For Unto us a Savior is Born This Day in Bethlehem

Before Christianity became a business, it was a frightening thing to be associated with the man Jesus.

Babies were killed because it was foretold He would be king of Israel.  A jealous king put out an order to find and kill all the newborns.

The man who baptized Jesus was beheaded

And this was just the beginning.

Later Jesus’s followers had to meet in secret and painted a fish sign on their doorways to mark their secret meeting places.

Some of Jesus’s disciples were hung upside down on a cross as martyrs of the faith.

Myths, Misunderstandings and Outright lies about owning Gold. Are you at risk?

The issue was blasphemy.  Jesus believed He was the Son of God.

Regarding this young infant Jesus, how would we know today He was the predicted Messiah, the Son of God?  What evidence is there for us to come to that conclusion today?

Fulfilled prophecies were the measure of truth The Stars Over Bethlehem Gordon Day Best Price: $10.04 Buy New $9.99 (as of 05:50 UTC - Details)

The answer is that Jesus’s birth fulfilled many prophecies.  Fulfilled prophecy was the scientific method of the day.  It wasn’t a double-blind placebo-controlled study. 

One prophet said he would be born of a virgin.  OK, maybe his mother Mary was one of those religious wackos who covered for an otherwise unexplained pregnancy by hiding behind the scriptures and saying hers was a virgin birth. 

But then again, Jesus could not have influenced certain prophecies, such as where he would be born, or what his family lineage would be.

Jesus knew who he was

He knew he came from the family line of Abraham and David.  That had been foretold. 

It is very interesting to ask this question to someone: “Who are you?”  A common answer might be “I’m a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief.”  No, that is what you do for a living.  Who are you? 

No one can answer that question other than to describe their family lineage: “I am my father’s son or daughter.”  That is the only way that question can be answered.  You can go to college, get many degrees, but not know how to answer the question “who are you?”  Ultimately, following your family heritage back to the Garden of Eden, it can be said: “I am a child of God.”

Jesus answered that question and said: “Before Abraham was born, I am.”  (John 8: 56-59) He knew where he came from, what his lineage was.  Jesus says: “I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.”  (John 8: 42)  Blasphemy!

I thought he was born in Bethlehem

But He was also to come out of Egypt.  How could that be?  Jesus as an infant couldn’t have possibly manipulated the king in those days to issue a kill order of newborn infants that led his parents to flee into Egypt. 

He avidly knew the scriptures and would have known there were prophecies that his birth fulfilled. It says Jesus was never schooled. “How knoweth this man of letters, having never learned?”  (John 7: 15) 

One would presume as he grew up he learned wise men from the east had come to bring his family gold and frankincense and myrrh, valuable medicinal spices at the time.

Jesus was taught and read the Holy Scriptures and knew his birth fulfilled the many prophecies that foretold of his coming. 

Jesus debated with priests in the temple at a young age.  He attempted to explain to his parents what he had been doing after his parents had accidentally left him behind in Jerusalem on a trip there. When they found him, he replied: “I was doing my father’s work.” 

Self deluded?

So Jesus obviously grew up believing he was in fact the long predicted Son of God. 

So for the sake of discussion, let’s think for a moment he may have been self-deluded. 

He asked others “Who do you say that I am?”  Messiah’s Star: ... Dourson, Michael L. Buy New $4.99 (as of 07:35 UTC - Details)

Some thought he was Elijah.  Some thought he was John the Baptist.  Better he ask them who they thought he was than ignite a firestorm over his being the perfect snapshot of God.  He would later say: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) Blasphemy!

The sermon on the mount

Jesus delivered a speech in Galilee, recorded by scribes, the audio taping service of the day.  I marvel at this speech.   The voice it takes is that of the voice of God Himself.  There is no other speech ever delivered that compares with his Sermon on the Mount.  But did his words convince others in his lakeside audience he was actually God in the flesh?  Not everyone was convinced, obviously.

His mother seemed to know he was the Son of God or at least had unusual qualities.  He was not just another child in the birth order.  At the wedding in Canaan, where he performed his first miracle of turning water into wine, it was his mother who upon finding there was not enough wine, turned to Jesus and asked him to do something about this socially embarrassing moment, not his brothers and sisters.

Let’s be real skeptical.  Maybe the amphora jars that were filled with water upon his instruction had wine solids in their bottom from prior fillings.  Maybe Jesus’s wine was diluted grape drink.  The attendees at the wedding suspected such.  But actually, it is described as fine wine.  The best wine was served first in those days.

But this miracle just categorizes Jesus as a parlor magician of sorts.  Good for entertainment.  But just where is this King of the Jews who will vanquish all of Israel’s enemies?

Jesus as long awaited conqueror

Surprisingly, Jesus doesn’t get involved in the battle of the strong overtaking the weak that explains most of human history.  Conquerors like Attila the Hun, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, to name a few, are in history books, not pacifists.  Jesus would conquer the military mentality of his day by being the Prince of Peace. Turn swords into plow shares he said.  Really?  That wasn’t going to fly.

The Jews were oppressed and their country occupied by the Romans.  And Jesus, if truly the long predicted messiah, was to do nothing about this?  That would be difficult for an Israelite to fathom at the time since the Jews had been praying for their God to vanquish their enemies for a long time.

What did Jesus’s family think of him?

In the book of John we read where the people in the synagogue asked: “Is this not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  And his brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas?”  They were asking, isn’t he just another human like us?   

In the Book of Matthew it says when Jesus was preaching and getting himself in trouble as he talked in parables:  “His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with him.”  (Matthew 12:46)  His family knew trouble was brewing.  It says in the Book of John: “For neither did his brothers believe in him.” (John 7:5)  Even his disciples came to him “to lay hold on him: for they said, he is beside himself.” (Mark 3: 21)

It also says “there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, he is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.” (John 7: 12)

Miracles by chance?

But allow me to continue; to go somewhere no others dare. Maybe Jesus’s miracles can be explained away by mere chance. A Sign Over Bethlehem:... Hutchison, Mr Dwight Reed Buy New $649.96 (as of 03:05 UTC - Details)

Maybe when he raised his arm in the middle of a storm on a boat in the Sea of Galilee, a squall, defined as a sudden increase in wind and rain of short duration, just happened to suddenly die out as if on command.

Maybe the crippled man who was lowered through a thatch roof into a meeting place where Jesus was speaking actually was in the grip of scurvy and it wasn’t that he couldn’t get up and walk but that he didn’t want to get up and walk.  Scurvy, a severe lack of vitamin C, induces joint pain and lassitude (lethargy or aversion to activity).  Wasn’t it Jesus who said: “Your faith will make you well?”  There was no magic involved.  In fact, maybe Jesus read the mind of this man and knew he was milking his handicap to get sympathy or charity. 

Searching for the magic

I think too often Jesus’s followers are searching for Quija board magic.  I met a pastor who said his church specializes in miracles.  Really?  I mean, could he order a miracle up out of heaven? God must be a cosmic bellboy then, to beckon at the snap of one’s fingers.

The fish are on the other side

Jesus stood on the shoreline in Galilee and instructed his disciples to drop their nets on the other side of the boat, having seen them in their futile attempt to catch fish on the opposite side.  It was because of his viewpoint above the light reflections off of the sea that his eyes could see into the depths of the water.  There were plenty of fish on the other side of the boat.  The lesson was that God’s viewpoint is not man’s viewpoint.  I don’t think the Bible portrays this event as Jesus having x-ray vision.  But there are those individuals who somehow believe that.

Now don’t be alarmed that I’m going to explain away all of the miracles.  I am saying too often preachers read more into the story than the Bible text clearly indicates.

Jairus’ daughter: a rising from the dead? Jesus said no.

Another example is when Jesus was preaching and was interrupted by Jairus, a leader of the synagogue at Capernaum.  Upon hearing Jairus’ plea to come and save his daughter stricken dead with some illness, Jesus’s disciples attempted to warn Jairus away.  “Not to bother the teacher,” they said.  Jesus responds: “She is not dead, she is asleep.”

Now a few preachers have attempted to tell me in the Greek language, the language this story was originally written in, that the word “asleep” actually means “dead” in Greek.  But that would make Jesus say something unintelligible.  “She is not dead, she is dead.” 

No, Jesus had foreknowledge.  Recognize, if Jesus is wrong here, his whole ministry is over with.  

He arrives at the home of Jairus’ to find a wake in process and women wailing at the death of the child.  He chases them away.

He enters the home with his disciples and finds a stone cold 13-year old girl.

Now when Jesus said she wasn’t dead, could that mean she is in a coma?  Maybe she was diabetic?  But the most likely answer was, at her age, she had her first menstrual cycle and lost blood and passed out due to anemia. 

Children living in that era were often anemic due to intestinal parasites robbing them of all the iron in their diet.  Children were also fed last after the adults.  That was the custom in those days.  Iron-rich meat would have been scarce as it would require bow hunting and there were no refrigerators to store meat.  Every Prophecy about J... Walvoord, John F. Best Price: $2.50 Buy New $1.99 (as of 08:30 UTC - Details)

I don’t presume to know with any absolute certainty this wasn’t a raising from the dead.  But it was Jesus Himself who said she was not dead.  If she was dead, Jesus had her sit up and her parents were astonished. It would have been a raising from the dead in their eyes. 

But more likely, being anemic, her body was cold, leaving the impression she was dead.  Iron is attached to red hemoglobin in red blood cells that carries heat to the body’s extremities.  A shortage of red blood cells results in cold hands and fingers.  This could have fooled her parents into thinking she was dead.

Hold on, hold on, don’t revolt at what I am saying at this point.  There is a greater miracle to be explained here.

For all you Bible experts, what was the last thing Jesus said to Jairus?  Do you recall?

Jesus said, in the earliest translation we have available, the King James Bible, “Give her some meat.” 

Wait!  How would Jesus know this girl needed meat to obtain iron?  Doctors didn’t know iron salts could cure anemia till the 17th century.  If Jesus knew this he would be the Creator, wouldn’t he? 

Pastor you’re pulling my leg

Some modern fake healers have been exposed.  They are an embarrassment to the faith.  One such healer prayed over a man who visually had one leg longer than the other, a physical defect that was corrected right before everyone’s eyes.  That same faith healer repeats this same miracle on the same subject in a second church service on the same day.  The trick has been exposed online by many skeptics.   Was Jesus ever caught performing one of these stage tricks?

It says in the book of Mark there was a man with a withered hand and Jesus said to the man: “Stretch forth thine hand.”  And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.”  (Mark 3: 1-6)  It says after that healing “there were those who counseled how they might destroy him (paraphrased).”

Just another stage trick?

Now Jesus knew the priests were setting traps for him to be accused of blasphemy.  For this reason, he instructed the lepers to go away on the road some distance where they were healed.  Otherwise, they may have been killed for believing a sorcerer and a blasphemer.

If Jesus was doing these stage tricks to boost his ego and gain fame or money, why would he have instructed the lepers to tell no one of this?  He knew they would be killed. Healing from a distance is quite a stage trick.

Let me continue in my skeptical mode.  Maybe these lepers were faking they were lepers in the first place and were never healed. 

“I can see!  I can see!”

Actually there were many fake healers in those days as there are today.  When Jesus healed a blind man, skeptics sought out his parents to determine if he was truly born blind or was just planted in Jesus’s audience as the fake healers often did, to suddenly acclaim he could see again.

Jesus had taken some spittle and clay and applied it to the blind man’s eyes, says the Bible text.  Jesus asked what the man could see. 

The man replied he saw men who looked like tall trees.

That is a perfect description of vertical astigmatism.

Think of a fun-house mirror that stretches an image tall.

The scriptures say Jesus took more spittle and clay and re-applied it to the eyes.

The man said he could see perfectly.

Let me get back to Christians wanting magic. 

Wasn’t Jesus applying the first contact lens to the surface of the eyes?  Wasn’t he, as the Creator, altering the curvature of the cornea like laser (Lasik) surgery does today? 

If so, how would Jesus know how to re-set the focus point of the eyes with micron precision?  How would Jesus know the optics of the human eye?  Eye doctors couldn’t view the back of the human eye until the ophthalmoscope was developed by Hermann von Helmholtz in Germany in the 1800s.  Wasn’t this evidence he was the Creator?  This alternate version of the story is more likely to bring skeptics to their knees.  The Great Physician was at work.

Then believe in my miracles

Now it was Jesus who said, if you don’t believe in me (as being the Son of God), then believe in my miracles. 

The fact there is a medical explanation for the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the restoration of vision of a man born blind should not take away from these miracles.  God invented biology.  The human body is a self-healing organism.  Jesus even said, others would do greater things than He.  [John 14: 12-14]

Furthermore, when these Biblical accounts of Jesus’s healings were written there was no way to know they were physiologically valid.  Only looking back in time do we realize these healings are validated by advanced knowledge of anatomy and physiology in our modern day.  If fables, there would be no corroborative evidence.

Did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead?

So what about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead?  Allow me once again to go where others dare not.  Even in our modern era there are people who were buried alive, a physician not being available to check for a heartbeat and write a certificate of death.  From time to time in more primitive lands there are news reports of those who have been found alive within 3 days of burial.  Diabetic comas, head wounds, other conditions can induce near death. 

But recognize, here again, Jesus goes to open Lazarus’ tomb at the request of Lazarus’s sister.  If Lazarus is found dead, Jesus’s ministry is over.  Jesus is unearthing Lazarus’ tomb.  Lazarus’s sister warns: “the body stinketh.” 

Again, it’s possible Lazarus was encased in a tomb alive but not likely.  It was four days after his death and his sister was lamenting that Jesus had taken so long to come.  If a stage trick, why would he linger?  How many of these miracles could be plain luck?

The big event

Let’s get to the big event, Jesus’s death and resurrection.  Jesus’s crucifixion was foretold in Psalms 22:16-18, approximately 1,000 years before his birth and long before this method of execution was even practiced.

Dogs surround me,
A pack of villains encircles me;
They piece my hands and feet.
All my bones are on display;
People stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.  –Psalms 26:18

But there were more than fulfilled prophecies that surrounded this event.  There were meteorological and celestial signs.

The sky darkened

During the crucifixion the sky darkened for 3 hours,  said to be a solar eclipse where the sun is blocked by the moon.  This would have been an impossibility as Jesus’s death on the cross occurred during Passover or when there was a full moon which was on the opposite side of the earth from the sun.  When the moon comes between the sun and earth is when eclipses occur.  Whatever meteorological phenomenon caused this, it would be an irregular and inexplicable event.

Surprisingly there is an independent secular record of a darkening of the sky across the earth by the astronomer Dionysius who was an eyewitness to it.  The apostle Paul preached in Athens of this darkening of the sky for 3 hours during the crucifixion and Dionysius was in attendance and could confirm its occurrence as he had witnessed it while in Egypt at the time (Letters of Dionysius).  It was an astronomical impossibility as eclipses last only up to 7 minutes.  But the sky did darken as historical records affirmed.  This meteorological event convinced Dionyius to become a believer.  

This midday dark sky was a fulfillment of a prophecy made 750 years earlier in the Book of Amos (“I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”)  The darkness lasted 3 hours according to the record in the Book of Matthew 27:45 (“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.”)

Whatever was going on meteorologically, this wasn’t a trick staged by Jesus or his followers.

Was he dead?

Those who were crucified died of asphyxiation as they couldn’t hold themselves up to breathe as their body settled below their arms. There was no way to expand the lungs.  Yet the Roman guard still thrust a sword through Jesus’s side to ensure his death. 

The Roman guards did not break Jesus’s legs, which was the practice to ensure death.  Only the two thieves that were crucified with him on that day had their leg bones broken.  Skeptics say Jesus could have survived his crucifixion.  This is despite a clear description he had no blood circulation. His blood had congealed and the serum had separated from the red cells when the Roman Centurion thrust a sword in his side. 

A watchful crowd of Jesus’s followers likely caused the Roman Centurion to hold back from breaking his legs to the groan of his watchful followers, which included his distraught mother.

If Jesus was not dead, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man, offers his family tomb and aromatic herbs to mask the smell of his dead body, and those followers who wrapped his body would certainly have known if he showed signs of life. 

But maybe they were part of a plot.  Maybe his body was covertly exchanged for another’s.  But then how did the drunken Roman guards allow the stone to be rolled away since it was already known his resurrection had been foretold.  There was a seal placed on the stone.  The guards faced death if his body went missing. 

But maybe they had the wrong guy.  Maybe back when Jesus was apprehended on the Mount of Olives in the darkness of night when the throngs of his followers were asleep, with only torches for light, they arrested the wrong man.  Then after his death, the real live Jesus replaced the dead body Jesus?

But that is why Judas was paid the 30 pieces of silver, to point Jesus out to the Roman soldiers. Furthermore, Jesus’s mother and brothers were at the site of his crucifixion. 

But maybe the body of Jesus was switched later when his followers wrapped his body.  Maybe there was a body double.  But then the resurrected Jesus meets Thomas.  The same man who was on the cross was the same resurrected Jesus who had the healed wounds from the nails that were pounded into his hands.  Doubting Thomas saw that with his own eyes. 

The empty tomb

Later, Jesus’s frightened followers sent women to his tomb knowing they weren’t likely to be killed by the Roman guards. They found the stone rolled away and the garments he wore folded in the tomb.  These women attempted to tell this to the apostles.  But “their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”  (Luke 24:11)

His followers bump into him on the road

Later, Jesus’s followers were walking on a road, dismayed at his death and not knowing what lay ahead.  Jesus, likely wearing a hooded garb, was not readily recognized on the pathway.  Jesus was attempting to find out what was on the mind and soul of His followers.  It was only later that it became apparent to his followers on the road that this fellow traveler was Jesus Himself.   

There are some online pranks where people in a morgue play dead and then sit up to startle onlookers.  The risen Jesus apparently didn’t want to startle his followers on the road that day. 

Back to his birth day

Let me get back to Jesus’s birth. The Bible says:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

The wise men followed a star

Yes, wise men followed a star to find the infant Jesus, probably a few months after his birth.  A modern explanation of that star, actually a morning rising of Jupiter in the horizon just before the sun arose, is now understood.  Only the wise men being astrologers knew how to look for it.  The scriptures say it was a star in the east.  Herod the King, eager to find the location of the baby who would take his thrown, could not see it.  This astronomical explanation, known as a heliacal rising, is well founded. [Daily Mail Dec 24, 2014]  Magic?  Well, it was magical.

Let me get back to the Christmas question.  Was the tiny baby Jesus God in the flesh? 

Sans magic tricks, you decide.