The early life of Jesus
About 2000 years ago a man named Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in the land of Israel. He was unique. He was fully God and yet fully human. God had allowed himself to be born as a man so that he could live and suffer among us, to serve as the perfect atonement for our sin, and to offer forgiveness and salvation to anyone who believes.
His birth, mission, death and resurrection were foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament of the Bible and revealed to us by the writers of the New Testament.
Jesus lived among his fellow Jews during a time when the boundaries of the Roman Empire included the land of Israel. He preached and performed miracles for three-and-a-half years until he was crucified by the Romans. He died on a wooden cross and was buried in a tomb.
But his life did not end in death. Jesus Christ was resurrected. And because he was perfect, he is able to open the doors to the Kingdom of God. And because he was sinless, he is able to forgive us our sins so that we too can be accepted into the Kingdom of God.
Jesus explains this in a passage of the Bible called John 3:16, when he said: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
The following is an overview of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
The virgin Mary is told she'll give birth to Jesus
(see Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25)
The New Testament books of Matthew and Luke explain the virgin birth of Jesus. Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph but not yet married. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would have a son who would be named Jesus and who would be called the Son of God. Here is the NIV translation of Luke 1:27-35:
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. - Luke 1:27-35 (NIV).
Jesus is born in the town of Bethlehem
(see Luke 2:1-7)
Shortly before Jesus was born, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus decided that a census be taken throughout the Roman Empire, including the land of Israel. People were required to return to their ancestral homes for registration. For Joseph and Mary, that meant leaving Nazareth, which is a town in the northern district of Galilee, and traveling to Bethlehem, which is in the southern region called Judah or Judea.
After they arrived in Bethlehem, Mary was ready to give birth to Jesus. So Joseph and Mary went to a manger because they could not find other lodging. It was a manger, where animals are kept, that served as the humble place of birth for Jesus.
Bethlehem is an important city for Messianic prophecy. King David, who ruled over Israel about 1,000 years before the time of Jesus, was born in Bethlehem. And the prophet Micah, who lived about 700 years before Jesus, announced that Bethlehem would be the birthplace for the Messiah:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." - Micah 5:2 (NIV translation).
Ephrathah is the ancient name for the town of Bethlehem in Judah.
Star of Bethlehem appears
(see Matthew 2:1-2)
When Jesus was born, a star appeared over Bethlehem. Scholars today speculate whether the star was a meteor, a supernatural phenomenon, an alignment of celestial bodies, or a literal star. Many scholars believe that Jesus was born sometime around 4 BC to 8 BC. It is interesting to note that ancient Chinese astronomy records indicate that there was a star-like object hovering somewhere over the Middle East for several days in the year 5 BC, about 2000 years ago.
King Herod tries to kill the new-born King (Jesus)
(see Matthew 2:3-12)
The Star of Bethlehem attracted visitors from the East. These visitors believed that the star marked the birth of a new king. Perhaps the visitors were familiar with the Bible's prophecies and understood that a Messiah King would be born in Israel and that he would have an impact on the entire world.
But, Israel already had a ruler, King Herod the Great. He was not a true king but had been appointed by the Romans to govern the Jews in the land of Israel. Herod was described by Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived during the first century, as a murderous man who ordered the deaths of many of his own family members. When Herod found out that the visitors were hoping to find and worship the newborn king, Herod ordered the deaths of every infant in Bethlehem, in the hopes of killing the king that the visitors spoke of.
The infant Jesus and his parents escape to Egypt
(see Matthew 2:13-15)
An angel warned Joseph of Herod's plans to murder the young children of Bethlehem. So Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus to Egypt and they lived there until Herod died.
In ancient times the people of Israel sometimes sought refuge in Egypt, including Jacob and his sons, who left the land of Israel during a time of famine. The Gospel of Matthew shows that many events in Jewish history are similar to events in the life of Jesus, reinforcing his role as the Messiah.
Jesus is taken back to Israel, to the town of Nazareth
(see Matthew 2:19-23)
After the death of King Herod, Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to the land of Israel. Joseph was afraid to return to Bethlehem because the town is near Jerusalem, where Herod Archelaus, the son of Herod, now reigned as king. So Joseph took his family to the northern district of Galilee, to a small town called Nazareth. This obscure town became the hometown of Jesus, where he grew up and became an adult.
Jesus as a young child visits the Lord's Temple
(see Luke 2:41-52)
When Jesus was 12 years of age, he and his mother Mary and stepfather Joseph traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Feast of the Passover. When the feast had ended, Mary and Joseph became separated from Jesus and they searched for him. Jesus had gone to the Lord's Temple and conversed with the people there. The people were amazed by his depth of understanding and by his knowledge. When Mary found Jesus at the Temple, Jesus said to her: "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49).
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When studying the synoptic Gospels it becomes quite apparent that God is eager to establish a personal, loving relationship with all people through His Son, Jesus Christ. And Jesus is patiently waiting for all the people of the earth to accept His invitation: “I have been standing at the door and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and have fellowship with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20) This passage illustrates Jesus as a door through which we all must enter. And also that Jesus is willing to accept all people who turn to Him. Man or woman, rich or poor, empowered or enslaved, Jesus was sent here by God so that anyone who hears His message and believes in Him will be saved.
One of the key points of Jesus’ ministry was how the Kingdom of God is accessible to all people. This underlying theme is especially apparent in parables like “The Good Samaritan”, “A Lost Sheep”, and “A Lost Son”. These parables are used to explain how Samaritans, the lost, and sinners all can find their way back to God, and how they will be greeted and embraced by a loving Jesus. These stories illustrate one of Jesus’ main teachings, that all people who have faith in Him, will be accepted and embraced by God in heaven.
Jesus accepted all different types of people to be a part of His table fellowship. Many of His early followers were Gentiles, women, sinners, and tax collectors. The Pharisees often tried to call Jesus on this fact, asking him why he would surround himself with such people if he were truly the Son of God. Jesus replied to them, well people do not need medicine, but those who are sick do. Jesus Christ is willing to accept all people regardless of their sins. That is why He visited the home of the hated tax collector and promises eternal life to the dying criminal. Jesus is forgiving, and loving, and he came to save all the people of the world.
Even before Jesus’ birth, John the Baptist was announcing Jesus’ coming as, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Again Jesus’ universality is proved, it is the sin of the world that John the Baptist mentions, not the sin of the Jews. Through the constant usage of “the world” in these bible scriptures it becomes even more evident that Jesus Christ was sent to “the world”; to be a Savior and a Redeemer for both the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus Christ broadened God’s acceptance of people. These new Christians, did not need to become Jewish, or obey “the law” in order to be accepted as a Christian, rather all they had to do was accept that Jesus was Christ and Lord, and that he died to redeem the world of its sins. This is the key to finding salvation in Christianity.
Jesus’ sermon, which appears in two Gospels make it clear that all people are blessed. It is notable the both the “poor” and “the poor in spirit” are mentioned. In Luke’s Gospel it meant the materialistic definition of the term, but in other Gospel refers to the “poor in spirit” meaning the Jews. The monotheistic people that still only believe in God, and not Jesus, and this makes them poor ideologically. But yet, this sermon goes on to bless all the different types of people, especially those who have had a hard life. Jesus is saying to have faith in God as He knows your needs and your troubles, and all will be taken care of in the Kingdom of God.
This theme that was recurrent throughout Jesus’ life and ministry becomes even more apparent after His crucifixion and resurrection. It is the resurrected Jesus who sends out the disciples with the Word for all the nations to hear. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all close with Jesus sending His disciples on a mission. Luke’s gospel concludes that “All people of every nation must be told in My name”. Mark’s Gospel closes with “Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world. Anyone who believeth in me and is baptized will be saved”. Matthew quotes the risen Jesus as saying, “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples”. When considering the repetition and placement of these verses within each Gospels , the main theme of both Jesus’ message becomes strikingly evident. Even the resurrected Jesus was concerned with saving the world. And that is why He sent out the disciples to all the nations.
After the crucifixion and resurrection, the Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles. This Spirit was always present to remind the disciples that Jesus came to save both the Jews and the Gentiles, and that God wants people from every nation and race to become His children. The work of the Holy Spirit is especially apparent in Acts, when Phillip took Jesus’ message to Samaria for the first time, and also in the conversion of Cornelius, a captain from the Roman army. Who has an encounter with the “Holy Spirit” he was blinded for three days, upon regaining his sight he knew the truth.
Jesus Christ’s message has now spanned the globe. All countries, all nationalities have now heard the Word of God. Christianity has become one of the most dominant religions in the world, and the time for the Kingdom of God draws near. After studying the Gospels it becomes apparent that God wants all His children to come home, and so He made obtaining this redemption easily accessible for all people. To obtain God’s love one must first realize that Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. It is only through Jesus, that one can come to know God personally, and experience God’s love. Every person must individually receive Jesus Christ through faith as Savior and Lord: it is only then that one comes to know God personally and experience His love; a love that through Jesus Christ was extended to all the people of the world.
Despite Jesus’ love being so easily obtainable, many people do not accept Him as the “Son of God”. Most of these people believe Jesus to be a great moral teacher, but do not accept the divinity of his claim. They do not believe, because they have no faith. This is increasing evident in our modernized technological society. Faith has been traded for science. This is even noticeable in our current dating system. For two thousand years, the humankind used B.C. and A.D. as a timeline for the world. It was only recently that it was changed to the less secular C.E. (common era) and BCE (before common era). These latter terms could almost be considered blasphemous from a Christian perspective. This dating system was not made simply to show the year of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, but to illustrate that Jesus Christ was the most important man that ever lived, and that his very presence renewed the world. The life and death of Jesus was the basis for our calendar system for over two millenniums, and now Jesus life and message has been forgotten by so many.
With the Christmas Season swiftly approaching, people’s lack of faith becomes ever more apparent. Most of the western world still celebrates this holiday, and it is still marked on calendars by its traditional name “Christmas”, but the true meaning of this holiday has been long forgotten over the years. It is a holiday that had originally celebrated the birth of “Jesus of Nazareth”, “The Christ”. There were festive songs that rejoiced in His name, “Hark, the Herald angels sings, Glory to the new born King”. But most of these traditions have come to pass. In Canada, due to our embracement of multiculturalism we have destroyed our national religion, Jesus’ religion. Some people are willing to accept some aspects of Christmas, just not the divinity of the holiday. And thanks to political correctness no one wants to offend these people, for example, the Canadian Postal Service is no longer calling December 25th “Christmas”, but rather now have it advertised as “The Day of Giving”. Day of Giving! And this is from a crown corporation. This is evident even more locally with the McKenzie Art Gallery’s Festival, in which they open refuted not to mention the word Christmas, but rather celebrated the Holiday Season. The western world has made a full circle with the acceptance and rejection of Jesus Christ. More people are denying him than ever before.
Jesus Christ is for all. This question has been repeatedly answered through Jesus’ life, ministry and message. The question that should really be asked is “Is there anyone for Jesus?” And how do these people who have turned their back on Jesus think they will be recognized in Heaven? If you’ve never called on Jesus name, then why should He know yours. The people of the world must realize that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me’. All that people must do is accept Jesus into their lives, it makes so much sense in our present day world, a world filled with contempt, with greed, and with faithlessness, to turn away from technology and look back unto faith for the answers of this life. As it is only through this faith that people will realize that the story of Jesus of Nazareth is true, and that he died for all of us. He died so that all people: the young and the old, the sick and the healthy, the rich and the poor would all have a place in the Kingdom of God.
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