Over the past several weeks, I’ve been showing you how I would attempt to compile the case that Christianity is true. My hope is that we all come out of the experience knowing WHY we believe and being able to articulate that to others. We will be able to decisively proclaim that we are Christians because Christianity is TRUE. The eyewitnesses and the evidence is piling up, so let’s consider this week the testimony of the close friends of Jesus.
Jesus’ Closest Friends
If we think of our own lives, we would say that our family knows us best, followed by our closest friends. Jesus is no different. People who knew Jesus best have more to say about him. They know more about the details of his life than would a stranger. We started with a tight circle of people within his own family. Now we will move out, much like concentric circles to close friends, strangers and then enemies. It is well recorded in the Bible that Jesus had a tight knit circle of men around him. Twelve disciples followed him for three years. And of the twelve, there were three men that became known as Jesus’ inner circle. These men were privy to a few more strategic events in Jesus life, including the transfiguration. We’ll take a look at the testimony of his close friends: John (the son of Zebadee), John’s brother James, and Peter.
John Gives Evidence In His Gospel
John is the author of the Gospel of John, Revelation, and 3 short epistles (1 John, 2 John and 3 John). Shortly after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness, Jesus recruited John. Because John wrote so prolifically, we have a great deal of personal testimony from him. In his gospel account, John lists several miracles, which he calls the signs of Jesus’ identity. These signs reinforce the claims that Jesus makes about himself. Here are some examples:
- Jesus says he is “the bread of life” and backs the claim by miraculously feeding 5000 people.
- He gives evidence that he is “the resurrection and life” by raising Lazarus from the dead.
- Jesus proves he is “the light of the world” by restoring the sight of a man born blind.
John tells us his purpose in recording these things is to show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God so that we might believe (John 20:31). John also records two instances where Jesus directly claims to be God. Here Jesus uses the proper name of God from the Old Testament, “I AM.” John also describes several of Jesus’ post resurrection encounters with his disciples. The book of John is a great place to start if you are interested in finding the testimony of Jesus’ close friends.
Witnesses of the Transfiguration
John, James and Peter, were witnesses to one of the most astounding events in Jesus’ life. Jesus leads these three close friends to a high mountain where God himself says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” The terrified men fall face down until Jesus calms them. Jesus then instructs them, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” The men did keep the event private until after the resurrection of Jesus. Their testimony about the event was eventually recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke. In 2 Peter 3:16-18 Peter gives his own account of the transfiguration, “… we were eyewitnesses of His (Jesus) majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such a declaration as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory: “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased”— and we ourselves heard this declaration made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
Jesus’ Divine Characteristics
All three of his closest friends would talk about Jesus’ divinity. Peter is famous for his statement in John 6:68. After many of Jesus’ disciples abandon him because of some difficult teaching, Jesus asks Peter if he will also abandon him. Peter replies, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have already believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Clearly Peter gives Jesus a divine title, the Holy One of God. Peter understands that Jesus is no ordinary man.
Peter further acknowledges the divinity of Jesus in 2 Peter 1:2-3, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Peter describes Jesus as having divine attributes. He clearly sees Jesus as more than a mere man. Even under threat, Peter and John would continue to talk about Jesus, “But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4). The first 14 chapters of the book of Acts contain numerous statements from Peter, the testimony of a close friend.
The Witness of Martyrdom
Peter and James were both among Jesus’ closest friends. The weight of their testimony is accentuated by their willingness to die for their faith. James was the first of the apostles to be killed for his faith (Acts 12). In the case of Peter, Jesus predicted that he would be a martyr ( John 21). Tradition tells us Peter was martyred during the reign of Nero. James’ and Peter’s willingness to die for their faith is a powerful final testimony.
A Project With Your Children
Take some time with your children today to draw some concentric circles on a piece of paper. Have your child draw a picture of Jesus in the center of the circle. Then have your child write the names of the people who knew Jesus well. Start with family and place those names closest to Jesus. Then work your way out, recording others who interacted with Jesus. You can even make a list of some of the things that these people said about Jesus. By recording the testimony of close friends, you will begin to see some amazing things about Jesus.
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