NEW ORLEANS (BP)–In the American court system, the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty. Testimony is heard and must be weighed by the jury. Credible evidence either establishes the guilt or innocence of the accused, but first, trustworthy evidence is used to identify the truth.
In the case of Jesus, his identity “has always been and is today and always will be on trial,” said Jim Shaddix, dean of the chapel and associate professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“It is important that the evidence about the identity of Jesus Christ be credible evidence,” Shaddix said in an Oct. 24 chapel message.
Jesus often stood accused by the Pharisees and religious during his life on earth, Shaddix said. They refused to believe who he said he was. Focusing on one such instance recorded in John 5, Shaddix devoted his message to the evidence of Jesus’ true identity.
Pointing out the importance of Jesus’ identity to the world, Shaddix said the identity of Jesus serves as the dividing line for all the religions of the world and is the most important issue each person must wrestle with. Each person’s eternity hinges on the identity of Jesus, rather than one’s guilt or innocence, he said.
“Every individual that walks on the face of the earth will have to come to grips with the issue of the true identity of Christ,” Shaddix stated. “If they could only understand his true identity, then we are most certain that most of them would respond positively to it.”
Christians need not hesitate in proclaiming the gospel, Shaddix argued, listing five credible witnesses in John 5 attesting to Jesus’ claims.
First of all, Jesus identified himself as a witness. He was well aware that in his day his testimony alone would not be enough to convince these skeptics. Shaddix noted that under Roman and Jewish law, the testimony of a witness had to be validated by at least two or three witnesses, and Jesus accordingly pointed to the testimony of additional witnesses.
“In verse 33, Jesus identifies his forerunner, John the Baptist, as one of his witnesses,” Shaddix said. “He [John] is a witness … evidence of the identity of Jesus Christ.”
While John the Baptist was a strong witness to his deity, Jesus had an even “greater witness,” Shaddix said. He had performed many miracles and signs in front of the doubters of his day. Each time Jesus healed and performed miracles, he was validated as the Holy One sent by God.
Jesus indicates that God the Father is his fourth witness in verse 37, Shaddix said. “And the Father himself, who sent me has testified of me,” Jesus said. Finally, Jesus pointed to the Scriptures in verse 39 as another witness to his identity, Shaddix said.
But sufficient evidence is not ultimately the real problem when it comes to Jesus’ identity, Shaddix said, noting, “We know most certainly in our day and time … that people reject Jesus because of a lack of faith not because of a lack of evidence.
“If people reject Christ it is not because there is not enough evidence on the table, it’s because they don’t believe the evidence,” Shaddix said.
From Jesus’ day until the present, there has been a failure to examine the evidence about Jesus carefully, Shaddix said. The religious leaders and people in Jesus’ day started out investigating Jesus, but shortly they stopped seeking the truth about him.
“They failed to match the miracles with the message,” Shaddix said. “These religious leaders came to the point where they rejected even the supernatural miracles that Jesus had done.”
They also failed to see God working throughout history, Shaddix said, and thus the people rejected God the Father and his provision — Jesus Christ. Even as the Pharisees searched, analyzed and memorized the Scriptures, they missed the revelation of the Old Testament.
“The lack of faith is a failure to respond to revelation,” Shaddix said. “They refused that revelation … just like people today refuse to act on the light of the revelation of God that is all around them.”
Shaddix warned the group of seminary students and professors to make sure their allegiance to Jesus is more than just academic, which was the problem of the Pharisees. Encouraging the seminary audience to “be passionate about God’s praise alone,” Shaddix noted that the temptation is to be driven by the glory and honor of men.
The Word of God, Shaddix said, must be boldly proclaimed.
“Preach and teach the Bible and share it with confidence,” he exhorted. “All five of these evidences are wrapped up in our inspired Scriptures. The only thing that will bring faith is the Word of God.”
The paradox of John 5, Shaddix said, comes in the fact that Jesus himself is identified as the judge of all men. The religious leaders of his day were trying to judge his actions and his claims. Little did they know that when their lives on earth ended, these same men would have to face Jesus as judge. But Jesus told them that he wouldn’t have to judge them. Moses, in whom they trusted, would take care of that, Shaddix said, noting that whatever people who reject Christ put their trust in ultimately will come back to condemn them.
“This discussion is centered around Jesus’ identity as the judge of everyone seated in this room and everyone we will confront in ministry,” Shaddix said. “If people really believed that there was an individual responsible for determining their eternity, they would sit up and take notice.”