John 5:39 "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; but these are they which testify of Me."
Most people in America are interested in spiritual things. We know something happens when our physical lives are over. Some think we’re like a computer: the switch is turned off and the screen goes blank – worm food – it’s over. Actually, though, this isn’t the majority. Most people think they are more than just a machine programmed to operate until their ‘batteries’ run out. People intuitively know life has ultimate meaning.
But where would a person go whose trying to find solid evidence for answering the big questions of life, like ‘Who am I?’, or ‘Where did I come from?’, or ‘Why am I here?’. Science can’t answer these questions. Jesus Christ claims He can. In our verse this week, He is telling you to investigate His claims for yourself, because answers to your questions about what happens after this life is over can be found. In John 5:39, He says to start by searching the Old Testament. You’ll find tons of solid historical evidence for His claims. So let’s look at just one book, and the evidence for its claims: the Old Testament book of Isaiah.
The book of Isaiah was written around 730 BC. The New Testament quotes from the book of Isaiah 51 times. Only the book of Psalms is quoted more often (69 times). But Isaiah is our greatest resource for direct claims for the character and actions of the Messiah, who would provide assurance of eternal life. And we have an incredible archaeological find that gives us tremendous confidence in Isaiah’s writings – the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 at the Qumran caves, in the Judean desert. But what makes the Dead Sea Scrolls so important when it comes to Jesus are the two Isaiah scrolls.
Experts date of the IQIsaiaha and IQIsaiahb scrolls, the oldest manuscripts of a complete Old Testament book (IQIsaiahb is 75% complete), to 125 BC (that’s 125 years before Christ was born). It’s made of 17 pieces of leather, sewn together into a roll > 24 feet long.
The Isaiah Scrolls match word-for-word with our standard Hebrew Bible in greater than 95% of the text. The 5% difference is minor variations in spelling over time. So we can have high confidence that what we read in Isaiah today in our Bibles is what Isaiah recorded in 730BC (the scribes who copied the Old Testament Scriptures over this 750-year period were incredibly accurate).
So how does this point to Jesus Christ? Those 51 New Testament quotes of Isaiah are all quotes that are taken from Isaiah as evidence that Jesus is Messiah who came to die for your sins to offer you God’s free gift of eternal life. Here’s one of over 20 examples from Isaiah that only Jesus Christ has fulfilled as Messiah – Isaiah 40:10-11, the "Great Shepherd":
"…the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young."
Here’s Jesus telling us in John 10:11-14 that the Shepherd in Isaiah is Him: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But he who is a hireling and not the shepherd, … sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own."
So we have Old Testament records, dating at least 125 years before Jesus was born, that records detailed data about who the Savior of the world is and how He will act. And only Jesus Christ fulfilled these requirements. If you consider yourself a spiritual person seeking truth about eternal life, go back and read John 5:39 again. The Bible is for you.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called "Faith: Substance and Evidence." He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.