In the Old Testament (see previous question) a huge part of the whole story of God and His people has to do with how they “atoned” (made up for) their sins by coming once a year to the temple to offer a perfect sacrifice to God. This means they brought the very best of what they owned, a lamb or other animal, and NOT the little puny or sick one that isn’t worth anything to them anyway – it had to be their best, most valuable one. This animal would be killed as an “atonement sacrifice” for sins. (Everyone knew back then that sin HAD to be dealt with, unlike these days when we often try to deny that things we do are wrong or we might shove issues under a rug and don’t think much about it. They knew what we all need to remember today: we either deal with it now, or deal with it later…)
However, God knew He was going to do something better (in His time), which is why there are hints all through the old testament about what He was planning. He wanted there to be one big sacrifice to make up for ALL the sins of the world, so people no longer had to offer animal sacrifices each year, and so we could be truly cleansed and ready for heaven.
So He sent His Son Jesus. Jesus grew up with his earthly parents, then began His teaching when He was about 30. He went around healing and telling stories so we could know more about God, and this made some people in power at that time very uncomfortable (they thought He wanted to take their power). So they turned Him over to the political rulers of the day (the Romans), and accused Him of crimes against the state. The Romans killed Him by beating him terribly and nailing Him to a cross, the same way criminals were executed back then. Jesus didn’t commit any crime though, and He could’ve stopped them (since He’s GOD), but He didn’t – because He really loved us that much and He knew He needed to do it, that it was all part of God the Father’s plan for history and for the universe.
There is so much to this amazing story than this super-condensed version, and I hope and pray you’ll read more about it. But here’s the thing – Jesus was just like us, except He never sinned, so HE was the new PERFECT sacrifice, offered for ALL the sins in the world. So now, even though we all mess up, if we are baptized and believe in Him and that He died for us (and ask His forgiveness if we do wrong), then we can live forever in heaven with Him and with our loved ones who were friends with Him when they died. This can happen because Jesus didn’t just die, the “good news” is that He really truly came back to life! He defeated death, so we can live forever too. Pretty wild when you think about it!
You may wonder, how do we KNOW He was God and that He really did come back to life?
There are a few ways…
- This is how a famous writer, C.S. Lewis explains it: he talks about how when Jesus walked this earth, He went around telling everyone He was God (see footnote below) — we know He didn’t mince words because the Jewish leaders at the time actually tried to kill Him over it and He didn’t say, “No no, wait, you’ve misunderstood what I meant”. So since He said himself that He was God, that makes Him either a Liar, a Lunatic, or our LORD. (Read more about that here and more deeper reading here.)
- It comes down to whether or not we believe the bible is true, is it really an accurate account of what happened so long ago? I’ll repeat what was part of an answer to another question: “The Bible actually has an astonishing track record when it comes to historical reliability. Throughout the last 150 years, the modern science of archaeology has only confirmed—not denied—what we read in Scripture.” Read more here, it’s fascinating! (Scroll down a little over half-way for that part.)
- And here’s the most compelling part for me: all but one of the apostles who went around preaching that Jesus rose from the dead was tortured and killed for it (and the other one, John, was stranded on a desert island to die). Some people will be strong enough to die for what they believe in, but I can’t think of anyone who would be tortured and killed for a lie. (Read how they all died here.)
- Here’s something I just heard that explains SO well how we can know for SURE that He is really God. It’s a podcast from Father Mike Schmitz (from 9/13/15 called “One Among Many”), click here to listen.
- Lastly, it comes down to faith, if He isn’t God and didn’t come back to life, then the whole Christianity thing for the last 2000+ years is a big farce, but I know He’s God because I talk with Him every day and He answers my prayers, often very clearly and in crazy ways! It has happened so many times that there is no doubt in my mind, heart, and soul.
- He actually went around telling everyone He was God — It’s in your bible in John 5:18: “For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”. In John 8:58 Jesus went so far as to use the very words by which God revealed Himself to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). To the Jews this was the epitome of blasphemy, for they knew that in doing so Jesus was clearly claiming to be God. On yet another occasion, Jesus explicitly told the Jews: “‘I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God‘” John 10:30-33. (Source.)