Summary: One of the biggest questions I’ve heard people asking about Mel Gibson’s movie is: "Wow. . . did that really happen?" A reviewer in TIME mag put it this way: "The first thing you have to decide is. . . is it based on fact or fiction?" *HANDOUT INCLUDED*


How many of you here today have seen The Passion of the Christ?

How many of you left there with questions?

This series, I’m taking some of the most common questions I’ve heard, and giving them an honest look.

One of the biggest questions I’ve encountered with people who have seen it is this: “Did this really happen? Was this Jesus a real person who really went through this, or is this just Mel Gibson’s interpretation?”

Let me give you a quote from TIME magazine:

“So, if you look at "The Passion of the Christ" as a movie -- and not a religious experience -- and the Bible as its source material, the first thing you have to decide is: Is it based on fact or fiction? Or a fictional account of an actual event? ... the Bible and the events depicted in it are open to interpetation.”

This man definitely did not do his homework. I think before we go making statements like that – that this isn’t historical, and it’s open to interpretation – that we should investigate thoroughly.

I have invested several hundred hours in researching the evidence for Jesus, and I want to share some of it with you.

1. We can guarantee that Jesus’ crucifixion is a historical event.

Often, you’ll hear people say they’re not sure that Jesus even existed. Bertrand Russell, a famous atheist said this: “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did, we do not know anything about Him.”

Well, that’s one viewpoint. However, I think in all fairness, we should look at objective evidence. Did Jesus really exist, and what’s the evidence that it really happened LIKE THAT?

A) We have the Bible’s eyewitness record of the events.

Listen to these Scriptures:

(Luke 1:1-4)

1. Most honorable Theophilus: Many people have written accounts about the events that took place* among us.

2. They used as their source material the reports circulating among us from the early disciples and other eyewitnesses of what God has done in fulfillment of his promises.

3. Having carefully investigated all of these accounts from the beginning, I have decided to write a careful summary for you,

4. to reassure you of the truth of all you were taught.

(I John 1:1,3)

1. The one who existed from the beginning* is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life.

3. We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us.

(II Peter 1:16)

16. For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming again. We have seen his majestic splendor with our own eyes.

Does this sound casual, thrown together? No, this sounds like they were very careful eyewitnesses who wrote what they said believing it was accurate.

We can also be certain that the Gospel accounts which Mel Gibson got the Passion from, were written not more than 35 years after Jesus death. If you want to hear proof of that, you’ll have to get a tape of the sermon I preached two weeks ago. We’ve made a number of copies this morning, and we’ll make them available to you free of charge if you’re interested in hearing the evidence for that.

So first of all, you can’t discount the evidence of the Bible that Jesus really existed, and that he was really crucified.

B) Jesus’ crucifixion is confirmed by outside sources.

Josephus, a famous Jewish historian, said this: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man. . . He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. . .Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us had condemned him to the cross. . . and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

Tacitus, a famous Roman Historian, said this: “Christus (a Latin spelling of Christ), the founder of the name [Christian], was put to death by Pontius Pilate, the procurator of the of Judea in the reign of Tiberius.”

Lucian of Samosata, a Greek satirist (humorist), said this: “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on this account... You see, these misguided creatures. . . worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”

Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian philosopher who was not a Christian, wrote this: “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?. . . nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”

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