3 sources to fact-check Jesus


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Pastor Jeff Struecker

You live in an unprecedented time. Wherever you’re at, anywhere in the world, this is a period in human history like nothing before. You’re living right now in the golden age of information. You have access to more information today than all other societies in human history, the entirety of human history, put together. You have more access to information than all of them collectively. 

And the information that you have available to you, it’s instant. Put something in a search engine, click search, and you have millions of responses. It’s constant. It’s right here. It’s in your phone. It’s with you every second of the day. Not only is it instant and it’s constant, but it’s also persistent. You’re bombarded by facts every day, all day long. You’re swimming in an ocean of facts, like I am, that’s instant and constant and persistent. But, it’s not always accurate. 

In fact, sometimes what we hear is just plain wrong. And the more information that we’re bombarded with, the harder it is to determine if what I hear is true or not.

I’ll give you an example of this. I told my wife this story. A couple of years ago, I got contacted by a private investigator. They contacted me about a Facebook page, and they said, “Hey, are you the real Jeff Struecker? -because there’s a page on Facebook about you. It’s got your picture, it’s got your name, and it’s got your profile information. In fact, it has a lot of details about you. This picture and page on Facebook is based out of the country of Brazil. Is this picture and is this page you?” 

Of course I had to say to the private investigator, “That’s not me.” But let me tell you what prompted this private investigator to call. Whoever created this fake profile about me started to have a romantic relationship online with a couple of women.

Now listen to this, y’all. It got so deep and it got so intense that the person that ran this Facebook page proposed to a middle-aged Brazilian woman, and she said yes. And then her friends started to say, “Wait a second. Are you sure the guy that you’re in love with, whoever’s running this page, is really this person?” It prompted her to reach out to a private investigator, which prompted the private investigator to reach out to me. 

Listen, I had a phone call with this woman after a few conversations with authorities, and I can’t tell you how devastated she was to learn that the person that she’d been in a relationship with for years online was not the real person. She called local authorities in Brazil. I called Facebook and the criminal authorities here in the United States to try to shut this page down, but this lady’s heart was crushed when she learned that the guy or the person on the other end of that profile was not really me.

You’re bombarded with information all day long, every day. We don’t just live in the golden age of information. We live in the golden age of disinformation, and sometimes what you hear just simply is a lie. Big lies are easy to spot from across the room. It’s the little lies that are really hard to determine, and sometimes you don’t see those little lies until it’s months or years after the fact. Sometimes you bought into the little lies so much that you want to believe them, and those little lies become heart-crushing when you learn they’re just not true. 

So today what I want to do with you for a few moments is, I want to be able to convince you what you read in the Bible about Jesus is true. Maybe you’ve heard some myths out there, like the religions that teach, “He was nothing more than a good man, but that’s all he was.” Or, “He was a great prophet, but that’s all that Jesus was.” Or, “He was a really important man, one of many sons of God.” There are denominations and false religions out there that teach those things about Jesus, but what the Bible says is, “No, this one’s different. Jesus is different from all of those other good men, great prophets out there. He stands alone.”

So, previously in the book of John, Jesus, in John chapter five, did a miracle, a pretty amazing miracle, and he healed a man who had been lying down for a long time. But, he did it on the Sabbath. And because the religious leaders in Jesus’s day had a lot of rules about what you can and can’t do on this holy day, they believed that Jesus couldn’t possibly be a real holy man or else he wouldn’t do something like this miracle and break their rules, do it on the Sabbath.

3 sources to fact-check Jesus

What I want to do with you for a few moments today is, I want to give you three sources, like if you were to fact-check what you’ve heard about Jesus and make sure that what you heard is the truth, where would you go to fact-check Jesus? Well, these religious leaders are going to bring some legal charges against Jesus today in John chapter five, and he’s going to call couple of witnesses to validate who he is. These are Jesus’s ways of saying, “You’re not sure who I am? You’re not sure what you believe? Well, I’ll tell you how you can fact-check who I am and what you’ve heard about me.” 

John the Baptist

Jesus is going to call three pretty important witnesses today. The first witness being the guy who Jesus claims is the greatest man to ever live born of a woman, a guy by the name of John the Baptist. John the Baptist is not just Jesus’s cousin, but if you read the Bible carefully, John the Baptist is the person that God has prepared all of human history to announce the coming of the King of kings. John the Baptist has been on the scene for a while, he has been shaking the trees, and he has been rocking the boat. And Jesus says, “If you listen to John the Baptist, John the Baptist is actually pointing people to me.” The story that we’re going to read today from the Bible begins in John chapter five, starting in verse 31. Here’s what the Bible says when Jesus calls his first witness, when he calls John the Baptist to fact-check that he really is the Son of God. 

John 5:31-34 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies about me, and I know that the testimony he gives about me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. I don’t receive human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. John was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

You need to understand legal proceedings in Jesus’s day. There were very formal court proceedings, especially religious law proceedings, and then there were informal. But please don’t get mistaken; informal were very serious charges. In fact, the religious leaders in Jesus’s day, they could charge you with a crime in the city streets, and they could pass judgment in the city streets. They could pick up stones in the city streets and could be your executioner right there on the spot.

Well, in order to have a trial, Deuteronomy, chapter 19, verse 15 says there has to be at least two people that are making charges against you. And if you want to defend yourself, you have to have at least two people that will stand up and defend you. And Jesus is using Deuteronomy 19 language here.

I want you to notice that Jesus is defending himself. It’s really a legal proceeding. I want you to think about it like a courtroom, except for this is happening in the city streets. But it’s very serious because, again, they could pick up stones right here on the spot, and they could pronounce him guilty of a capital crime and kill him on the spot. They do have the legal authority to do this. So the first witness that Jesus calls is John the Baptist.

But notice he cares deeply about these religious leaders who are not only accusing Jesus of a crime, but they’re actually persecuting him. And the only thing that he did wrong was do good to somebody on the Sabbath and break their man-made rules. So Jesus is saying, “Listen, I’m showing up, and I’m doing what I’m doing so that you would believe. If you would hear the words of John the Baptist, and you would believe what he has to say about me, you would be saved. That’s really what I want. -that you would be saved because of the facts that you’re hearing about me.”

And then he says, “I want to remind you about something. You loved to listen to John the Baptist. You liked to rejoice in his burning shining lamp.” We use lights to give us sight in the darkness, we use fire to give us heat when it’s cold, and Jesus is saying, “Oh, you love the light and the heat that comes off of John the Baptist while he’s with you, but now you want to criticize him because you’re hearing something that you don’t like, because it’s rubbing you the wrong way. And because it’s rubbing you the wrong way, you’re ignoring John the Baptist.”

Jesus is describing a bold witness. Go back and read about John the Baptist. He made a lot of enemies because he didn’t care what his neighbors thought about him, and he certainly didn’t try to be the most respected guy in town. What John the Baptist was interested in is honoring the Father in Heaven. And because that’s what John the Baptist was focused on, he made a lot of people upset along the way. I wish it wasn’t like this in our day and age today, but unfortunately, by honoring God and by being faithful to him, you may make your neighbor angry with you. You may not be the most respected person in town. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s just the way that it is. You may be treated exactly like they treated Jesus, exactly like they treated John the Baptist if you’re going to be very true about sin, about human nature, and about people’s need for a savior. It’s going to rub some people the wrong way, and they’re going to get angry with you for what they hear.

Jesus calls the first witness and he says, “My first witness is not only my cousin, but he’s the one that God prepared all of human history for, the one who is going to announce the king of kings has finally stepped foot on planet earth. John the Baptist was pointing people to me.”

God the Father

Now get this: the next witness that Jesus calls, you can’t miss how bold this was. In fact, let me tell you what I tried to do this week. I wanted to find a movie clip that would describe the next witness, but I just couldn’t find it. So, I was going to go to a courtroom here in our city, and I was going to film a video to give you a picture in your mind of what this would have looked like. I called the city and I asked them, “Can I use your courtroom for a sermon video?” 

They were like, “No, you can’t use our courtroom for that. Are you crazy?” So I really don’t have a great visual. I just need you to picture for a second that there’s a trial, that Jesus is the accused, and he’s got a bunch of guys that are making accusations. There are all these really smart religious leaders, and they’re all pointing their finger at him. But imagine that the judge of the courtroom is the judge of the universe. It is God, the Father.

Jesus says, “Let me tell you who my next witness is going to be. I’m going to call the judge to get up off of the bench and to come sit down in the box, and he will testify about me.” You’ve got to imagine how this sounds to those religious leaders when Jesus calls the next witness. Here’s what he says next, starting in verse 36: 

John 5:36-40 “But I have a greater testimony than John’s because of the works that the Father has given me to accomplish. These very works I am doing testify about me that the Father has sent me. The Father who sent me has himself testified about me. You have not heard his voice at any time, and you haven’t seen his form. You don’t have his word residing in you, because you don’t believe the one he sent. You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me. But you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.

Jesus is referring to that miracle. Now, here’s the insanity of this passage. Nobody’s arguing that Jesus just did a miracle and a guy was crippled for 38 years, and now that crippled man can walk. Nobody’s arguing that. What they’re arguing is, “Jesus, you did this on the Sabbath, and the Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest. You had the audacity to tell the guy who was crippled to take up his mat and walk. And we have said [notice human words, not God’s words] that carrying your mat on the Sabbath is work. He violated our law. How dare you violate our law!” 

Well, Jesus says, “How could you miss the miracle? Look, the miracle itself does two things. The miracle proves that God is working through me because when a miracle happens, only God can get the credit for it.” We throw that word out around a lot, but the miracles that Jesus is describing is, “You can’t explain this away in a science book. There’s nothing you can do in a laboratory to replicate this. The miracle itself says that God has given his power and put it at work through me.” 

But the miracle also says (and Jesus is making it as plain as you can possibly be here), it says that, “God, the Father, the judge of the universe, has sent me to you. How could you miss this because of the miracle?”

Do you see Jesus begging them to listen to reason later in that passage? “Think about what you just saw with your own eyes. A crippled man is now walking, and you can’t get over your man-made rules long enough to realize maybe I am the Son of God.” This whole trial is about Jesus’s claim to be the Son of God. Jesus does this great miracle, and now a man who has been crippled for 38 years is walking in their midst. Jesus is saying, “How could you miss the miracle because you’re so hung up on your rules? How could you miss it?”

He says, “The Father himself testifies about me. The Scriptures testify about me. All of this is just to convince you that I really am the one sent from God. How could you miss it?” 

You know the reason why I couldn’t find a movie clip? -because you won’t find an example anywhere where the judge gets off of the bench and becomes a witness in his own courtroom and actually will become, or will take on the sentence of the crime, will take on my sentence and your sentence and the one who created life will give up his life so that you and I could have eternal life. Jesus is saying, “How could you miss it? Because it’s right in front of your face, and you can’t see it.” He’s trying to describe that he really is the Son of God.

Paul Tripp, the pastor and the author, he reminds us of something about God, and I think it’s a good time at this point in the sermon to remember something: God knows everything. Now, I need to make sure you heard what I said. He knows everything that happened before time began. He knows everything that happens throughout human history, and he knows everything that will happen long after time ceases to exist. God is the only one who was absolutely and totally true at all times.

I want to add to Tripp’s language that God would cease to be God if he would say something that isn’t true. Now, I’m not sure saying that he would no longer be a God worthy of worship, but what Jesus is saying is, “If my Father could tell a lie, he’s not only not worthy of your worship anymore, but if the God that we worship could tell a lie, then he is worse than a false God. He’s actually a demon trying to deceive you.”

Let me tell you what Jesus says about truth a few chapters later in this book. In John chapter 14, Jesus says, “I am the truth. The truth is not a concept. I don’t have the truth. I AM the truth. The truth is a person. And when you know me, you now have the truth in every situation in your life, which means if you’re struggling with disease or difficulty and the circumstances look bleak, until you’ve consulted the truth to Lord Jesus Christ, you really don’t have the whole picture.” And Jesus calls as his second witness his Father in Heaven, who, Philippians says, has honored the Son by giving him the name that’s above every other name.

Moses the Lawgiver  

Now look; Up to this point, Jesus is on the defensive. He’s declaring who he is and he’s answering their objections. But now Jesus is going to go from the defense to the offense. He is going to go from being accused to being accuser, and he’s going to use their own law, and he’s going to throw it in their face when he calls the third and the final witness here when he calls Moses the lawgiver as a witness. 

They’re going to use the law of Moses. In fact, what they’re doing is interpreting the law that God gave Moses, and they’re saying, “God said we’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath, but we don’t really know what that means. So we tell you that you can’t carry your mat on the Sabbath. You can’t answer emails on the Sabbath. Don’t you dare get up and work in the yard on the Sabbath.” That’s what these religious leaders were doing. 

And Jesus says, “Oh, you love Moses and you love his law so much? Let me call him as my third and final witness. He’s not going to just speak on my behalf, but his law will condemn you for not believing the one that’s standing right in front of you.” Listen to how John chapter five ends this legal case against Jesus when he claims to be the Son of God. 

John 5:41-47 “I do not accept glory from people, but I know you—that you have no love for God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and yet you don’t accept me. If someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, since you accept glory from one another but don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But if you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe my words?”

See how he goes on the offensive right now? “Your accuser will be Moses on whom you have set your hope. You believed that by interpreting Moses’s law and telling people you can’t carry your mat or you can’t walk this distance on the Sabbath, you think that you’re doing Moses a favor? You think that you’re helping God out? Well, I’m going to call God the Father and even Moses the lawgiver to defend me.

If you were to go read Matthew chapter 11 today, Jesus describes this verse. He says that “All of the Bible from Moses, who wrote the first five books to the great prophets, to the prophet like John the Baptist, all of the Bible (Matthew chapter 11) is written about me. It’s written to describe me to people who aren’t sure what they believe about me, who are trying to fact check me.” And Jesus says, “I’ll just call as my final witness, I’ll call Moses the lawgiver, the one that you’re trusting in, because you think you’re doing Moses a favor, maybe even doing God a favor, by preserving or protecting Moses’s law.”

Do you guys know that in a courtroom, when somebody calls a witness, they’re actually calling a person to stand up and to testify that what they’ve seen or what they’ve heard is the truth? That witness in the courtroom is really trying to convince a jury or to convince the judge that one side is telling the truth. The other side is using the exact same facts, but they’re trying to deceive. 

So the witness shows up in the courtroom to say, “Here’s what really happened, Judge. Hey Jury, I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. Let me tell you what really happened.” And the witness is supposed to testify to the truth.

Do you know the Bible uses the word witness a lot? When it talks about me and you, followers of Jesus Christ, it calls us a witness, and it says, “Hey, your job as a Christian is to just go testify to the truth, to go tell your neighbor or to go tell your friend, ‘Let me tell you who Jesus is. Let me tell you what Jesus can do. And I’m speaking from personal experience because he did it for me, and because he did it for me, he can do it for you too.'” 

These three witnesses that Jesus is calling, he calls the three heavy hitters in human history: John the Baptist, about whom Jesus says there’s no man born of a woman like John the Baptist, God the Father, and if you want to talk about the law, I’ll just call the lawgiver himself, Moses the lawgiver, and they will all declare to you that I am the Son of God, that I can save you, and I can change you, that I and I alone can give you life.”