What is the Meaning of Life
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 48 Who Was Jesus? by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Why are we alive? Most of us answer the question by saying, “Who knows? Who can know? We are all in the same boat. All we know is what we see in this world.” None of us have ever been off this world to see differently. Even those of us who go up into space don’t really get that far from this world. We never get far enough to find out where this world came from.
So, it’s very difficult to tell what the purpose of this life is, because none of us have ever been other than in this life. That is, none of us have, except a remarkable human being who lived 1900 years ago. That’s the man we are beginning to talk about on this program in connection with the overall subject, “What is the meaning of life?” or, “Why are we alive?”
What we’ve said, you’ll remember, is that in order to find a sensible answer to that question, we really have to find somebody who has come from outer space, someone who has been outside this world, someone who has left this world and come back to it. That person is not Muhammad; he died like all the rest of us. It’s not Buddha; he was an ordinary person like all the rest of us and hardly even believed in a personal deity in the sense that we are talking about.
Confucius was an ordinary philosopher. Zoroaster was. Most of the great religious leaders are in the same boat as you and me. They have no more knowledge or information of outer space or of life beyond than we have. But this amazing human being who lived 1900 years ago has. We have been talking about the historicity of his life. That is, we have been discussing how sure we can be that he actually lived.
We have been talking about the reliability of the historical records that we have had for years collected and hidden away in a book that many of us have come to regard as just a religious book. It is, of course, the Bible. The last quarter of that book contains the historical records of his life. Those historical records, written by men like Matthew and John, men like James and Peter and others like Mark and Luke — those historical records are based on solid manuscript evidence that has accumulated since about the year 100 A.D.
We actually have over 4,000 different Greek manuscripts, so that we can be absolutely sure that what we have of his life history is actually reliable and true. Because if you have a lot of ancient manuscripts, then you can compare them with one another so that if there is a mistake in one, it can be corroborated by five, six, or ten or, or in the case of the New Testament, 4,000 others. So, it gives you a greater opportunity to get at exactly what was written by the original eyewitnesses at the time of this man’s life.
That’s one of the reasons we’re so sure that what we have of this man’s life is actually true and reliable. It’s a bit like, you remember, we mentioned John F. Kennedy’s death in Dallas, Texas. Someone today might write an imaginary account of that death telling how, say, Lyndon Johnson actually shot him in the back from the car behind. Of course, that idea has only to be floated in the media for thousands of us who were either in Dallas at that time, or who watched it on television to say, “That wasn’t so. That’s not the way it happened at all.”
Of course, the same situation was true of this man Jesus’ life. The accounts that were written about his life were circulating at the time when many of the people who were eyewitnesses to his crucifixion were still alive. All they had to do was contradict the records if they wanted to. In fact, they didn’t.
In fact, they reinforced the record that you and I read today in the New Testament. So, don’t forget that when you read the New Testament, you’re not just reading a religious book. You’re not reading an old collection of myths. You’re reading actual, historical evidence that is more reliable than the “Gallic Wars” that were written by Julius Caesar or “The Republic” that was written by Plato.
There is more manuscript evidence behind those books in the New Testament than there is behind Plato or Tacitus or Caesar or Livy or Pliny or Thucydides or Lucretius, Euripides, or Aristotle. So, when we read that historical record we can be sure it is some of the best history that we have of that time.
But what about this man? We say that he is different from every other man. In what way is he different? Why do we believe that he is not an ordinary human being like the rest of us? First of all, because he talked like God’s Son. That’s it. He talked like the Son of the Supreme Being behind the universe.
Even though his earthly father was an ordinary carpenter, he said to his parents once (he was just about twelve years of age and they had found him in the temple, and you might remember this story from your days at Sunday School), they asked him what he was doing there when they eventually found him. He replied, “Did you not know I would be about my Father’s business?”
Now, in fact, his mother knew that her husband had no business in the temple. His mother Mary knew that Joseph, her husband, was a carpenter. So that wasn’t his business. But in a very natural way, Jesus was identifying himself with God. He said, “Did you not know I would be about my Father’s business?” He implied that his Father was the one whom they were worshipping in the temple; that he was actually God.
On another occasion, he said, and I think it’s recorded probably in the book known as the “Gospel of John”, Chapter 14 and verse 7, if you want to look it up. He said, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” In other words, he talked like the Son of God. He talked as if he was the Son of God. He talked as if he was the Son of the Supreme Being behind the universe. He said the kind of things that you and I would expect the Son of God to say. It’s very natural the way it flows from his lips, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He talks just as if his Father is God.
On another occasion, and I think it’s recorded in the same “Gospel of John”, it’s Chapter 14, verse 9, if you want to look at it, he said “He who has seen me has seen the Father also.” That just tripped off his tongue. “He who has seen me has seen the Father also.” If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen my Father. He implied that his Father was God.
In fact, it’s interesting, where prophets like Muhammad avoid claiming a unique relationship with God, or a unique kinship with Him, (and it’s interesting that they do, you know) all those great religious leaders avoid claiming a unique kinship with God. Where they avoid it, this man made it the focal point of his teaching. He did. He would confront his followers with the question, “Who do men say that I am?” Then he would say to them, “Who do you say that I am?” So he didn’t simply avoid the issue. He made it the focal point of his teaching.
Now, probably many of us can think of people who have really claimed all kinds of wild claims as long as they would benefit from them. They’ve thought, “Oh, well, if I make myself somebody big, then I’ll get lots of people who’ll respect me and lots of people who’ll give me money.” But this man was pointed and blunt about it, even when he was on trial for his life about this very question of his identity. He didn’t just confess it, he didn’t just claim to be God’s son when he would gain from it. He actually claimed to be God’s son when that was the very issue that was going to cause his death.
In other words, when he was on actual trial for his life, when he was being tried for his life and the
presiding official asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”, he replied, “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
A lot of people wonder if he ever actually said he was God’s son. Of course he did. Of course he did. It’s in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 14, verses 61-62. That’s exactly what he said. He was asked when he was about to be condemned to death, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And even though he knew that would bring about his death, he replied, “I am. And you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Is this man the Son of the Supreme Being behind the universe? He certainly talked as if he was. But of course many people in the psych wards do that. So let’s talk about that tomorrow. Maybe he was a lunatic? Let’s discuss that tomorrow.