I write to you who doubt Jesus is real, I write to you who believe but doubt, and I write to you who believe but need to believe more:
I noticed a couple of things whilst reading an account of the crucifixion in Matthew. Firstly, historical reliability: Until 1961, there was no concrete archaeological evidence that Pontius Pilate, the fifth governor of Judaea, ever existed. There were accounts of him, of course, not least the accounts in the Gospels. But the records of his administration had disappeared completely: no papyri, no rolls, no tablets, no (authentic) letters to Rome. The Roman ruins that remained in Israel seemed to have nothing to do with him. Even his aqueduct – a project that got him into plenty of trouble at the time – appeared to have crumbled away.
In the summer of 1961, however, Italian archaeologists found a piece of limestone, 82cm wide by 68cm high, in the ruins of a sports stadium in Caesarea, beside the sea. The stadium had not been there in Pilate’s time; he had yelled at his gladiators in another place. But the stone bore his name.
Interestingly, no custom of releasing prisoners in Jerusalem is recorded in any historical document other than the gospels and as a result many po0-poo the idea as fiction. So I ask myself – can i trust the guy who was there or some so-called “scholar” hundreds of years later to be more accurate?
Secondly, when Jesus spoke with the governor Matthew says “But Jesus made no reply” yet in John he did answer him. Contradiction? Well hardly, can you imagine Matthew and John not conferring if it was a fabrication? Both are right; at this point Jesus didn’t answer, but later on he did – not rocket science is it?
Now here is the point: The gospel text will bear both faith and doubt. If you want to doubt, then there are all the errors and contradictions you desire, but if you have faith the gospel is rock solid. And now I ask you this:
Do you ask Jesus to “come down from the cross and I will believe“?
Are you sure?
We look around us at the world’s clever and crafty wisdom, we see the certainty with which they drive carelessly over God’s truth without giving it a glance, and we say in our hearts ‘just come down from the cross for a moment, Lord and show them you are real‘
But the truth is that Jesus didn’t – He doesn’t today, at least not at our demand. There he hangs beaten, betrayed, powerless and unwilling to substantiate all the Messianic claims that are heaped on Him. Revile Him if you dare but remember that this cursed failure is now Lord of Heaven. Spit on Him if you are brave enough but remember that this impotent criminal has cracked history down the middle by the very cross itself. Ignore Him if you feel strong enough but remember that one day you you will have to Kiss the Son, either in fear and trembling or in reverence.
So I don’t talk about needing more evidence, the cross and the tomb have been empty for 2,000 years!