The Challenge of Jesus Christ
THE CHALLENGE OF JESUS CHRIST
But Matthew’s gospel has nothing to do with the way you feel. It is presenting to us a record of historical facts that here is a man who was sent into this world by God, by your God and Lord.
by Geoff Thomas
In every way the challenge of the four gospels is the life and self-consciousness of the Jesus Christ to whom we are introduced by the evangelists. This man claims to have been sent to the world by God. He claims to be the Christ the Son of the living God. He claims to be laying down his life as a ransom for many. He claims that on the third day he will rise from the dead. That’s the Lord’s claim, that he made you, that he is your Lord and your God, and so your judge. Mark is not presenting us with some emotional challenge in his gospel. He is confronting us with an intellectual challenge. Luke is challenging us with the historical veracity of the claims of Jesus Christ.
I don’t know how you feel reading this article. Bored? Hostile at what you are reading? Intrigued or curious? Or maybe with John Wesley, your heart is ‘strangely warmed.’ But Matthew’s gospel has nothing to do with the way you feel. It is presenting to us a record of historical facts that here is a man who was sent into this world by God, by your God and Lord. I am saying to you that you’ve got to respond to such a God. You must bow before him and worship him, not because of your feelings, nor may you refuse to do so because of your lack of feelings, but because what Jesus is is ‘real reality’, and what he says is ‘true truth.’ That is quite independent of how you feel today. You may feel that he is the Lord, or you may not, but the key question is this, ‘Is what he says truth?’ Did he die as the Lamb of God to bear away our sins, and did he rise from the dead? If that is truth it has the most momentous consequences. If what he says is true and we reject him then we go to hell. If what he says is true and we receive him then he becomes our Saviour.
In, for example, the gospel of Mark I am confronted with sixteen extraordinary chapters that take about two hours to read slowly. Into whatever chapter I dip I find a colossal Christ, a divine Christ, one whom men must describe as a megalomaniac Christ if what he says is a tissue of lies. Have you ever pondered the challenge of his claims? Have you ever thought about the possibility that what Jesus said is true – the possibility that Christ is God the Son. There is never going to be a more important book for you to read than Mark’s gospel. There will never be a more important question for you to resolve. You have every right, from a purely academic angle, to sit down and examine it, or come here for a month or two and listen to what I say about Jesus Christ, and then reject it. But you have no right simply to dismiss it as beyond contempt. That is one thing that you cannot do with Christ. That is something no man who met Jesus Christ has ever been able to do. Peter and John Mark and Cornelius and all in his household followed Jesus. Others hated everything he stood for and crucified him. Nobody could pass him by and ignore him because he claims to be God, your God and Judge.
I am asking you whether you have considered the claims of Christ? My point is this, that if what Mark’s gospel says is true then you must bow the knee, and submit your intellect and fall before him. You must cry to him that he will have mercy on you and pardon your sins and become your Lord and Saviour, and keep asking him until you know that he has heard you. If you say to me that you don’t feel anything then I am talking to you about historical facts, the record in Mark 4 where we are told that Jesus spoke and the winds and waves obeyed him, in Mark 5 where we are told that he raised a girl from the dead, in Mark 6 where he fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, and also in Mark 6 we are told that he walked on the water. In Mark 10 we are told he prophesied that he would rise from the dead on the third day; in Mark 13 he announced that all men will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and in Mark 16 we are told that he who was crucified rose: "He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him" (Mk. 16:6).
Those are objective realities. Spoonbenders don’t preach the Sermon on the Mount. Frauds don’t deliver some of the most profound discourses recorded in John’s gospel that the world has ever heard. What would you think of a Plato or of a Bertrand Russell sawing women in half or pulling rabbits out of top hats? Would they rise in your estimation as teachers of truth so that you gave their writings even more authority? But with Christ we are being told by the sceptics that he deliberately deceived people with hundreds of fake miracles, and yet he taught sublime eternal truths, as relevant today as then, helpful to the Chinese rice farmer and to the Manhattan businessman. It doesn’t make sense. But if he actually did heal a man born blind, and cleanse a leper, and raise a totally paralysed man, and cause a man’s chorea to cease, and deliver one who had been bound in chains to stop him from harming himself and others – and many more such deliverances – then these are the actions of the one whom God sent into the world. We say that those works of Christ have the most massive consequences for you. If he is the Son of God then you must bow the knee, and you must do that because the gospels are true. It seems to me that very often people seem to be looking for reasons other than that for becoming Christians. To me there is one great reason for becoming a Christian, and that is because it is true, and the moment it is true it has the right to the allegiance of every person in the world.
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