This link will take you to a series of videos by this respected New Testament scholar.
As this is the first Sunday in Lent, I thought I would start a series looking at different aspects of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Why did Jesus die? That depends. Do we mean from the perspective of the Jewish leaders, the Romans or God?
The Jewish leaders (and I draw a distinction between certain leaders and the Jewish people) wanted Jesus dead for a couple of reasons. One was out of jealousy for the popularity that Jesus had with the people. It was not just that the people liked him but Jesus made these leaders look foolish in front of the people. Another reason was the cleansing of the Temple. The action of Jesus in the Temple was unacceptable to the leaders and it was a direct challenge to their authority. The official charge may have been blasphemy but these others were the real reasons.
The Romans had no interest in the religious debates of the Jews. They executed Jesus (don’t call Jews “Christ killers” because it was the Romans who did the actual killing) because he was a threat to the peace of Judea. Jerusalem was filled with visitors and it would not have taken much to spark a riot. Jesus was a charismatic leader who some were calling a king. It was in their political interest to execute Jesus before things got out of hand.
The real reason that Jesus died is that this was God’s plan. Humanity was separated from God and only something radical could fix this. This was the sacrifice of God’s Son. Some would say that it was cruel for the Father to allow his Son to die. This is based on a simplistic understanding of the situation that does not take into account the Trinity or the resurrection. If God chose this as the way, our job is to respond to the gift and not to complain about the way God did it. God loved us so much that he gave his one and only Son.
I am a Christian. But I was not always a Christian. I grew up in the church but I did not have a personal faith. In my mid-teens I left the church and became an atheist. In my early twenties I became a theist. A few years later I became a Christian. Why do I believe Christianity is true? Here are seven reasons.
1. I believe there is a God. Believing in God is not about blind faith. There are good reasons for believing in God. For me it was the cosmological argument and the argument from design. There are many other arguments and together they provide strong evidence that there is a God.
2. I believe in the Bible. I am not talking about inspiration or infallibility (although I believe in those). I mean that I believe that the Bible is accurate in what it teaches. I have spent half my life studying the Bible and my respect for this book has only grown.
3. I believe Jesus rose from the dead. I have looked at the historical evidence for the resurrection. I have looked at the alternatives to the resurrection. The best explanation for the evidence is the resurrection of Jesus.
4. I have experienced a personal transformation. I was pretty messed up in my mid-teens to early twenties. This includes, but is not limited to, some pretty heavy drinking. The drinking was only a symptom of the problems inside me. Becoming a Christian transformed my life and has made me a better person.
5. I know Christianity works. This by itself is not a proof for Christianity, but it is a part of it. Christianity explains both the good and the bad in the world. It is a world view that is coherent and makes sense. Those who embrace it experience hope and joy and a purpose.
6. I have experienced dramatic answers to prayer. I have gone through some very difficult situations. I looked at the resources at hand and saw no hope. I handed those situations over to God and witnessed some miraculous events. I can’t explain why some prayers are answered and some are not. I just know that many have been answered.
7. I have experienced God’s presence. As often as God has intervened in different situations, he has also simply been there with our family. Some situations were so hard that I thought I would fall apart. But God was there and held me together. Sometimes it was the little miracles that were reminders that he was still there. Sometimes it was God using other Christians to encourage me. Sometimes it was an increase in strength that I thought was not possible. All I know is that God is with me.
This list may not be as intellectual as some would like. Some of my points may seem too subjective. I would say that I take these all together. My experiential reasons are grounded in my biblical reasons. Besides this, these are my reasons for believing in the truth or Christianity and they happen to include my experiences with God.
My reflection on 1 John 4:7-21.
In this section, John continues his argument that love is the test for true Christianity. The fact that John spends so much time on this tells us that this is close to his heart.
The reason that one who does not love does not know God is based in the nature of God as love. God is love. It is not that God is loving (although he is), but God is love. This is one of the strongest arguments for the trinity. God cannot rely on his creation for his nature. Therefore, God had to be love even before he created anything. God was love because there is eternal love between the Father, Son and Spirit.
It is important to not turn this around as love is God. God is not made up of the emotional feelings we experience. Love is a demonstration of our desire to follow God, but love is not God. God is love.
The nature of love is based not on what we do but on what God has done through Jesus Christ. It is interesting that the focus is not on the love of Jesus but on the love of the Father in sending his Son. The love that we show toward others should be a response to the love the Father has shown us. We are to love God. We cannot see God but we can see the people around us. John’s argument is that if we cannot love those we can see, we cannot love the One we cannot see.
John is a master of blending love and theology. They are not separate subjects as so many people today believe. He transitions smoothly from the test of love to the test of right theology. Christians must confess that Jesus is the Son of God. As John has argued previously, it is essential to have a proper understanding of the incarnation. Jesus as the Son of God is the Father’s gift of love to us.