Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Psychology of the Disciples

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us' and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete." 
-1 John 1:1-4, ESV

Question: "How can you believe all of this Jesus stuff? How do we even know Jesus existed?" 
This is a question that I have been asked. There are many angles to take to answer but I want to look at the TESTIMONY of the disciples today and think about their situation for a moment. 

1. Say Jesus & John were in colaboration to make this whole thing up. 
Say John the Baptist and Jesus got together one day, while they were young, and thought, "I know, Jesus why don't you say that you are the Messiah, and I will say that I am the forerunner or Elijah that they have talked about. People will believe in us and we will be famous!
Then they start out. John moves to the desert, decides to wear camel hair, eat honey & locusts, and baptize people. He did become pretty famous, but what a hard life that would have been.
Then Jesus starts going around preaching and telling people to follow him. Unfortunately he was from Nazareth, a disrespected community. How long do you think people would have followed him? Also, he knew early on that he would end up dying on a cross. Would you, knowing that you would die in obscurity on a cross continue with some scheme like this, unless there was some huge advantage?

2. His disciples- so these guys who had a descent career in fishing, collecting taxes, fighting against Rome, etc. decide to follow some guy who is bold and charismatic. Ok, a lot of people follow bold and charismatic leaders. But, to what end? They knew they would suffer, but they firmly believed that there was great eternal reward. Now think about this...why would they believe that this was true? Did Jesus back up his claims?
3. Would anyone continue to suffer for what they knew was a lie?
People will die for what they BELIEVE to be true perhaps, but very few will die for what they KNOW to be a lie, although some may do so. 

4. What was the advantage?
So what was the advantage of being a follower of Jesus in that day?  Did they get rich? No. Did they become admired? No. Did they receive honor? No. Did they die happy? Yes. 
These followers of Jesus were told that He did not come to overthrow the Romans, they saw that some people, particularly the powerful rejected him. They went about homeless and walked a lot. They were kicked out of places, they watched their leader be beaten, tortured, and die in obscurity on a cross, they left their livelihoods, they were kicked out of fellowship because of Christ, they were abused, maligned, ridiculed, tortured, had to flee for their lives, some were stoned, crucified, light on fire, and had to flee for their life. What was their advantage? Why did they continue to follow? 
So think about it. Why would they go through all of this if they knew that Jesus was false. 

5. The New Testament
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, 1 John, James, Revelation, Hebrews, Acts, etc...
These words were all written before 96AD, while those who had seen, heard, touched, and new Jesus were still around. Those who followed Jesus, those who hung around him, all support these testimonies and books. The miracles that were recorded to show that He was the Christ, were all confirmed by his followers, all men who value truthfulness, and keep from lies. Those in the early church, the several hundred that admired Jesus, all support these words. In fact, there are things in these books, that if not true, would have not been added because it doesn't make things seem glorious. For example Epic stories share epic events. The New Testament also shows the failures of these men. 

6. The Apostle Paul
Paul was a Jewish religious leader, and very intelligent. He had wealth, power, position, respect, and was a lead persecuter of the Christians. Something sudden happened in his life that radically changed him. He claims that he had an encounter with the resurrected Jesus Christ. And he died for that belief. He left everything for that belief! Why? What did he hope to gain that he didn't already have? Was there something lacking in his life that he needed?  Admitting Christ would essentially mean leaving everything, giving everything up in order to live a persecuted life. No one does that unless they are sure of what they have seen!

7. Who were these guys? 
Were they ignorant apes who didn't know much and were therefore easily manipulated? Well, looking at their writing style, I would say they were smart men, especially Luke, a doctor, and Paul a religious leader. 

8. Here is the bottom line-
During my years in college, one night I was enjoying a Mountain Dew and hanging out on Culby 2, in our dorm. A man, whom I never met, came up to me and said, "I am Jesus, follow me." 
What do you think my response was? 
I pulled my cup from my lip, gently looked at him, with stern eyes, and said, "Prove it." 
He couldn't, and that is why I didn't follow him. 

9. What about other cult leaders that people follow, though they are dead?
Joseph Smith & Brigham Young are two of my favorites, because although they are dead, their belief system remains. Most contemporaries to JS believed that he was a story teller and a crack pot, long before he came up with these secret tablets. Also, both of these men JS & BY, have made end time prophecies that have not come true, as well as other prophecies that have not come true. In my opinion, someone who makes false prophecies is a.......false prophet. And because they have, I will not rightly follow them. That being said, when Mormons actually learn this, many leave. 
Jesus, on the other hand, has been attacked for two thousand years, yet remains impeccable. There are no skeletons or contradictions in his closet. 
Muhammad, this will probably get me killed, but if I can help someone see through the dross of life, and come to Jesus, it is worth it. Anyhow, I have studied the Quran and the history of Muhammad. In the Quran you see a progressive change of thought in which one thought contradicts another. For example, early on you see that the Jews & Christians are both considered friends and "people of the book". Later you see Jews are anathema but Christians are still considered friends and "people of the book". Then later, both are considered enemies. Also, the history of Muhammad & his life leave him looking dubious. That is why I reject Islam. Plus, they teach people to follow Jesus in the Quran, but then go against what he teaches. This is inconsistent, therefore it doesn't work, and is clearly man made. Plus, it doesn't ever put itself on the line with specific prophecy, like the Bible does. 

So these are some thoughts. Something that frustrates me is when someone says that the Bible and Jesus' disciples are just made up. Also, when someone says that the Bible was changed and manipulated at some later church council. To me, this shows ignorance, and proves that this person has not looked into these things, but is parroting something someone else parroted. In my judgment, either these people are too lazy to look into it, or feel too ashamed to admit that they are really not as good as they thought they were, or don't want to admit that Jesus is the Christ because that would mean they may have to change some things, OR they are just mad at God, so by denying His existence, they can get some type of revenge, which actually just ends up hurting themselves.

So, either these men and women have given a good report and are following the Savior of the world, OR they are, at best, completely insane & to be pitied more than most men. 

If they are wrong, they die believing a lie. If they are right, which I firmly believe that they would have to be, then they have forgiveness of sin, eternal life with Jesus, and purpose for living that transcends their selfish moods.

Rather, what if they weren't making it up? What if this is an accurate account? What if they took great effort to accurately record what they have seen, heard, tasted, touched, and handled? What if Jesus did all the things they have written and contemporaries agreed to? Could that be possible? I believe it can, and is the only possibility. I believe that no one would have laid so much on the line, unless it is what they actually experienced....unless the whole lot of them were insane, which is highly unlikely.

So, am I basing my life, my career, and my future on the testimony of the apostles and NT authors? Yes. Because I believe that these accounts have stood the test of time, and the hard test of their contemporaries, who valued truthfulness in everything.

What about you?
Choose a valid option in regards to their testimony/the words of the New Testament. Choose one:
1. They were made up because...
2. They are accurate records, but I don't want to change my life.
3. They are accurate records, and I want Jesus.

4. (Not valid) These stories were changed over time, over years of translation.
Option 4 is not valid, which I have already addressed, as have many textual scholars. If you missed it, I can get it to you. But, know that only the first 3 are even considered options.