Happy New Year! With the new year comes a new series as we return to the Gospel of Luke. Last year we went through the first six chapters of Luke and beginning this Sunday we will be “Meeting Jesus Again” starting in chapter seven. I was inspired to do a series in Luke about the person of Jesus based on a book I read in college, which intentionally tried to give a skewed perspective on Jesus. The book was called, “Meeting Jesus Again For the First Time” by Marcus Borg. Quite frankly the book made me laugh at first and then made me angry when the students in my class started believing the arguments laid out in the book. Here is the line of thinking of Dr. Borg:
(1) We need to meet the historical Jesus.
(2) Does the bible present the historical Jesus?
(3) Scholars from liberal universities gathered in the mid-1980s for the “Jesus Seminar” to determine if the biblical Jesus is the historical Jesus.
(4) Those scholars concluded by casting colored beads that Jesus only said 5% of what he said in the Gospels.
(5) Therefore we really do not know anything about the historical Jesus and therefore we can make Jesus into who we want Jesus to be.
(6) For the author of that book, he made Jesus into a spirit person just like other spirit persons that went before and after him.
This is the argument most scholars on liberal campuses use to discredit the Gospels and convince college students that what they learned in church and Sunday school is myth believed and pushed on children by intolerant, narrow-minded people with an agenda. At least this is the card played by the religion professors I encountered at St. Olaf College. And this is the attitude of Marcus Borg when I heard him lecture in Portland in December of 2009.
So, who is the historical Jesus? Is the biblical Jesus the historical Jesus?
Before I answer those questions I need to make a few points about the six points above:
(1) I agree with Mr. Borg that we need to meet the historical Jesus. And there are a few documents written by Philo and Josephus (Roman & Jewish historians) who write about Jesus. They do not say much, but they do affirm people witnessed Jesus miracles, that people questioned if he was just a man or something more, Josephus called Jesus the Christ (Antiquities 18:63) and Lord (20:200) and affirmed that Jesus raised from the dead after crucifixion and appeared to His followers as was foretold in the Scriptures (18:64).
(2) Does the bible present the historical Jesus? Yes! First, what was written outside of Scripture is a brief summary. Second, what was written in the Gospels is history as recorded by people who walked with Jesus, or in Luke’s case he did a firsthand investigation interviewing everyone in Judea about their firsthand knowledge of the historical Jesus (Luke 1:1-4).
(3) About the “Jesus Seminar” – first of all you need to realize that conservative scholars were not even invited to this seminar, and those that were thought it was so ludicrous that they refused to go and have their names attached to this event. Second, casting of colored beads to determine if Jesus said something is an unscientific way of determining if an historical document is accurate.
(4) Determining Jesus only said 5% of what he said in the Gospels by casting beads is based more on opinion. They were not present with Jesus 2,000 years ago to confirm or deny that Jesus actually did or did not say such and such. So, the question is raised, on whose authority do we believe the words of Jesus in the Gospels? We believe based on the authority of the eye-witnesses, just like we believe the accounts of George Washington crossing the Delaware based on the historians’ accountings of eye-witnesses. If one has the attitude, “If I didn’t see it, I won’t believe it!” Then one has to questions everything that one has not personally seen with that one’s own eyes.
(5) To say we really do not know anything about Jesus is to discredit the historical documents known as the Gospels, the one’s canonized in the New Testament.
(6) For Marcus Borg to conclude Jesus was a spirit person just like any other spirit person who came before or after him and that you can become spiritual and connect with the same spirit Jesus connected with is just Cosmic New Age Humanism disguised as “Christianity.” It is not saving faith.
(7) Why am I writing a point seven. Because in Scripture, six is man’s number and the implication is falling short of seven, which is God’s number of perfection. I believe Marcus Borg’s arguments fall short and that the historical and biblical Jesus are one in the same, God come in the flesh.
So, why am I preaching from Luke about “Meeting Jesus Again”? For those who know Jesus but have fallen out of love with their first love, I want to help you know the real Jesus and re-kindle what has been lost.
For those of you who are skeptical, I want to introduce you to Jesus my first love, based on the Scriptures and let you decide what to do with that information.
I hope to see each of you Sunday.
In Christ, Ryan