|Vol. 15 No. 1 January 2013||
Wade L. Webster
Haddon Robinson made the following argument for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus:
Men have preached a lie, knowing it’s a lie if, in preaching it, they have put gold in their pockets. Men have preached a lie, knowing it’s a lie if, when preaching it, they have achieved power and authority. But men do not preach a lie, knowing it’s a lie if, every time they preach it, they are courting imprisonment, persecution, poverty, and death. Men do not preach a lie, knowing it’s a lie if, every time they preach it, they are pounding nails in their caskets. Men do not preach a lie, knowing it’s a lie, if it means that they will be crucified upside down as was Peter, or that they will be beheaded as was Paul, or that they will be stoned to death as was Stephen. It is contrary to all human experience for men to go out and spend their lives preaching a lie, knowing it’s a lie, if every time they preach it, they are ostracized from the community, hounded by the authorities, and turned into the laughingstock of society. And yet that is precisely the penalty the early Christians paid for preaching the resurrection.
Luke records that with “great power” the apostles gave “witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). The willingness of these men to suffer for this doctrine should give us great confidence that the tomb was found empty and that Jesus is reigning at the right hand of God today.
An unwed mother in a conservative town. A fiancé who is not the father. Whispers. Handwringing. Innuendo. Scandal. Red faces among the bluebloods.
Just who is the father? Forty weeks of rumors; nine long months and finally a baby boy is born. But the usual congratulations are muted, reserved, cut short. A mother’s joy is mixed with pain. It didn’t end there. The rumors persisted into adult years. Since illegitimate children in those days were identified by town instead of by father, He was called “Jesus of Nazareth” most of the time instead of “Jesus ben Joseph.”
Who is the father? Where paternity of a child is in question, a court determines paternity based initially upon sworn statements and then upon testimony or other evidence. In the Bethlehem Case, the Father finally came forward. A definitive answer was reached in a bizarre case. Joseph and Mary had been telling the truth after all. A virgin had conceived (Isaiah 7:14).
“I am the Father.” A voice from heaven claimed the Son. The eternal God shook the earth around the Jordan River with a declarative pronouncement of paternity (Matthew 3:17). He later interrupted Peter’s speech with the same acknowledgement (Matthew 17:5). On both occasions, Jehovah said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” So at a crowded river one day and on an isolated mountain one night, God twice signed the birth certificate.
These are words of affirmation: “This is my beloved Son.” On the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17), the statement highlights the contrast between Moses and Elijah and Jesus. The first two were God’s servants; Jesus is God’s Son. In calling Jesus His Son, the Father declared Him to be of identical nature and essence with Himself (cf. John 5:17-20; 8:19, 42; 10:30, 36-38). In calling Him “beloved,” He showed that it was not just a biological connection, but a relationship bond.
The two common descriptions used of Jesus emphasize His dual nature: “Son of man” emphasizes His humanity (cf. Luke 19:10); “Son of God” emphasizes His deity (John 20:30-31). Jesus possessed the nature of God – He was part of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9). The Bible often refers to Jesus as “God” (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:8). That does not mean that Jesus is God the Father, but that He possesses the same divine nature as His Father.
What is the significance of the timing of the pronouncement? The Father did not claim paternity at the Bethlehem manger, as might be expected (Luke 2:1-7). He did not claim His Son at His bar mitzvah in His twelfth year (Luke 2:42-52). He acknowledged him instead at the beginning of His personal ministry, which started in earnest at His baptism. His second pronouncement came on the same field trip on which Peter had voiced his (and likely all the disciples’) conclusion that, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). This was only about six months before the crucifixion, and coincided with the final specialized training that Jesus gave His disciples in preparation for His departure. The Jews needed to know that Jesus was God’s Son when they were in His presence; the disciples needed confirmation before they were launched into the world to affirm it in His absence.
What other evidence is there in favor of divine paternity? The testimony of prophecy. The prophets repeatedly predicted that God would come to earth – even giving precise details as to the form and circumstances of His visit (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 40:3; 44:6; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 13:7). Some statements must have been puzzling to both the prophets who wrote them and the scribes who copied them through the years. Though this child was to be born in Bethlehem, for instance, His goings forth were “from old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). He was Jehovah’s “fellow” (Zechariah 13:7), the God for whom John the Baptizer would prepare the way (Isaiah 40:3). He was God who was “with God” in the beginning (John 1:1), thus, eternally existing before Abraham was born (John 8:58) (Wayne Jackson, Christiancourier.com).
One of the most prominent Old Testament prophecies, and one that ties directly to God’s announcement, is Psalm 2:7. “My Son” echoes the messianic promise of the second psalm: “The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” This is one of the most oft quoted Old Testament prophecies of Jesus (Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5; cf. John 1:14, 18; 3:16). Another that ties in closely is “mine elect” upon whom God promised to put His Spirit (Isaiah 42:1).
God gave the ultimate indisputable proof of paternity and fulfillment of David’s prophecy, not as Jesus came from the womb, but when He came from the tomb. “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33; cf. 28-32). Christ was “begotten” from the virgin womb to a humble life of service, and from the virgin tomb to a glorious life of resurrected power.
The testimony of others who knew Him. The Father’s voice on the Mount of Transfiguration was addressed not to Jesus – though He heard it and was comforted by it – but to the three disciples outside the cloud. The purpose was to confirm the disciples’ faith; to make known to them that it was their duty to follow Christ rather than any other, and to honor Him more than Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the prophets). It helped strengthen their faith in Him, so that when they went out to preach the gospel after He was shamefully put to death, they would not waver under intense scrutiny and persecution. After hearing God’s voice and seeing Christ’s glory, it was impossible for them to doubt that He was truly the Son of God (2 Peter 1:17-18).
[Editor’s Note: As noted in a previous article appearing in the pages of Gospel Gazette Online, the paternity of Jesus Christ was not in doubt, though mistakenly ascribed to Joseph. “Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli” (Luke 3:23 NKJV). In addition, remember “Joseph of Arimathaea” (Mark 15:43; John 19:38)? Evidently, at least under some circumstances, the association of a person with a locality simply distinguished people by the same name from different places. Yet, the article above provides sufficient verification of the Son of God for those who may have used our biblical knowledge respecting the real facts of the matter as an overlay on the neighborhood of the youthful Jesus – the Christ. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]