In this lesson we look at the “historicity” of Jesus. What we mean by this is that Jesus actually existed. It’s not that Jesus is the character of a good story – like a myth that isn’t historically true, but just gives meaning and moral principles for life. Jesus does those things, but His principles and meaning are better because they are based on real historical events rather than cleverly devised stories. This is what St. Peter meant in his second letter when he said, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16 ESV). It would be impressive if Jesus was just a story, but such a good one that people had been basing their lives on it for nearly 2,000 years. But He is more than that. When we understand that the story of Jesus actually happened, then it’s more like a news announcement than a fable. A fable can be meaningful if you let it. A news announcement is meaningful whether you pay attention or not.
Passages: 2 Peter 1:16-18, 1 Cor. 15:1-19
The point here is not simply to establish that Jesus existed, but to go a step further. When confronted with the reality of Jesus, people in His day reacted in profound devotion and surrender. If Jesus is real, then it confirms the whole story of the Bible. It confirms a particular meaning of that story. It’s not just a spiritual book to be read in any way that makes you feel good. It’s an announcement of Who God is and what God is doing. It’s not just something to think about, but rather a map of what is and what will be, with Jesus right in the center of it all. The people who were best equipped to know if He was fake – residents of Judea in the first century – were instead the heralds of Jesus’ message at the cost of their very lives. And not just a few of them – thousands of witnesses suffered for Jesus and many, many eye-witnesses were killed because they stood by their accounts. They reacted as though they had found out a reality that was bigger and more important than emperors, careers or even their very lives. St. Peter, just before the part we read earlier, put it this way, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of [Jesus] who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV).
Read, 1 Corinthains 15:1-19. Vs. 19 speaks of the why the reality of Jesus’ resurrection is so important and might well be said of the whole story of Jesus. St. Paul concludes that our entire hope and lifestyle is tied to the reality of Jesus and what He did. So, if Jesus didn’t actually exist, neither does our hope and “we [the Christians] are of all people most to be pitied.” But He did exist and that changes everything.