Do not miss the significance of the many Scripture references cited below. These are primary historical documents of a reliability seldom seen in the realm of ancient history, written by (eg 2 Peter 1:16) or heavily dependent upon (Luke 1:1-4) eyewitnesses. And note the natural bias of the witnesses. They were utterly convinced of the sinfulness of every human (1 John 1:8,10; Romans 3:9,10,23). This was a basic belief of not just the early Christians, but of the Jewish religion that had been drilled into most of them almost from birth (1 Kings 8:46; Job 15:14; Psalms 130:3; 143:2; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 17:9). Yet still they came to the staggering conclusion that Jesus was sinless.
General – When appealing to the common knowledge of non-Christians, Peter could speak confidently of the good Jesus had done (Acts 10:36-38).
Jesus’ religious opponents
The only charge they could make stick was that he made claims no normal man could make.
Pilate – John 19:4-14; Matthew 27: 23-24
Pilate’s wife – Matthew 27:19
Jesus’ betrayer – Matthew 27:4
Jesus’ executioner – Matthew 27:54; Luke 23:47
The thief crucified with Jesus – Luke 23:41
A demon – Mark 1:23-24
People who knew Jesus intimately:
John the Baptist – Matthew 3:13-17
John the apostle – John 1:14; 1 John 2:29; 3:5
Peter – Luke 5:8; Acts 3:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22; 3:18
Early Christian witnesses – Hebrews 4.15; 7:26; 9:14 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus’ own mother and brother believed in him - Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19
Jesus’ own testimony – John 5:30,36; 7:18; 8:29; 10:32,38; 14:11, 30-31; 15:24
Don’t dismiss this. The more godly people are, the more conscious they are of their sinfulness (cf Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15). Jesus stands out as a stark exception to this rule. ‘Who can accuse me of sin?’ he dared ask a hostile crowd. (John 8:46)
An angel - Luke 1:35
Foreseen by Old Testament prophets – Isaiah 53:9,11; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 9:9
It is sometimes thought that Jesus must have sinned for one of the following reasons:
Jesus cursed a fig tree – If Jesus swore because of the tree we would have reason to question his character. The word ‘cursed’ is clearly not used in this sense, however, because all he did was to say to the tree, ‘You will never bear fruit again.’ (Matthew 21:19)
Jesus got angry at the temple money changers – The disciples’ immediate reaction is revealing. Jesus’ action reminded them of a relevant Scripture and they saw the event as proof of Jesus’ godliness – that he was moved by the things that move God. (John 2:15-17; Psalm 69:9) From beginning to end, the Bible is filled with references to God’s anger. (Eg Exodus 15:7; Deuteronomy 9:7-8; Ezekiel 7:19; Romans 2:5; Revelation 16:1) Christians have always made a distinction between righteous anger and selfish anger. There was nothing impulsive about Jesus’ action. He displayed complete self-control. He went to the temple, looked around, and left because it was late. The next day he drove out the temple workers. (Mark 11:11,15) To see if any selfish anger resided within Jesus, examine his response when he was cruelly and unjustly executed. ‘Forgive them,’ was his cry.
Jesus dishonored his mother by addressing her as ‘woman’ – Most modern Bible translations use expressions like ‘dear lady,’ but even these seem artificial. The Good News Bible does not even try to translate it. There is, in fact, no exact English equivalent for the word that is in the original text. ‘A term of endearment and respect’ is one Greek scholar’s description of the word. We have only to examine one of the contexts to see the accuracy of this description. Jesus used this term of address in the tenderest of moments. He was on the cross dying in agony. His heart-broken, probably widowed, mother, soon to be bereft of her son, was looking on, and Jesus was making final arrangements for his most loving disciple to look after her for the rest of her life. (John 19:26-27)
Conclusion: Distance in time and culture, a superficial look at a text and an unfamiliarity with biblical morality can momentarily throw us, but a more careful examination affirms that Jesus was uniquely without sin.
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