Figurative Fingerprints

In a murder trial, a single fingerprint can make the difference between guilt or innocence, freedom or prison. That's because the ridges on our fingertips are unique -- no two sets are alike. Former journalist Lee Strobel knows this firsthand. He's covered more than one murder trial in which a killer was convicted because he left his fingerprints at the scene of the crime. But a few years ago, Strobel was chasing an exciting new story, and all those murder trials started him thinking. He was searching to see if the claims of Jesus Christ would hold up under rigorous investigation. Is there, he wondered, a type of historical evidence that's analogous to fingerprints -- evidence that could establish that Jesus is, or is not, the Messiah? For the answer, Strobel went to a man you might call a biblical fingerprint expert: theologian Louis Lapides. Born in a Jewish home, Lapides had grown up rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. But later, he became a Christian. During his spiritual journey, he carefully examined the Old Testament prophesies about the Promised One. What he found stunned him. For example, Psalm 53 say, "He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering . . . he was led like a lamb to the slaughter . . . he was assigned a grave with the wicked . . . he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." As Lapides told Strobel, "Here was the picture of a Messiah who would suffer and die for the sins of Israel and the world -- all written more than seven hundred years before Jesus walked the earth." Fascinated, Lapides kept hunting. He ultimately found some forty-eight major predictions. In Isaiah, he read that the Messiah would be born of a virgin; Micah identified Bethlehem as his birthplace. The Psalms foretold his betrayal, the accusations by false witnesses, and how (in Psalm 22) he would die - - even though crucifixion hadn't been invented until long after Psalm 22 was written. The specificity was impressive. But Strobel asked Lapides: Is it possible that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies by accident? "Not a chance," Lapides replied. "The odds are so astronomical that they rule that out." Statistical calculations by mathematician Peter Stoner confirm this. He found that the probability of any one person fulfilling forty-eight messianic prophesies is one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion . . . and seven more trillions! "The odds alone say it would be impossible for anyone to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies," Lapides declared. "Yet Jesus -- and only Jesus throughout all of history -- managed to do it." Christians sometimes feel awkward about asking unbelievers to accept Jesus as Savior. But as Strobel demonstrates in his book, The Case for Christ, there's plenty of hard evidence to back up the claims of Christianity -- including statistical probability. If an unbelieving friend says there's no solid evidence that Jesus was the Christ, tell him about the forty-eight Old Testament prophesies . . . and invite him to do the math. It's a kind of historical fingerprint -- a fingerprint that identifies Jesus as the one and only Messiah. And it's evidence we need to believe, because we all face the verdict: Either death in our sins, or salvation in Christ. For further reference: Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: 1998.


Chuck Colson



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