BreakPoint: Was Jesus just a good teacher? Identifiers, foreshadowing and miracles tell of Jesus as Savior

Jesus of Nazareth is one of those rare historical figures who nearly everyone wants to claim. You might say that just as God made us in his image, people return the favor and remake Jesus in our image. In fact, in the 19th and 20th centuries, it became academically popular to claim to know what Jesus taught while assuming the Gospel accounts, especially the miraculous parts, were not true. An assumption that was simply taken for granted is that Jesus never claimed to be God.

Though the scholarly world has largely progressed past these scholars and their "scholarship," Jesus is still reimagined by many as something other than Christ. He's embraced as a political avatar or lifestyle coach, or in a role for which he was ill-suited, that of merely a "good teacher." Christians know there's more to the Jesus story. But how should we respond to false claims about him, especially those based on little knowledge of what the Gospels actually say?

A recent video in the Colson Center's "What Would You Say?" series tackled this question and offered three points to keep in mind. First, the Scriptures clearly tell us who Jesus was and what he claimed to be.

People who reject that Jesus was God have to reject some of the things that the Gospel writers claim about Jesus while accepting others. But how do we know which parts we can trust and which parts we should reject? Often, skeptics end up keeping those parts of the Gospels that describe the kind of Jesus they want to accept and end up with a Jesus they've pieced together. In other words, skeptics can be guilty of what they are assuming about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Not only is that inconsistent, but it ignores the fact that the Gospel writers have provided a reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only are the books full of eyewitness accounts of his life and ministry, the authors had strong incentive to rightly preserve and pass on the details they contain. ... At the very least, to dismiss the Gospels up front, and assume that they could not possibly be reliable accounts, means we are left with no real sources about his life to conclude he was even a good teacher.

Second, the coming and work of the Messiah were long foretold, with prophetic details that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus.

In 700 B.C., the prophet Micah predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. The prophet Zechariah announced that the coming Savior would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Some Psalms point to a crucifixion-like death, centuries before this became a common means of execution under the Romans.

Some skeptics claim that these prophecies were read back into the Old Testament by those in power in the early Church. However, there are far too many details mentioned to be mere coincidence. The odds of one man's life matching so many of these predicted details would be astronomical. In fact, according to professor Peter Stoner, "The probability that Jesus of Nazareth could have fulfilled even eight such prophecies would be only 1 in 10x17th power. That's 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000."

Finally, the Gospels record the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' ministry. One of the ways they confirm his identity as the Messiah is recording the miracles Jesus performed.

In addition to the miraculous prophetic detail, Jesus performed miracles during his earthly ministry that were attested to by eyewitnesses and recorded in the Scripture and history. Even his enemies who denied that he was the Messiah never disputed that Jesus of Nazareth performed miracles and wonders. In fact, after the crucifixion and resurrection, Peter, in the Pentecost sermon to the crowd in Jerusalem, reminded his audience that Jesus had fed 5,000 people, had restored sight to the blind and had raised the dead to life. Peter claimed that all these miracles were done by Jesus, "in your midst." (Acts 2:22)

Jesus wasn't just a nice guy who told stories and wanted others to be nice. He didn't come to simply "show us the way." He claimed to be the Way, the only way to God.

From Breakpoint, Oct. 19, 2023; reprinted by permission of the Colson Center, breakpoint.org.

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