Summary: This is an evangelistic message presenting the truth of the resurrection from history. It examines the life of Jesus and his claims to be the son of God ending with the sinners prayer

Evangelistic sermon

Something to challenge your thinking

Let us open in prayer:

As you know today is an evangelistic service. I was really worried about how to open the message. But then I realised; you guys have come here to have your views challenged. You did not get out of bed to have your current beliefs confirmed; you already know what you believe. Instead you drove 30 minutes in the cold to get here to have your views challenged. You have sacrificed 1 ½ hours of a precious Sunday morning to be here. I hope I can honour your time, and use the next 20 minutes to challenge what you believe and I thank you for giving me the privilege of standing in front of you today.

By the end of today, I am going to ask if you want to come up the front for prayer. Maybe for the first time to commit your life to Jesus, maybe to ask Jesus to deepen your faith in him, or maybe you have something else you would like prayer for. But always have that in the back of your mind, I am going to ask you to consider coming up the front for prayer.

The four points I am going to argue today are:

1) Did Jesus really exist?

2) Did he rise from the dead?

3) Does it work?

4) What do I do with this?

1) Did Jesus really exist?

John 14: 9 ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’

If Christianity is to be taken seriously, Jesus must exist. If you cannot prove that Jesus existed beyond reasonable doubt we can all end the conversation here and go home.

Jewish sources

(a) Flavius Josephus began life in Jerusalem in about AD 37. He was an educated man who commanded Jewish forces in the rebellion against Rome. After defeat, he became a friend of the Roman Emperor.

He devoted the second half of his life to writing books on the history of Jews. He said this of Jesus:

Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works — a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

(b) Jewish literature. The Jewish Talmud notes Jesus’ execution, which he was not accepted by Jewish authorities, that he hung on a tree on Passover eve and that he did ‘miracles’.

The Jewish sources are clearly the best external evidence, as it is unlikely they are based on hearsay or Christian propaganda. They are an independent record.

Pagan literature

(a) Pliny the Younger was sent to Bithynia to reorganise the affairs of the province and in about AD 110 he wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan. He confirmed his persecution of Christians and gave a portrait of the early Christian community as worshippers of Christ who sang to him as God.’°

(b) Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian, in AD 112, stated Jesus was put to death by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.” In the same paragraph he records that Nero tried to blame the Christians for his famous fire of AD 64 and that he tortured them relentlessly.

(c) Suetonius, the official historian of the Imperial house, in AD 120 described the expelling of the Jews from Rome and their allegiance to Chrestus. (Latin for Christ)

From the Jewish and pagan, we learn the following information about Jesus:

• he had a brother, James;

• he was called the Christ (Messiah);

• he was known to be a teacher;

• Many believed he was a doer of “miracles”;

• He had followers;

• He was not popular with the Jewish religious leaders;

• Pontius Pilate put him to death and this happened on a Passover during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (AD 14—37);

• Many believed he rose from the dead;

• Christianity spread quickly to Rome and often persecution followed.

Now we get to the interesting part.

2) Did he rise from the dead?

1 Corinthians 15: 12 - 19

The resurrection of Jesus is a major historical problem, no matter how you look at it. Most modern scientists have made the assumption that miracles simply cannot happen, and this makes the claim of the resurrection highly problematic. However, if you disbelieve the resurrection you then have the difficulty of explaining how the Christian church got started at all. It is the world’s largest religion and one in three people across the world identify themselves as Christian.

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