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Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

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How Do You Know What You Know About Jesus Christ?

By Dr. Richard P. Bucher

How do you know what you know about the one called Jesus Christ? Notice that I didn't ask what you know about Jesus Christ. Before we can have a conversation about who you think Jesus is, I need to know how you formed the opinion that you have. What are your sources of information about Jesus Christ? Regardless of what you believe him to be, whether prophet or pretender, messiah or moralizer, a good man or the God-man, how do you know what you know about Jesus of Nazareth?

Since our culture is so drenched in Jesus' imagery, this is not an easy question to answer. But try. How do you know what you know about the one called Jesus? Distant memories of First Communion or Sunday School, catechism, or CCD classes? Articles you've read in one of our national news magazines (you know, the Kenneth Woodward & company, "Who was Jesus?" pieces). Books? Conversations with Christians? Religious music or art? A college course? A "Jesus" movie? Hearsay? Your own rampant imagination? These are but a few of the possible answers to the question, "How do you know what you know about the one called Jesus Christ?"

If you must honestly answer, "Most or all of what I know about Jesus Christ is based upon what others have said about him," then I must honestly ask you, "Is that a safe or sound way of proceeding?" What grade would we receive on a research paper, if we never consulted the primary sources, and only consulted what others have said about the subject? Who would buy a house or a car based only or even primarily on information provided by others, even experts? Information from others, be they experts or not, can be helpful in forming a sound opinion. But such second-hand information is no substitute for the rolling up of our own sleeves and examining the subject matter first hand.

How tragic it is when we reject or dismiss someone or something based on misinformation or a limited understanding. Especially if it all could have been avoided by serious first hand investigation. Yet, how common this very phenomenon is when it comes to Jesus. Like the 30-something woman who shared with me how, though raised a Christian, she had gone on to study Buddhism and other Asian religions. As our conversation unfolded it became clear that, in her mind, she had already tried Jesus. She'd "been there, done that." Not finding him relevant or compelling, she had "moved on." However, when I questioned her as to what she believed about Jesus, I was surprised to hear how little she really knew. She had dismissed him without ever really knowing him.

This is why I keep asking the question, "How do you know what you know about Jesus Christ?" Because there are many more like this woman. Many more who have convinced themselves that they know all about Jesus, have tried him, and now have moved on to something else. Yet sadly, their dismissal of Jesus is based on what others have said, not the primary sources. They haven't taken the time to confront Jesus face to face. They haven't listened to his words and deeds as we have them in the Bible - or at least not recently.

I'll put it bluntly: If you have never taken the time to seriously study the New Testament documents, you do not know Jesus - period! You may know snippets. You may know what others have said about him. You may know this or that saying, story, or deed. But you do not know who he claimed to be and why he came. How could you?

This little essay is really a not-so-subtle plea to you the reader to take the time to carefully study the claims of Jesus Christ as we have them in the Bible. It is a plea to you to take another, closer look at who Jesus claimed to be and what His mission was.

The best way to do this is to attend a conservative church Bible study that is examining the claims of Christ. In this way your own reading and study can be sharpened by the study of others, especially the pastor (remember, there is some place for the experts!). But at the very least, study this yourself. Read the four Gospels. The first three record much of the same material, but each has nuances that the others do not have. John's Gospel, the last one written, covers words and deeds of Jesus that the first three do not. From there go on to the rest of the New Testament to learn even more about Christ's teaching.

For those who would like to begin studying the claims of Jesus Christ now, click the link below. I have compiled some of the key New Testament passages in which Jesus tells us his claims: who he is and why he came. I think you will be amazed and thrilled by what you find.

The Claims of Jesus Christ - Key Bible Passages