NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Let’s begin with some sarcasm. If Dan Brown (author of the “The Da Vinci Code”) hadn’t appeared, we poor Christians never would have known the “real story” concerning the life, death and supposed resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here’s the scoop according to Brown and like-minded authors (such as Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan and Elaine Pagels): The real story of Jesus has been cloaked by time, inaccurate history, church conspiracies and secret societies.
And what are the “newly discovered, long-hidden truths” about Jesus of Nazareth that we have not been privy to? Here’s a short list: He was married to Mary Magdalene, sired children who subsequently fled to France, never claimed to be God, conspired with Judas in betrayal and was crucified but not bodily raised from the dead.
What these liberal revisionists leave us with is a religious radical who happened to compile a body of moral teachings and had the good fortune of garnering a large following that believed the ridiculous notions of his divinity, spiritual authority, miracles, sacrificial death for sinners and his resurrection from the dead.
What are we to think about the gospel of Judas, secret codes, etc.?
Here’s what we can know about Jesus Christ. First, the most reliable sources of history concerning the life and ministry of Jesus are the four gospels. Why? It is because we have more reliable documents that affirm the veracity of the Gospels than almost any known ancient document. Either an eyewitness apostle wrote the entire New Testament or a close associate of an apostle, meaning that the information we have in the Gospels is first-generation information. This is unlike the second- and third-generation Gnostic writings purporting to be gospels that arose from attempts to skew the story of Jesus already affirmed by the early church.
What about Jesus’ claim to be God? Were these redactions of later Christians, or were they legitimate claims?
Jesus did claim to be God. In John 8:58 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I Am.” For Jesus to use that little phrase “I Am” is a direct reference to Exodus 3:14, where God gave Moses His identity card for Pharaoh’s consideration. To claim to be ‘I Am’ was a direct correlation to claiming to be God. And this is just one example of Jesus’ divine claims.
Was Jesus bodily raised from the dead, or was it merely the dispirited egos of the disciples that were raised from the deadness of depression after Jesus’ death? Does it matter? Yes, God raised Jesus from the dead and it does matter.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” He added in verse 19, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” So, it does matter. If Jesus did not conquer death, we remain under the curse of sin and are to be pitied for believing such a thing.
Jesus was God, said God-like things and performed many miracles. He was betrayed by Judas, abandoned by His followers, crucified by all sinners. Further, he was raised from the dead and appeared to many. He ascended to the Father where He now intercedes for sinners. Praise His name. He rules and reigns. He is RISEN!
Kevin Shrum is pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.