An article released recently focused on the supposed ‘popularity’ of Jesus. In this article, the author gauged the extent of Jesus’ popularity by posing some questions meant to fan the flames of skepticism into an inferno of doubt. However, these straw men burn far too quickly to create much more than smoke, as any fair-minded evaluation of the facts will show.
It is odd that the author of the article should even ask these questions, as the answers are contained in the Bible for all to see. It is doubtful that his are honest questions asked to gain information, but rather simple caricatures created simply for the ease by which they can be knocked down.
In an article curiously titled, “Jesus’ fame and punishment do not match – how come?” this skeptic asks the following questions which will be answered from the biblical record. The questions, which certainly come as an attempt to tarnish the Resurrection story which Christians everywhere have just celebrated, center around the crucifixion of Jesus and the absence of His followers at that crucial time in His life.
Question: Where were these throngs [of Jesus’ followers] who could have protected Jesus when it was time for him to be arrested and tried? Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world or His followers would be fighting for Him (John 18:36). It was not His plan or purpose to escape the very thing He came to earth to accomplish: paying for our sins by His death on the cross.
Questions: Where were the admirers when Jesus was questioned and accused by the high priest Caiaphas? Where were the admirers of Jesus in front of Pilate and when others were calling for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus? Why did Jesus’ disciples not stay with Jesus during this time as a matter and sign of respect and love, but instead did not check on him until after his death? At the death and burial of Jesus, where were all the disciples, devotees, and admirers of Jesus? The Bible says that Jesus’ followers were scared after His arrest, so they ran away. They had followed Him during His ministry, some for the entire three-year period, but when Roman soldiers came to take Jesus by force the disciple’s internal fortitude was lacking. In addition, Jesus forbid them from fighting back (Matthew 26:52).
This is a clear and forceful reminder that the power of Christianity comes from God; it is not something that we muster up on our own. The Bible says that the life we live as Christians, we live through the power of the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 1:8, Ephesians 3:16, 2 Timothy 1:7).
Question: If he was so popular, why was he singled out for crucifixion? Throughout his article, this skeptic repeatedly focuses on the popularity of Jesus, as if Jesus’ reason for existing was to be popular. Jesus did not come into the world to participate in some sort of American Idol contest. He came to die on the cross for our sins. The crucifixion didn’t surprise Him, it was his purpose. (John 3:16, Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10)
Question: Again with Jesus before Pilate when Pilate tried to release Jesus, why did Jesus’ admirers switch teams and ask for him to be crucified? It was the Jewish leaders who instigated and fueled the persecution of Jesus in the Gospels. Upon His arrival, Jesus was thought to be the one who would conquer Israel’s earthly enemies and release them from the Roman oppression they were enduring. When Jesus did not fulfill their plan for Him, they turned on Him. However, there were many who remained faithful to Jesus, albeit from a safe distance.
Question: Why were the only people (other than soldiers) at the crucifixion Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary and wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and one (unnamed) disciple. (This found only in John.) The biblical record does not say that those listed were the only ones at His crucifixion. Does the author the skeptical article really believe that it would have been prudent to list each and every person in attendance? It is possible that hundreds of Jesus’ faithful followers were in attendance. Or it could have been that they were all in hiding for fear that they would be crucified also. It was not until after Jesus’ resurrection and bodily appearance to the disciples that they were filled with boldness and stepped out mightily in His name (Acts 2).
Question: Why did only a few women show up at the tomb following the death of Jesus? There are reasons for every word in the Bible; it does not contain superfluous details to satisfy our curiosity. There is no reason to believe that the Gospels record every person who came to the tomb. The Bible says that these women came to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. They expected to find it still in the tomb. I guess you could say that they too were skeptical at that point.
These answers actually attest to the truthfulness of the biblical record. If it were simply a fabrication, why wouldn’t the disciples be portrayed as bold, brave, daring, and fearless men who were afraid of nothing? The fact that they were depicted the way they were depicted is evidence that this was not a piece of fiction, but historical truth. Not to mention the miraculous change in all the disciple’s demeanor after Jesus was raised from the dead. Truly, these followers of Jesus were transformed into bold, brave, daring, and fearless men precisely because of the resurrection of Christ.
Near the end of the skeptic’s article, he states, “There are lots of questions. There seem to be no answers.” However, there are answers to every skeptic’s questions. Nevertheless, when one has already decided on a verdict, no evidence in the universe will persuade them otherwise. It is easy to take a superficial look at something and then ridicule it. It is much more difficult to search out and evaluate the facts. Many so-called skeptics simply ridicule the straw man they themselves construct because they are not willing to put in the work of discovering the facts.
This is written in hopes of delivering the truth to the author of the skeptical article, but more than that, it is written to show that there are answers to the skeptic’s questions, that Christians should not be afraid of the skeptic’s mocking, and that we can confidently place our lives and our faith in Jesus Christ, now and forever.