Why should I believe in Jesus?
This is a fair question raised by a lot of people upon being confronted with the call to follow Jesus. How can we answer this?
Although there are surely many ways in which to answer this I will respond in the same way in which I see Jesus and his followers answering it, namely an appeal to who he is based on the miracles he did.
Jesus spoke the following words to his closest followers and to any would be converts in John 14:11:
“Believe in me when I say that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me, or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves”
So although his words may not convince them Jesus was saying that they should at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. They should prove to them that Jesus was who he claimed to be.
John then described his reason for writing his gospel a little later in John 20:30-31, saying:
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The bible does acknowledge that it is harder to believe second hand as is the case with Jesus’ miracles for us alive today:
“…Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29)
This being true then it is fair for the sceptic to ask.
– How do I know Jesus really did these things?
– How reliable are the eyewitnesses?
– How do we know the miracles of Jesus recorded in the four gospels really happened?
I will now state 3 reasons why we can trust that the miracles accredited to Jesus really happened or at least that the evidence points clearly in that direction.
By the way if you’re on the fence but you subsequently conclude that the evidence is strong enough, the expectation is that you will respond to Jesus’ claims of his divinity and become his follower.
Now for the evidence….
1) Jesus did his miracles publicly
Miracles were often done in public places with many hundreds or even thousands in attendance e.g. loaves and fishes. We therefore altogether (considering all the miracles) have tens of thousand of eyewitnesses.
Where are the historical records of Jesus’ contemporaries who claim the miracles were a hoax?
Answer is that there are none, no single record exists which claims that Jesus’ miracles were a hoax. In fact as we shall see Roman and Jewish contemporary records report Jesus did miracles without refuting them. Jesus’ miracles were common knowledge in Palestine and the gospels reveal they were a big factor in him being put to death.
The apostles openly proclaimed that Jesus worked miracles during the lifetime of those who could have refuted the claims, yet we have no such claims.
2) Non-Christian (hostile witness) Evidence
Historical records exist which prove that Jesus’ enemies were aware of his miracles.
Josephus (Born around AD37)
Josephus was a pharisee who wrote about Jesus, confirmed that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate and that he was a “doer of wonderful works” in his antiquities (AD93/94).
Being alive around or just after the time of Jesus he would undoubtedly have known many who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ miracles.
Talmud (Rabbinical Teachings)
Written in the 1st & 2nd century they again describe that Jesus was crucified and that he “practiced sorcery”.
They didn’t refute the well established fact that Jesus worked many wonders but accused him of doing it by the power of the devil.
This was exactly the same claim made by the Pharisees in Matthew 12:22-24 when Jesus healed a man of demon possession.
The Jews therefore admitted that Jesus worked miracles, validating his claims. But claimed he did it by the power of demons.
Celsus (2nd century philosopher)
Celsus was critical of the Christians and hence certainly no fan of Jesus, but like many others didn’t deny that Jesus worked miracles but claimed that he did it through sorcery.
Despite a difference of opinion in terms of their origins this evidence from Jesus’ enemies surely points to the fact this was a doer of miraculous deeds.
3) Reliable Witnesses (Gospel Writers)
How can we trust that what we read is actually what happened?
This question will rest entirely upon the character and credibility of the gospel writers.
The gospel accounts are similar but not the same. If falsified from one account copied earlier then you would expect them to be identical.
If separate records of a number of liars then would expect them to differ on very important specific details.
That the gospels are very similar but with differences supports the idea that they are indeed genuine accounts.
Further proof of how genuine the accounts are is the number of mistakes and sins committed by the apostles which are well documented throughout the gospel records.
External evidence also testifies to the character of the witnesses.
History and church tradition supports that 11 of the 12 apostles (apart from John) were martyred.
Tradition states that they even tried to kill John but that they failed. None of the apostles recanted from their testimony about Jesus, even at the point of death.
Here is the obvious question that one must ask after hearing this.
Is it possible that every one of the apostles along with dozens of other eyewitnesses would willingly die for a lie?
The answer is a resounding no and it would in fact defy everything we know about human nature if they did.
There are many other stories of Christians who did recant at the point of the sword.
If they were aware that the whole thing was premised on a pack of lies, it is absolutely inconceivable that not a single one would recant.
Coming next…. short video on this article equipping us to be prepared to answer.
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Thanks for reading.