Book Excerpt 3 from A Brief History of Why: The Meaning of Jesus Christ
By: Donald W. Jones & Christopher Anton
The pinnacle of all historical events happened in about 27-33AD.
A Galilean Jew named Jesus who had been born in a miraculous virgin birth (circa 6-3BC) gathered a group of devoted followers by proclaiming that the “Kingdom of God” had arrived. He instructed His followers over a three year period during which time he did things that defy conventional scientific explanation. His message of salvation, faith, and the Kingdom was and still is considered by many to be a bold proclamation; demonstrated not only in His words but also through His works. Jesus was the “Suffering Servant Messiah” as prophesied in the Old Testament.
But he was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities.
The punishment that brought our peace was on him;
and by his wounds we are healed. -Isaiah 53:5
By this, according to Jewish theology, Jesus contended that He was God. His following grew among the common people and He became known to both the Jewish and the Roman leadership of Jerusalem. Instigated by the Jewish leadership of the Temple, the Roman authorities executed Jesus by way of Crucifixion. As Jesus died on the cross, even a Roman centurion realized that Jesus really was God. When the centurion, who stood by realized this, he cried out and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
On the third day following the death of Jesus, He rose from the dead. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that afterward for forty days, 500 people saw Him alive while He continued to instruct His followers. On the fortieth day after His resurrection, His followers watched as Jesus ascended into heaven. (Matthew 27-28, Mark 15-16, Luke 23-24, John 19-20, Acts 1).
A very interesting sidelight to this story is that Jesus sweated blood the night prior to his crucifixion as He prayed about His fate (Luke 22:44). The clinical name for this condition is hematohidrosis. While it is rare, hematohidrosis is caused by extreme stress that ruptures the blood vessels near the sweat glands. Despite the extreme tribulation that Jesus experienced, He voluntarily cooperated with the process of His own death (Matthew 26:57-27:14, John 18:12-38, Mark 14:53-15:5). Jesus was obedient to the Father. This was an act of supernatural faith, and revealed unprecedented strength of character.
These events are either fact of fiction. If they are fiction, then there is no need for further discussion and billions of people have been deluded for over two thousand years. If the events are fact, then then they reveal critical implications of unparalleled significance to every human being on earth. Belief in either direction is the the single most important decision every human will ever be confronted with.
The historical truth of these events rests upon the 27 books of the New Testament. You could say that the authors got it wrong, that they were deluded, or that the events became fictionalized during the short period between the happenings and the first writings of the books of the New Testament, but the historical evidence makes casual dismissal of the events a difficult and arduous task.