It is the holiest of weeks for the Christian faith, and I have another confession to make. Though I have always kind of sort of believed in a supreme deity or a higher power of some sort, my hesitancy towards Christianity always rested on Jesus.
Do you really expect me to believe that God sent his only son to Earth to endure torture and ultimately death? What a great Dad! Somebody call DFACS. And this son had to die in order to forgive us for our sins? I am not really sure what that even means. And then the whole resurrection story. Really? He came back to life? Prove it.
I always secretly admired those whom I considered to have blind faith and who accepted what they had been told about Jesus as the truth, no questions asked. It seems easier to have blind faith, but that is not in my nature. I am analytical and must have answers. I knew that if I wanted to accept Christianity, I would have to resolve my issues with Jesus.
Everything hinged on the resurrection.
In order to declare Jesus the Son of God, I had to accept that the resurrection did, in fact, happen. Otherwise, Jesus was just a charismatic guy who happened to come along at the right moment with a message of love and hope for an oppressed people. In other words, if he did not resurrect from the dead, he was simply human. The entire Christian faith depends on the resurrection.
Here is a very brief synopsis of what I researched in order to solve my Jesus problem:
Miracles and the supernatural: Did I believe in them? Yep. For various reasons, I did.
Accuracy of the Gospels depicting the events surrounding Jesus’ life and death: After an incredibly lengthy (and somewhat boring) time researching this issue, I came to the conclusion that the Gospels are trustworthy, especially since they were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to Jesus.
Appearances of Jesus after his death: I learned that Jesus made several appearances after his death- and not just to his disciples whom I assumed might be a little biased.
Events after Jesus’ ascension into heaven: I am not sure how I missed this part of the story, but I learned that most of Jesus’ disciples were later murdered in horribly cruel ways for their beliefs. I also learned about the explosion of Christianity that occurred soon after Jesus’ death. Historians estimate there were over 30 million Christians only four hundred years after his death. Whoa!
But here’s what really made me a believer.
I imagined myself living during the time of Jesus. The Jews are an oppressed people, abused and over-taxed by the Roman rulers, as well as their own religious leaders. Along comes Jesus who speaks out against these self-righteous evil-doers and who ministers to the poor, the needy, the sick. He is said to be the King of the Jews and the Son of God. He is surrounded by 12 men who are not sure what to think of him. He gains a following and is seen as a threat by the religious leaders. One of his own betrays him, and he is taken into custody. He is given an unfair trial and condemned to death for blasphemy. He is teased, laughed at, spat on, beaten, forced to wear a crown of thorns by his captors. He is nailed to a cross and suffers a slow agonizing death.
Stop right there.
If I were witnessing Jesus’ crucification, I would have thought to myself that if Jesus were truly the Son of God then he would not die on the cross. Come on! He’s supposed to be the Son of God! Can’t he use some sort of magic to jump off that cross and say, “Gotcha!”?
I would have been terribly disappointed as his dead body was taken from the cross and buried in the tomb. “Oh well,” I would have thought. “It was nice knowing you, Jesus. Good try. I guess you were only human after all.”
That would have been the end of it. Christianity would not have existed.
Something had to have happened. Think about it. Something BIG had to have happened for Christianity to have spread so quickly and so far throughout the world. It had to have been a supernatural event in the form of a resurrection. There is no other explanation.
Something I came across in all of my research that has stayed with me is this:
Nobody dies for a lie.
Jesus would not have have gone to the cross for a lie.
His disciples were beheaded, crucified, speared, flayed, stoned, stabbed, and burned to death. For a lie? All they would have had to say was, “You’re right. Jesus is not the Son of God,” and their lives would have probably been spared.
Death is the ultimate sacrifice. The. Ultimate. Sacrifice. What would you die for? Anything? Nothing?
Jesus died to forgive us for our sins.
As I read the story, God sent his perfect son to our sinful world to show us there is a better way- to love your neighbor as yourself. And for this, Jesus was condemned to death, an innocent man.
As he was nailed to the cross, Jesus offers this: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Could there be a greater sin than to murder an innocent man? And Jesus’ response is forgiveness. The take away? There is nothing you or I can do that God will not forgive.
Throughout my life, I have had to have faith. As a child, faith that my parents would take care of me. As a parent myself, faith that my children are safe. As an adult, faith that I am living out my purpose. Now, as a Christian, faith that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead. Maybe my faith will be proven wrong? Maybe it is misplaced? But I am willing to take that chance.