THE LIFE OF CHRIST
Last Sunday, we began our new series on the life of Christ. I started by looking at some of the external and internal evidence that showed the God’s Word is authentic and that Jesus lived, died, and was raised from the dead just as God’s Word says it happened. Since the life of Christ is recorded in the first four books of the New Teastment, we are going take a quick look at them before we dig deeper into the life of Christ.
The first four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are known as the Gospels because they contain the good news about Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. They record what happens from about 6 B.C. – A.D. 30. Though they are called the Gospels plural, they only record one gospel as James has pointed out in his Bible class. The reason they are called the Gospels plural is to indicate that there is more than one account of the gospel. I just wanted to clarify that since I will be using the plural term Gospels several times in this lesson.
The first three books: Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they have a lot in common and focus on Jesus’ work in Galilee. The Gospel of John is different from the Synoptic Gospels because it focuses on Jesus’ work in Judea. John fills in the gaps the Synoptic Gospels leave out. All of them combined give us a more complete picture about Jesus’ life and His death. Consider the following chart:
Each Gospel account has its own theme, and each account was written to a specific group.
The Book of Matthew does not claim who its writter is, but according to Christian tradition, the apostle Matthew was the author. Matthew was written around A.D. 50 – 60. One thing that offers some proof that Matthew was the author is that he was a tax collector and was familiar with finances. There are more references to money in Matthew than in the other Gospel accounts.
Matthew was written to the Jews to convince them that Jesus was the promised Messiah as prophesied in the O.T., which is the reason this book quotes the O.T. around 60 times and makes around 130 references to O.T. events. Matthew shows how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. Since the Jews believed in the O.T., this was the best place to go to prove that Jesus is the Son of God.
Matthew starts out with the genealogy of Christ, which was important to the Jews because it showed that Jesus came through the seed of Abraham. Matthew gave the Jews hope even though they crucified the Messiah because he lets them know that a new Israel was in the making, which is the church.
Matthew 21:43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
While Matthew was writing to the Jews, he also gave hope to the Gentiles because he said:
Matthew 8:11 "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 12:21 And in His name Gentiles will trust."
Matthew carefully records 20 miracles that Jesus did, which proves that He was the Son of God, but he also carefully records the words of Jesus such as the Sermon on the Mount (5-7), The parables about the kingdom (13) and the Olivet discourse (24-25). Matthew also records how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes with 7 woes in Chapter 23, and he closes his book with The Great Commission.
The writer of Mark is not named, but Christian tradition says it was John Mark. Mark was the son of Mary (Act 12:12) and the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10). He had a close relationship with Peter because he called him, “my son” (1Pet. 5:13). He probably wrote this Gospel under the oversight of Peter around A.D. 60-68 .
Mark’s account is different from Matthew’s because he was writing to the Romans. Since they did not understand Hebrew tradition, he explained it to them:
Mark 7:2 Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders.
A Jew would have known that defiled hands meant unwashed and why they viewed it that way, but a Roman would not. Mark also used Latin terms to help the Romans understand things better. He explained the value of Jewish money in Mark 12:42 in which two mites make a quadrans. A qurdrans or farthing is a Latin term for a certain coin. Also, Mark refers to the O.T. only 19 times. Mark was most likely writing to encourage the Christians in Rome who were being persecuted.
Mark only records one major speech of Jesus, the Olivet discourse (Mark 13), but he emphasizes that Jesus was a servant who came to do God’s will. In fact, he uses this word “servant” 14 times describing Jesus’ activities. He also records 19 miracles of Jesus.
Mark also makes it clear that Jesus is the Son of God through the:
· Testimony of God (Mark 1:11; 9:7)
· Testimony of Jesus (Mark 13:32; 14:61-62)
· Testimony of demons (Mark 3:11; 5:7)
· Testimony of the Roman Centurion (Mark 15:39)
About 40% of this book is devoted to the final journey of Jesus and the events surrounding His death. Mark concludes with The Great Commission.
Luke is written by a Gentile physician named Luke around A.D. 60 -68 who addressed his book to an individual, but the message has a much broader use than for just one person. Luke was written mainly to the Greeks, and he shows the human side of Jesus and portrays Him as being a perfect man.
The Greeks, who are also Hellenist, were focused on humanity especially in the field of philosophy and science, which is why Luke focuses on Christ’s humanity and His perfect example.
He gives the most complete record of Jesus’ birth and childhood (Luke 1, 2). He traces Christ’s lineage all the way back to Adam, and he captures Jesus’ human traits such as weeping and being in agony (Luke 19:41, 22:44). He records many of Jesus’ prayers. In fact, out the 15 prayers Jesus made in the gospel accounts, Luke records 11 of them.
Luke was a man who investigated and had a great knowledge of Jesus’ miracles. He records 20 of them with 6 of them being unique to Luke. He treats them as a historical reality. Since Luke was a doctor, there must have been overwhelming evidence of the virgin birth for him to argue it so strongly in Luke 1:26-38.
We can see that Luke’s account was for the Gentiles because he explained that Capernaum was a city of Galilee (4:31), that the country of the Gerasenes was over against Galilee (8:26), and that the town of Emmaus was 7 miles from Jerusalem (Lk. 24:13). The Jews that lived in Palestine would have already known these things. Also, Luke records several things that would include the Gentiles:
…I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Luke 2:10)
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel (Luke 2:32)
Luke also makes reference to the O.T. regarding to the Gentiles:
Luke 4:25 "But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 "but to none of them wsas Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 "And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
The parable of the Good Samaritan shows that spiritual matters are supposed to go beyond that of Judaism (10:25-37).
Luke is also known for the following parables and stories:
The rich fool (12:13-21)
The prodigal son (15:11-32)
The rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31)
The Pharisee and the publican (18:9-14)
The Gospel of John does not name its writer either, but Christian tradition says that the apostle John. It was written around A.D. 60 – 95. John’s message was universal, but his primary focus was that Jesus is Deity and the Son of God.
John 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
A few things we learn about John is that:
Jesus Deity is proven by 7 “I AM” statements and 7 miracles.
Finally, I want to point out a few of the unique features about the Gospel of John:
Every Christian should want to learn everything they can about Jesus because He is our Savior, He died for us, and He conquered death. The way He lived His life and served our Father in heaven is a perfect example for us to follow. One thing we learn from John is that Jesus was no ordinary man because He was God in the flesh.
I want to give a brief summary of the life of Christ. The Old Testament prophets prophesied about Jesus coming one day. They said He would be born from a virgin (Isa. 7:14) and born in Bethlehem (Mica 5:2), and He was . Mary was the chosen virgin and she was told by the angel Gabriel how she would bear the Son of God when she was in Nazareth (Lk. 1:26-28). Joseph and Mary have to travel to Bethlehem because of the census decreed by Augustus (Lk. 2:1-5). Once there, Mary gave birth to Jesus, which fulfilled the prophecies made made by Isaiah and Micah.
40 days later, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord and offer up two turtle doves (Luke 2). Up to two years later, the wise men from the east come and see baby Jesus after He was living in a house, and they presented Him with three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Mt. 2). Joseph and Mary flee Bethlehem to Egypt because of a warning from an angel. Herod wanted to this new Messiah killed, so he had all the male babies slaughtered in Bethlehem. Thanks to the angel, Herod was unsuccessful and killing Jesus. Again, the angel tells them to leave Egypt and go back to the land of Israel, but these plans get changed and they end up going to the region of Galilee to a city called Nazareth, where Jesus would spend the rest of His childhood and the beginning of His life before He would begin His ministry.
The Bible tells us very little of Jesus’ childhood, but in Luke 2:42ff it tells us that at the age of 12 Jesus was in Jerusalem and He remained behind as His parents headed back home. It took them a day to realize He was not with them. They went back to get Him. We find out that Jesus had been sitting among the teachers listening to them and asking them questions, and these teachers were amazed at Jesus’ understanding and the answers He gave.
The next major thing that happens is that Jesus goes to John the Baptist to be baptized and the Father speaks from heaven and the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. He then goes through His 40 days of temptation, in which the devil tries to break Him, but is unsuccessful. Jesus then finds some men to follow Him, who would later become the apostles.
Next, Jesus finds Himself at a wedding feast at Cana and He performs His first miracle of changing water to wine. This would be the first of many miracles that He would do. Throughout His ministry, He did not go to a lot of places. His work was confined to the places you see on the map that are numbered in yellow. However, He did many amazing miracles, and He such a deep compassion for the people that He healed many of them of their diseases and cast demons out of people that were being plagued by them.
Jesus took advantage of any opportunity He had to teach the people that He was the Son of God and that the kingdom was coming. He used His miracles to prove that He was the Son of God. Many of His teaching came in the form of parables. One lesson Jesus taught is that we are to become like little children because they are pure and humble. Young children trust in their parents and respect them just as we should our Farther in heaven.
Another significant event in the life of Christ was the transfiguration (Mt. 17). Only Peter, James, John were there to witness Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah. Then a bright cloud overshadowed them and God said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" When Peter and the other two looked up, only Jesus was left, which showed how important and significant He was.
As we near the end of Jesus’ ministry, we see Him fulfilling a prophecy once again as He rides a donkey into Jerusalem and the people welcome Him and praise Him (Mt. 21). Jesus goes into the temple and overturns the tables and runs the money changers out for the second time in His life. Jesus and His disciples enjoy the last Passover meal they will ever have together before His death. At this meal, Jesus announces that one of them will betray Him. Of course, we know it is Judas.
Next, Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane where He takes on the weight the world’s sins on His shoulders. He prays to the Father three times and sweats drops like blood. After His third prayer, Judas betrays Jesus for 30 silver coins by kissing Him so the soldiers know who to arrest. Jesus is taken away and given an illegal trial by the Jews who bring forth false witnesses. Eventually, Jesus is taken before Pilate, then sent to Herod, and sent back to Pilate for judgement. Jesus is scourged and then crucified between two thieves. Jesus died for all our sins because He was the only one that could be the perfect sacrifice.
Of course, the story does not end there. Jesus is raised from the dead on the 3rd day and is seen by over 500 people over the next several weeks. Jesus conquered death, which shows that we will as well. In order to complete Jesus’ mission, there was one thing left. He had to ascend to the Father in Heaven so that the Holy Spirit could be sent just as He promised in John 14. We read in Acts 1 that Jesus talks to His apostles one last time and then He ascends into heaven. Then on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends on the apostles just as Jesus promised.
As I said, this was just a brief look at the life of Christ because there are many details for us to examine closely that we can learn a lot about Jesus and how we should emulate Him. I would also like to share with you a poem that talks about the life of Christ. It is titled,
ONE SOLITARY LIFE
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty
He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself
He was only thirty three
His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth
When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend
Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life
Written by Dr James Allan in 1926.
The last thing I want point out as part of our overview and introduction to the life of Christ is to briefly talk about the two genealogies found in Matthew and Luke. Mathew starts out with the genealogy of Jesus starting from Abraham. Though Mathew leaves out some names it tells us a lot about how God used people that were good and bad to maintain this particular lineage to Christ. It is generally believed that Matthew’s genealogy is considered to be the legal line through Joseph to show that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham. Of course, we know that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, but he was his stepfather.
Luke does not write his genealogy until the 3rd chapter and it differs quite a bit from Matthew’s list of names. Of course, Luke’s account also shows that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham as well. It is generally believed that Luke’s genealogy gives the fleshly line of Jesus through Mary since she was His biological mother. While you might have trouble pronouncing some of these names given in these two genealogies, they are important as they show Jesus’ lineage through Abraham and David.