Last time I challenged you to think about how you would answer the question, “Why are you a Christian?”  I hope you took some time to think about your answer.   The effort to examine the evidence for Jesus is going to help establish strong faith roots that will keep you grounded in times of cultural shift. And to be sure, if you are serious about equipping your children with strong faith roots, this is the place to start. All the evidence will come together building a strong case for faith. And you’ll come out of the experience knowing WHY you believe and being able to articulate that to others. You’ll have a faith built on evidence. You will be able to decisively proclaim that you are a Christian because Christianity is true.

Opening a Case File

Building a case for Christianity is not exactly something that you can achieve overnight. It’s going to take some time and determination. And for that reason, I thought you might like to go on this journey with me. I have decided to open my own case file in the hopes that this will get you and your children excited to do the same. So, here we go! Hang on for the ride and let’s examine the evidence for Jesus with a fresh perspective, that of an investigator. 

Categories of Evidence

When we read the Bible through the eyes of an investigator, we begin see evidence that can be grouped into several different categories. Eyewitness accounts would be one category. What did people who interacted with Jesus see and hear? Are they reliable eyewitnesses? What does history say about their character? Another category would be the statements that Jesus made about himself. What did he claim and how do we know these claims are accurate? Did Jesus do anything that would help us conclude that his claims were correct? And a final category of evidence might be what his critics said about him. Jesus was well known in his community; he had both supporters and critics. We can’t just build our case on what his supporters said, we need to know what his critics said and how they responded to Jesus. These are the elements we will include in our case file. 

The Eyewitnesses

Let’s start with the eyewitnesses. There are many of them in the New Testament and they range from people who knew Jesus to those who were strangers to him. They also come from a variety of backgrounds, from the working-class to royal officials, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, a hodgepodge really. That fact itself adds an interesting point to our investigation. Jesus encountered a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds. He didn’t select one audience. 

Let’s Start with Family

In a typical investigation, it’s common to begin with the people who know the suspect the best, family and friends. So, let’s begin our investigation the same way, by looking first at family. The Bible lists a few important people in Jesus’ earthly family. His mother Mary, his earthly father Joseph, his relative John (who would grow up to be John the Baptist) and a brother named James. Let’s take a look at their testimony as it’s been recorded in the New Testament. We just might learn a few things.

Mom and Dad

We first meet Mary and Joseph in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Both of them were descendants of King David (see Matthew 1 and Luke 3) and they were an engaged couple. Their testimonies about Jesus begin with both Mary and Joseph receiving separate angelic visits announcing that the virgin Mary is pregnant by the Spirit and that the son she is carrying will grow up to be the promised Messiah. Joseph learns that this son will be called Immanuel (which means God with us) and will save people from their sins. Mary learns that her son will be called the Son of the Most High God, that he will be a king like his relative David, and he will rule forever over his people. You can read all about this in Matthew 1 and Luke 1.

Hearing from God

Now it’s important to think about this first part of Mary’s and Joseph’s testimonies. What they heard and subsequently communicated to others was very unusual.  No one else heard the messages from these angelic visitors. So, how do you test that? Most of us would quickly dismiss an angelic visitation as crazy talk. But wait, there is more. God took the time to validate this angelic message to Mary,  Joseph and for those of us skeptics in the 21st century. How was this validated?

Validating the Message

It’s important to note that the angelic messengers were careful to provide some hard evidence to prove their message was true. Looking at these passages through the eyes of an investigator has been a profound exercise for me. I’m learning so much in the details that are given in the Bible. Let’s look at some passages together and see if we can find some evidence that validates the angelic messages that Mary and Joseph heard. Look up these verses with your child, lead them on their own investigation!

Luke 1:34-40

What evidence did the angel give to Mary so that she would know the message was true? The angel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth was pregnant with a son. This was amazing because Elizabeth was well beyond childbearing years. Mary went to check it out. And sure enough, this part of the angelic message was true.

Luke 2:7

How does Luke 2:7 validate what the angel had said? It may seem simple, but it is an important piece of our investigation. When Jesus was finally born, he was indeed a son, not a daughter.  This is another validation.

Luke 2:11-20

Here we have another angelic visit and message. What did the angels say to the shepherds? How did their visit provide additional evidence regarding Jesus’ identity? A band of shepherds came to visit the newborn. There was no way these shepherds could have known about the baby or his birthplace. These men had heard about the boy from another angelic encounter. And they came to see the baby to validate what they had heard. Luke 2:11-12 says, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” It’s wonderful that the angel wanted the shepherds to know he was telling the truth and he provided a way they could check it out for themselves. Later on the shepherds would share what they had seen and heard with others in the region.

Luke 2:22-40

Here we have two more strangers recognizing Jesus. What did they say about this little baby? When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised, a man named Simeon and a prophet named Anna both validated Jesus was the Messiah.

Matthew 2:1-12

What do you learn from the wise men to support your investigation? Wise men from the east also came searching for this child. They found him with the help of a star. They brought him gifts and bowed to worship him. These men were very far removed from any local gossip that might have been circulating about Mary and Joseph. They were basing their investigation on their knowledge of prophecies and a strange astrological event. They were in search of a special king.

John 2:1-11

What does Jesus do here as evidence of his identity? Much later in her life, Mary will ask Jesus to do something about the lack of wine at a wedding. Jesus will turn water into wine as evidence of his power over nature. Mary was the one who confidently suggests to the servants at the wedding that they do what her son asks of them. By this point, she is certainly confident of what the angel told her, that Jesus is the Son of God!

The Building Evidence

I hope you are beginning to see that the Bible has very methodically and specifically made a case for us that Christianity is true. When we read the Bible through the eyes of an investigator, we begin to see a mounting number of eyewitness testimonies that are making a strong case. Next week we will look at more evidence for Jesus,  other family members who had something to say about their interactions with Jesus.

I have more ideas!

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