Explore God – Is Jesus God? by John Burke

Explore God is a citywide conversation in Austin. No matter where you come from, what your beliefs are, Explore God is an experience that will help you on your journey  through life as you search for meaning.

At Gateway Church in Austin, John Burke shared the following insights:

“God wants a loving family, but God faces the same dilemma we all face with love: you can’t force love. If you love someone who does not love you back, you could stalk them and force them to say: “I love you.” We all know that wouldn’t actually be love nor legal.  Love must be free to choose: for or against the other.

This is what the Bible claims is happening in our relationship with God.  Notice the heart of God revealed to Jeremiah the prophet:

How gladly would I treat you like sons and daughters…I thought you would call me `Father’ and not turn away from following me. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me….”  – Jeremiah 3:19-20

God uses every relational metaphor to describe the relationship he wants–like that of a father to his children.  And when the people he loves reject Him, it feels like adultery because of the passionate love He has for us. God wants your heart.  That’s what He wants.  Not because HE needs it, because we need Him. Relationship with God is what we were created for. That’s what God was claiming to do through Jesus.  That Jesus came as a humble servant, to win our love, and not only that but to pay the price of our treason against God, so that God would be just to forgive and take us back if we choose Him.

To which skeptics will say, “Great story—wish it were true. But it’s just myth.” How could you ever know that was true? Because God wrote through Prophets.

You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true….” Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (1500 B.C.) 

So in 1500 B.C. God says through Moses, Don’t accept just anyone claiming to be a prophet, and poser prophets who claimed things that could be checked out but didn’t, faced the death penalty.

Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, ‘It is true.’”  – Isaiah 43:9 (700 B.C.)

God says “the way you can know it’s from the One True God–I alone can foretell history.”

David Greenglass was a World War II traitor. He gave atomic secrets to the Russians and then fled to Mexico after the war. His conspirators arranged to help him by planning a meeting with the secretary of the Russian ambassador in Mexico City. Proper identification for both parties became vital. Greenglass was to identify himself with six prearranged signs. These instructions had been given to both the secretary and Greenglass so there would be no possibility of mistaken identity. They were: (1) once in Mexico City, Greenglass was to write a note to the secretary, signing his name as “I. JACKSON”; (2) after three days he was to go to the Plaza de Colon in Mexico City and (3) stand before the statue of Columbus, (4) with his middle finger placed in a guide book. In addition, (5) when he was approached, he was to say it was a magnificent statue and that he was from Oklahoma. After those 5 were identified, he would take the new passport the person gave him. These 5 prearranged signs worked. Why? With 5 identifying characteristics it was impossible for the secretary not to identify Greenglass as the proper contact.

Throughout the 39 books of the Jewish Old Testament, written down from 1500 years before Jesus to 400 years before Jesus, 456 identifying characteristics of the Messiah were given in 61 prophecies—so all who were seeking God could know—this is the One.

Skeptics make the following arguments:

1). “How do you know these prophecies were not touched up after the fact?”

Two reasons:

  • The O.T. was translated from Hebrew to Greek in Alexandria, Egypt in 250 B.C. (Septuagint)   250 years before Jesus was born, these prophecies were translated. But also, in 1948 we found the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls contain parts of 38 out of 39 books of the Old Testament carbon-dated before Jesus. Last year, you could have gone to Dallas and seen these scrolls—OT writings proven to be older than Jesus, containing prophecies about Jesus!

2). “Jesus read the prophecies, got a Messiah complex, and intentionally fulfilled them.

We’ll look only at prophecies you couldn’t intentionally fulfill—like where you’re born, where you grow up, how you die. You can’t intentionally determine that.

3). “The New Testament writers knew these prophecies and wrote their own version of history to make Jesus look like he fulfilled them.”

We’ll narrow it down only to prophecies validated or corroborated outside the Bible.

A few of the 61 signs God put in real history:

1.     The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem but grow up in Galilee (Nazareth)

“O Bethlehem, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past.”  Micah 5:2, 700 B.C.

The New Testament writers claim Jesus was born in Bethlehem though His parents were living in Galilee. A census required Joseph and Mary to return to their hometown of Bethlehem, and Jesus was born while there. ] But the prophet Isaiah made it clear, Galilee would be where he came from.

But in the future [God] will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…for to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:1-2, 6,  680 B.C. 

This is clear—of all places on earth God could reveal himself—The Mighty God as Messiah will come from Galilee.

Now here’s the irony with this one.   Some of the religious leaders of Jesus day who rejected him, did so because Jesus was from Nazareth in Galilee rather than Bethlehem.  Nazareth had a really bad reputation. The saying was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.”

Historians agree—Jesus was from Galilee. Don’t believe me, surely you’ll believe Wikipedia:

“Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed…that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate…that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born between 7 and 2 BC and died 30–36 AD, that he lived in Galilee and Judea.” – Wikipedia

Don’t miss this—history verifies that Jesus, who we saw last week claimed to be God’s self-revelation and did miraculous things came from Galilee. And that’s where Isaiah said God would reveal himself.  And history verifies, He was crucified by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. But that too was a prophectic signpost.

2. The Messiah would come in 32 A.D. and be killed before Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed.

Daniel praying for the Jewish people in 535 BC from Babylon (Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed the first time). The Angel, Gabriel, comes to tell him it will be rebuilt, and when that decree to rebuild Jerusalem is made—that’s the start of the countdown timer until the Messiah (Annointed One] comes. Look what the angel says:

“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One [Messiah], the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ [49 years] and sixty-two ‘sevens’ [434 years]. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ [after 483 years] the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city [Jerusalem] and the Temple.”  – Daniel 9:25-26, (535 B.C.)     

The Angel says, a decree will be made to rebuild Jerusalem.  That will start the clock for when Messiah will come. Amazingly the very date of that decree is given in Nehemiah 2:1, when Artaxerxes, the Persian King, declares in 445 BC that Nehemiah could rebuild Jerusalem (this happened in real history).

If you take the “sevens” to be “seven years” then from the prophecy it would be 69 seven-year periods, 69×7 or 483 years on the Jewish calendar of 360 day years.  Convert it to our solar calendar of 365. days/yr and you get the time of Jesus coming around 33 A.D. –Don’t you love church math! (The details are out on the web if interested).

But notice this, not only is the date given, but it also says Messiah will be “cut off.”  The Hebrew word “Katat” means killed violently.  Then Jerusalem and the Sanctuary or Temple will again be destroyed.

History tells us when this happened, 70A.D. Roman General Titus leveled Jerusalem and the temple, and the temple has not been rebuilt to this day. Jesus wept over the city saying that would happen because they rejected God coming to them.  In fact, 1500 years of a Jewish practice of atoning for the sins of the people by sacrificing a Passover lamb stopped in 70AD.  Why?  Because the Temple was gone and it was all a foreshadowing of Jesus sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world past, present, and future.

Now, to intellectually make a case against Christ, you have to explain away how prophets foretold Jesus coming from Galilee, in 33 AD, to be killed right before the destruction of the Temple ending a 1500 year practice of the Jewish people!  How do you put the historical facts together into a more probable explanation?

This passage accurately foretells history—that Jesus the Messiah would come around 32 AD, then be killed, then the Romans would destroy the Temple. I’ve yet to hear a skeptic explain this away—this is verifiable history.

Read the writings of all religions—none read like this, none make these claims verifiable in history. But here’s the problem—if you don’t want to believe, you will find reasons to support your decision.

There was a man who thought he was dead when in reality he was very much alive.  But he was convinced he was dead.  His delusion became such a problem, his family sent him to a psychologist, who spent many laborious sessions trying to persuade the man to believe he wasn’t dead.  Nothing convinced him.  Finally, the doctor tried one last approach.  He took out his medical books and showed the man from the evidence that dead men don’t bleed.  After reading pages and pages, the patient seemed convinced.  Are you convinced that dead men don’t bleed? “Yes” replied the patient.  The doctor then took the patients finger and pricked his finger with a pin, and out came a trickle of blood.  “So What does that tell you?” asked the doctor.  “Oh my gosh,” exclaimed the patient, “Dead men do bleed!”

I’m amazed at how much energy people expend trying to disprove all this—why? Maybe because the main problem of humanity is we don’t want God to be God, we want to be God. We reject God as God, so then we’ve got to prove we’re right and justified in our ways. And if you’re dead set on not believing, you’ll try to find all kinds of reasons to disbelieve—but why? Ask yourself—why wouldn’t you want this to be true? When God says He loves you more than you can imagine, entered history to win your love, died for you, and has written it into history? He wants your heart.

3. The Jewish people will be scattered across the globe as a sign to all nations.

If all that wasn’t enough evidence, the week before he was crucified, Jesus foretold global/national events:

As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now [your enemies]…will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44 “[Israel] will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.  Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  – Luke 21:24 (before 64 A.D.)

Jesus foretells that not only would Jerusalem and the Temple be wiped out because the Jewish people rejected him and crucified him, but the Jewish people would be scattered among the nations, having no homeland until the “time of the Gentiles” (the time for non-Jewish people to turn to God) was fulfilled.

How could Jesus have predicted in 32 A.D. that in 70 A.D., 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, Rome leveled Jerusalem and the Temple—then for nearly 2000 years the Jewish people would have no homeland, no government, and would be scattered across the globe? In 1927 Floyd Hamilton wrote:

Palestine today is a land of ruins…the land that formerly supported such a large population is now barren and capable of supporting only a mere fraction of its former population.” 

When your parents were born if you are my age or when your grandparents were born if you are younger than me, Israel was still scattered and not a nation and Palestine was barren. But the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel also foretold the miraculous event that happened in 1948. Isaiah writing in 680 BC, saw the 1948 events:

In that day the Root of Jesse [Messiah] will stand as a sign for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.  In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time…and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.  Isaiah 11:10-12, (680 B.C.)

Isaiah writes that the Messiah’s “place of rest” Jerusalem, will be known and nations will rally to the Messiah, Jesus. Jesus said it would be a sign that the time for the Gentiles to turn to God was almost done.

Think about this, right after the Satanic Holocaust of 1945; German Jews, Russian Jews, Ethiopian Jews, American Jews, European Jews returned to the land they had been exiled from for nearly 2000 years—In 1948, overnight a Nation was Born!

“The declaration of the new state by David Ben-Gurion, the first Premier of reborn Israel, was delivered during a simple and solemn ceremony at 4 p.m” – New York Times 1948

God foretold all this through Isaiah as a Sign:

Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children…they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem.”  – Isaiah 66:8, 20 (680 BC)  

How do you explain World History in our day, pre-written as a Sign from God in 680BC, also foretold by Jesus?  Friends, This is not mythology, this is not religion, this is history—God’s-story unfolding.  Religion is our attempt to reach God.  Jesus is God’s attempt to reach us—all of us! Anyone truly seeking can know—this is the True God!

Isaiah tells us that the problem of humanity is that our natural prideful tendency is to reject God.  To live for ourselves primarily—rather than seeking the will of the one who made us for himself. So it was foretold that…

4. The Messiah will die to pay our debts.

Isaiah says God’s solution was that He himself, as Messiah—the Son of God, the Human slice of the Mysterious God, would be Nailed to a cross to pay for our wrongs.

Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his Arm?… He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.”
– Isaiah 53:5-7, 680 B.C. 

God says the problem with humanity is that we turn from God and go our own way—we play God and want to our will be done more than His. Yet He created us for love—so He pays the price for our forgiveness—so all willing people can be restored, eternally set right with him, by faith. God removes every barrier between us and Him, we don’t have to prove we’re good enough, jump through religious hoops, perfectly keep the 10 commanments, 8-fold Path, or 5 Pillars—we just have to accept his payment and love him.

For 1500 years, every Passover each Jewish family was required to bring a Sacrificial lamb to the Temple in Jerusalem and offer it as a substitute, confessing their sins, trusting that God would forgive and save them. You know in nearly all ancient cultures animal sacrifice was the cost of paying the debt of wrongs. Consider this, the Talmud, the historical commentaries of the Sanhedrin—the Religious Leaders who crucified Jesus says,

“On the eve of Passover, they hanged Yeshu [Jesus] the Nazarene.” Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a

Jesus was the final Passover Sacrificial Lamb. All sacrifice ended shortly after Jesus crucifixion. Why? I found a site called Judaism 101 that answers why:

The practice of sacrifice stopped in the year 70 C.E., when the Roman army destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Torah specifically commands us not to offer sacrifices wherever we feel like it…but in the Temple in Jerusalem, but the Temple has been destroyed.

How do you get 1500 years of sacrifices to end once Jesus was Crucified on Passover as the final Sacrificial Lamb—paying for all sins for all time? Only God could orchestrate these global historical signs.  And if that’s not enough Amos the Prophet said…

5.     The earth will go dark at noon as a sign of Messiah’s death  

In 760 BC Amos writes:

“The earth will tremble for your deeds…at that time,” says the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth while it is still day…you will wear funeral clothes and shave your heads as signs of sorrow, as if your only son had died.”  – Amos 8:8-10 (760 B.C.) 

Matthew records this day of darkness, when God’s Son was nailed to a cross, as he cried out “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing,” Matthew records:

The teachers of the law and the elders mocked [Jesus]… “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.  At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” …then Jesus shouted out again, and he gave up his spirit. 51At that moment the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart….”
– Matthew 27:41-51

God said, all the earth will feel my Grief when my Son dies in your place.

Amos foretold God’s mourning, demonstrated in a darkness that covered the earth. History outside the Bible confirms it. Thallus, a contemporary of Jesus wrote a history around 52 A.D. His works have not survived except as quoted in later works.  Julius Africanus (a historian in charge of the library for the Roman Emperor, quotes Thallus:

“Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun—unreasonably…it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died.”
– Thallus (52 A.D. quoted in Africanus, 221 A.D.)

Thallus was trying to explain away the darkness as an eclipse. Africanus points out a solar eclipse cannot take place during a full moon—the moon’s on the wrong side to block the sun. Jesus was crucified during Passover—which always occurs during the full moon.

Phlegon was a Greek historian who wrote in 137 AD:

“In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [32-33 A.D.], there was the greatest eclipse of the sun and that it became night in the sixth hour of the day so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea.” – Phlegon, Olympiades (137 A.D.)

7 different writers from the first 3 centuries quote Phlegon about the darkness– God grieved when we Crucified His Son.

This really happened—we’ve only touched on 6 of 61 prophecies—the ones Jesus couldn’t intentionally fulfill, ones History verifies, all for you.  This life is your time to choose—will you reject God’s offer of eternal life with him, or will You let God in to be God of your life? God wants your love—He wants you to follow Him

Often, the reason we don’t open our hearts to seek God, is we fear him—we fear God’s condemnation. We fear God wants to take life from us—but Jesus said the opposite “I came to give life abundantly.” To forgive and set you free. What God did through Jesus, is provide a way to know that we know that we know—he won’t condemn us, no one can condemn us—we belong to God. All it takes is a simple act of faith.

Let me speak to you personally for a moment.

Do you even want to believe? Do you even want a life transformed by God through a relationship with Jesus?

I resisted and needed more evidence. I have to tell you: once I chose to believe Jesus is God and allow Him to lead me, everything changed. I started believing with my head, but He’s become so real to me that He’s captured my heart. God’s love for me, and my love for Him has changed the trajectory of my life. Jesus has changed how I treat others, and how I live my life in every way, AND my life is better for it.

What are you holding back from Jesus? Whether you have been skeptical or have walked with God for decades or you are somewhere in between: each of us have a next step to trust Him. Some of you have all the evidence you need, now is the time to choose to trust God and all that He has done for you. Some of you have expressed faith in Jesus, but you don’t feel Him making a difference in your life anymore. Today is your chance to start again.

Now is the time to choose—who will be God of your life?

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