrection is simply overwhelming and indisputable. That’s the one aspect we don’t have to worry about!
Jesus repeatedly told His followers that He would be condemned to death and then rise on the third day (Matt. 17:23; Mark 8:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22). It’s like Bono, the famous singer of U2, who said of C.S. Lewis’ quotes (who was also an atheist at first), but who came to repentance: “Christ was either a liar or a madman or the Lord.” The fact that He openly foretells His end and then does exactly what He said is the power of the gospel.
His own disciples had to be convinced first, because their doubts at the beginning are not obscured or hidden. “And He said unto them, Why are you so dismayed, and why is there doubt in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38). “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” (Matt. 28:17).
When followers fabricate a lie, they overdo the positive and remain silent about the mistakes, especially their own shortcomings. “And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem. They killed Him by hanging Him on the cross. But God raised him from the dead on the third day and made him appear, not to all the people, but only to us whom God has already chosen to be witnesses of, those who after his resurrection from the dead with He ate and drank.” (Acts 10:39-41).
The disciples’ testimony was crucial because they would not benefit financially or gain positions of prestige through sensational testimony. On the contrary, they and their loved ones and family were all persecuted because of their faith in Jesus’ resurrection. Their testimony is also a radical departure from their own education, culture and even nationality (see John 2:22; Luke 24: 33-35; John 20: 8, 18, 26-28; Acts 2:32 ; 3:15; 4:33).
Jesus appeared to several people: “After his death, he also showed them with much indisputable evidence that he was alive. In the course of forty days he appeared to them on several occasions and spoke to them about the things of the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1: 3).
Mary Magdalene, the first person to see Him alive (John 20: 10-18): The fact that it was a woman, whose testimony does not carry weight, is significant. Why not omit the information instead?
- Matthew tells us that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were together (Matt. 28:8-10). The difference between John and Matthew’s versions reinforces the journalistic perspective, which usually differs.
- Cleopas and other disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32).
- The 11 Disciples (Luke 24:33-49).
- The 10 disciples without Thomas (John 20: 19-23).
- The 11 Disciples, Thomas confesses his unbelief (John 20:26-30).
- The 7 disciples who went fishing (John 21:1-14).
- Jesus appears on the 11th, on the Mount of Olives, the ascension (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:4-9).
- Jesus appears to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5).
- Jesus appears to Paul (Acts 9: 3-5; 22: 6-8; 1 Cor. 15:8).
- Jesus appears to more than 500 people (1 Cor. 15:6).
- Jesus appears to James, Jesus’ own brother who at first did not believe (1Cor.15: 7).
These first-hand experiences that individuals have had with Jesus after His death and resurrection were the flame that ignited the new movement of followers of Jesus!
The Date of the NT Witness Writings
The credability of the NT lies precisely in the fact that the content would still be known and verifiable to the reader of that time, because it was written so soon after Jesus’ resurrection. See the way Luke writes to Theophilus: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” (Luke 1: 1-4).
It is generally accepted that most of the NT gospels and letters, were written before the fall of Jerusalem, i.e. before 70 AD. It is clear, after all, that the historical collapse of Judaism, one of the primary persecutors of the Jesus movement, would have been mentioned somewhere by the NT writers. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are around 32 AD. This means that the NT writings were written within this thirty-eight year period. Jesus usually conveyed His message to His disciples and followers through oral tradition. Jesus’ first sermons were focused on confronting well-known idioms and beliefs known among the people. For example: “Eye for an eye… but I say…” Furthermore, He used memorization, repetition, stories or parables, regular transmission, context in locality, to make sure they remember exactly what He said . The work of the disciples was to put it in writing as soon as possible. Which then means that loose fragments and notes already existed in Jesus’ time, and were later put together by an author.
Modern Hebrew translators of the NT have also discovered that the Greek text contains literally the same rhythm, sentence construction, and idiom as Hebrew, indicating that the text was originally written in Hebrew. There is a consensus that Matthew was definitely written in Hebrew first, for a Jewish audience. This means that Mark was written as early as 42 AD, Matthew 50 AD., and Luke just after that. The fire of Rome, and Nero’s blame on the Christians and consequent cruel persecution, ended in 64 AD. happened. The NT writers make no reference to this, which also further contributes to an earlier dating. 
The Indisputable Evidence Of The NT
When you fabricate a lie, you do not release ammunition that could later be used against you. Remember that the gospels were written at different times, as separate books, by different authors, each addressed to a specific audience.
The women’s testimony was not omitted, knowing that their testimony in biblical times did not carry weight. The differences in detail, such as the number of angels and who was first at the tomb, are left just as in the Gospels.
The gospels were written at a time when the hearers of the gospels themselves were also witnesses to what had happened. Luke states this more directly, as already mentioned (Luke 1: 1-4).
Death and Resurrection are also foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures:
“For You will not leave my soul in Sheol nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” (Ps. 16:10).
“I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.” (Isa. 50: 6).
Read the whole of Isaiah 53.
Here are some quotes from extra-biblical authors:
“There was a terrifying darkness all over the world; and the rocks tore at an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness, described by Thallus, in the third book of its history, as it seems to me for no reason, a solar eclipse.” Thallus (CA. 52 AC.) and Africanus (CA. 221 AC.).
“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, where they sang in alternate verses a song of praise to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never committing any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor to deny a trust when asked to deliver it; after which it was their custom to separate from each other and then reassemble – but food of an ordinary and innocent nature.” Pliny the Younger (61-113 AC.).
“Consequently, Nero got rid of the allegations of the report and inflicted the most brutal torture on a class hated for their abominations, called by the population Christians. Christ, from whom the name is derived, received the utmost punishment during the reign of Tiberius under the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a very ominous superstition, which is therefore at present controlled, not only in Judea, did not break out. The first source of evil, but even in Rome, where all things abominable and shameful from all parts of the world find their center and become popular.” (Tacitus: 56-120 AC.)
“There was at this time Jesus, a wise man, if it were justified to call him a man, for he has done wonderful deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth with joy. He attracted many Jews to him, and also many Greeks. This man was the Christ. And when Pilate condemned him to the cross, having been accused of the most important men among us, those who loved him from the beginning did not forsake him, for on the third day he came alive again to them. appears, as the Divine Prophets foretold these and tens of thousands of other wonderful things about him. And even now the group of Christians, named after him, has not become extinct ” (Josephus, AJ, 18.3.3).
“From the very beginning, the conviction that Jesus was raised from the dead was where their whole existence stood or fell. There was no other motive to account for them, to explain them. …Nowhere in the New Testament is there any evidence that Christians stood for an original philosophy of life or an original ethic. Their only function was to testify about what they say was a real event, namely the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. . . The one truly distinguishing fact that the Christians stood for was their declaration that Jesus was raised from the dead according to God’s plan, and the consequent view of Him as in a unique sense the Son of God and representative of man, and the consequent understanding from the path to reconciliation.” (Anderson, CWH, 100-101).
The Pharisees remembered that Jesus said He would rise on the third day, and special arrangements were made with Pilate to seal and secure the tomb. Hence the guards. (Matt. 27: 62-66).
Gamaliel’s wisdom: that if it is the hand of the Lord, no one will be able to stop it. However, if it is man-made, it will result in nothing (Acts 5: 30-42). The Jesus-movement was relatively small in the beginning, yet many Jews, scribes, and people from other nations and languages began to follow Him.
ZLee Strobel says that after two years of research, he found: “There are sufficient medical and historical grounds, that Jesus really died, and would not have been able to survive the torture on the cross. The testimony of His resurrection, and its writing, took place very soon after His resurrection, and could therefore be disputed. The empty tomb, and even the killers’ acknowledgment of this, is convincing.”
The Reality Of Jesus’ Resurrection Today
The fact that Jesus rose is the center of our faith. The implication for our life, our dying, and our struggle with sin takes on new meaning. As a good friend Michael Wood always says: “Our lives began, the moment He said it is finished.” It’s worth reading Allan Platt’s book “It’s accomplished” on this subject. It is also available in Afrikaans. His resurrection is not just a historical fact, but a point of faith. Our faith and confession of His resurrection, works a force in our lives to also overcome sin and death. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart we believe, and we are acquitted; and with the mouth we confess, and we are saved ”. (Rom. 10: 9-10).
Through the Power of His resurrection we move from:
• perishable to imperishable.
• mortal to immortal.
• dishonor to honor.
• dead to alive.
• natural to supernatural.
The power of His resurrection is the power that frees us from the power of sin. Through His resurrection power we gain the ability to overcome sin! Every time in the NT where our struggle against sin is talked about, the solution is: we are now dead to sin, we have gained victory over it through His resurrection. See the following important scripture verses in this regard. Read it carefully, even better memorizing it, until the content becomes a reality in our consciousness.
His resurrection gives us the strength to live in victory!
Eph. 2:5: “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
Eph. 1:19-20: “…and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”
There can be no question of resurrection without us dying.
Our identification with His death, and surrender, self-denial are necessary for Him to also awaken us to a new life. Our victory over sin is not our works, trials, and decisions. Our victory is His resurrection power!
John 12:24-25: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
Rom. 8:11: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
Phil. 3:10-14: “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Rom. 5:17: “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
2 Cor. 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Gal. 5:24: “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”