One thing that seems to be a recurring theme in today’s society is the constant questioning and belittlement of the existence of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Sadly, there are even some groups that are dedicated to the destruction and disproval of Christianity as we know it because they cannot seem to find the truth in his words or just simply refuse to hear them.
We are inundated with disparaging posts on social media sites, commercials and documentaries on television, and strangely enough, billboards for the entire family to see while driving down the road, which are all effectively breaking the moral values of our families. For example, do you know how many times my kids have come home from school stating that one of their friends had told them Jesus wasn’t real or the saying of a simple prayer before a meal to give thanks to the Lord was frowned upon in public as if he was some imaginary friend that only a child could relate to?
To a person that really didn’t grow up with much of a religious background, these types of attacks to religion in general can make an individual question the beliefs of all religions. When I started my family, I saw the very real effect of the moral decay in my own community and felt the proper action was to question certain things and research those answered questions on my own before I could accept. I wanted to be sure what we chose was right for us and not something to be regretted later on in life. However, not every question has an answer and some answers you just don’t want to know or accept which is why I believe we just have to have faith in the religion we choose to follow.
Years ago, when I began my journey to get some tough questions answered, I was never really one to believe things just because someone told me to. I like to question just about everything. The “question everything” approach is especially important with something of this magnitude because, well, my eternal salvation is on the line as well as that of my family’s.
In this entry, I would like to share some of my own thoughts and studies I’ve had throughout the years as well as some very important biblical figures and scriptures that shaped my beliefs about the foundation of the Christian faith as we know it today. These facts, statements, and my opinions are not only applied to that of Catholicism, but to ALL Christian denominations that choose to follow the words and teachings of Jesus Christ.
My first question; Was Jesus truly the Messiah? For that, I had to do some research in the Old Testament and based off the passages I read, there is no mistaking the Christian belief that he truly is the Messiah. The Old Testament prophesied his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. Let’s take a look at a few of those prophetic passages below.
His birth and ministry;
Isaiah 7:14 – 14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
Isaiah 9:5-6 – 5) For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. 6) His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, From David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!
His suffering and death;
Psalms 22:16-19 – 16) As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue cleaves to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death. 17) Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and my feet 18) I can count all my bones. They stare at me and gloat; 19) they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.
Isaiah 53:1-12 1) Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2) He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him. 3) He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain, like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. 4) Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted, 5) But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. 6) We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. 7) Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth; like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth. 8) Seized and condemned, he was taken away. Who would have thought any more of his destiny? For he was cut off from the land of the living, struck for the sins of his people. 9) He was given a grave among the wicked, a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong, nor was deceit found in his mouth. 10) But it was the LORD’s will to crush him with pain. By making his life as a reparation offering, he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days, and the LORD’s will shall be accomplished through him. 11) Because of his anguish he shall see the light; because of his knowledge he shall be content; my servant, the just one, shall justify the many, their iniquity he shall bear. 12) Therefore I will give him his portion among the many, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death, was counted among the transgressors, bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.
The very fact that these passages were written well before the New Testament was recorded and the sheer number of amazingly accurate coincidences with the trials and tribulations of Jesus’ life, tell me that he truly is the Messiah which the Old Testament prophecies spoke of.
After coming to the realization that Jesus is the true Messiah, one then has to wonder, is there any physical proof or written documentation within historical records that this man actually existed?
One of the original twelve disciples named Thomas doubted Jesus as the Messiah after his crucifixion and was shown the truth by the resurrected Christ himself shortly thereafter, such as the gospel according to John:24-29 tells us below;
24) Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25) So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26) Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27) Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 28) Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29) Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
However, even after reading what Thomas had experienced, I can sympathize with what he felt in the first place and I used to find myself looking for hard evidence that an actual living God named Jesus existed in the 1st century AD. Then I thought; there should be something about the man responsible for his crucifixion, Pontius Pilate, which would help tie the two together since the Romans were known for their superior record keeping abilities. After some research, I was able to uncover what I believe to be factual evidence not contained within the bible about the existence of both, but first, let’s discuss Pontius Pilate.
It seems that many scholars questioned if this Roman Governor even existed. In June 1961 Italian archaeologists were excavating an ancient Roman Amphitheatre near Caesarea Maritime and uncovered an interesting block of limestone. On the face of the block was an inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”
It reads as follows:
Line One: TIBERIEUM,
Line Two: (PON) TIUS
Line Three: (PRAEF) ECTUS IUDA (EAE)
Image of the limestone block is below.
This is the only known occurrence of the name Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. It is currently kept in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The stone has been dated back to the 1st century AD and there have also been a few bronze coins found in that same area which were made form 29-32 AD by Pontius Pilate.
That alone seems to solidify the existence of Pilate, but then I found even more, except this time, it ties Pontius Pilate to Jesus’ crucifixion as well as some other things.
A roman senator and historian named Tacitus (pictured above) officially wrote about the crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of Pilate, the early start of Christianity, as well as the persecution of Christians in Rome somewhere around the year 114 AD. In one of his final books called the “Annals” book number 15, chapter 44 he writes;
“Such indeed were the precautions of human wisdom. The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods, and recourse was had to the Sibylline books, by the direction of which prayers were offered to Vulcanus, Ceres, and Proserpina. Juno, too, was entreated by the matrons, first, in the Capitol, then on the nearest part of the coast, whence water was procured to sprinkle the fane and image of the goddess. And there were sacred banquets and nightly vigils celebrated by married women. But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”
I was blown away by this writing because it clearly correlates the existence of Pilate and Jesus as well as the early followers of Christ and how they were persecuted for their beliefs. The great thing is that all of this was written within about 75 years of his crucifixion. A person could argue the point those 75 years after his death was too long of a time-frame to be an accurate account of anything that happened so long ago. However, one has to realize that those were turbulent times and just being seen praying to Jesus could get you killed. A good majority of people didn’t even know how to read or write therefore most everything was passed down by oral tradition until someone had the ability and inclination to write about the works and wonders of Jesus.
People sometimes complain that there aren’t much historical records regarding Jesus, but do you really have to question why someone would have been afraid to write about Jesus back then, especially right after he died? I hear some of these arguments from time to time, but I am willing to bet if the person making the argument had actually lived in those times, they would probably see things a bit differently.
At the end of the day, yes, there are a lot fraudulent documents, artifacts, and plenty of misinformation out there. It’s great to have the freedom to believe in whatever faith you want to. However, it is my opinion that one should do their homework so they have the ability to stand up for their convictions and not just simply follow something because they are told to and after doing my own homework, I truly feel the religion my wife and I chose was the right fit for us and have no regrets for my family. However, should my children grow up and choose a different path, well that’s their decision to make and as hard as it may be to accept whatever path they may choose, we have to show our love and support to them no matter what.
Through all of my research, I have found three answers that commonly seem to appear and they are having a little bit of knowledge with a lot of faith and love. As I get older, I am noticing the blessings happening within my own life and realize it’s all because I have that knowledge, faith, and love. I have come to the conclusion that the Bible gives me all of the knowledge I will ever need to know about Jesus, and my faith is stronger based off of that knowledge. The love comes from having both the knowledge and faith to see the goodness happening in my life as well as others. While I haven’t actually seen the risen Jesus standing before me, I don’t need to because I know that he is there. How you ask? It’s simple, faith and love.
You ever notice if one particular scenario hadn’t happened the way it did, then some other blessing in your life might not have happened because of it? Or if you were in what seemed to be a hopeless situation and you prayed and your prayers were answered in some way or another? You see, Jesus is tugging at our hearts to lead us in the path he has in store for each of us and even after 2000 years, he still speaks to us with signs and wonders. They are all around us, are you watching for them? Do you feel the pull within your own heart? Maybe you do, but you’re just too busy to pay attention.
Perhaps now is time for you to slow down and let Jesus lead you and mold you into that glorious and righteous person he knows you can be.