@GreedyIan from Twitter asked;
“hey rather than dying for our sins, maybe Jesus died simply because he was nailed to a big wooden cross?”
Actually @GreedyIan has asked a very good question and I’m glad that he asked it.
What if Jesus Simply Died because He was Nailed to a Big Wooden Cross?
Well, we all know that indeed Jesus died on a big wooden cross. Even the modern day Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and agnostic Bart Ehrman, defends the historicity of Jesus.(1)
Further, the Roman historian Tacitus, writing in the late first century, records,
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite punishments on a class hated for their disgraceful acts, called Christians by the populace. 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.”
Therefore, the testimony many decades later is that Christ did indeed die from this “extreme penalty.” That much is a given to anyone honest to history; Jesus died on a cross.
But if Jesus simply died because he was nailed to a big wooden cross and yet in doing so didn’t die to pay the wages of sin you and I owe to God, it doesn’t match up to history written by a first century Jewish military leader-turned-historian when captured by the Romans, who was not a Christian, basically a “hostile witness” named Josephus.
Josephus’ works have provided much eyewitness information about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Further, his writings have given us some insight into the early days of Christianity, including an extra-biblical account of Christ Jesus:
Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
Also, if Jesus simply died because he was nailed to a big wooden cross and yet in doing so didn’t die to pay the wages of sin you and I owe to God, it doesn’t match up to history written in the Bible either.
The Bible records multiple appearances of Christ after He rose from the dead. The circumstances and descriptions of these appearances leave little doubt that what is being described are actual encounters with Christ in a physical, albeit glorified, body.
Christ Jesus’ first appearance after He died and resurrected was to Mary Magdalene as recorded in John 20, and to the other women who left to tell the disciples about the empty tomb in Matthew 28.
The notion that women were the first witnesses powerfully supports the idea that the Gospel writers and early church did not invent the Resurrection. At the time, the testimony of a Jewish woman was not allowed in court,(2) so it makes no sense, if one is creating a story, to claim that women were the first eyewitnesses. It would be far more believable to claim that well-respected men like Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus were the first to discover the empty tomb. The fact that women were the first witnesses of the empty tomb and of the risen Lord testifies to the authenticity of the account.
Next, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12–13, Luke 24:13–31). These two disciples walked and talked with Him along the way. In the evening, they sat down to eat. As they were handed the bread, they recognized Him: “Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:31).
He then came into the midst of 10 disciples as they were hiding for fear of the Jews. John 20:20 reveals, “When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
Thomas was not present at this appearance. When told of the meeting, Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Eight days later, Christ again appeared to the disciples, this time with Thomas present. He told Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). How could this be a reasonable request unless Jesus appeared to them in an actual physical body?
Then, Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee where He cooked fish and they dined together. The Lord was later seen again by the disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16–17).
The Bible records that Christ also appeared to a group of more than 500 people at one time and later to James: “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:6–7).
Do these reports really stand as evidence for a bodily resurrection? As historical accounts they do seem credible and reliable, indicating the disciples encountered the physically risen Lord. The later behavior of these men shows that the only reasonable conclusion is that they had encountered the physically resurrected Christ.
After Jesus was crucified, these men were very afraid, hiding from the Jews and fearing for their own safety. What would cause them to suddenly become bold in their witness, preaching fearlessly, even at the risk of torture and death? History records that most of the disciples were ultimately martyred for their faith. Martyred for their faith not by murdering themselves and a bunch of other people, but martyred themselves because they would not deny that the Jesus they knew was actually God who died and rose from death.
If these disciples had made up the story, they would have been insane to continue to not only hold to it that Jesus was God who died and rose from death but continued to teach that Jesus was God who died and rose from death as they were being put to their own death. If they had just made up the story that Jesus was God who died and rose from death, they would to save their life would have most likely denied their made up story and called it a lie, yet they did not. The only plausible reason for this is that they truly had encountered the risen Messiah.
Those who question or deny the Resurrection cannot explain the change in these men. If Christ had merely passed out on the Cross, would an encounter with a horribly injured man be enough to embolden the disciples to become great men of God? If the tomb were empty because the disciples had stolen the body, would the disciples be willing to die for a lie? Would not at least one of them expose the lie to save his own skin? What would the religious leaders of the day have given to put down the followers of Christ? No, the only answer is that the disciples knew that Jesus had died and that they had seen Him alive again.
It could be argued that many people have been willing to die for a cause, so the change in the disciples in itself is not proof for the Resurrection. Further, the objection is raised that fanatics of all types have been willing to die for their particular beliefs. Of course, but the real issue is not whether the person willing to die believes their faith to be true, but whether they know it is true or false. The disciples were in a position to know whether the Resurrection actually occurred. If they had perpetrated a hoax, they would not have been willing to suffer and die for their fraud. Their self-sacrifice indicates that they actually believed the Resurrection from death of Jesus was real and factual.
Did Jesus die for our Sins or did He just Die?
So now we come back to the question @GreedyIan from Twitter asked; did Jesus die for our sins or did He just die?
From history (non-biblical and biblical) we know Jesus lived and that He died on a big wooden cross. Also from history (non-biblical and biblical) we have evidence that suggests that Jesus did indeed rise after death and after His resurrection appeared to a group of more than 500 people at one time.
@GreedyIan’s question reminds me of Thomas’ doubting that Jesus had actually risen from death.
But one of the Twelve [disciples], Thomas, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he [Thomas] said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”
After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.
He [Jesus] said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”
Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”
Faith in Jesus is not Blind and Without Evidence
The evidence mentioned in this article is a small portion of the abundant evidence of Christ Jesus dying for our sins (knowingly doing wrong and knowingly not doing something we know we should do). Those people who actually honestly repent (turn away from willingly sinning) admitting that they are not perfect and are not worthy of being in Heaven and place their trust (faith) into Christ Jesus dying to pay the cost of their sins, are given full evidence of God’s perfect love for them and enter into a personal relationship with Christ Jesus Himself.
God respects our freedom. If and only if we love the truth with our heart, our mind, and soul will we find the truth about God.
The choice to seek for the truth is a free choice. And all seekers find. These verses come from the Holy Bible and each claim – that all seekers find God – are testable by experience, by experiment.
Deuteronomy 4:29 – But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Proverbs 8:17 – I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.
If you are honest about finding the truth, here is a way to see if Christianity is true or not. Tell Christ Jesus that you are seeking the truth. Ask Him to fulfill His promise that all who seek Him will find Him. In His own time, of course. He promised that you will find, but He did not promise a schedule. God’s a lover, not a train.
But; you may reply: I don’t even know whether Christ is God. I do not even know whether there is a God. That’s okay because you can pray the prayer of the skeptic:
Lord Jesus, I don’t know if you even exist. I am a skeptic. I doubt. I think you may be only a myth. I am however not certain, (at least when I’m completely honest with myself). So if you really do exist, and if you really did promise to reward all seekers, you must be hearing me now.
So I hereby declare myself a seeker, a seeker of the truth, whatever it is and wherever it is. I want to know the truth and live in the truth. If you are the truth, please help me.
All this King over all Kings asks for at first is honesty, not faking a faith [trust] you do not have. Honesty is a choice of the will – the choice to seek the truth no matter what or where and follow where truth takes you. This is the most momentous choice you can make. It is the choice of light over darkness, ultimately heaven over hell.
Remember, Jesus taught this truth:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.”
It is your choice to make and I suggest that you choose wisely the narrow gate.
(2) Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999), 648.