One of my favorite phrases in Scripture is “know for certain.”[i] We first find it when God speaks to Abram[ii], a man of faith who yet has questions about the future.
Life is a process of unfolding discoveries. Sometimes it’s “new knowledge.” Sometimes it’s “corrected knowledge.”
We see this in many realms, including the sciences. One benefit of digital textbooks is they are easily edited to keep up with “new knowledge.”[iii] (Remember when Pluto was a planet?)
Often “common knowledge” is in error – but reinforced because “everyone knows” it. Take our calendar for example. BC is “Before Christ.” People commonly think AD is “After Death.” But that would leave some 33 years[iv] unaccounted for. Rather, we live in Anno Domini (Latin for Year of our Lord) 2018.
It follows, then, that Jesus was born 2018 years ago. Except the “Christmas story” tells us Herod the Great was king in Jerusalem when the magi came searching for the one born to be “king of the Jews.” History tells us Herod died in what we now refer to as 4 BC. So, contrary to popular belief (and the calendars on our walls), we live in at least 2022.[v] Feeling older?
As a boy watching a baseball game on TV, I was shocked to see the name “Jesus Alou.” On the radio he was called “Hay-sous Alou.” Who names their child Jesus, I thought? Lots of Spanish speakers, I discovered.
Much later it dawned on me that Jesus never heard the name “Jesus” (or “Hay-sous” for that matter). No one came to Joseph and Mary’s house to ask, “Can Jesus come out to play?” – because they didn’t speak English! The angel told Joseph to name the child Yeshua (a Hebrew form of “salvation”) because “He will save His people from their sins.”
Our Lord is known by many names around the world, and no doubt He loves hearing His name glorified in every tongue by every tribe. But we “know for certain” His given name is Yeshua.
We have a New Testament echo of “know for certain” in Yeshua’s expression, “Truly, truly.“ This was Jesus’ way of saying, “You can bank on this.”[vi]
Sometimes Yeshua stated “true truth”[vii] in contrast to the common knowledge of His day. “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you.” Jesus’ teachings, like all of God’s Word, are still correctives for our wrong thinking today.
God’s declaration “My thoughts are not your thoughts”[viii] illustrates why we need the mind of the Lord to rightly perceive reality. “Let God be true though everyone were a liar”[ix] and “Your word is truth.”[x]
The bedrock truthfulness of Scripture[xi] gives us confidence to “speak the truth in love.”[xii] It emboldened Peter to preach with conviction to his kinsmen at Shavuot (Pentecost), “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!”[xiii]
“There is a way that seems right to a man,” states the proverb, “but its end is the way to death.”[xiv]
In contrast, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”[xv]
What do you know and believefor sure about Yeshua? Your destiny hangs in the balance. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.[xvi]
Written by Wes Taber
[i] The expression in Hebrew is a doubled use of the word “know” – sort of a “knowing you may assuredly know” way of declaring with certainty.
[iii] When we are told “science disproves the Bible” it’s good to ask, “Which era of science?” What was believed as absolute truth in the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment Period, or as we entered the 21st century may be no longer be held. Today’s scientific theories or even “facts” may well be debunked tomorrow. But “the word of the LORD endures forever” (see Psalm 119 for a paean of praise to Scripture).
[iv] We don’t really know how long Jesus lived on earth, or His age at the time of crucifixion. Luke (3:23) tells us Yeshua was “about 30” when He began His ministry. The Gospels record three separate Passovers in Jerusalem, which leads to the surmise that His death, burial, and resurrection were in His 33rd year.
[v] Or maybe we’re in 2024, as paranoid King Herod ordered the massacre of all Bethlehem’s boys two and under.
[vi] It’s worth a look to see each statement “verified” by Yeshua (25 times in John’s Gospel).
[vii] A favorite expression of theologian Francis Schaeffer, in contrast with the idea of “personal truth.” Post-Modern philosophers such as Frenchman Jacques Derrida oppose any “epistemology of certainty”; they teach the impossibility of knowing anything for sure. (Then how can we know for sure they are right?)
[xiii] Acts 2:36. We note with sorrow that the “Christ killer” charge has often been used to stir up hatred against Jewish people throughout the centuries. Peter is emphasizing how wrong-headed his kinsmen were, even to the point of killing their long-awaited and much-desired Messiah. See Acts 4:27 for a representative “rogues gallery” of parties guilty for Yeshua’s death – and add my name to the list. He died in my place, “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).