(Dutch: Engelse versie van 'Het leven van Jezus Christus')Nederlandse versie (Dutch version): Het leven van Jezus Christus
About the life of Christ have already been many books and studies written. This article presents you in a concise and truthful manner the facts and message of the most important human life that ever has been lived.
The beginning of the story
The story of the life of Jesus begins in Nazareth, a village in the hills of Galilea, perhaps four years before the year 'null' of our Western time table. Mary became – according to her testimony, documented by the evangelist Luke – pregnant through the Holy Spirit, who came upon her, (Luke 1:35). The baby was however not born in Nazareth but in a stable in the town of Bethlehem in the district Judah. The reason that Joseph and pregnant Mary had to travel to Bethlehem was an order of the great Roman emperor August. He decreed that everybody had to be registered in the town where he originally came from, (Luke chapter 1 and 2).
About a year after the birth of Jesus king Herod was informed that a baby was born in Bethlehem that was destined to become a king. Because of his a very jealous and suspicious nature he decided to kill that child. Joseph however was warned in a dream by an angel about this plan and fled with mother Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt. After possibly a stay of several years there Joseph returned with his young family to Israel and went back to his hometown Nazareth. Here Jesus grew to maturity. He was thirty years when He left Nazareth to start with His Messianic ministry, (Luke 3:23). We have no reliable historic stories about the youth of Jesus. The only story that we can trust is what Luke tells us in chapter 2:51-52 about the visit to the temple in Jerusalem when he was twelve years old. We learn in this story that Jesus was fully aware of his unique identity that was the Son of God; He called the temple the house of his Father.
The ministry of Jesus
Before Jesus started with His ministry He went to John the Baptist and was on His own request also baptized through him. After His baptism the Holy Spirit descended in the physical manifestation of a dove upon him and a voice spoke: "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," (Luke 3:21, 22). After His baptism Jesus went to the desert, stayed there for forty days and was tempted by the devil. Then He started with His ministry and preached repentance from sin as the preparation for the Kingdom of God. Through His ministry of healing the sick and the casting out of evil spirits from people His popularity grew until huge masses of people followed him from everywhere wherever he went.
Jesus healed all who came to him, but He preferred that people would obey His message of repentance and began to live a life of obedience to God and of faith in the goodness of the Father in heaven. This teaching is compacted in the so called 'Sermon on the Mount,' that we find in chapters 5, 6 and 7 in the Gospel of Matthew. This 'Sermon on the Mount, begins the well-known 'Beatitudes' and contains not only practical moral teachings, but also the Lord's prayer,' and a statement that sums up the message of the law and the prophets: "Treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself," (Matthew 7:12). Jesus gave also his prophetical vision on future developments. He foresaw difficult times for his people Israel, and the destruction of Jerusalem, (Luke 21:20-24). He foresaw the persecution of those, who would believe in him, increasing chaos in the nations and great natural disasters. He said that all that had to happen before He would return to earth, (Luke 21:27, 28). He appealed to his followers to be watchful and to carefully observe what would happen in the world.
On a certain day Jesus asked his disciples what they thought about his identity. Peter answered for himself and the other disciples his faith clearly convinced in him: "You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God (Matthew," 16:13-16). Jesus was pleased with this confession of their faith in him, but He did not want that they would broadcast him as the Messiah.
About his wonderworks many books could be written, (John 21:25). In this brief report I have to limit myself. I think about the first miracle, that is written in John 2:12 Jesus was a quest in a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Such a feast lasted in those days a week. Halfway the week there was a shortage of wine. Jesus heard about it and gave the order to fill six stone jars with water. The steward of the feast was the first person to taste the wine and he said that it was the best wine that he drank during the feast. Everybody was amazed that the water had turned into a very good wine. John wrote: "And He manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him."
A man that had been sick for 38 years was lying on a pallet near a well known waterpool, where they believed that sometimes a healing miracle took place. Jesus healed him and because it was Sabbath there developed a conflict with the man and Jesus. He was carrying his pallet and that they considered as work, breaking the law on the Sabbath rest. Jesus was confronted with this action because He had commanded the man to carry his pallet and go home. Jesus reacted to point out that his Father worked even on the Sabbath and that was why He healed the man and commanded him to go home with his pallet. The Jews became so angry with him that they made plans to kill him, (John 5:1-18).
The scribes and Pharisees brought early one morning a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery. They reminded him that Moses had commanded that such a woman had to be stoned to death. They asked Jesus what should be done with her. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they insisted that He should give an answer, He said: "Who of you is without sin cast the first stone on her." They left, one by one and at last Jesus stood there alone with the woman. "Has no one condemned you," he asked her? "Nobody, Lord," she answered. "Jesus said: "Neither do I condemn you; go home and do not sin again," (John 8:1-11).
In the Mountains east of the see of Galilee Jesus fed once a multitude of 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. He prayed over the bread and the fish and broke them in peaces and gave to the disciples. After all the people had eaten there was still more. Twelve baskets could still be filled with what left over, (Mark 6:37-44). This big miracle made such a deep impression on the multitude that they wanted with force make Jesus their king. However, He did not want this to happen and withdrew himself alone in the mountains, (John 6:14, 15). He commanded the disciples to get into a boat and sail back to the other side. He frightened them in the night while they were in the boat with walking on the water. They thought that they were approached by a ghost, but He climbed in the boat and immediately the wind ceased, (Matthew 14:22-33; Marc 6:51).
Not long before the last Passover Jesus raised someone from death that had been dead for already four days and was buried in a cave. The man by the name of Lazarus had been a friend of Jesus. When Jesus stood before the cave He ordered the stone to be removed from the entrance. Then He said with a loud voice: "Lazarus, come out." The dead person came out walking in the grave bandages, (John 11:43, 44). This miracle strengthened the faith of many in him but it made the leaders only more determined to kill him. As a result Jesus would In that region near Jerusalem not any longer preach in public, (John 11:45-54).
The death of Jesus
Jesus knew after three years of ministry that his end was approaching. Although he knew that death awaited him in Jerusalem He nevertheless was determined to go to this city, (Luke 9:51). It was during the last Passover that the disciples noticed that He underwent strong emotions. Jesus gave them also a hint that one of them would betray him. After He had given Judas – he was the one that was going to betray him – a respectful gesture he left the room to go to the Jewish leaders to inform them where they could arrest Jesus that night, (John 13:21-30). Still at the table, eating the Passover meal Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. He said very clearly that the bread represented his body and the wine his blood. He was going to shed his blood for the remission of sins as the blood of the new covenant. His disciples did not understand this at all at that time. Later, after his resurrection, Jesus made it all clear and explained that his death was the fulfilment of old prophecies. After having sung the last hymn they went to Gethsemane, a garden on the slope of the mount of Olives. He separated himself from the group and fought in prayer a heavy emotional and spiritual battle. He prayed a prayer of complete submission to the will of the Father, "Father, if you will, take this cup away from me. But not my will be done, but Your's," (Luke 22:42). Shortly after He had finished praying He was arrested and taken to the home of the High Priest for questioning by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council. The disciples had fled in the dark of the night. The leaders interrogated him in an unworthy manner and at last He was condemned to death because He called himself the Son of God and that was blasphemous, so they judged. They took him early in the morning to the Roman governor Pilate to have him condemned to death. Pilate saw no ground for execution and wanted Jesus to be released. However, when the Jews and the multitude insisted that Jesus should be killed and Pilate, who did not want to run the risk to be known as not being a friend of his boss, the emperor in Rome, he gave in to their wish and ordered Jesus to be crucified, (John 19:12-16).
On the road to Golgotha, an hill just outside the wall of the city, Jesus had to bear his own cross. When He collapsed with the heavy cross on his severely wounded and bleeding back somebody else had to carry it for him, (Luke 23:26). Jesus was nailed to the Roman cross and died about six hours later. When the soldiers fastened him to the cross, thrusting nails through his hands and feet, He prayed: "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they do." He also assured a criminal crucified beside him that asked him to be remembered when He would be in his kingdom, that He would be with him in paradise. The last words of Jesus before he died were: "Father, in Your hands I commit my spirit."
The body of Jesus was laid with haste in a new cave because the next day – beginning on our time 18.00 hours – was an important Sabbath and then there could no work be done. The stone was rolled before the cave and sealed with a Roman seal. Roman soldiers were posted for the Jewish leaders remembered that Jesus had said that after three days he would be raised from death, (Mark 9:31).
After the Sabbath, very early on the first day of the week some of the women, that had followed Jesus, went to the tomb buy they found it empty. Some saw angels and at least one saw an angel sitting on the stone that was rolled from the entrance. They were told that the risen Jesus would meet them in Galilee, (Matthew 28:5-7). Mary Magdalene was the first one to see the risen Lord near the tomb. She thought first that it was the gardener but when He addressed her by her name she realised that Jesus stood before her. Jesus explained the Scriptures to his disciples and showed them that it was predicted in the old prophecies that He, as the Messiah, had to suffer and die. For forty days He appeared at several occasions to hem (Acts 1:3). Once He appeared to more than 500 people, (1 Corinthians 15:9). Finally He ascended before the eyes of the twelve disciples from the mount of Olives. They kept looking at his ascending body until a cloud hid him. Still looking to the cloud angels stood beside them that told them that He would return one day to earth, just as they had seen him leave now.
Jesus in heaven
Heaven is not a physical location as our planet but of other dimensions. This is why we cannot see Jesus now with our physical eyes. But many have since He went to heaven seen him in very real spiritual experiences as visions and dreams. The first believer that had such an experience was Stephen while he was stoned to death by members of the Sanhedrin that had with great anger condemned him to death because of the powerful testimony of his faith in Christ. Before he died, he said: "I see the heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God," (Acts 7:56). In heaven Jesus prays and intercedes for his believers and He directs the history of the world to the end that God has determined, (1 John 2:1, 2; Revelation 5:1-5).
Up to this day believers expect Jesus to return. This expectation is founded on old prophecies, on the words of Jesus himself, on the word of the angels that spoke to the disciples when Jesus had ascended and the teaching of the holy apostles.
Each one of us stands before the same decision that Jesus asked his disciples to make when He asked them who they thought He was. Peter answered that he believed that Jesus was the Messiah (the empowered Deliverer from the bondage to Satan and sin), the Son of God. If you, dear reader, want to believe this too with all your heart, then give him your full allegiance and follow him. He gave his life for you to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. I appeal to you to become a believer in Jesus. If you need any help, please e-mail me on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastor T. J. de Ruiter in The Netherlands, 12 September 2010
T. J. de Ruiter