The Apostle Paul, who made an appeal to Caesar, was being passed from Festus to Agrippa. Apparently passing the buck has been around in politics since the first century. When Festus attempts to bring Agrippa up-to-speed on the Paul case, he gives an interesting description of the facts: Therefore, when they had assembled here, I did not delay. The next day I sat at the judge’s bench and ordered the man [Paul] to be brought in. 18 Concerning him, the accusers stood up and brought no charge of the sort I was expecting. 19 Instead they had some disagreements with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, a dead man whom Paul claimed to be alive. 20 Since I was at a loss in a dispute over such things, I asked him if he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there concerning these matters. (Acts 25:17-20, HCSB)
I thought we were going to be disputing political factions, but it was just a religious squabble about some dead guy named Jesus that Paul said was still alive. The question, of course: Who is the guy Jesus? Is Jesus God? Festus had no way (or desire) to investigate.
It reminds me of an important question. If we (or a friend) wonder whether or not Jesus is God, like Festus, how can we investigate such matters? That’s even more difficult for us as we’re removed two centuries and half a world away. But there’s still solid evidence. Let me suggest the clues pointing to Jesus’ divinity. As you read them, think of concentric circles of a target…the further down the list you go, the closer to the center you get.
- Jesus’ Sinlessness – the writers of the NT obviously believe that Jesus was sinless (Heb. 4:15) and Jesus asserts it of himself (John 8:46) – but there is a lack of objective, historical proof.
- Jesus’ Teaching – Even though his teaching amazed his listeners because of his authority, it still brought mixed reactions and even calls of blasphemy and demon possession.
- Jesus’ Death – the manner of Jesus’ death is an important point made in the Gospels. At least two show a centurion whose mind was changed by the way Jesus died. Jesus himself spoke of the manner of death in John when he spoke of being “lifted up” and drawing men unto himself. Luke describes the sun going dark and Matthew the veil being torn, earthquakes, and the raising of the dead.
- Jesus’ Claim – John RW Stott suggests Jesus claimed deity by his 1) self-centered teaching; 2) his signs performed: 3) performing functions belonging to God alone (eg forgiveness); and 4) direct claims (eg “I am” sayings)
- Jesus’ Fulfillment There are massive numbers of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus from the OT show his divinity…over 300, I think. The odds against this are quite low.
- Jesus’ Resurrection – All four Gospels and Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-7) bear witness to the historical nature of the resurrection…in fact, Paul the theologian par excellence of the early church seems to hold this as the lynch-pin of Jesus’ divinity. So important is this fact that even Festus picked up on it.
So, as C.S. Lewis claims, Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Paul, and all the other Apostles, faced terrible persecution and deaths because they held on to the latter until the end. You and I can be equally committed to that truth…Jesus is Lord!