The Historicity Of The Gospels

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I’m intrigued by the way the four Gospel writers have recorded the dying declarations of Jesus:

  • Father, forgive them—only in Luke 
  • Today you will be with Me in paradise—only in Luke 
  • Dear women, behold your son—only in John 
  • My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?—only in Matthew and Mark (and this is the only dying declaration they record) 
  • I thirst—only in John
  • It is finished—only in John
  • Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit—only in Luke 

This is an excellent apologetic for the legitimacy and authenticity of the historical record. 

You know that when your friends are at an important event, not everyone notices the same thing or even to the same extent as the others. 

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace has pointed out that when he’s conducting an investigation, he separates the eyewitnesses from each other exactly so they don’t get their stories to “match.” Detective Wallace is able to get the full story precisely because of the differences in each of the accounts. 

This is why the Gospel writers’ accounts ring true: they tell us the same historical event from their unique perspective. It’s only by reading all of them that we get the full picture. If the death and resurrection of Jesus had been a conspiracy, these writers clearly would have collaborated to “get their story straight” ahead of time, and as a result, we would have four identical stories. 

The historicity of Jesus as told in the Bible is spot-on and completely trustworthy! 

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“It Is Finished”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Just before Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” John tells us that Jesus knew everything written about Him in the law had been completed and all of the prophecies about Him had been fulfilled. Jesus knew this to be true but no one else standing there would have said “Aha!” because of that statement. But Jesus left no doubt for any of us when He next said, “It is finished!

These three English words are just one word in Greek: tetelestai. It’s in the perfect tense, telling us that nothing more needs to be added to Christ’s work. It not only shares the same root word that John uses for completed and fulfilled, but it closes the circle of another dying declaration of Jesus when He quoted Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His “It is finished” statement is also the last verse of Psalm 22.

The root word telos translated as completed, fulfilled, and finished has a very rich meaning. Here are three definitions we should consider: 

(1) To complete or bring to a conclusion

Jesus told His Father that He had finished (telos) His mission (John 17:4). Q: How do we know His mission was completed? A: Jesus sat down! Think about this: There were no chairs in the Old Testament temple because a priest never rested, there was always more work to do. But when Jesus finished His work, He sat down (see Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-12). 

(2) To discharge a debt

Since Jesus was the only One who could make the final “once for all” payment, that means that we were hopeless debtors prior to that. God foretold of His forgiveness using the picturesque language of a debt being “doubled up” when it was paid in full (see this video where I explain this concept more fully). Here’s what Jesus did: 

Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us. This note with its regulations, decrees, and demands He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP) 

Q: How do we know the debt was paid in full? A: The curtain that had separated us from God’s presence was torn in two.

(3) To fill up what’s missing

In this case, Jesus took what was missing by switching cups with us. He drank the cup of God’s righteous wrath—which was justly ours—and gave us His cup of righteousness in its place! (see Isaiah 51:17-22; Matthew 26:39).  

Q: How do we know we have a cup of righteousness in place of a cup of wrath? A: Dead saints of God were resurrected when Jesus died. “It is finished” was not Jesus giving up, but death giving up … it was not Jesus defeated, but death defeated! 

Jesus paid it all! There is nothing I can do to add to His completed—tetelestai—work, so I can now do what formerly was impossible: I can live a holy life for God’s glory. I can now finish (telos) my race on earth and receive the rewards God has stored up for me (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Christ’s tetelestai confession is our empowerment to live holy! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the dying declarations of Jesus, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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