JESUS CHRIST--Who is He? What of His mortal career? Where did He live? When? How? Why? How well acquainted are you with this man called Jesus? Can you claim Him as your Friend, your Elder Brother, your Savior, your Redeemer?
What think ye of Christ? This man who spake as never man spake, who lived as never man lived, who died as never man died, who rose as never man rose and ascended to heaven to sit down at His Father's right hand––what think ye of Him?
In this study we want to become better acquainted with this man from Nazareth, so well-known and yet so unknown. Since He is our perfect Pattern, we cannot afford to be unfamiliar with the information God has provided. And since He is our coming deliverer and King, we as prospective co-workers are duty bound to learn as much of the plan as is revealed.
We will not try to relate all of the story of Jesus' life––countless volumes have already done this. Our purpose here is to see Jesus Christ as a vital part of a plan of God in the process of fulfillment. We want to equip ourselves with abundant evidence that Jesus Christ actually lived, died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven, and is coming again "unto them that look for him…without sin unto salvation."
JESUS CHRIST IN PROPHECY
Our introduction to Jesus Christ begins with prophecy. Nearly every significant aspect of His career was foretold. According to a reliable source, there are at least 300 of these prophecies traceable. Many of them were fulfilled by His first advent, and many more shall be fulfilled at His second advent. "Such passages are so numerous," says one, "and go into such detail, that our intelligence is more greatly taxed to believe that they are not predictive than to believe that they are. And if they are predictive, they are of divine and not of human origin."
The prophet Isaiah foretold that John the Baptist should be Christ's forerunner at His first advent. "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken’” (Isa. 40:3-5).
All four gospel writers apply this prophecy to John the Baptist. Said Matthew: "For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight’” (Matt. 3:3). Said Mark: "As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight’” (Mark 1:2-3). Said Luke: "as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight’” (Luke 3:4). And said John himself: "He said: ‘I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah said’” (John 1:23).
The circumstances of Christ's birth were foretold in minutest detail. Some of these prophecies date back nearly 2000 years before His birth. Let us consider some of these prophecies concerning:
The place of His birth
Micah, as prophet in the days of the Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, gives us this information. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2).
The patriarch Jacob prophesied that Christ should be a descendant of Judah, one of Jacob's twelve sons. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen. 49:10). The prophet Balaam, in the time of the children of Israel, confirmed the fact that He should be of the lineage of Jacob. "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17).
Through other prophets it was revealed that He should be of the house of David. “The Lord has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ’I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body’" (Ps. 132:11). The time was long, but God remembered His promise and reminded His people in the time of Jehoshaphat that "the Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of His servant David, as He promised him to give a lamp to him and his sons forever " (2 Kings 8:19). Isaiah prophesied that there should "come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:... there shall be a root of Jesse" (Isa. 11:1, 10).
Jeremiah prophesied of Christ's descent. "Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness," and "In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness" (Jer. 23:5; 33:15).
**The time of His birth,
The prophecy of Balaam, already mentioned concerning the family of Christ also concerns the time of His birth. Balaam was showing that the time was yet future: "I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the latter days.” and "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near" (Num. 24:14, 17).
The prophet Daniel gives us a definite date for the advent of the Messiah. "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks" (Dan. 9:25). Bible students agree that this refers to "weeks of years" or 483 years from the time it was spoken.
Isaiah prophesied that Jesus should be born to a virgin: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son" (Isa. 7:14). And we learn from Luke that the "angel Gabriel was sent by God" to a virgin whose name was Mary. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS" (Luke 1:26-27, 30-31).
• His future offices
Isaiah also pre-informs us of the important place this Child will fill in God's plan for this earth. This prophecy is spoken as though it were already accomplished. "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6-7).
Isaiah also prophesied further concerning His future: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation" (Isa. 28:16), and also that this Stone should be a stumbling block to many: "He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Isa. 8:14).
And the prophet Jeremiah gives us the assurance that all these things will come to pass. "Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: In those days, and at that time I will I cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS’”(Jer. 33:14-17).
• His Ministry
Just as other aspects of Jesus' life were foretold, so was His ministry.
His teaching ministry
God, speaking through Moses, said: "I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him" (Deut. 18:18).
Isaiah also speaks prophetically of this Teacher. "Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people .... All your children shall be taught by the Lord" (Isa. 55:4; 54:13).
Isaiah also prophesied as to where this ministry should take place. "... As when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined" (Isa. 9:1-2).
Again in chapter 61:1-3, Isaiah speaks of this Teacher: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."
His healing ministry
While the prophecies concerning Jesus' healing have a greater meaning for the future when "greater works" (John 14:12) shall be done, they could also have reference to the healing ministry of His first advent.
Isaiah speaks several times of this healing. "In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness." "The eyes of those who see will not be dim, and the ears of those who hear will listen. Also the heart also of the rash will understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly." "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isa. 29:18; 32:3-4; 35:5¬-6).
THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS
Many people wonder about the two genealogies of Jesus given in Luke 3:23-38 and in Matthew 1:1-16. Some think, as surface reading might suggest, that they are both genealogies of Joseph.
However, careful study of the passages reveals that Matthew is giving the genealogy of Joseph,running a straight line from Solomon, David's son, to Zerubbabel, whose father was Shealtiel, then from Zerubbabel to Joseph "the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ." But Luke gives the ancestry of Mary from Heli her father, back through Zerubbabel back to Nathan, another son of David, thus making Mary of "the seed of David according to the flesh" by both lines of ancestry from Zerubbabel back to David.
When Matthew concludes his line with Joseph, he tells us Joseph was the son of Jacob, while Luke tells us he was the son of Heli How could Joseph have two fathers? He could not--unless one was by his begettal by Jacob and the other his father-in-law by his marriage to Mary. This being the case, both genealogies harmonize, and being harmonious they show that Mary was the daughter of Heli of the royal family of David, and Joseph was "the son-in-law of Heli the father of Mary," as we read in the footnote under Luke 3:23 in Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott. In the appendix of the same work we read that "being the nearest of kin to Heli, the father of Mary, he (Joseph) was espoused to her according to law. He was the natural, that is, by birth, son of Jacob, and the legal son of Heli, or, as we call it, son-in-law; hence called by Luke the son of Heli, in virtue of his being Mary's husband."
In the Greek New Testament with English notes, the following is given under Matthew 1: "Very great difficulty has been experienced in endeavoring to reconcile this genealogical list with the one given by St. Luke. Most probably, as Dr. Lightfoot maintains, St. Matthew, writing for his Jewish countrymen, gives genealogy of Joseph, the lineal descendant of David and of Abraham, through whom our Lord was legally the 'son of Gentiles,' while St. Luke traces the pedigree of Mary from Heli, her father, upward to David. Certainly our Lord's claim to be of the seed of David was wholly through his mother Mary, since Joseph was only 'the husband of Mary,' the reputed or legal father of Jesus" (see diagram).
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Prophecy of His crucifixion.
As stated above, Jesus foretold His own crucifixion at the hands of evil men. Not only did He state it as an outright fact, but He told it also in the parable of the vineyard which is found in the first three Gospels (Matt. 21; Mark 12; Luke20). Here He represented Himself as the Son of the owner of the vineyard that would be cast out and killed by the wicked husbandmen.
Daniel also prophesied of Christ's death: "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off" (Dan. 9:26).
Many details concerning the crucifixion were matters of prophecy.
He would be mocked: Ps. 22:7; 109:25
His hands and feet would be pierced: Ps. 22:16
They would give Him vinegar to drink: Ps. 69:21
They would cast lots for His garments: Ps. 22:18
His bones would not be broken: Ps. 34:20
His side would be pierced: Zech. 12:10
• His Resurrection
Just as Jesus foretold His own betrayal, trial and crucifixion, so He foretold that after His death He should be raised to life again on the third day. In fact, each time He told His disciples that He should be crucified, He added that He would be raised to life again. Speaking to the Twelve He said: "The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up" (Matt. 17:22-23). A similar statement was made on three different occasions and occurs in each of the gospels.
That the time interval from His betrayal until He would be brought to life again would be three days was also known to Jesus in advance and made known to the Twelve each time.
That Jesus would not have to remain in the grave was also foretold by David in Psalm 16:10: "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, [the grave]; nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." Other prophets also foretold the resurrection.
• His Ascension
There are few direct Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus' ascension, but it must have been understood by the prophets because in order to come again He must first go away, and His second coming is attested by many of the prophets. David made mention of His ascension in Psalm 68:17-18: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them ...Thou hast ascended on high .... that the Lord God might dwell among them.”
Jesus Himself had considerable to say about His ascension. In His discourse to His disciples at the Last Supper He said, "I shall be with you a little while longer. .... Where I am going, you cannot come." "I go to prepare a place for you." "I go to my Father." "A little while, and you will not see Me, because I go to the Father... I leave the world and go to the Father" (John 13:33; 14:2, 12; 16:16, 28). And again after His resurrection He made mention of His ascension to Mary, saying: "I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father..." (John 20:17).
• His Second Advent
Prophecy of Jesus' return is found repeatedly in the prophets. The Psalmist looked forward to the time when "He is coming to judge the earth . . . with righteousness" (Ps. 96:13). Isaiah prophesied of the time when it would be said: "This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:9). Jeremiah foresaw the time when "A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth" and "In His days Judah will be saved" (Jer. 23:5-6). Daniel had a vision in which the "Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven!" (Dan. 7:13). Zechariah foretold of the time when "the Lord shall be King over all the earth" (Zech. 14:9).
Jesus Himself spoke often about His second coming. In the same discourse in which He told His disciples He was going away, He assured them He would come again. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." And again at the close of His discourse He said "You have heard Me say to you, I am going away, and coming back to you" (John 14:3, 28).
The two angels that stood by as He ascended into heaven also forecast His return: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
"HE SHALL BE CALLED...Jesus"
The meaning of Jesus: The name Jesus was given Him by the angel before He was born. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Jashue, meaning "Jehovah is salvation," or "... saves," or "... will save." The first to bear the name was Joshua the son of Nun (Josh. 1:1), who led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan.
Angels delivered the message concerning Jesus' name. Gabriel was sent from God to inform His mother: "Do not be afraid, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you will… bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus" (Luke 1:30-31).
The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying of Mary: "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). And again in Luke 2:21 we read that "His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel." And it was the angels that appeared to the shepherds with the words "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).
"Christ" is primarily the name of an office, the Greek name for Messiah, meaning "the Anointed One." It was the title applied to the coming King expected by the Jews (Jewish, Messiah) and used by Daniel in his prophecy concerning Jesus' birth where He is called "Messiah the Prince" (Dan. 9:25). The title Christ was given Him by the angel that announced His birth to the shepherds. The use of the name became common in the New Testament as a surname for Jesus, as "Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
The prophet Isaiah said that the Child should be named Immanuel (Hebrew, Isa. 7:14). The meaning and significance of this name is found in Matthew 1:23, where the angel quotes the Prophet saying, "they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us."
Titles Given to Christ
Adam 1 Cor. 15:45 Jesus Matt. 1:21
Advocate 1 John 2:1 Judge Isa. 33:22
Alpha and Omega Rev. 22:13 Just One Acts 7:52
Apostle Heb. 3:1 King Isa. 33:22
Author & Finisher of Our Faith Heb. 12:2 King Matt. 5:35
Bishop 1 Pet. 2:25 King of Israel John 1:49
Branch Zech. 3:8 King of kings, Lord of lords Rev.
Branch of Righteousness Jer. 23:5, 33:15; King of the Jews Matt. 2:2
Bread John 6:48, 51 Lamb of God John 1:29
Bright and Morning Stat Rev. 22:16 Lawgiver Isa. 33:22
Chief Corner Stone Eph. 2:20 Lion of the Tribe of Judah Rev. 5:5
Consolation of Israel Luke 2:25 Lord Rom. 1:3
Counselor Isa. 9:6 Lord of Glory 1 Cor. 2:8
David Jer. 30:9 Man Acts 17:31
Day Star 2 Pet. 1:19 Master Matt. 8:19
Deliverer Rom. 11:26 Mediator 1 Tim. 2:5
Desire of All Nations Hag. 2:7 Messenger of the Covenant Mal: 3:1
Door of the Sheep John 10:7 Messiah Dan. 9:25
Eliakim Isa. 22:20 Michael Dan. 12:1
Eliakim Isa. 22:20 Michael Dan. 12:1
Emmanuel (Immanuel) Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23 Morning Star Rev. 2:28
Ensign Isa. 11:10 Nazarene Matt. 2:23
Eternal Life 1 John 5:20 Only Begotten of the Father,John 1:14
Faithful and True Witness Rev. 3:14 Plant of Renown Ezek. 34:29
First Begotten Rev. 1:5 Potentate 1 Tim. 6:15
First and Last Rev. 2:8 Precious Cornet Stone Isa. 28:16
Firstfruits 1 Cor. 15:23 Prince of Life Acts 3:15
Forerunner Heb. 6:20 Prince of Peace Isa. 9:6
Friend of Sinners Matt. 11:19 Prince of the Kings Rev. 1:5
Good Shepherd John 10:11 Prophet Acts 3:22
Governor Matt. 2:6 Redeemer Isa. 59:20
Heir of All Things Heb. 1:2 Resurrection and Life John 11:25
High Priest Heb. 5:10 Righteous Branch Jer. 23:5
Holy Child Acts 4:30 Rod Isa. 11:1
Holy One of God Mark 1:24 Root of Jesse Isa. 11:10
Horn of Salvation Luke 1:69 Root and Offspring of David Rev. 22:16
Jacob Isa. 41:8 Ruler in Israel Mic. 5:2
Salvation Luke 2:30 Sun of Righteousness Mal. 4:2
Savior Luke 2:11 Sure Foundation Isa. 28:16
Scepter Num. 24:17 Teacher John 3:2
Servant Isa. 42:1 Temple Mark 14:58
Shiloh Gen. 49:10 The Everlasting Father* Isa. 9:6
Son of God Matt. 4:3 The Lord our Righteousness Jer. 23:6
Son of God Most High Luke 8:28 The Mighty God Isa. 9:6
Son of man Matt. 8:20 Vine John 15:1
Son of the Highest Luke 1:32 Way, Truth, Life John 14:6
Star Num. 24:17 Wonderful Isa. 9:6
Stone Matt. 21:42 Word of God Rev. 19:13
*Jesus is not literally the "Everlasting Father." A better translation of this passage would be, "Father of the World to Come," as it is rendered in the Moffatt Bible.
THE LIFE OF CHRIST
The Child is Born
Jesus was born and grew up in a nation seething with political unrest. Outwardly the country appeared to be at peace, but it was a peace secured only by the Roman army which could be seen everywhere. Bands of revolutionaries followed a policy of violence and seized every opportunity to incite uprising against the Imperial administration.
Where Jesus Was Born
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a town of about 1000 inhabitants about five miles south of Jerusalem. According to the gospel of Matthew, wise men from the east were guided to Bethlehem by a star which went before them and stood over where the young child was (Matt. 2:1-10). Many scholars have sought evidence in astronomy to identify this star. Some believe that it was a conjunction of planets that occurred in 7 B.C. Others have identified it with Halley's comet or with other meteors. The Bible reveals that immortal beings possess light within themselves and can "shine as the brightness of the firmament" (Dan. 12:3), hence it seems reasonable that this "star" that guided them was an angel of God, perhaps one of the same company that announced the event to the shepherds.
When Jesus Was Born
The date of Jesus' birth has been a subject of wide discussion, December 25 being the widely accepted date. But we can be certain this date is not correct--it was not even established until the 6th century AD! And there is much evidence which points to a spring date.
"The incident of the shepherds supports the supposition that the birth must have taken place in spring or autumn. During the winter, since the temperature falls well below freezing in Bethlehem and the rainy season lasts until March, animals cannot be left outdoors. In fact, until the fourth century, the dates most commonly accepted for the birth of Jesus were March 28, Chronology of Jesus' Childhood end Ministry.
From the records of the different gospel writers we can piece together an approximate timeline of Jesus' life. Because Mark and John say little or nothing of Jesus' birth and childhood, and Matthew and Luke record different incidents, the following are cited from each. (Dates are only approximate.)
His Childhood and Youth
Date Event Reference
5 B.C. (?) Announcement to Zacharias of son-to-be (John) Luke 1:5-25
6 months later Announcement to Mary of son-to-be (Jesus) Luke 1:26-38
Mary's Visit to Elisabeth Luke 1:39-56
3 months later Mary's Return to Nazareth Luke 1:56
Announcement to Joseph Matt. 1:18-24
Birth of John the Baptist Luke 1:57-80
4 B.C. (?) Birth of Jesus Luke 2:1-7
Announcement to Shepherds Luke 2:6-20
8 days later Jesus' Circumcision Luke 2:21
32 days later Jesus' Presentation in the Temple Luke 2:22-38
3 B.C. (?) Visit of Wise-Men from the East Matt. 2:12
Flight to Egypt Matt. 2:13-15
Slaughter of Children Matt. 2:16-18
2 B.C. (?) Return to Nazareth Luke 2:39
8 A.D. (?) Visit to Jerusalem Luke 2:41-50
8A.D.-26AD. (?) Eighteen Silent Years Luke 2:51-52
Year One Baptism, in the Lower Jordan Mark 1;9-11
Temptation in the Wilderness Matt. 4:1-12
First Miracle, at Cana John 2:1-11
Jesus Cleanses Temple in Jerusalem John 2:13-25
April 18, and May 29. Then a curious reckoning was made. Convinced that Jesus had lived exactly 30 years from conception, the faithful calculated backward from the date of his death (accepted as April 6) and set the date of the nativity on January 6. In the Eastern Church the day was given the name Epiphany and it is still celebrated as such by the Greek Orthodox Church" (M. Craveri, The Life of Jesus, 1967, p. 37).
Continuing, we read: "But, in the West, special needs of adaptation to the environment caused the church to set the date of the birth of Jesus as December 25 .... Ultimately, Constantine 1 (306-337) was able, through skillful political manipulations, to join the Christian symbols to those of the sun cult, and the feast day of Sol lnvictus, the end of the Saturnalia, became the birth date set for Jesus."
Another point which identifies Christ's birth with the spring date is the fact that the Mosaic tabernacle was set up the first day of the first month which was Abib (Ex. 40:2). Christ being the High Priest of the perfect tabernacle (Heb. 9:2, 9, 11; 8:1-2), it seems reasonable that He should have been born on this date.
His Ministry (continued)
Date Event Reference
Year Two Early Judean Ministry, in Jordan John 3:22-36
Return through Samaria
Begins Galilean Ministry Mark 1:14-15
From Cana heals nobleman's son at Capernaum John 4:46-54
Visits Nazareth, is rejected Luke 4:16-30
Makes Capernaum His headquarters
Calls Simon, Andrew, James and John Mark 1:16-20
Heals Peter's Mother-in-law Matt. 8:14-15
Heals many others Matt. 8:16-17
Journeys about, heals a leper Matt. 8:2-4
Heals a paralytic Luke 5:17-26
Calls Matthew Matt. 9:9
Heals on the Sabbath, arouses opposition Mark 3:1-6
Returns to Galilee
The Twelve Chosen Mark 3:13-19,
Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-7
Journeys about, speaks many parables Luke 8
Stills the tempest Matt. 8:23-27
Raises Jairus' daughter from the dead Mark 5:20-43
Receives Messengers from John the Baptist Matt. 11:1-6
Visits Nazareth again
Heals centurion's servant Matt. 8:5-13
Year Three The Twelve Sent Out Mark 6:7-13
Feeding the 5,000 John 6:5-12
Jesus walks on the water Matt. 14:22-26
Discourses on the bread of life John 6
Refuses popular demand to be King Luke 19:26-38
Upbraids cities, prophecies their doom Matt. 11:20-24
Retires to North
Meets Syro-phenician woman Mark 7:24-30
Returns to Galilee, deaf mute cured Mark 7:31-37
Feeding of the 4,000 Mark. 8:1-9
At Bethsaida, blind man healed Mark 8:22-26
Blind man healed, open conflict with rulers Mark 8:22-31
Returns to Galilee
Retires to Caesarea-Philippi,
The Transfiguration Matt. 17:1-10
Healing the epileptic boy Matt. 17:14-21
The Last Supper with the disciples Luke 22:1-32
Betrayal, arrest and crucifixion Matt. 27
Resurrection Luke 24:1-12
The walk to Emmaus Luke 24:13-33
Post-resurrection scenes John 20:19; 21
Ascension Acts 1:7-11
Human or Divine?
Jesus was human. He was born; He grew; He lived, and died as any other mortal. He was a man, as numerous Scriptures attest. He was "Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God" (Acts 2:22). He was the "man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). He was not God, but the Son of God. Nor was He any part of a triune Godhead. His life was a new life, formed as that of any human son or daughter, and not the incarnation of a previously existing life.
His Physical Nature: Jesus Was Not Born Immortal
When we surveyed the prophecies of the various aspects of His life, we saw prophecies that He would be born, not that He would be re-created or incarnated. Moses said that He should be "raised up "from among His brethren, "like unto me" (Deut. 18:15); Isaiah prophesied that a "virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel"; and again, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given" (Isa. 7:14; 9:6).
Paul, writing to the Galatians, testified that Jesus was born as other humans, saying, "God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal. 4:4). The writer to the Hebrews spoke the same truth: "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren" (Heb. 2:17).
The New Testament Scriptures give ample proof that Jesus was born as prophesied. Matthew writes, "So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet" (Matt. 1:22). And in the Gospel of Luke we find the announcement of His birth to the shepherds, the account of His circumcision at the age of eight days and His presentation in the temple according to the law of Moses. All these events point to the inception of a new life, as that of any human child.
Jesus did not pre-exist. The Scriptures abound with evidence that Jesus Christ did not pre-exist. Moses foretold that a Prophet (Jesus Christ) was to be "raised up," not that He was already in existence, and that He would be "like me" (Moses)--no one suggests that Moses pre-existed. The apostle Peter, who was personally acquainted with Jesus, testified that He had been "raised up" (Acts 3:26). The angels announcing His birth to the shepherds said, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). The announcement said He had been born that day, not that He had just come down from heaven.
Jesus was mortal, human. Evidence that Jesus Christ during His earthly career was mortal, not immortal, and human, not divine, is ample. "The least that the Gospel can be said to call for is a man of flesh and blood. No pretense waits on the humanity of Jesus Christ. Early views that his human nature was in some sense 'illusory' agreed with neither Scripture nor reason. He was born as any person was born. He knew helpless infancy. He had to learn to walk and to talk, to read and to write. He possessed no magic equipment from his birth that guaranteed him against the ordinary perils of life. He knew hunger and weariness, temptation and perplexity, uncertainty and disappointment. He seems to have undergone the whole gamut of human emotions" (Harper's Bible Dictionary, p. 325).
Jesus' human nature is evidenced by the following facts given us in the Scriptures:
He was born Luke 2:10-11
He grew Luke 2:52
He had to learn Heb. 5:8
He slept Matt. 8:24
He was weary John 4:6
He hungered Matt. 21:18
He thirsted John 19:28
He suffered Luke 22:44
He wept John 11:35
He died John 19:30-33
• His Moral Nature: Jesus Was Not Born Sinless
Contrary to popular theology, there is no evidence that Christ was born perfect or with a sinless nature. But there is ample proof that He had to learn, that He was tempted and that He had to resist temptation.
Jesus had to learn right from wrong.
Our first proof is found in the words of the prophet Isaiah, following the prophecy of His birth: "Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good" (7:15). He did learn as others, as Luke records: "And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." Again, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:40, 52).
The writer to the Hebrews gives us further proof: "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:8). Had He been born perfect, He would not have had to learn obedience in any way.
Jesus' own words are plain: "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work"; "I have finished the work which You have given Me to do" (John 4:34; 17:4). His Father had given Him a work to do and He sought nothing but to learn and to do it (John 5:30; 6:38).
Jesus was tempted as any other human being may be tempted.
Three of the four Gospel writers tell of Jesus' temptation preceding His ministry (see Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). To His disciples He said, "You are those who have continued with Me in My trials" (Luke 22:28). The difference between Jesus' temptation and that of erring mankind is that He never yielded to temptation, once He had learned the law. The writer to the Hebrews makes it plain: "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). The apostle John also testifies to His attainment of sinlessness, exhorting us to be even as He is (see 1 John 3:3, 5, 7).
• His Spirit Nature
There is no indication in the Scriptures that Jesus' nature was anything but human. He was not a spirit. The fact that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit did not change His nature. He was not God, but the Son of God. He was not an incarnation of God, but a being distinct from God, of a different substance, always in second place with respect to His Father. No hint of incarnation can be found in the prophecies concerning His birth or in the Gospel narratives of His conception and birth.
Jesus is the Son of God
According to the Bible, Jesus was the Son of God. This title is applied to Him more than 50 times in the New Testament Scriptures. Jesus Himself made frequent use of the term "My Father," always referring to a Being separate and distinct from Himself. He said that He spoke only the words He had received of His Father (John 8:28); His Father was greater than He (John 14:28). He pointed to the necessity of doing the will of His Father (Matt. 7:21). He prayed to His Father and exhorted His followers to do likewise (Matt. 6:9).
Because He said "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30), many take the position that Jesus was saying He was God. But His own words disprove this theory. In John 17:21 He clarified the statement: "That they [His disciples] all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us." He and His Father were of one mind, one purpose, and He was praying for His disciples to be likewise of the same mind and the same purpose.
Jesus is the Son of Man
The term "Son of Man" is used in both the Old and New Testaments. It is used 92 times in the book of Ezekiel in addressing the prophet.
The term "Son of Man" as used of Jesus indicates that He is a human being, a man, even though He is the Son of God. Jesus used the term "Son of Man" some 80 times to designate Himself. He used it to describe both His earthly mission and His ultimate triumph, usually in reference to His second coming. Comparing the last days to the days of Noah and Lot, He said, "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed" (Luke 17:30). And again, speaking of His second coming He said: "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8).
Jesus is the Son of David
This indicates His relationship to the lineage of the family of David (Matt. 9:27; 21:9), as was prophesied. The name was meaningful to a people who held the family of David in highest respect. David was thought of as the progenitor of royal kingship in Israel.
The prophets frequently spoke of the greater Son of David who would someday reign forever. "Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever" (2 Sam. 7:16, RSV). We know that the literal kingdom of David did not last forever. The Prophet was speaking of the golden age in the far future when God would again establish a kingdom on earth in the greatness of Israel, His chosen people, and lead them to a glory such as they had never known before. "Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his Kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore" (Isa. 9:7, RSV). Jesus' descent from David placed Him wholly within the human framework, a mortal man with a Divine mission.
The Boy in Nazareth
In humble circumstances in the house of a simple craftsman--a carpenter--in the little-known town of Nazareth Jesus spent His childhood and youthful years. Some critics have tried to deny the existence of this very small village in Galilee on the ground that it is not mentioned in any contemporary document, but "recent excavations have uncovered the remains of houses dating from the time of Herod, and Avl-Jonah's map of Israel (1935) does not hesitate to mark a Nazareth in Roman Palestine" (Henri Daniel-Rops, The Life of Our Lord, Hawthorne Books, New York, 1964, pp. 38-39).
We can credit Jesus' earliest education probably to the earnest instruction of a devoted mother, for, like all other children, Jesus had to learn to "refuse the evil and choose the good" (Isa. 7:14-15).
We do not hear of Jesus' having any special intellectual training, for on several occasions is recorded the marvel of His contemporaries at His abundant knowledge of the Scriptures (see Matt. 13:54; Mark 1:22; Luke 2:47, and John 7:15). But we can believe that like all Jewish children of His day, Jesus went to school in a beth-hasepher or primary school, which functioned by the side of each synagogue, conducted by a chazzan. There He learned Hebrew, the history of His people, and studied the Law and the Prophets. No doubt He also spent considerable time in His father's workshop, handling the hammer and the plane.
Luke gives us our fullest knowledge of Jesus' education: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men”(Luke 2:52).
• Brothers and Sisters
Did Jesus have any? The Gospel writers inform us indirectly on several occasions. When He began preaching in the synagogue, many were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him?... Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" (Mark 6:2-3). Matthew speaks of "His mother and brothers" who "standing outside, seeking to speak with You" (Matt. 12:47). In a letter to the Galatian Church, Paul spoke of "James, the Lord's brother" as among those he met first after his conversion.
• At Twelve Years of Age
All that we know of the childhood of Jesus is recorded by Luke: "And the Child grew, and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
"His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast" (Luke 2:40-42).
Attendance at three annual festivals was prescribed for male Israelites, according to the law of Moses, and the women often attended also. On this occasion, Jesus accompanied them--this may or may not have been His first visit. To the Hebrews these festivals were highly important, and the Jewish people converged on the Holy City not only from every part of Palestine but also from the most remote foreign lands in which they had settlements. In one year, records Flavius Josephus, 3 million persons went to Jerusalem for the Passover.
The fact that Jesus accompanied Mary and Joseph on this occasion may have some significance. According to Hebrew custom, a child of twelve was given special privileges because he was approaching his thirteenth birthday at which time he would become a bar mitzvah, or "son of the Law" in the Temple. This occasion would mark the entry of the young Jew into the religious community and place upon him the responsibility of his faith. Henceforth he would be an adult, obliged to go to Jerusalem each year to celebrate the feasts and be loyal to the regulations of his faith.
Luke tells us further of this visit: “When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it." They traveled on, "supposing Him to have been in the company,” until they discovered that He was not.
Upon returning to the temple, His parents found Him "in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions" (Luke 2:46). The stress in Luke's account of the incident is on Jesus' early interest in religion.
But the will of His heavenly Father had to come first. "He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them." When He was told what He should do, He willingly submitted.
• The Preparation Years
Of the years between the incident in the Temple and the time Jesus was thirty years old we know nothing from the Divine Record except this broad statement penned by Luke: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52).
Jesus grew--He did not remain a child, He grew, physically, and--most important--spiritually. During those eighteen years of silence Jesus was bringing to maturity those sublime virtues His mother had taught Him in childhood, virtues which He was to manifest on so many occasions in later life. These were the formative years, years of spiritual preparation and holy character development, years in which Jesus was patiently polishing and perfecting that chief cornerstone which was destined to fill a place of distinction in the eternal temple of God.
• Outstanding Virtues
Compassion How often during His earthly ministry Jesus was "moved with compassion" (Matt. 14:14; 20:34; Mark 5:19). His own words repeated by Paul show how far-reaching was that compassion: "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’" (Acts 20:35).
Jesus developed an unwavering and sublime faith and confidence in His Father. So filled with faith was He that He could actually thank God for hearing His prayer to raise Lazarus from the grave before there had been a single manifestation of the answer. He could say: "I know that You always hear Me" (John 11:42). In this same Divine faith and confidence He declared He could have prayed to His Father for deliverance from death, and His Father would have sent Him "more than twelve legions of angels" (Matt. 26:53).
Jesus was mighty, but meek; master, but subservient; commander, but obedient to God's will. Humbly He could say, "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge: and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me" (John 5:30).
"I do not seek My own glory," He said; "I honor My Father" (John 8:50,49). When accused of trying to make Himself equal with God, He answered, "Most assuredly, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.... He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him" (John 5:17-23).
He was obedient: "For I always do those things that please Him [the Father] (John 8:29). Even in the face of death He submitted to the will of His Father: "Father," He entreated, "if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). Here was the supreme in sacrifice; when He had given His life He could give no more.
Mercy and Forgiveness
When Peter asked Jesus, "How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus, to stress the virtue of longsuffering said, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but, up to seventy times seven" (Matt. 18:21-22). So forgiving was the spirit Jesus learned to maintain that He could say of those who cast lots for His raiment, as they were preparing to crucify Him: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).
So courageous was Jesus that He could denounce the wicked Pharisees for their pride and hypocrisy with irretrievable woes (Matthew 23).
The courage to speak out in such terms against the people who were soon to crucify Him did not develop overnight. It grew through years of testing and struggle.
The Teaching Ministry in the Community of Israel
As Jesus grew to manhood, Rome was still in full power. With the single exception of what is now modern Morocco, the Roman Empire encircled the Mediterranean, extending northward to Belgium, south to upper Egypt, and east to what we call the Black Sea. A complex mosaic of provinces annexed by conquest, plus dependencies and protectorates, the Empire contained men of every known race. There was little to unite the Empire except military might.
And military might there was in abundance. Even in the city of Jerusalem, the swords of the Roman authorities were felt, although they were debarred from the sacred precinct of the Temple. "Protection" and "peace-keeping" were their duties.
The Roman rulers distrusted this dynamic Hebrew people; and as for the Jews, their ancient pride made it difficult for them to tolerate servitude. To them, a Roman was more than a foreigner; he was an uncircumcised infidel, a rejected pagan, an impure wretch worthy of nothing but contempt.
Yet the Romans troubled the Jews' religion much less than did an obscure man from Nazareth--Jesus.If Jesus had no other claim to a place in history, He could be remembered as one of the world's masters of the technique of teaching. "Teacher," often translated "master" in our Authorized Version, was the title which even His enemies remembered Him by (Matt. 22:16; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21). In the Gospels alone Jesus is called "teacher" more than fifty times. He had something to say, and He knew how to say it--Jesus was in every aspect of the word a teacher.
Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots--these were the principal Jewish groups in Israel at the time of Christ. And in the atmosphere created by their various ideas, Jesus was to undertake His great work of publishing the true message of the plan of God.
The forums or stages from which Jesus taught were many. He began His teaching in the synagogues of Galilee, but before long the opposition had shut the door against Him and driven Him to the roads, the hillside, and the seashore.
By far the greater part of Jesus' teaching was in the open air. He employed the hillside (Matt. 5:1; 24:3); a boat pushed out from the shore (Mark 4:1); the highway (Mark 10:17); a private home (Luke 5:19). There were no microphones into which He could speak, and no sound systems to amplify His vocal tones, but multitudes heard and were impressed.
Jesus was a forceful speaker. This fact is clear from the large following which He drew. They "wondered at the gracious words" which He spoke. He taught "in their synagogues, being glorified by all" (Luke 4:15)--a statement which indicates that His teaching was well received.
But Jesus was also forthright and direct. When He condemned the Pharisees for their outward show and hypocrisy, no intelligent listener questioned what He meant; or when He placed the Samaritans on a par with the Jews, no one missed the point.
Jesus spoke with authority. It was customary for the Jewish rabbis of the time to cite authority for their statements either from accepted Scripture or well-known superiors. But Jesus did not do this: He was authority. He spoke on the basis of the truth He represented; He spoke the words of His heavenly Father. Men could hear Him and be convinced, without further reference.
Jesus' teaching and preaching was informal. It showed nothing of the planned character of a Pharisaic oration; it contained nothing superficial or hypocritical. This does not mean that Jesus' words were unsystematic or carelessly put together. He was a man sent by God and chosen by Him for the task, and He was qualified. But He was qualified by God, not men.
Jesus' utterances were for the most part spontaneous. Rarely did He prepare a service. Chance meetings along the way (Mark 10:17), unexpected remarks by a passer-by (Matt. 19:3), sudden questions from the disciples (Luke 1l:l)--these are typical situations which prompted Jesus to deliver some of the most profound truths.
All this only testifies to the greatness of the God who was behind Him and the thoroughness of His preparation during those long, silent years. When men heard Jesus speak, they knew immediately that He was no ordinary teacher.
• General Character
Jesus' teaching was unique in form. There was nothing academic, unrealistic or formal about His statements. The language was bright with similes and simple metaphors such as everyone could comprehend. References to nature, home life, the market place, and the open road abound. He did not use the vocabulary of a sophisticated hierarchy, and there was no suggestion of the professional priest in His phraseology. He was simply the teacher sent from God.
Nevertheless, Jesus knew how to command the attention of His listeners. His message was arresting; it had a universal appeal; it was immediately intelligible and permanently memorable. Why?
Jesus' chief teaching instrument was the parable. The story is the teaching medium which all can understand in some degree. To teach in parables, it is said, is to teach in pictures, and most men think in pictures. There are very few people who are capable of grasping abstract truth; for most men, truth has to become concrete before it becomes intelligible.
The great value of a parable is that it draws directly from life and either compares or contrasts with it.
So extensive was Jesus' use of parables that it is written, "All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them" (Matt. 13:34). Frequently He spoke in parables to the multitude and then explained privately to His disciples the deeper meaning of the words He had uttered.
Jesus' parables are colorful and dramatic, though brief. The situations which they present are lifelike, such as one might meet any day in first-century Palestine. A man robbed on the highway (Luke 10:29-37), an urgent request for needed bread due to a visit by an unexpected guest (Luke 11:5-8), a farmer enlarging his granary to accommodate his increased crop (Luke 12:16-21), a sower casting his seed upon the ground (Luke 8:4-15)--none are too far removed even from our modern life. But the lessons are deep and far reaching.
And their subjects are broad. Principal among many is the Kingdom of God (Matt. 13:31-33; 22:2-14; Luke 19:12-27). There are lessons on prayer (Luke 11:1-4), preparedness (Matt. 25:1-13), forgiveness (Luke 15:11-24), and the necessity of putting belief into action (Matt. 7:24-27). All are themes vital to every earnest Christian.
Jesus also made much use of the Old Testament Scriptures in His teaching. As a boy and youth, He had memorized portions of the prophets as He sat cross-legged before His teacher. This memory work stood Him in good stead for His active ministry. It did not remain sterile material in His brain but grew and multiplied as He applied it to His own life and the life of every follower.
The attitude of Jesus toward the Old Testament Scriptures was evident from what He said about them. The Biblical personalities which attracted Him most are the very same ones which appeal to us today for their vivid lessons and timely admonitions: Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Noah, Lot and his wife, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, the widow of Zarephath, Naaman, and others.
The Parables of Christ
Parable Matthew Mark Luke John
Barren Fig Tree 13:6-9
Bread of Life John 6
Candle Under Bushel 5:15 4:21 8:16
Counting the Cost 14:28-33
Drag Net 13:47-48
Father and Two Sons 21:28-32
Fig Tree and Its Young Leaves 24:32 13:28 21:29
Friend at Midnight 11:5-8
Good Samaritan 10:25-37
Great Supper 14:16-24
Growth of Seed 4:26-29
Hidden Treasure 13:44
House Built on Rock 7:24-25 6:48
Household Watching 13:34-37
Importunate Widow 18:1-8
Laborers in the Vineyard 20:1-16
Leaven 13:33 13:20-21
Lost Piece of Money 15:8-10
Lost Sheep 18:12 15:4-.6
Marriage of the King's Son 22:1-14
Master and Servant 17:7-10
He testified before Pontius Pilate: "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world.”
Central to all of Jesus' teachings was the message of the Kingdom of God. This was only normal, as (John 18:37), He taught that He would be the King, that this Kingdom would be on earth (Matt. 5:5), and that its inhabitants would be the righteous (Matt. 5:20; 7:21).
Jesus sought to teach with words that would at once penetrate into men's minds and lodge in their hearts. He came with a command and a statement. "Repent," He said, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).
The imperative of Jesus was Repent! The terrible sin of Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum was that they had seen His mighty works and had not repented (Matt. 11:20-21). Men were confronted with the alternative, "Repent or perish" (Luke 13:3-5). The disciples were sent out to bring to men the summons to repent (Mark 6:12). All this meant a realization that one's actions were wrong, that there must be sorrow for sin and a changed attitude toward life, conduct and action as a whole, and a change of action to correspond to the change of heart.
Parable Matthew Mark Luke John
Mustard Seed 13:31-32 4:31-32 13:18-19
New Cloth on Old Garment 9:16 2:21 5:36
New Wine and Old Bottles 9:17 2:22 5:37
Pearl of Great Price 13:45-46
Pharisee and the Publican 18:9-14
Prodigal Son 15:11-32
Rich Fool 12:16-21
Rich Man and Lazarus 16:19-31
Servants Watching 12:35-40
Sheep and Goats 25:31-46
Shepherd and the Sheep 10:1 - 18
Sower 13:3-9 4:3-9 8:5-10
Steward on Trial 12:42-48
Ten Virgins 25:1 - 13
Two Debtors 7:36-50
Unjust Steward 16:1-13
Unmerciful Servant 18:23-35
Vine and the Branches 15:1-8
Vineyard and Husbandmen 21:33-45 12:1 20:9-19
Jesus' call to a complete change of life involved Him in stern and relentless denunciation of the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day. Jesus was neither Pharisee nor Essene. He believed firmly in certain teachings of the Pharisees--angels, and the resurrection--yet He denounced their ostentatious habits, their self-righteousness, their holier-than-thou attitude. Nor did He display any regard for the monastic ideal of the Essenes, with its strict disciplines, ascetic self-denial, blind obedience, and quasi-military organization.
It was as if Jesus said, "You say your prayers, but what about your inward life of prayer in secret where no man sees? You do not break your spoken vows, but what about sincerity? You do not commit adultery, but what about lust? You give alms, but what about love? You fast, but what about penitence?"
Jesus' teaching was fundamentally practical. If men were to follow Him, they had to deny themselves and take up their cross; they had to be ready to disown their own families, if need be, when loyalties clashed; they had to even be prepared to count themselves "Blessed" when men reviled them, and uttered all kinds of evil against them. Small wonder that the legalistic Pharisees hated Him!
The choice that Jesus offered men was relatively drastic: either to live for "this world" with its passions, its loyalties, its risks, or to make a clear break in the hope of eternal salvation in the world to come. And Jesus wished His disciples to have no illusions: "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction .... Narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way, which leads to life" (Matt. 7:13-14)--no chance for misunderstanding here!
• Reaction and Response
The common people were first to respond enthusiastically to Jesus' person and His message. They could see at once that He did not speak "like their scribes'--formally, technically, incomprehensibly--but with vitality, from observation and experience that all could understand. He spoke not theoretically but "as one having power," so that they felt the dynamic power of His words.
They sensed also that His attitude toward them was different from that of the members of the proud and influential classes. In the eyes of the Sadducees, common people were just a rabble; to the Pharisees they were the despised masses who "do not know the law." By contrast, the attitude of Jesus made them feel that His concern for them was genuine. Words like those of the beatitudes had meaning not restricted to the wealthy, the powerful, the educated, or the influential. They had only one condition of blessing: obedience.
Multitudes listened, but only the smallest minority followed and continued to follow. For after His ascension, as the disciples tarried together in Jerusalem to await His promise, only 120 were present.
• Jesus' Attitude Toward Miracles
Jesus Himself regarded miracles as part of His Gospel, intended to impress and convince. They were not merely added to the Gospel story for ornament or pleasant reading. The miracles had significance and purpose. Delete the account of the miracles and the whole story falls to pieces and the teaching of Jesus is left without illustration or confirmation.
Jesus Himself regarded miracles as part of His ministry to preach the Kingdom of God. His opening manifesto delivered in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:18), quoted from the prophet Isaiah, proclaims healing as a part of His ministry. Although probably the greater significance of this prophecy of healing is of spiritual deliverance (Ps. 107:20), physical healing was part of His mission: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." His healing ministry was clearly foretold, and Jesus accepted it.
On another occasion Jesus identified healing as part of His ministry. Answering messengers whom John the Baptist had sent to Him, He replied: "Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised" (Luke 7:22). Miracles were a manifest part of His ministry.
The Miracles of Christ
Miracle Matthew Mark Luke John
Two blind men healed 9:27-29
Dumb demoniac healed 9:32-33
Coin in mouth of fish 17:27
Deaf and dumb man healed 7:32-35
Blind man healed 8:22-25
Christ passes unseen through multitude 4:30
Draught of fishes 5:4-9 21:6-11
Raising the widow's son 7:11-15
Healing the infirm woman 13:11-13
Healing the man with dropsy 14:1-4
Healing the ten lepers 17:11 - 17
Healing the ear of Malchus 22:50-51
Turning water into wine 2:1-11
Healing the nobleman's son 4:46-54
Healing the impotent man at Bethesda 5:2-13
Healing the man born blind 9:1-11
Raising of Lazarus 11:43-44
Demoniac in synagogue cured 1:23-27 4:33-36
The multitudes who followed Jesus tended, apparently, to place the primary emphasis of His ministry on His healing, forgetting His message. For this reason Jesus left Capernaum for other communities, rather than remain there and continue to heal (Mark 1:35-39). He kept His miracles in a proper relationship to His teaching, which was at the center of His ministry.
• Why Did Jesus Perform Miracles?
By His miracles, Jesus confirmed the faith of His disciples and His listeners. The leper who came to Jesus and worshiped Him, said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean" (Matt. 8:2). And immediately Jesus cleansed him. The blind Bartimaeus, confident that Jesus could give him sight, begged for mercy: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." What was his request? "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." Jesus healed him, commending and rewarding his faith (Mark 10:46-52).
By His miracles, Jesus demonstrated His Divine authority and the power of His Father. He healed the man sick of the palsy "that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:2-8). “When the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men." On another occasion, when Jesus was in a ship with His disciples, a storm arose. The disciples, afraid, implored Jesus to save them. Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith; and then, to remind them of the power of God, quietly used His power to still the sea; "And there was a great calm." Again the people "marveled, saying, Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" (Matt. 8:23-27).
Miracle Matthew Mark Luke John
Healing centurion's servant 8:5-13 7:2-10
Blind and dumb demoniac healed 12:22 11:14
Healing the daughter of the Syrophenician 7:25-30
Feeding the four thousand 15:32-38 8:1-9
Cursing the fig tree 21:18-19 11:12-14
Healing the leper 8:2-3 1:40-42 5:12-13
Healing Peter's mother-in-law 8:14-15 1:30-31 4:38-39
Stilling the storm 8:26 4:37-41 8:22-25
Legion of devils enter swine 8:28-33 5:1-15 8:27-35
Healing the man sick of palsy 9:2-7 2:3-12 5:18-25
Healing the woman with the issue of blood 5:25-29 5:25-34 8:43-48
Raising of Jairus' daughter 9:23-26 5:22-23, 8:41-56
Healing the man with a withered hand 12:10-13 3:1-5 6:6-10
Curing the demoniac child 17:14-18 9:17-27 9:38-42
Curing blind Bartimaeus 20:30-34 10:46-52 18:35-43
(two blind men, Matt. 20)
Walking on the sea 14:25-27 6:47-51 6:18-21
Feeding the five thousand 14:19-21 6:35-44 9:12-17 6:5-13
By healing on the Sabbath, Jesus demonstrated His superiority to the law of Moses. Pharisaic Sabbath-keepers branded Him as a dangerous and heretical law-breaker, one who must be eliminated as quickly as possible; but Jesus only continued His "Sabbath-breaking." He clashed with them over the healing of the man with the withered hand (Matt. 12:9-14), the woman bent for eighteen years with her infirmity (Luke 13:10-17), the man with the dropsy (Luke 14:1-6). But Jesus was doing more than healing: He was teaching that the "Son of man is also Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). The Sabbath law of Moses was terminating.
• Types of Miracles Performed by Jesus
The miracles of Jesus may be divided into three general groups:
Jesus raised Jairus' daughter (Matt. 9:23-26), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), and also Lazarus (John 11:43-45) from death. Restoring health:
Jesus' healing covers a varied field, including epilepsy, paralysis, blindness, deaf and dumbness, atrophy, dropsy, fever and leprosy. Leprosy in this period was used to cover every sort of skin disease, as well as leprosy itself, which is still the scourge of Africa and the Middle East. Those tainted with it were not only outcasts from all human society under ban of excommunication, but were exiled even from their own families, regarded as "impure," cut off from every form of life. To touch them was forbidden: they were regarded as a species of living filth. They aroused feelings of horror that bordered on hatred.
Jesus also "cast out devils"--not that Jesus believed that disease was caused by the presence of a foreign spirit or demon within a man, but this was how the people of His day understood sickness. In the Gospels the term is especially applied to insanity. By casting out devils Jesus was merely healing that which was opposed to a healthy condition of body or mind. Careful reading of the various narratives of Jesus' casting out these so-called demons reveals simply human insanity. For example, Luke 8:29: "For it had often [the evil spirit] seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness." Asked his name, the insane man answered "Legion," revealing his confused thinking--he thought of himself as a composite personality. After the miracle the same man sat "at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind" (Luke 8:35).
Demonstrating His power:
This type of miracle includes: walking on the sea (Matt. 14:25); stilling the tempest (Matt. 8:26); turning water into wine (John 2:1-11); feeding the multitudes (Matt. 14:19).
Jesus healed with the same authority with which He taught. "With authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him" (Mark 1:27). On one evening in particular, Mark tells us that at sundown "they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons" (Mark 1:32-34).
But let us remember that Jesus' miracles were not simply for the purpose of charity: They were bringing conviction of the power of God to that generation and to many generations to follow.
Jesus felt His dependence on His Father and communicated often with Him in Prayer. Below are listed some of His recorded prayers.
Jesus' Prayers Recorded
At His baptism Luke 3:21
In the solitary place Mark 1:35
In the wilderness Luke 5:16
All night, before choosing the Twelve Luke 6:12
Before His invitation, "Come unto Me" Matt. 11:25-27
At the feeding of the 5,000 John 6:11
After the feeding of the 5,000 Matt. 14:23
When He gave the Lord's Prayer Luke 11:1-4; Matt. 6:9-13
At Caesarea-Philippi Luke 9:18
Before the Transfiguration Luke 9:28-29
In the temple John 12:27-28
At the Last Supper Matt. 26:26-27
At the Last Supper Matt. 26:26-27
For Peter Luke 22:32
After the Last Supper John 17
In Gethsemane Matt. 26:36-44
On the Cross Luke 23:34
At Emmaus Luke 24:30
The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew verb Mashach, which means "to anoint." Thus "the Messiah" is literally "the Anointed One," recalling the ancient Hebrew custom of anointing a person who was being set apart for high office, priesthood or special service. "The Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, and is used as its equivalent in the New Testament. To call Jesus the Christ is to give Him the title of Messiah.
The idea of the Messiah was deeply ingrained in Jewish thought. It was for the Messiah that the Jews were hoping, praying and waiting--and yet, when the Messiah came, they rejected and crucified Him.
But a few believed and accepted Him. The first recorded open confession of Jesus as the Christ is that of Peter. To Jesus' specific question: "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered affirmatively: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:15-16). Previous to this the apostles had accepted Christ as their Master and Messiah as a promise that might or might not prove true. But now they deliberately ratified the fact as their own firm conviction, based on their witness of what Jesus had shown Himself to be. Here at last, they felt, was the solid rock on which they could build their faith.
By stating that Jesus was the Christ, they were stating that they knew what they believed and why they believed it, and were willing to live by the truth and, if need be, die for it.
The Messiahship of Christ was the substance of Paul's preaching. Immediately after his conversion on the road to Damascus, he amazed the Jews by proving in their synagogues that "Jesus is the very Christ" (Acts 9:22). His message in Thessalonica was that the Jesus whom he proclaimed was the Christ (Acts 17:3). In Corinth he testified to the Jews that the Christ was this same Jesus (Acts 18:5). Apollos in Ephesus convinced the Jews of the truth of Christianity by proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:28).
The title of Messiah was connected with various offices, as prophet, priest, judge, king. The filling of these offices is the exact purpose of the life of Jesus.
Just as Elijah was instructed to anoint Elisha as prophet in his stead, so Jesus was the anointed prophet of God. He could say, quoting the prophecy of Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor" (Luke 4:18).
Moses had foretold that "The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren." (Deut. 18:15), and Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy par excellence.
As a prophet, a teacher sent from God, Jesus came with supreme credentials. So filled was He with the law of God that He could say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). And again, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12).
Christ is our high priest, making intercession for us at the throne of God. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
Christ serves in the capacity of mediator: "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).
This office of Christ is prophetic, belonging to the time of His second advent.Christ will judge His servants. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
Christ will judge the nations. "For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire" (Isa. 66:15). He shall "Judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off" (Mic. 4:3). And this task belongs specifically to Christ. "Because He [God] has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). Again, "God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (Rom. 2:16).
Christ's fourth and most significant office is that of king. "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be –“The Lord is one,” and His name one" (Zech. 14:9). He shall be "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Rev. 17:14).
The Kingship, according to Jesus' own testimony, is the express purpose for which He was born: "For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37).
Jesus Prophesies His Second Advent
By far the greater portion of Jesus' teaching centered around His second advent. The texts below picture nothing other than a definite historical event in which Jesus Himself is personally and literally to appear and establish His Kingdom.
• "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him" (Matt. 25:31).
• "The Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels" (Matt. 16:27).
• "As the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of
Man be" (Matt. 24:27).
• "As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt. 24:37).
• "As it was also in the days of Lot: ... so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed"
(Luke 17:28, 30)."They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27).
• "Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38).
• "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself" (John 14:3).
• "Where I am going, you cannot come" (John 13:33).
• Faithful and Wise Servants, exhorted to watchfulness (Matt. 24:45-51).
• Parable of the Ten Virgins. Another exhortation to watchfulness and readiness, stressing the need for adequate preparation (Matt. 25:1-13).
• Parable of the Talents. Emphasizing the need to utilize one's full amount of physical and spiritual potential in serving the Lord in His absence, because He will come and reward each servant according to his work (Matt. 25:14-30).
• Picture of the Final Judgment, the separating of faithful and unfaithful servants. Eternal life for the faithful, eternal death for the unfaithful (Matt. 25:31-46),
Can we miss the message of Jesus' words?
THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF JESUS CHRIST
Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father.
"Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come --in the volume of the book it is written of Me to do Your will, O God" (Heb. 10:7). He could say, "I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:29). "1 can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me" (John 5:30). So complete was His submission to His Matt. 26:39).
Father's will that even in the face of death He could say, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will"
Jesus learned perfect obedience.
"Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb. 5:8-9).
Jesus achieved perfect holiness.
He was "the Holy One and the Just" (Acts 3:14), as a "lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:19). He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26).
Because of His holiness, His perfect obedience, His complete submission to the will of His Father, He became our perfect example. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Pet. 2:21-23). Here is our commission: to attain the same level of perfection that He achieved, through growth.
EVIDENCE OF JESUS' EXISTENCE
What shall we say to those who try to discredit the whole story of the life of Christ as fable, myth, or falsehood? Shall we have an answer?The Bible offers abundant evidence; if we accept the Bible, we simply have to accept the Christ that it proclaims.
The Evidence of the Gospels
The accounts of Jesus' life, as given in the Gospels, are amazingly parallel. Consider that the four Gospels were written not only by four different persons, but in different communities--Rome, Antioch in Syria, some city in Greece, and Ephesus in Asia Minor. They were composed to meet the needs of widely separated churches, and the marvel is not their differences but their agreement when we consider the diverse backgrounds from which they came.
At the beginning the Christian community relied on oral transmissions of stories about Jesus' life and teachings. But it soon became apparent that written records would be needed. Scholars now push back the date of the writing of the first gospel far earlier than used to be supposed.
Is there any possibility that the Gospels are a fabricated story? Let us suppose for the moment that they are. If that be so, then every detail of the "fable" has been confirmed as historically correct--can this be?
As a noted author has illustrated: "I use my imagination to invent a scene which I never witnessed; I may well hit by accident on a detail that happens to be correct .... I may well imagine the death of a friend in Australia. But if also I imagine that he was injured in the neck, that this occurred at midday, that contrary to his usual custom he was wearing a striped waistcoat and had six shillings and five pence in his right-hand pocket; then, if this combination of independent details turns out to be verified by the facts, it will have to be recognized that my mental operation was not that of invention but--whatever its mechanism--a kind of vision at a distance.
"Now it is certain that the places mentioned in the Gospels are real. Those who live in Palestine can recognize the sites, the distances between them, the differences of landscape, the descriptions of the Holy City, its monuments, its surroundings, its peculiarities." All these facts confirm the Gospel accounts.
When a writer of fiction imagines the past, he cannot help but project his present surroundings into it. The likelihood of his reconstructing it accurately, especially when accuracy would serve no immediate purpose to his readers, would be very small. Had the Gospel writers been fiction writers, they might have chanced upon some truth by accident. But the whole story would have been confused, vague, and inaccurate in detail.
By studying the accounts of Jesus' life in the Gospels, we are forced to conclude that the account is correct.
Secular (Historical) Confirmation
The historian of the Jews, Josephus, records the fact that Jesus lived: "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure .... He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." (The Works of Flavius Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews," Book XVIII, chapter III, paragraph 3).
H. G. Wells, in his Outline of History, affirms the life of Christ: "In the reign of Tiberius Caesar a great teacher arose out of Judea who was to liberate the intense realization of the righteousness and unchallengeable oneness of God, and of man's moral obligation to God."
Jesus was a real man; His life was fact, not myth, as no serious scholarship denies. His place in history cannot be removed.
Facts Confirming the Existence of Christ
• The growth of the Christian Church in the centuries immediately following the life of Christ is definite testimony to the fact that Jesus actually lived. What else would have given to the world the foundation for such a structure as the whole of Christianity, though in its growth it apostatized from the teachings of its founder?
• The recognition given to Christ by hostile Jews is evidence that Jesus lived. He came, undoing their work, breaking down their time-honored barriers, pointing out their senseless legalism and unveiling their hypocrisy. If they could have done away with this reformer and persuaded people that He never lived, they most certainly would have done so. But no, they did all in their power to halt His work--and still were unsuccessful.
We quote from a contemporary writer: "Had Jesus not really lived, none would have known it better than the Jews and, had it been possible, they surely would have raised that issue. Upon the contrary, all Jewish attacks on Jesus take for granted his life and death in Palestine." In early Jewish writings, Jesus' life, ministry and death in Palestine are assumed as matters of unquestioned fact (Harry Emerson Fosdick).
• Action taken by the Roman government against the Christian Church in its early years testifies to the existence of a Founder who gave impetus and inspiration to His followers. Christians were a zealous but persecuted sect for centuries.
• All the teachings of the Apostles centered around Christ. Even when He was no longer with them, Christ was their rallying point and central thought. His life, His death, His resurrection, His Second Coming, His Kingdom--these were the subjects which they proclaimed. And what basis would they have had for such teaching if no Christ had actually lived?
JESUS' LAST DAYS
Background of Jewish Hatred
We should recall that at the time of Jesus' ministry Judea and Syria formed a province ruled by the Roman government under the authority of a Roman governor named Pontius Pilate. Rome permitted the Jews to have their own governing council known as the Sanhedrin, and this council consisted of 71 members who had general control over the internal affairs of the country--religious, as well as civil. The highest office in the Sanhedrin was that of high priest, occupied at this time by Caiaphas. The actual capital of the province was Caesarea; but to the Jews the real capital was Jerusalem, and it was from here that the council governed the people. The council bore full responsibility for the political as well as the spiritual safety of the nation.
From the beginning of His ministry Jesus was at odds with the Jews--and for very good reason: "It was a leading aim of Jesus to teach men that true piety consisted not in forms, but in substance; not in outward observances, but in an inward spirit; not in small details, but in great rules of life. The whole system of Pharisaic piety led to exactly opposite conclusions" (Unger's Bible Dictionary, pp, 855-856). Such was the attitude of the Pharisees, a strong and vocative sect of the Jews; and the Sanhedrin was heavily weighted with Pharisees--here was the source of the plot against Jesus.
But Jewish hostility, however determined, could not interfere until Jesus' mission and work were accomplished. They were powerless against Him because "His hour was not yet come" (John 7:30; 8:20).
Nevertheless, because of their continued harassment, Jesus was forced to avoid Judea and carry on His teaching elsewhere, principally in Galilee. “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him” (John 7:1). In Judea the Pharisee-dominated Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of Justice, with officers of its own who could arrest accused persons and carry out its sentences and decrees; but in Galilee, Jesus was beyond the power of the Sanhedrin. "After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for He did not
Jesus' Foreknowledge of His Death
Throughout His ministry Jesus had Divine foreknowledge of His death and resurrection. Three times He made forthright statements "that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Matt. 16:21).
We should observe that each time Jesus spoke of His death was a time when the disciples might easily have been carried away with hopes of His establishing a kingdom at that time:
His first such prophecy follows Peter's statement: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16).
The second follows the descent from the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17:22-23).
The third is just before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 20:18-19); and the parable foretelling His death follows immediately the entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:33-46).
Jesus' Attitude Toward Death
Jesus showed no fear of death. He saw it merely as a short interval of sleep, as in the case of Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:52) and Lazarus (John 11:11). Death was only a brief interruption, after which He would rise, ascend to His Father, and be glorified in His Father's presence. "For the joy that was set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame," knowing that in due time He would be rewarded (Heb. 12:2).
The Last Supper, or New Passover
The Jewish Passover began on the evening of the 14th of Abib and ended at sunset the following day, the 15th day of Abib (the day began in the evening--Lev. 23:32). On the evening of the 13th of Abib, Jesus met with His disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem to partake of the Last Supper, or New Passover. This was a full 24 hours before the Jewish Passover. John is specific concerning the date: "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come,.. And supper being ended..." (John 13:1-2). It was before the regular Passover and supper was already ended. The great haste of the
authorities throughout the trial and execution of Jesus is explained by John as an attempt to have everything accomplished before the Sabbath, "(for that Sabbath was a high day) [the Passover]" (John 19:31).
"When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’
"Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, ’Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’. And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me’" (Luke 22:14-19).
This was the New Passover. As the Jewish Passover had symbolized the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt to a new and better land, so the New Passover was Jesus' final Passover with His disciples until He should "receive for Himself a kingdom" and "return," and partake with them in that Kingdom. (Luke 19:12). the same night in which He was
The Lord's Supper, or New Passover, is not a magical ceremony in which the emblems become the literal flesh and blood of Christ, but a symbolic rite or memorial, a renewing of our covenant with God. The bread and juice of the grape are symbols of the Word of God and the living out of that Word. The Lord's Supper is an annual, evening observance, to be partaken of "on the same night in which He was betrayed" (1 Cor. 11:23), on the 13th day of Abib.
Before the Last Supper was ended, Jesus had already been betrayed by Judas, the plan having been consummated sometime before. "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing give me if I deliver Him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray him" (Matt. 26:14-16). As soon as Judas had left the room, Jesus began His long discourse to His disciples.
Jesus' words in His farewell address that night show His deep concern for the disciples' welfare. He spoke words with a depth and breadth unequaled in the Scriptures. He showed no fear of His soon-coming death. Knowing that His betrayer was already away on his dastardly errand did not quench Jesus' buoyant spirit. He spoke of peace and love; of the vine and its branches; He showed them how to be His friends: He promised them another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which they should receive after He ascended toheaven and was glorified. He told them of His glorification--He was looking ahead to His meeting with the Father.
His disciples had been with Him throughout His ministry, yet they did not comprehend His message. "Then some of His disciples said among themselves, ‘What is this that He says to us, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me; because I go to the Father?’" (John 16:17).
Peter also questioned Him: "Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you can not follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward." Jesus was facing physical death, and Peter could not follow Him at that time in death, because his work was not complete. Not until later--"afterwards"--would Peter be willing to sacrifice his life. But Peter did not understand. "Peter said unto Him, Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake." But Jesus knew thatwhen He would be arrested, Peter would forget and He answered him, "Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times" (John 13:36-38).
Jesus' attitude toward what He knew lay before Him was one of humble submission to His Father's will. He knew that even His disciples would forsake Him, yet He would not be alone "because the Father is with Me" (John 16:32). He earnestly prayed the Father for the spiritual growth of His disciples, "that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves" (John 17:13). He prayed not only for His present disciples to be sanctified (John 17:17), but also for those who would believe on Him in the future (John 17:20). His whole concern was for others, not for Himself.
After this discourse, which covers about 20 percent of the Gospel of John (chap. 13-17), they sang a hymn and went out into the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30), into a place where He and His disciples had often sought refuge. It was here in Gethsemane that He wrung out the last drops of His own life in surrender, saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).
While Jesus was still speaking, a "multitude" appeared and Judas, "one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’" (Luke 22:47-48). The men that came with Judas to arrest Jesus belonged to the Police force of the Jewish council, a group of men assigned to maintain order and make arrests. John describes them as "troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees" (John 18:3), while Matthew and Mark describe them as a "multitude."
Jesus' arrest was not conducted under Roman orders, for had it been He would have been taken to the military barracks. Instead, “having arrested Him, they led Him, and brought Him into the high priest's house" (Luke 22:54). According to John 18:13, He was taken to the house of Annas, father-in-law to Caiaphas, the high priest. It was here that Jesus' prophecy concerning Peter's denial was fulfilled as he sat by the fire in the house. After the third denial, we read, "And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So Peter went out and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:61-62).
The questioning to which Jesus was subjected cannot properly be termed a trial but rather an examination. Jesus was first questioned by Annas, apparently an honorary high priest and a member of the council. He asked Jesus about His disciples and about what He taught. Jesus replied, "1 spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what 1 said" (John 18:20-21,). One of the officers standing nearby struck Him in the face saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" (vs. 22-23). Annas was unable to answer, and he sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Caiaphas, as high priest, was also head of the council and he immediately called a meeting of the council. Jesus' examination before the council was unjust because the leaders of the council had already made up their minds that He must be executed. The meeting was more for the purpose of trying to get some evidence that would convince the Roman governor that Jesus was worthy of the death penalty. The council itself had no power to condemn Him to death. "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death" (John 18:31 ). All this took place during the night of Abib 13.
Jesus was questioned by the council, then in the morning was led to Pilate and accused thus: "We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King" (Luke 23:2), and to this they added, "He stirs up the people" (v. 5).
Pilate was not anxious to get involved with questions concerning Jewish religious laws, but he did question Jesus about the one point important to the Romans: "Are You the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33). If Jesus had said that He was, He could have been charged with treason, a crime punishable by death under Roman law. Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here. Pilate therefore said to Him, Are You a king then? Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that, I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" (John 18:36-37). Jesus was telling Pilate that He was born to be a King, but that His Kingdom was yet future. But Pilate did not comprehend it.
When Pilate discovered that Jesus was from Galilee, he thought he could rid himself of the unwanted responsibility by sending Him to King Herod, the ruler of that province. Herod was pleased when he saw Jesus, "for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.
Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing" (Luke 23:8-9). Apparently Herod had nothing to say that Jesus considered worth answering.
After the unsuccessful questioning, Herod and his men mocked Jesus and dressed Him in a royal robe and sent Him again to Pilate. Again Pilate called the chief priests, councilors and people together and said to them, "You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him.” (Luke 23:13-16). Matthew records that following this decision Pilate "took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent the blood of this just Person. You see to it" (Matt. 27:24).
The Jewish council was not willing to accept defeat. Their one remaining means of attack was to threaten riot, and this weapon Pilate feared more than any other. If news of a riot came to the ears of the Roman emperor, he was sure to remove the governor as incapable of preserving order in his province. So when the mob began to shout their demands and cause a tumult, Pilate succumbed to their demands that Jesus be crucified. "But they were insistent, demanding with loud voice, that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested" (Luke 23:23-24).
The Sentence of Death
In those days death by crucifixion was a routine means of punishing criminals. It is recorded in history that on one occasion Rome crucified 2000 Jews outside Jerusalem. Crucifixion was never used against a Roman citizen, because it was considered dishonorable; but it was the common sentence for slaves and the lower type of criminal.
Jesus was required to undergo the usual punishment of all convicted criminals--the scourging, the carrying of the cross and the actual crucifixion: "And led Him away to be crucified. .... Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right, and another on the left" (Matt. 27:31, 38). The official charge against Jesus was that He claimed to be King of the Jews, so they wrote this title on His cross above His head: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. "Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the [earth, land, countryside] until the ninth hour .... And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last" (Luke 23:44, 46).
Matthew states that just before Jesus died He cried: To "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). We cannot believe that Jesus ever uttered these words. In every age all who seek God have the promise that "I will never leave you nor forsake you." This truth Jesus knew. The sentence is a quotation from Ps. 22:1, but the error lies in the translation. Of the Hebrew word azab, translated "forsaken," Gesenius' Hebrew and English Lexicon informs us that the first definition is “To loosen bands and to let a beast go free from its bonds."
When Jesus realized that death was near, instead of reproaching God for having forsaken Him, He praised God that He was so soon set free, so soon relieved of the pain and suffering inflicted by the cruel mob. In thankfulness He said, "How great is my release." The Lamsa translation gives no hint of forsaking: "My God, my God, for this I was spared!"
The "ninth hour," or about three o'clock in the afternoon, less than 24 hours after Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with His disciples, He was dead. It was common for men to live at least one day, and usually several days on the cross, but Jesus had been spared this suffering by His Father.Anxious that the bodies not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, which was also the Jewish Passover (John 19:31), the Jewish authorities asked Pilate "that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away .... But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs" (John 19:31, 33).
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council and a believer of Jesus, asked permission of Pilate to give Jesus a decent burial. "When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed." "That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near" (Matt. 27:59-60; Luke 23:54).
Many important events had taken place during the 24 hours of this 13th day of Abib. Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with His disciples. He had delivered His farewell message, had been betrayed into the hands of sinful men; had been brought before Caiaphas the high priest, Pilate the governor, and Herod the King. He had been condemned to death, scourged, and crucified. He had died and was now buried.
On the Sabbath, all normal activity was forbidden the Jews, thus the day was quiet. Just one thing was done: The tomb was sealed and a Roman guard was placed at the entrance (Matt. 27:62-66).
The history of the life of Jesus Christ upon earth closes with a triumphant note, a miracle as great as that of its beginning. "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay" (Matt. 28:6)--these were the words of the angel. It was the morning of the 15th of Abib. Jesus had triumphed over the grave! The Roman soldiers that guarded the tomb had been as dead men in the presence of the angel; they were powerless to hold Him in the grave.
All four Gospels give a similar account of His resurrection, plus or minus a few details. The women early at the sepulcher (while it was yet dark, according to John); their concern about moving the great stone that they might enter the tomb; the angels that stood by; the empty tomb; the women's haste to go and tell His disciples; the two that ran to see for themselves; the linen clothes lying by themselves--all are familiar details.
The hope of a resurrection had been a firm belief of God's people from ancient times. Job, David, Daniel, Hosea, Isaiah all voiced their conviction that the dead in Christ shall rise. Years after Christ had ascended, it was the teaching of Paul, "that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). The Sadducees and Pharisees disputed this among themselves, the Pharisees believing in the resurrection, the Sadducees disagreeing (Acts 23:7-9).
Proof of Jesus' Resurrection
Some of the best proof of Jesus' resurrection is found in His appearances afterward. He revealed Himself first to Mary in the garden. She recognized Him by His voice when He spoke her name (John 20:15-16), proving that He was the same person as He had been before death.
Next He revealed Himself to the two disciples on the walk to Emmaus. Although He upbraided them for their unbelief (Luke 24:25-27), they did not recognize Him until He performed the familiar act of asking the blessing at their table. And while the two related their experience to the Eleven, Jesus appeared in their midst and said unto them, "Peace to you." But the disciples were frightened, unable to believe they were actually seeing Jesus.
Jesus wanted to make clear to them that He was the same man they had seen crucified. "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me, and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.
When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet" (Luke 24:39-40). And to prove further that He was there in body He asked for something to eat. "So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence."
John relates that the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples Thomas was not with them, hence he would not believe Jesus was alive again. But eight days later when they were again assembled behind closed doors, Jesus came and stood in their midst. Thomas was with them, and acknowledged his belief in the Lord. “Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed’" (John 20:29). There will be a greater blessing to those who have believed the resurrection of Christ without having witnessed it.
Jesus again appeared to seven of His disciples when they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. They had fished all night without success. In the morning Jesus appeared on the shore asking for meat. When He found they had caught nothing He told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat--and "they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish" (John 21:5-6). Jesus again ate with them. John states that this was the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples since He was risen from the dead (John 21:14).
Speaking of Jesus’ resurrection, Paul relates in 1 Cor. 15:6 that He was seen by more than 500 brethren at once, “of whom the greater part remain to the present,” but we are given no indication of where this took place. Paul states further that “He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (vs. 7-8, see Acts 9:3-6).
Luke, writing in the book of Acts, adds further proof of the resurrection of Jesus, saying: "He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seem by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”
Jesus also gave them further instructions concerning the Holy Spirit which they were to receive (Acts 1:3-5).
And having this power, they were to go forth and "make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you: and, 1o, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). The Greek word here translated world is aion, meaning "age," in this case the Jewish age, which history records ended in A.D. 70. The Holy Spirit was not to remain forever. Its powers were to cease (1 Cor. 13:8) at the close of that age and be restored again at the time of Christ's return (Acts 3:21; Matt. 17:11).
Ascension and Second Advent
After Jesus had given His last instructions to His disciples, He "led them our as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them" (Luke 24:50). He knew that the hour had come when He should depart to go to His Father. From Bethany, where He had made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, foreshowing the time when He should come as King, He would now make His triumphal entry into heaven to be at His Father's right hand. He was taken up visibly and the promise was that He would return in the same way--visibly. And that promise is for us: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
Can You Answer These?
1. Give one prophecy of every outstanding event in Jesus' life.
2. What is the meaning of the name "Jesus"? Who was responsible for
naming Jesus Christ?
3. What is the meaning of "incarnation"? Was Jesus born or incarnated?
Give Bible proof.
4. Was Jesus' nature in any degree Divine? Give Bible proof.
5. What was Jesus' relation to God?
6. What do we know of Jesus' childhood? adolescence? youth?
7. Name six outstanding virtues of Jesus. When were these developed?
8. What qualifications had Jesus as a speaker?
9. By what means did Jesus do most of His teaching? Give Bible
10. What subject was foremost among Jesus' parables? Find ten parables
on this subject.
11. What was the people's reaction to Jesus' teaching?
12. What is a miracle?
13. Why may we consider Jesus' miracles a means of teaching?
14. Give two references from the Old Testament to show that healing was to be part of Jesus' ministry.
15. Why did Jesus shun publicity?
16. What were two fundamental purposes of Jesus' miracles?
17. What was the meaning of Jesus' "casting out devils"?
18. Name three miracles Jesus performed to convince His followers.
19. What is the meaning of the title "Messiah," as applied to Christ?
20. How is Christ our "high priest"?
21. What was the most important achievement of Jesus during His mortal career?
22. How do the Gospels show the reality of Jesus' life?
23. List four facts which confirm the existence of Jesus.
24. On what three occasions did Christ foretell His death?
25. Why were the Jews bitter toward Jesus?
26. What is the significance of the New Passover?
27. Who saw Jesus after He was resurrected?
28. In what manner will Jesus return to earth?
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