Christmas is a special time of year. At Christmastime, something magical happens to us. We ease up a bit on the metaphorical gas pedal of life. We let the other guy in front of us. We are kinder to each other.
The old classics are played every year on television- “Miracle on 34th Street”, Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, and “A Charlie Brown Christmas." We love to watch and share them with our children.
But lately, there has emerged a new genre of “religious” television shows. I’m not talking about holiday shows. I’m talking about Jesus “reality” shows.
They focus on the “historical” Jesus. You’ve probably seen one. A typical show will present the archeological “record,” in order to give the viewer insight into what Jesus might have looked like and how he might have lived. They retrace the steps Jesus may have walked and the places he may have visited.
Some shows have gone to great lengths, using computer graphic techniques, to reconstruct what He might have looked like. Others focus on how He might have grown up and the effect it might have had on His ministry. In those days, many Jews struggled for bare subsistence. They were essentially a captive people and many dealt with poverty and itinerant lifestyles. They led very hard lives. There was a huge divide between the “haves” and “have nots”.
Jesus is portrayed as a “have not” based upon where He grew up and his circumstances, as described in the Bible. The Jesus we see revealed in these shows is an unattractive, uneducated and deprived Jew, who barely scraped by. These shows portray Jesus as a typical male Jew of the time, from a typical Jewish family.
It's the classic anti-Christian argument. Jesus grew up on the wrong side of a class-based system. As a result, he rebelled against the system. It makes logical sense, from a human perspective.
But it implicitly rejects the other side of Jesus; his divinity. In other words, these theorists are willing to accept only part of the New Testament accounts of Jesus as accurate. The problem is that you can’t have it both ways. If parts of these accounts are inaccurate, then we must question the accuracy of the entire account.
Jesus was human. But the Bible claims that Jesus was also God. According to the biblical accounts, Jesus did fantastic things- miracles. His first recorded miracle was the transformation of water at a wedding into a very fine and rare wine. Later, he restored sight to blind people. He healed unhealably ill people.
He fed thousands from a few loaves of bread and pieces of fish. He predicted his own death (and the manner of it). He walked on water and made storms stop.
He brought dead people back to life.
The Bible claims that Jesus was raised from the dead, after which he stayed with his disciples for 40 days and ultimately, ascended into Heaven.
I’ll admit that it’s unlikely that he looked like the blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter in the movie “King of Kings.” But we don’t know for sure what he looked like. The Bible doesn’t tell us. Contemporaneous secular literature doesn’t either.
And as to His socioeconomic status, we have no idea where he landed in the Jewish hierarchy. It's just hard for me to imagine someone like that barely scraping by, in a dirty longshirt, speaking in Aramaic uneducated slang.
I’m pretty sure that money and wealth were unimportant to Jesus. If he was who he claimed to be, he created the universe. All of the wealth in it therefore belonged to Him anyway. What was really important to Jesus was reaching through to his fellow man. He spent his entire adult life doing it.
There is really only one way to know who he was and what he stood for. We read the Bible. We test the validity of Jesus' teachings through our own life experiences.
Why do I believe the Bible's claim that Jesus was God? His earthly ministry was short in duration; a mere few years. But its impact is nothing short of miraculous. Contemporary mankind began measuring years by the year of His birth. What began as a defeated little band of men and women, called "Christians" whose leader was humiliated, tortured and crucified, ended up as a belief system that is followed by more people than any other in the world.
And even those who don’t follow him celebrate His birthday.
The Old Testament is filled with prophecies of the coming Savior of the world. The list of these prophecies is sufficiently long as to be the subject of a separate blog post (or perhaps a series of blog posts). But as you study them, I think you will come to the same conclusion that I did: the only reasonable explanation of their fulfillment is as it is described in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as described in the New Testament.
Jesus taught that he was the only path to God. He explained that we must be born again, in order to have eternal salvation. And all we have to do is believe in him; to trust in him. That’s all he asked of his followers at the time; and that’s all he asks of us today.
Certainly, if I'm given the gift of eternal life I’m going to be grateful. And that’s where the old Christian hymn “Trust and Obey” comes in. We ask Jesus into our hearts. We trust in him. And we desire to obey his teachings. But it’s the trusting and not the obedience that saves us. He saves us. And his Holy Spirit provides us with the tools we need to obey- love, peace, patience and all of the rest of those qualitiesthat just don’t come naturally to most of us.
Here’s how I test the validity of Jesus’ teachings in my own life. This is empirical evidence in its purest form. I know what I was like before I trusted in Jesus; and I know what I’m like now. The “now” me is supernaturally better. It’s not because I try harder to be good. In fact, the harder I try, the more I mess up (also a point validated and written about extensively by Paul in Romans). I’m better because Jesus, in way that is almost impossible to articulate, now lives within me. He helps me to be better.
And the effect of Jesus on my life is the bottom line. Skeptics might argue that I've convinced myself of this and therefore my behavior has changed. But even the effects of brainwashing are temporary. The effect of my faith in Jesus has been a lifelong transformation. And there's no sign that it's stopping.
What Jesus looked like, how he dressed and spoke, and how much money he had simply aren’t important to me. These things appeal to our appetites for "reality", but they miss the real point.
It’s like focusing on one toenail of the Statue of Liberty, or one rivet in the Eiffel Tower. If you do, you will completely miss the experience. You won’t see the big picture. You won’t understand the intent behind the work. So, watching a Jesus “reality” show may be theoretically interesting. I suppose it’s kind of fun to imagine what his life may have been like. But remember: we are talking about the earthly life of the Creator of the entire universe. The only way to really understand Jesus is to experience him first-hand.
Here’s a suggestion. If you are channel-surfing over the holidays and one of those shows comes on, turn it off. Open up your Bible to Matthew, Mark, Luke of John. Instead of hypothesizing about whether Jesus had blue or brown eyes, read about him firsthand. Read what he said. Read about what he did. Then come to your own conclusion about who he was.
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.
 I use quotation marks around the word “record” because, as with anything historical, it is subject to interpretation. For some reason, we humans tend to attribute a greater degree of credibility to anything that purports itself to be scientific. But the truth is that scientists make as many mistakes as anyone else. And so do archeologists. And because something is presented as scientific or archeological evidence, it does not mean that the evidence is necessarily valid, or even supports whatever proposition it is intended to support. Instead, all evidence should be weighed, in order to ascertain the truth about a matter. If the evidence is consistent with the theory or resonates based upon prior experience, and it is authenticated through an independent and unbiased process, then it may be considered as relevant and perhaps even as dispositive of the matter asserted.
 More correctly, “who he is” because it is fundamental to Christian beliefs that Jesus has never died.
 John 14:6.
 John 3:7.
 John 1:12
 Romans 6-8.
 John 14:26, Romans 8:9.
 Galatians 5:22.