“God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE? Some would have you believe that Jesus was not a real person. Others acknowledge that he existed but assert that he was just an ordinary man who has long been dead.
HOW CAN YOU OVERCOME THE CHALLENGE? Imitate the disciple Nathanael. His friend Philip told him that he thought he had found the Messiah—“Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” However, Nathanael did not just take Philip’s word for it. In fact, he replied: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Even so, he accepted Philip’s invitation to “come and see” for himself. (John 1:43-51) You too will benefit from examining for yourself the evidence regarding Jesus. What can you do?
Investigate the historical evidence that Jesus was a real person. Josephus and Tacitus were two respected historians who lived in the first century and were not Christians. They mention Jesus Christ as a historical figure. Describing how Roman Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the fire in Rome in 64 C.E., Tacitus wrote: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus [Christ], 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.”
Regarding the references made by first- and second-century historians to Jesus and the early Christians, the Encyclopædia Britannica, 2002 Edition, says: “These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.” In 2002, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal stated: “Most scholars, barring the stray atheist, have already accepted Jesus of Nazareth as a historical person.”
Consider the proof that Jesus was resurrected. When Jesus was arrested by his opposers, his closest companions abandoned him, and his friend Peter fearfully denied knowing him. (Matthew 26:55, 56, 69-75) After Jesus’ arrest, his followers scattered. (Matthew 26:31) Then, suddenly, his disciples sprang into action. Peter and John courageously faced the very men who contrived Jesus’ death. Jesus’ disciples became so motivated that they spread his teaching throughout the Roman Empire, preferring to face death rather than compromise their beliefs.
What was one reason for this drastic change in attitude? The apostle Paul explains that Jesus was raised from the dead and “appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve.” Paul adds: “After that he appeared to upward of five hundred brothers at one time.” The majority of the eyewitnesses were still alive at the time Paul penned those words. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7) The testimony of one or two eyewitnesses may have been easy for skeptics to dismiss. (Luke 24:1-11) But the testimony of more than five hundred eyewitnesses provided compelling evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead.
WHAT IS THE REWARD? Those who have faith in Jesus and obey him can have their sins forgiven and can maintain a clean conscience. (Mark 2:5-12; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Peter 3:16-22) If they die, Jesus promises to resurrect them “at the last day.”—John 6:40.