Jesus Christ:  Son of God - Born to die
Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz

B. Childress
Jun 23 2011

Let's say you wander into the local Religion MegaMart.  Your objective: to pick up a handy, genuine, high-quality
religion.  (Religion, after all, is a way to think about God - or better yet a way to have a relationship with Him.)
What would you be shopping for at the Religion MegaMart?

  •   Convenience?

  •   Politically correct moral teachings?

  •   Openness to other beliefs?

  •   Uplifting ceremonies?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you would probably walk right past the Christianity aisle.

You see, Christianity sets itself apart from other religions, not only because of its message, but because of its
Messenger - Jesus Christ.  In fact, the founder of Christianity made it clear that you can't call yourself a Christian if you
like the teaching of this religion (even follow them daily)
but reject the Teacher as God.

Because this guide is about God, and because Jesus is God, we take Jesus' claims seriously.

1.  Jesus Claimed to Be God in Human Form.  If He was a fraud, all the wonderful teaching in the New Testament is
fraudulent, too.

2.  Jesus Claimed to Rise from the Dead, and Claims to Be Alive Still.  His disciples made the same radical claim
about Him.  If He and His disciples lied, the Christian faith is a lie, too.

3.  Jesus Invites His Followers into an Experience That Is beyond Worship, One That Includes Daily
Friendship As Well
.  No other religion proposes this sort of amazing familiarity with the founder.  (Which is a good
thing, because their founders are six feet underground wearing pine-board pajamas.)

These three distinctives about Jesus Christ set Christianity apart from all other religions on the Religion MegaMart
shelves.  Contrary to what you might suspect, thinking through these distinctives doesn't require you to throw away your
brain.  We'll show enough evidence that an intellectually honest person can make an informed decision about Jesus

You might be encouraged to know that questions surrounding Christ's identity were swirling hundreds of years
He was born
.  Welcome to...

The Messiah Sweepstakes

All throughout the Old Testament, God promised the Jews that He would send a king who would establish God's
kingdom on earth.  This "deliverer" was referred to as the Messiah.  He would be God coming down to earth.

Predictions in the Old Testament about this Messiah were many and specific.  These predictions are referred to as
"prophecies" because "prophets" were the ones who announced them.  All gave clues as to how the Messiah could be
identified: where and when He would be born, His family tree, when and how He would die, and more.

You might think having so many prophecies posted would make it easier for someone to figure out how to be a
candidate in the Messiah sweepstakes.  But the opposite is true:

  •   The Messiah had to be born in the little town of Bethlehem.

  •   The Messiah would be a direct descendant of the famous King David.

  •   The Messiah would be born of a virgin.

  •   The Messiah would say certain words while dying.

  •   The Messiah would come back from the dead.

You can see that with each new prophesy, the pool of potential candidates grew smaller.

Over the years, Israel saw many Messiah impostors.  Like Elvis impersonators, the counterfeits were pretty easy to
spot.  After all, in these sweepstakes it took only one unfulfilled prophecy to show up a poser.

Scholars find more than 40 prophecies in the Bible concerning the Messiah, made over a period of time spanning
hundreds of years.  Here is a partial list:

CLUE ABOUT THE MESSIAH                                          SATISFIED BY CHRIST

Would come from Israel - Numbers 24:17                                        Matthew 1:1-17

From the tribe of Judah - Genesis 49:10                                         Luke 1:31-33
and family of David - Isaiah 11:1

Born in Bethlehem - Micah 5:2                                                        Luke 2:4, 6-7

Born of a virgin - Isaiah 7:14                                                           Matthew 1:18, 22-23

Childhood in Egypt - Isaiah 9:6                                                       Hosea 11:1

Announced by a forerunner - Isaiah 40:3                                       Matthew 3:3  
Ride into Jerusalem on a donkey - Zechariah 9:9                           Matthew 21:2, 4-5

Suffer for sins of others - Isaiah 53:4-6                                           II Corinthians 5:21

Given vinegar on the cross - Psalm 69:21                                      Matthew 27:34

No broken bones on the cross - Psalm 34:20                                 John 19:33,36

Men gamble for his clothes - Psalm 22:18                                      Matthew 27:35

Specific dying words - Psalm 22:1                                                  Mark 15:34

Come back to life after dying - Psalm 16:9-10                                Acts 2:31

The man, Jesus Christ, said that He was the long-awaited Messiah.  He fulfilled each prediction made about
the Messiah, and lived a life to prove He was, in fact, who He claimed to be.

The All-God, All-Man Mystery

The Bible tells us that Jesus was deity (God) and humanity (man) both at the same time.  His deity wasn't limited by His
humanity, and His humanity wasn't overshadowed by His deity (with the exception that He was sinless).

If we're not careful, our thinking can slide into misperceptions about this God-Man union:

  •   Jesus Christ was not simply God wearing a human disguise - like Superman putting on his "Clark Kent" glasses
    - so no one would recognize Him.

  •   At the same time, Jesus Christ was not just a human being who occasionally got a dose of supernatural powers
    - like Popeye after eating his spinach - so He could get people's attention.

  •   Finally, Jesus was not all one nature with a few characteristics of the other.  He had two complete natures at the
    same time: Fully God and perfect Man at the same time in one person.  He was "God-Man."

The apostle Paul tried to put into words this amazing God-Man phenomenon.  In just one paragraph of his letter to
Christians at Colossae, he used phrases like these to describe Christ:

    He is the image of the invisible God, and in him all things hold together, and God was pleased to have all his
    fullness dwell in him (Colossians 1:15, 17, 19).

Reasons to Believe Jesus Was All-God

Jesus is a member of the Trinity.  The accounts of Jesus' life in the four Gospels give ample proof that Jesus was
divine.  Some examples:

  •   Jesus said that He was God (John 10:30) and called God His Father (John 5:18).

  •   Jesus' many miracles could only be done by God.  He made a blind man see (Mark 8:22-26), a lame man walk
    (John 5:1-9), healed the sick (Luke 7:1-10), and brought dead people back to life (Matthew 9:18-26).  He fed
    thousands with only a boy's lunch (Matthew 14:14-21), and calmed a storm at sea with one command (Matthew 8:

  •   Jesus forgave sins (Mark 2:5) and said He was "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:

    For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2:9).

What is the Gospel?

The word gospel means "good news of salvation."  "The Gospels" refers to the first four books of the New Testament:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  These Gospels are eyewitness accounts which tell the story of the good news of
Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

Reasons to Believe Jesus Was All-Man

On the human side of the question, Jesus referred to Himself as "the Son of Man" (Luke 19:10).  Jesus used this
name because He saw Himself as the human representative for the entire human race

Jesus also referred to himself as the son of David because He was born in the family line of Israel's famous king.

And consider these genuine Homo sapiens' qualities that Jesus demonstrated in His lifetime:

  •   He got hungry and thirsty.

  •   He got tired and He cried.

  •   He expressed anger, passion, and compassion.

  •   He experienced pain.

  •   He was tempted.

It's comforting to remember that whatever needs or desires we experience were also felt by this heaven-sent Messiah.  
Without His divine nature, Jesus could never have won salvation for us.  On the other hand, without His human nature,
we would have a hard time relating to Him.

    For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has
    been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

The early believers who were willing to die for Jesus weren't responding to some kind of divine robot that had performed
perfectly.  They had witnessed first-hand this God-Man being.  He had a name, a face, a human touch.  He was Jesus,
the Christ - and He had changed their lives.

The Choice of Love over Power

Philippians 2:6-7 says that Jesus Christ, "being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something
to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant."  Some Bible versions translate the
phrase "made himself nothing" to read "emptied himself."

The verse doesn't mean that Christ gave up His godly attributes.  He simply took on human attributes as well.  In His
earthly body, He voluntarily chose not to use all His godly powers.  When He was hungry, He didn't turn the stones into
bread.  But He could have.  When He was being nailed to the cross, He didn't call down angels to rescue Him.  But He
could have.  Choosing not to use an ability is different from not having it.

The World's Most Amazing Life Story

Christ - because He is God - had an existence long before He was born.  The Bible says that Christ was an active
participant in Creation (John 1:3) and in the affairs of the people of Israel (I Corinthians 10:4).

The events in the earthly life of the God-Man were pretty spectacular, as you would expect.  Here's a nine-point
biography of the highlights:

1.  Jesus Was Born of a Virgin.  You could call this fact "inconceivable," but the Bible tells us that Mary was a virgin
when she became pregnant with Jesus.  In a nonsexual way, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Thus, Christ had
parentage which was both human and divine (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2).

The theological word for this event is
incarnation, meaning God took on a human form.

2.  Jesus Lived a Human but Perfect Life.  Jesus never committed a sin.  He never had to say He was sorry.  He
never had to ask God or anyone else for forgiveness.  Paul said it simply: "He knew no sin" (II Corinthians 5:21).

But just because He didn't sin doesn't mean that He wasn't tempted.  His God nature didn't make Him numb to
temptation, but able to withstand the temptations.  When Satan confronted Christ with some specially designed
temptations, he did not give in (Matthew 4:1-11).

And just because Jesus didn't sin doesn't mean He didn't experience and express emotions.  For example, when He saw
dishonest money changers doing business in the temple, He was outraged (John 1:13-16).  He made a whip out of
cords, overturned the tables, dumped all the money on the floor, and drove out the rascals.  And it's probably safe to
conclude that Jesus wasn't smiling the whole time.  Yet He didn't sin.

We also read that Jesus wept when He saw someone he loved grieving over the loss of a brother (John 11:35), and
wept again over stubbornness of His beloved city, Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37).

Toward the end of His time on earth, Jesus had to face the inevitable: His death on the cross.  Since He was God and
knew that He would conquer death, you would think that Jesus wouldn't mind going through the process which would
ultimately lead to our salvation.  But before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus prayed in great anguish, asking His Father to
stop what was about to happen (Luke 22:39-46).  Yet He ended His prayer with, "Not my will, but yours be done."

3.  Jesus Performed Miracles. The Bible reports about 35 miracles performed by Jesus during the three-year period
before His crucifixion. The miracles were supernatural acts because  the results were either superhuman or beyond the
laws of nature.

    This [turning water into wine], the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee.  He thus
    revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him (John 2:11).

His miracles proved that Jesus had:

Power over Nature.

  •   He calmed a violent storm (Matthew 8:23-27).

  •   He "multiplied" three loaves of bread and two fish to feed several thousand people, and there was food left over
    (Matthew 14:14-21).

Power over Satan and Demons.

  •   He sent some demons into a herd of pigs (Mark 5:1-20).

  •   He freed a girl from demonic possession (Matthew 15:21-28).

Power over Sickness.

  •   He cured a man's leprosy (Luke 5:12-15).

  •   He healed a paralytic (Mark 2:1-12).

Power over Death.

  •   He brought a dead girl back to life (Matthew 9:18-26).

  •   He raised Lazarus from the dead  (John 11:1-45).

4.  Jesus Was a Teacher with a Radical Message.  The hallmark of Christ's ministry was what He taught.    His
teaching was honest, fresh, and direct.  He seemed to always be teaching, whether in crowds, around the dinner table,
or one-on-one.  People everywhere addressed Him as "Master" or "Rabbi."

And Jesus was never boring.  Mark reports that many "were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one
who had authority" (Mark 1:22).  Let's watch the Master Teacher at work:

  •    He frequently spoke in parables - using a common object or experience from daily life to illustrate a spiritual
    truth.  For example, He used the story of a farmer planting seeds in four types of soil - roadside, rocky, weed-
    infested, and fertile - to illustrate how different people respond to God's message of new life (Matthew 13:3-23).

  •    Sometimes He would use an epigram - a short, wise statement, sometimes built around a paradox.    Consider
    this unforgettable one: "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it"
    (Matthew 10:39).

  •    He also effectively used questions.  His rhetorical questions were usually mind-benders.  For example, "What
    good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for
    his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).  His direct personal questions were penetrating: "Who do people say I am?...Who do
    you say I am?" (Mark 8:27,29).

  •    Jesus loved to use object lessons, illustrating His point with some nearby item or circumstance.  When He
    noticed a widow contributing to the temple treasury, He took the opportunity to teach His disciples a lesson about
    sacrificial giving (Luke 21:1-4).

5.  Jesus Died by Crucifixion.  After three years of public ministry as a teacher, healer, and friend, Jesus went to
Jerusalem for the last time.  Here the real reason for His life became apparent.

In the week leading up to Jesus' death (called "Passion Week"), a huge following started to acknowledge Jesus as the
Messiah.  When He rode into Jerusalem on a colt (on what is called "Palm Sunday"), throngs greeted Him, calling Him
"the King of the Jews."

Recognizing Christ's popularity, religious leaders plotted to put Him to death.  After all, Jesus threatened their system of
rules and regulations.  Jesus taught that what was in the heart mattered most, and that a person's relationship with God
was more important than any religious ritual.  If the people believed this, then the job security of the religious
establishment was in trouble.

First, His enemies arrested Jesus with the help of one of His own disciples, Judas Iscariot, who had turned Him in for a
bounty.  Then they conspired with the Roman governor, Pilate, and ran Jesus through a series of Kangaroo courts.  
They fabricated evidence and violated procedural laws for fair trials.

With trumped-up charges, they succeeded in obtaining a death sentence: crucifixion.  This kind of execution (being
nailed to a large cross) was a common punishment for criminals in Roman times.

What happened next was anything but common...

At the moment of Christ's death, an earthquake rumbled through Jerusalem, the sky went dark, and an unseen force
ripped the huge curtain in the temple from top to bottom.

With permission from Pilate, two disciples took Jesus' dead body down from the cross and prepared it lovingly for burial.  
Then they placed it in a new tomb.

6.  Jesus Came Back to Life from the Dead.  Three days after the crucifixion, just as He had predicted, Jesus came
back to life.  In Bible terminology, He "rose from the dead."  In theological terms, this was the resurrection.

An angel greeted some women who had come to mourn at the tomb that morning.  The stone covering Jesus' grave had
been miraculously rolled away.  "He is not here; he is risen" the angel said - and it was true.  The tomb was empty.

Did Jesus rise from the dead in spirit only?  Gripping accounts in Luke 24 and John 20 show that Christ came back to
life in bodily form.  It wasn't just a resurrection of His "spirit" or His "essence."  When Jesus appeared to the disciples
later, His body had all its familiar features, including the marks from the crucifixion (John 20:19-30).  He could walk, talk,
and eat (Luke 24:13-45).

Yet in some respects, His resurrected body seemed to be the "new and improved" model.  He could walk through walls
(Luke 24:36).  And some of his followers didn't recognize Him at first.

7.  Jesus Ascended into Heaven.  Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus went to a hillside with a group of
followers.  After some parting encouragements, He started ascending up into the sky until He was out of sight.  This is
referred to as Christ's "ascension."  Even though the disciples seemed surprised at Jesus' disappearance, He was
carrying out exactly what He had told them earlier would happen (Acts 1:1-11).

Besides the obvious miracle of Christ floating up into the sky, the ascension is significant for two reasons:

  •    It marks the end of Christ's earthly ministry.

  •    It marks the beginning of Christianity.

The Gospel writer Mark explains Jesus' new role this way:

    After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.  
    Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by
    the signs that accompanied it (Mark 16:19-20).

The disciple Peter writes,

    Jesus Christ...has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand - with angels, authorities and powers in
    submission to him (I Peter 3:21-22).  

8.  Jesus Serves Us Now As Our Advocate.   According to the Bible, Christ's ministry continues today.  Not only is
Christ alive in heaven, but He is active on our behalf.  In the 2000 years since He left our planet, Jesus has been:

  •    busy preparing an eternal home in heaven for believers (John 14:2);

  •    acting as our advocate and high priest (Hebrews 4:15,16).

9.  Jesus Has Promised to Return to Earth.  Someday - and many Bible scholars believe it will be soon - Christ will
return to earth.  This time, He won't appear as a cooing baby but as a triumphant king.  Angels who appeared
immediately after Christ's ascension said it this way:

    Men of Galilee...why do you stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus, who has been taken from you
    into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).

So there's a clue: He will be coming back in the sky.  His purpose, say New Testament writers, will be to bring all His
followers, living and deceased, to live with God and to reign with Him for eternity.

    For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with
    the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be
    caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever (I
    Thessalonians 4:16--17).

The life of Christ on earth - when He touched the hurting human race with His own human hands - is only part of the
most amazing life story of all.

Our Five Favorite Reasons God Sent Christ to Earth

God probably could have come up with another plan for bridging the sin gap with humans.  But we can think of at least
five special reasons that makes the gift of Jesus a divine idea:

1.   Jesus allows us to "see" God (John 1:18).

2.   Jesus provides us with an example for living the way God wants us to (I Peter 2:21).

3.   Jesus made a personal sacrifice for our personal sin problem (Hebrews 10:10).

4.   Jesus conquered death and Satan on our behalf (I John 3:8).

5.   Jesus now lives as our heavenly High Priest who understands and sympathizes with our humanness (Hebrews 5:2).

Our response to these five incredible gifts from the life of Jesus is thankfulness, worship - and giving our lives back to

Moving On...

Using the language of a shepherd, Jesus told a man of His day,

    Today salvation has come to this house...for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:9-

Jesus came to rescue us because we were wandering like lost sheep.  He even described Himself as "the good
shepherd" who lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:14-15).  Our human sin had separated us from a holy God.  
We were lost.  But Jesus, the God-Man, came to earth to pay the price for sin and bring us back into God's fold.

The apostle Paul called himself "the chief of sinners."  Maybe that's because before he decided Jesus was Lord, he
belonged to the religious elite who executed Jesus.  Paul knew what it felt like to be lost - even with good behavior, good
religion, and good intentions.  And Paul never stopped being amazed at God's saving love.

Here's how Paul summarized the meaning of Jesus' life:

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).


GUIDE TO GOD, by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, Copyright 1997, HARVEST HOUSE PUBLISHERS.