You have everything necessary to become an effective Christian apologist. At least, Jesus thinks so! Observe His method and accept His challenge as outlined in Luke 24.
If You Were Jesus…
If you were Jesus, how would you prove that you had been raised from the dead? Maybe you would keep your hair pulled back so that others could see where the thorns had penetrated your scalp. You would certainly position your hands in ways that displayed your nail-pierced palms. And you might even reveal the place where the soldier’s spear had punctured your side.
Surprisingly, the first time Jesus discussed having been raised from the dead (Luke 24) He employed none of these proofs. Rather, as He anonymously walked with two distraught followers from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus made the case for His resurrection by way of the Bible. And notice the manner in which He did it. He was neither timid nor equivocating. In fact, the grammar indicates that Jesus was deeply emotional when He responded to the pair on the road with, as R.C. Lucas has observed, a rebuke (v.25), a question (v.26), and an exhortation (v.27).
Why did Jesus rebuke these two? First, He rebuked them for their lack of Scriptural understanding. To be sure, as kids, this pair may have been Bible quiz captains and as collegians Navs chapter leaders. But Bible memory and Bible understanding are two different things. In fact, some of the best Bible scholars of the last century were men and women who knew the Scripture, but did not understand its message.
The second thing for which Jesus rebuked these two was their lack of belief in the Scripture. He referred to them as “slow of heart”. To an ancient Hebrew, the heart was the seat of one’s intelligence. So, Jesus essentially told them, “Guys, when it comes to the Scripture, you are not very smart, because, even if you know about it, you do not really believe in it.” What stinging indictments to come from an apparent stranger!
Jesus then grounds His rebuke to the travelers in a question. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and (then) enter into His glory?” (v.26) In other words, “Don’t you know your Bible well enough to remember that Messiah had to suffer in order to achieve His glory?” Consider Isaiah 53:10 in which the prophet clearly states, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush (His servant); He has put Him to grief. When His soul makes an offering for sin (then), He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” So, the blessing for which these travelers longed had, in fact, come, but not without the promised crushing and grief.
Finally, Jesus responded to the pair with an exhortation, “And beginning with Moses (that is, the first five books of the Bible) and all the Prophets (from Joshua right down to Malachi), He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (v.27). Jesus proved that the recent weekend of trauma was actually the long-in-coming weekend of triumph. And He made His point by using the Bible just as He did later with another group of followers and in almost the same way.
Appearing to those still sequestered in the upper room, Jesus began with the question, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (v.38). Then He rebuked them, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch Me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (v.39) Finally, Jesus exhorted them, “’These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (that is, the entire Old Testament) must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (v.44). And notice why Jesus did that. “(Jesus) said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in (Christ’s) name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’” (vv. 47-48). And what witnesses they became!
Proclaim the Word
The Scriptures were not fulfilled in Christ simply to complete a prophetic puzzle. Rather, they were fulfilled so that repentance and forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed in Christ, and that, by way of the Scripture. Consider the New Testament pattern.
- Peter proclaimed Christ among the Jews by way of the Scripture in Acts 2.
- Phillip proclaimed Christ to the African official by way of the Scripture in Acts 8.
- Peter proclaimed Christ to the Italian soldier by way of the Scripture in Acts 10.
- Paul proclaimed Christ to the Greek philosophers by way of the Scripture in Acts 17.
Bible proclamation was the method by which Jesus and those who followed Him brought persons from disbelief to belief as well as a life of ongoing repentance. Scripture was and is entirely sufficient to do this without anyone having to first prove that it is. Think of it this way: I could tell you about the quality of steel with which a high-end sword was made, the degree to which the blade was ground, and the ease with which it can be wielded. That explanation may help you appreciate the effectiveness of the weapon and its intended purpose. Or, I could simply run the weapon through your middle and without saying a word convince you of the sword’s sufficiency!
Let the Lion Loose!
Jesus’ method of bringing men and women from disbelief to belief was by way of His Word. That was also the method of His apostles. And that ought to be our method, too. Augustine of Hippo is said to be the first to utter the well-traveled exhortation, “Truth is like a lion; you do not have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” Does this mean that we should disregard extra-biblical evidences that support the truth of Scripture? No. But be assured of this: you do not have to be a world-class apologist before you can proclaim the gospel!
Most of us are like the travelers to Emmaus: We need to be rebuked for what we do not know in the Bible, questioned about what we do know and exhorted in what we ought to know. Because, when God’s Word gets hold of one’s heart, that man or woman can become as effective at communicating the gospel as any one of Jesus’ first century followers – persons who defied danger and exercised boldness in proclaiming the good news to others (vv. 33-34; 52-53). And they would not be stopped.