by Mark Harris
One of the foundational principles at 4Tucson is that we are unapologetically a Christian organization. We are Jesus centered.
A common question I receive from people who may not be familiar with 4Tucson is, “What does it mean to be Jesus centered?”
The answer to that question actually starts with a different question. “Who is Jesus?” The common responses I receive are:
"Jesus was a good man. I admire Him a lot, but I don’t believe Jesus was God.”
"Jesus was a great teacher whose teachings changed the world. But I have a hard time believing Jesus rose from the dead."
"I don’t know if Jesus did the miracles the Bible says he did.”
"The real Jesus was nothing like the Jesus described in the Bible. Over time the church changed the Bible."
"There is no evidence that Jesus ever existed. Jesus is a myth like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny."
These responses are made by those who have reasonable questions about Christianity. Their questions deserve to be taken seriously and we owe it to these people to help them explore what they really don’t know. The Bible says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
Let’s examine the facts by taking each statement one by one.
1) "Jesus was a good man. I admire Him a lot, but I don’t believe Jesus was God.”
One example where Jesus claimed to be God is in John 10:30-33: “I and the Father are one." Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
"We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
Jesus clearly claimed to be God. The Jews clearly understood what he was saying and wanted to stone him for claiming to be God. So you have to accept that Jesus was who he said he was or reject Him as a liar. If Jesus was a liar, then he was not a good man. If Jesus wasn’t lying, then he really is God just as He claimed.
2) "Jesus was a great teacher whose teachings changed the world. But I have a hard
time believing Jesus rose from the dead."
The resurrection of Jesus is unique. No other religion in the world claims anything similar to it. The resurrection of Jesus has more historical evidence confirming it than any other miracle in history. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people who were eye witnesses. Jesus talked and ate with them. They not only saw Jesus: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” Acts 4:33 (NIV)
3) "I don’t know if Jesus did the miracles the Bible says he did."
It is significant that Jesus' enemies never denied that He performed miracles. Rather, they claimed that He did His miracles through evil means. If Jesus' contemporaries affirmed that Jesus was a miracle worker, then the evidence for His miracles must have been overwhelming! Jesus said, “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." John 10:37-38 (NIV)
4) "The real Jesus was nothing like the Jesus described in the Bible. Over time the
church changed the Bible."
This question cannot stand up to the overwhelming historical evidence. Many of the Bible manuscripts that exist today were written before the first church council in A.D. 325. There are more than 14,000 Old Testament manuscripts, some date back as far as 400 B.C., and there are over 5,300 manuscripts of the New Testament, with nearly 800 of them written before 1000 A.D. There are no variations or alterations between manuscripts. It might be possible to manipulate them over time if there were only a few manuscripts, but it would be nearly impossible to go all over the world, find all the known manuscripts and change them. Through archeology, we continue to discover additional Biblical manuscripts. The newly-discovered manuscripts are the same as the ones from the first century. The evidence is overwhelming that the Bible taught today is historically accurate and the information we have about Jesus is also accurate.
5) "There is no evidence that Jesus ever existed. Jesus is a myth like Santa Claus and
the Easter Bunny."
It is popular to say that the only ancient references referring to Jesus are found in the Bible. The truth is that many ancient historians refer to Jesus. For example, the Roman historian Tacitus referred to Jesus at least three times in his writings. Suetonius, who was on the staff of Emperor Hadrian in the early second century, wrote about Jesus. The Jewish historian, Josephus, as well as the Jewish Talmud, mentioned Jesus.
Believe Jesus or not: the evidence is overwhelming. As Christians at 4Tucson, we have rationally explored the facts and determined that Jesus is the real deal! Because of the facts, we have chosen to follow the teachings of Jesus. 4Tucson is made up of Christians who have made Jesus the center of our lives and the center of our organization.