"Then Jesus took the Twelve off to the side and said, 'Listen carefully. We're on our way up to Jerusalem. Everything written in the Prophets about the Son of Man will take place. He will be handed over to the Romans, jeered at, made sport of, and spat on. Then, after giving Him the third degree, they will kill Him. In three days, He will rise, alive.'
"But they didn't get it, could make neither head nor tail of what He was talking about." Luke 18:31-34 (The Message).
Every belief system has a source from which it gets its information and upon which it bases its authority. For any information affecting life and destiny to be valid, it would be wise for those who receive it to ask two simple questions: 'Who said it?' and 'What authority does that person have to say it?'
Jesus made some startling and outrageous claims which we must either dismiss as the ravings of a madman, or believe and receive as the truth, depending on the source and authority of His statements. There is one fool proof way of putting His words and His authority to the test - prophecy!
In the Old Testament, God used this criterion to challenge the claims of false prophets and the idols they represented. He made fun of the foolish notion that a craftsman could take a log of wood, trim it and use the offcuts to warm himself and cook his food, and carve the rest into a god and then bow down and worship it! Can people be so deceived as to think that, because they attribute characteristics and abilities to a block of wood or stone, that makes it reality?
"'Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come -- yes, let him foretell what is to come.'" Isaiah 44:7 (NIV).
"All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol which can profit him nothing?" Isaiah 44:9,10 (NIV).
God is really smart! There is one fool proof test that authenticates His authority and His power to pull off what He claims - lay it all out in detail before it happens and then carry it out just as He said it would happen. He did not speculate, guess or prophesy in vague generalities. He set it out, step by step and then fulfilled it to the letter.
On this occasion Jesus did just that - alerting His disciples to what lay ahead for Him in the near future, drawing the spotlight onto Himself as the fulfilment of the mysterious words of the Old Testament prophets. How important this was for His disciples even though they did not get it at that moment! He was sowing the seeds of faith that would burst into life after everything that He had spoken about was fulfilled.
It is important to note that He was making no new predictions. He was drawing their attention to their own ancient, sacred writings. He was no upstart prophet. He was not only thoroughly steeped in the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings, but He also knew that He was the topic and focus of everything that was written. He was sharpening their vision, so that they would know, when it happened, that He was the one of whom their Scriptures spoke.
It was this incontrovertible proof that Jesus was their Messiah that gave them the courage to stand by their witness even to the death. What fools would give their lives for a pipe dream or a hoax? Jesus said He would die and rise again, just as the Scriptures had predicted, and He did it, and they saw it and they staked their very lives on the truth.
God's challenge still stands today. If you are going to stake your life on the belief system set up by some human being, on what authority does he make his claim and what proof can he give that his claims are authentic?
After two thousand years of trying, unbelieving people have yet to disprove Jesus' identity and His claims, and millions down the generations bear testimony that He is who He said He is, that He is alive, and that He is perfectly capable of fulfilling all His promises just as He did when He said He would die and rise again. Our faith is based on solid, indisputable, historically verifiable truth and not on the pitiful fancies of depraved imaginations!