In my previous post, we looked at how Jesus asked tactful questions to engage others. Today, let’s see how Jesus used evidence and arguments to confirm His claims.
When John the Baptist was in prison, it appears that he started to doubt if Jesus really was the Messiah. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
Because of a common misunderstanding of faith, I imagine some people would expect Jesus to say something to the effect of: “Take a blind leap of faith. Just believe that I’m the Messiah.” But that was not Jesus’ response:
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:4-6).
Instead, Jesus pointed to the miracles that He had performed as evidence of His identity.
There are also several examples where Jesus presented arguments to engage unbelievers (ex. Mark 11:27-33). My favorite example of one Jesus’ arguments is in Matthew 12:22-28, where He examined a particular belief and showed the consequences of that belief to be absurd (also known as a “reductio ad absurdum argument”).
In the story, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. When the Pharisees heard what had happened, they reasoned, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” However, Jesus knew what they were thinking. He responded to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?”
In other words, how foolish would it be for Satan to cast out his own demons when they are on his side and doing what he wants? A divided kingdom like that would not last very long!
Jesus went further and posited an alternative that made more sense: “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Jesus presented an argument to show that He was exorcising demons by the Spirit of God, not by the power of Satan.
In John 5, many of the Jews were offended by Jesus’ audacious claims. Once again, Jesus proceeded to back them up. This time, He called upon five different witnesses to make His case. The Old Testament taught the principle of having two or three witnesses when making a claim, but Jesus went above and beyond this with five witnesses!
The five witnesses are:
1. John the Baptist (5:32-35)
2. Jesus’ miracles or works (5:36)
3. God the the Father (5:37)
4. The Old Testament Scriptures (5:39-40)
5. Moses’ Writings (5:45-47)
Jesus’ case went something like this:
John the Baptist was a person who spoke the truth about me and was a light to you. And yet there is an ever greater witness than John. The works that I have done are evidence that God the Father has sent me to you. God the Father is on my side and bears witness about me, but you don’t know God’s voice and you don’t have His words abiding in you. The Old Testament Scriptures that you attempt to study point to me and my works, but you do not listen to them either. Lastly, your “supposed leader” Moses accuses you as well. He wrote of me, and if you actually believed Moses, you would believe my words too. But since you don’t believe his words, I don’t expect you to believe mine.
The Greatest Apologist
In these three quick examples, we see the greatest apologist at work. We would do well as Christ followers to imitate His methods. Practically speaking, we can do this by:
1. Pointing to Jesus’ miracles such as His resurrection to confirm His identity.
2. Using arguments to show the deficiency of other viewpoints and to make a case for Christianity.
3. Calling upon other witnesses (Scripture, testimony, etc.) to provide evidence for Jesus’ claims.