Some 2000+ years since his birth, there is much debate in the world about who Jesus is. Sometimes you may hear the question who "was" Jesus. Was Jesus really a man in history, or a fairy tale? Was Jesus really God? There are so many questions, and perhaps due to the inability to wrap their minds around this, a lot of people have turned away from trying to solve the mystery.
The truth is… Jesus IS God, and he still is. Jesus is not past tense. His walk on this Earth inside a human body was past, but he is still very much here today.
Who is Jesus in our words?
He was fully man and fully God - the son of God
He was sent by God to rescue His people from sin and death
He is the only one to ever live a perfect, sin free life
He set himself and his own interests aside completely for us.
He is STRONG
He has an enormous heart with much compassion for all people
He loves everyone, no racial, national, cultural or gender divide
He is not politically correct, he stated facts as they were
He is set in his path, does not sway to anything or anyone. He followed the will of the Father only.
He is thick skinned, letting rejection bounce off of him
He is forgiving
He is passionate
He wants to heal all those who ask
He wants to save all those who ask
He wants to be loved genuinely, not forcefully
He wants people to get to “know” him, as a person (personal relationship)
He wants people to seek understanding of his teachings
He wants people ask him for guidance
He wants to TEACH us, and LEAD us
He is our Shephard, our Protector, our Champion, our Love.
He has all authority over Heaven and Earth, all the power of God
He has defeated death
He has fulfilled the Law, paid our bill once and for all.
He knows what it’s like to be poor
He knows what it’s like to be hungry
He knows what it’s like to have your past smeared against you by others
He knowns what it’s like to be rejected by those you love the most
He knows what it’s like to be tortured, humiliated and murdered.
He knows what it’s like to play against society’s rules & approval
He knows what it’s like to walk a mile in our shoes
He knows what it’s like to be spit on
He knowns what it’s like to be seen as a fraud by others
Jesus is our Teacher
Jesus is Our Friend
Jesus is Our True Love
Jesus is our Soul Mate
Jesus is our Lord and Savior
Jesus performed many miracles, from being born of a Virgin to his miraculous resurrection. Jesus's life on earth was full of miracles. These in part were authentication that he was the messiah. Old Testament prophets were given a glimpse into the future, in which they wrote down many prophesies of what the Messiah would do. These miracles were a big part of fulfilling that prophesy, thereby authenticating Jesus then and now. But we often look so deep in the miracles themselves that we miss the heart of Jesus (and thereby God) on why he performed those miracles. I hope that you, the reader, can dig deeper into the Love and Compassion part to understand this.
When you read through the miracles in scripture, you’ll notice that each of Jesus’s miracles are instant and complete. You will also notice that these are acts of love.
1. Being born of a Virgin
2. Changing water into wine
3. Healing the Royal Official’s son
4. Casting out a demon in Capernaum
5. Healing of Peter’s mother-in-law
6. Healing the sick
7. Catching a large number of fish
8. Healing a leper
9. Healing a centurion’s servant (by just speaking the word)
10. Healing a paralyzed man
11. Healing a withered hand
12. Raising a widow’s son from the dead
13. Calming the storm
14. Casting out demons for the Gerasene man
15. Raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead
16. Healing two blind men
17. Healing a mute demon-possessed man
18. Healing a 38 year invalid
19. Feeding 5,000 men + their families with 5 loafs of bread and 2 fish
20. Walking on water
21. Healing of many people in Gennesaret
22. Casting demons out of a girl
23. Healing deaf man with speech impediment
24. Feeding 4,000 men + their families with seven loafs
25. Healing a blind man
26. Healing another man born blind
27. Casting a demon from a boy
28. Catching a fish with a coin in it’s mouth to pay their taxes
29. Healing a blind and mute man who was possessed
30. Healing a woman with an 18yr infirmity
31. Healing a man with dropsy
32. Healing 10 lepers
33. Raising Lazarus from the dead
34. Healing Bartimeaus of blindness
35. Cursing a Fig Tree and it died overnight
36. Putting a soldier's severed ear back on his head
37. Raising from the dead himself
38. Catching 153 fish
39. Ascending into Heaven
These were just the tip of the ice berg on what Jesus did in his three year ministry.
There are many more things that Jesus did. If all of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself would have space for the books that would be written.
His love and compassion
Jesus was a very kind and loving man. As a model of God, this tells us that we have a very kind and loving Father. Jesus reflects what the Father is really like.
Jesus healed EVERY affliction of sickness and possession. We don’t see in a single instance where he denied anyone healing, for any reason. We see very specific callouts of him healing particular people, and often, the scripture ends with something along the lines of “.. and more people came and Jesus healed all the sick and afflicted…”.
We saw that Jesus took compassion on a widow who had nothing left, and He raised her son from the dead.
We saw that Jesus spent most of his time with those that society didn’t love.
Luke 6:27 (NIV)
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you..”
Jesus tells us to Love one another, and to even love our enemies. We saw him set this example. It takes some really thick skin and determination to pull this one off, but we can if we keep our eye on the prize (Jesus).
Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep."
When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES."
When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.
["For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.] "What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? "If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.
We often focus only on the loving “nice” side of Jesus, however it’s important that we understand the Strong side of Jesus as well.
We’ve already saw that he went toe-to-toe with Satan and acted as if Satan were nothing by a bug buzzing around his ear.
Remember Jesus was a carpenter? What does that mean about how strong he was physically? Actually, it paints a very different picture than what we tend to see in paintings of the tall lean Jesus.
Carpenters in the days of Jesus were very strong physically. Actually, the trade itself almost demanded great physical strength. They had to cut down their own trees, carry them some distance and then cut them into size. They also worked with stone, which meant they had to quarry and cut stones, transport them, as well as lift them into place. This would have required a lot of muscle. Carpentry in Jerusalem was the most physically demanding occupation in the Roman Empire. So it stands to reason that Jesus’s physique might have also played a part in the people’s reaction in the Temple Courts below.
The Temple Courts
11The crowds replied, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12Then Jesus went into the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves. 13 And He declared to them, “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer.’ But you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”…
First off, Jesus is MAD. I picture a bull in a china-shop knocking everything around. Can you picture Jesus walking around, grabbing tables and throwing them askew? It also tells us he “drove out all were buying and selling”. So what was likely a considerable crowd of people, ran from this ONE angry man.
Consider the place, the Temple Courts. This would be comparable to, here in the US, likely the White House grounds. In Jewish culture, though they submitted to Roman rule, the Jewish Temple was viewed as authority. Jesus likely looked like a mad man throwing things around and shouting. I like this Jesus. He isn’t concerned with what people will think, or what “trouble” he might get in by men, but rather, He is about doing God’s work and what he sees angers him. This is so interesting because we don’t see him being angry with any of the ‘sinners’ that he so compassionately heals, dines with and ministers to. But here, at the concept of what the religious leaders are doing wrong he is furious and takes a stand. One could say that this particular example was a concept of corruption to what God made Holy. The temple being used for profit gain at the expense of the people. What they were doing here was blatantly dishonest and Jesus just wasn’t having any of it. Jesus doesn't want any barriers to worship. He wants everyone to be have real encouters with God, not something that is conjured up or bought. Just Jesus.
Perhaps one of the hardest parts to read is the torture that Jesus went through for us. The reality is, he didn’t’ have to. He had the power to ask the Father for a legion of Angels. Instead, he went willingly to do the will of the Father, which was to offer himself, a sacrifice without blemish, to fulfill the law once and for all. This meant that through him we could all be made clean, sins erased and the end of animal sacrifices that fell short of redeeming us.
But it wasn’t that his suffering was quick, no, we are not talking firing squat or lethal injection. And perhaps, even the worst of it lead up to his actual execution. This is very painful to read, very painful to think about.
1. Jesus knew what was about to happen to him. He spends hours in the Garden praying, and crying blood. (This shows us just how distressed he was at what he must do). And yet, he literally walked to his demise, knowing everything that would take place. What strength he has.
2. He was betrayed by his close friend and disciple Judas Iscariot. Even worse, (if it could be worse) Judas’s deal of selling Jesus for 30 silver coins was sealed with “The one I kiss is the man you wish to arrest”. He betrayed him with a kiss. Ouch.
3. His closest disciples “left Him and fled” after his arrest (Mark 14:50)
4. He was mocked by the Roman Guards
a. They made a crown of thorns and put it on his head. Not delicately, more like “Stuck” it into
b. They dressed him up and mocked worship of the “King of the Jews”
c. He was spit on
d. Stripped naked (humiliation)
5. He was scourged
a. Picture a whip having many tastes with cutting pieces of metal tied into them. This literally rips the flesh from one’s back (known to often reveal bare bone). And he took likely 39 lashes of this terrible device. 40 lashes (just one more) was known to kill men.
In fact, his treatment and torture was so bad, Pontius Pilate is trying everything to let Jesus go free.
4 Once again Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing Him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against Him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
Basically Pilate is saying, “Isn’t this enough punishment? There isn’t much left of this poor guy.
But the people insisted on Crucifying Jesus.
We know how much love and compassion Jesus had for these people, and they not only reject him, they have turned to an angry mob wanting to torture and kill him. Imagine how it would feel if one of your loved ones turned on you like this. Someone that you would lay your life down before you would risk harming them. Because that is exactly what Jesus is doing here. He is allowing all this to happen to himself in order to save the ones who are afflicting him.
We often wear our cross jewelry, or look up on the cross in our churches and we have accepted this a beautiful thing based on the outcome of what Jesus did for us on a cross. But often we don’t consider what it really meant for Jesus in that moment.
Crucifixion was considered one of the worst forms of execution. It wasn’t instant. It was painful and drawn out. The body was literally nailed to wood beams and hung in the air. The weight of your body would press and stretch on those nail wounds.
You were also elevated, naked, for all to see. It was a severe form of “shaming”.
It took several hours for a person to finish dying during crucifixion. We are told in scripture that Jesus was on the cross for around 6 hours! 6 hours of agonizing pain and suffering, humiliation, witness by thousands. SIX HOURS of dying.
And what did He say while in this terrifying position?
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His garments by casting lots.
So, while hanging here in misery, and people are literally gambling down below to see who gets his clothes, Jesus is pleading with the Father to forgive them for the torture He is STILL enduring.
Can any of us say we’ve ever forgiven someone while
they were afflicting us? Doesn’t that usually come with a clearer (and somewhat healed mind) later?
That means, while Jesus hung on the cross, his first and only priority was that of the Father’s will, which was to Love and Save the angry people below, despite their detestable behavior to the Son of God.
Again, what strength he had to last not a few, but SIX HOURS on the cross. And to keep his mind and heart on the people, despite the fact that they put him there.
Truly, Truly, Jesus LOVES us.
Jesus - Man or Myth
If you are struggling with the concept that Jesus really was a man that walked the earth, consider the following:
Our Calendar Year system (B.C. and A.D.) is based around his birth, the same calendar year used around the world.
There is much historical evidence of Jesus, biblical and non-biblical
There is more literary evidence of the Bible's authenticity than any other book in history. Homer's "Iliad" comes in at second with 700 approximately 700 copies, whereas Biblical origional manuscripts found total more than 25,000.
Multiple religions document both Jesus and his miracles
Documented non-Christian texts attempt to discount or give other reason for events, which actually confirm they happened.
Studies show there is more historical evidence that Jesus Christ existed than there is of Julius Ceaser.
See The: Cold Case Christianity Website
for a very thourough account of external historical sources.
There are two really good books we recommend for believers & non-believers alike.
"The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel
“Cold-Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace
Both of these authors were atheists who set out to disprove Jesus Christ. Strobel was an attorney and approached his investigation (and framed his book) as he would a court case as if Jesus were on trial. He presents evidence (yes evidence) in a manner that approaches “Did Jesus exist beyond a reasonable doubt?”
Wallace, a former Cold-Case homicide detective, approached the Gospel in the same manner using the same techniques used by law enforcement today. He writes his case and findings based on the validity of the gospels as a judge and jury would accept evidence for a cold case crime today.
Jesus before Jesus
It is helpful to understand where was Jesus before he was born of a virgin, and why he came in the first place. To understand this we really need to look at the road before Jesus. From the throne to Earth.
We must keep in mind that God is so much more complex than our human brains can fathom. Like a child who thinks “If I tape a kite to my back and jump off the roof, I can fly!”, sometimes trying to understand and explain God can be as difficult as that of a three year old thinking their parent just doesn’t want them to fly. It is often helpful to approach learning about God as if you are a child with a child’s mind.
Matthew 18:3 (NIV)
And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Many people (Christians included) struggle to wrap their mind around the Trinity. God is one God, but we often speak as if he’s three. That’s because God has three parts.
Our first clues are in the beginning.
Genesis 1:2 (NIV)
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Here we see the first distinction of God’s form. We see that his SPIRIT was hovering.
Genesis 1:26 (New American Standard)
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Notice he uses the plural form of “US” and “OUR”. Who is he talking to?
God made man to be a triune being.
1. Our Physical bodies that will eventually die
2. Our Soul, which is the essence of who we are (personality, emotions etc..)
3. Our Spirit, most like “God’s image”, one of the many things our spirit does is translate for us. (Recommend further research on what our spirit is and does)
God is a Triune Being
3. Holy Spirit
So with a triune being, it’s
1 x 1 x 1 = 1
(NOT, 1 + 1 + 1 = 3)
What we see from scripture is that God doesn’t have the same limitation that we do. He can easily separate his three parts to carry out various tasks. Some people have claimed to have had “out of body experiences”. This would be a theological example of the ability to separate ones spirit or soul from the body without dying. For one part to be in one place and another part to be somewhere else. (Though God is omnipresent, which means he is everyone at the same time.) But you can understand this example of ‘multitasking’.
We see that God does this in creation, and time and time again throughout scripture. So we know from this that God has three parts and can be everywhere at the same time while multitasking.
So from this, we see that it is possible that JESUS is part of God. (we’ll get further into this).
This means, that when Jesus came to Earth, he left the perfect place called Heaven, being God with ALL POWER, he laid that power down to live as a mere human. Think about that. Having had the power to speak words and the Universe obeyed, you put that power back into the pantry and decide to walk the world with all the limitations of a human being. That would be kind of like, for example, leaving your wallet, money, keys and cell phone at home, and deciding to travel all the way around the world with nothing but the clothes on your back and barefoot.
Well, we human beings got ourselves into a pickle. God created Earth to be like Heaven, and created man to live forever in peace & harmony (just like Heaven) with no sickness, pain, sweat, or heartache. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, it all changed. They were now infected with SIN, and to live forever, think about that. Someone infected with a disease will progressively get worse. So image how much “worse” something would get if you were immortal. It would continuously spiral out of control, right? Potentially, Adam and Eve might have become something so bad even Satan feared them (for the wrong reasons).
So in part of this disobedience, man was cursed. They were no longer immortal/eternal. They now suffered from pain and affliction. Bummer. The bible says that God came and waked with Adam every evening. Adam being a personal BFF to God in person, still was tricked by Satan (via Eve). That speaks a lot to the temptation of Sin that the rest of the human race had to deal with thereafter, not being able to walk and literally hold God’s hand.
Now keep in mind, God is all knowing (Omniscience), so even though he created Adam and Eve with free will, hoping, they would do one thing, God stood before creation and knew exactly how it would all pan out, and yet he decided to go ahead anyway. Because he had a plan!
Have you ever had a cat that got stuck in a tree? You knew the cat on the way up the tree was going to get stuck, but you were prepared to climb up and rescue it when it was ready. Well, we’re the cat here.
In the Garden, God tells Satan exactly what he’s going to do to take back what Satan stole. Imagine any government handing over their battle plans to their enemy. I have to think at this point he’s just toying with Satan. (Like a cat and mouse, where Satan is the mouse with his tail caught.)
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."
Notice that God says “her seed”, not Adam’s seed? Which is odd, because typically we refer to men having the ‘seed’. He also then explicitly says that her seed is a “HE”. (Clue: That’s Jesus).
God even alludes to the vast difference in power between Jesus and Satan. Jesus bruised Satan in the HEAD, while Satan only managed to bruise a bit of Jesus’s heal.
You can see hints in scripture that Satan caught what God was laying down, and spent the next thousands of years trying to track down this specific “HE seed”.
Fast forward to Exodus and we see that God hears the cries of his people and take pity on them. He sends Moses to lead them out of slavery and delivers to them the 10 commandments and the Law. This is kind of a re-align (image how bad sin has become at this point). The intent is to give a descript example of how human beings should and should not behave, along with the prescribed offerings and sacrifice to pay for those sins. Paul taught us that the Law was a school master, intended to teach us how far away from God we actually were. It was a representation for showing us how much we were in need of a savior.
This seems odd to our modern minds, sacrificing animals, really? Yes, really. It started in the garden when God made Adam and Eve clothes. Notice he used “Skin”, presumably from an animal.
Genesis 3:21 (NAS)
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
Leviticus 17:11 (NAS)
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.'
Romans 6:23 (NIV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So we see that “life” is in the “blood”, and we see that the price for sin is death (i.e. loss of life). So this makes sense that God performed the first sacrifice for Adam and Eve that then generations upon generations followed.
But these sacrifices and offerings couldn’t “Take away” sin, they merely “atoned” for them. And they needed to be repeated over and over again. It was kind of like scooping water out of a sinking boat with a table spoon. You are moving water, but you are still sinking.
The Law taught us:
1. We humans have ALL sinned. We were infected by it, and were powerless to it.
2. We could do nothing of our own to escape sin
3. Exactly how extensive “obedience to God” really was.
a. Adam and Eve in the beginning didn’t have to think about Sin or Rules, because their being was pure. In comparison, it’s like, not knowing that Ben and Jerry’s made a new flavor of Ice Cream. Once you learn of this you REALLY want to try it. But before you knew it existed, you were completely fine without it.
So the Law, helped us humans realize how sinful we were and how much we needed HELP from God.
It was a “measuring” stick if you will, of how short we fell of our goal. That’s kind of depressing if you think about it. But this all set the stage for the New (and better) Covenant (Jesus). God had been promising (via prophets) of the coming Savior. Giving people hope of a better way.
So what happened to those souls who fell short before Christ’s Salvation (New Covenant)? They were still waiting.
1 Peter 3:19
God made Adam (full sized adult male) from dirt and breathed into him. We know that God could have done this to accomplish walking the earth in a physical human body. But he didn’t. Instead, Jesus experienced exactly what a normal human being would. From birth to death.
A good trait of a strong leader is that they never ask their team to do something they themselves would not. This comes to mind when I think of God laying down his power, to be born and live just like the rest of us. What did God asked us to do? Live without sin. What did Jesus do? Live without Sin. No shortcut.
God chose Mary (a virgin) to birth Jesus. So we see that Jesus (the physical body) was conceived of the “Woman” and of the “Holy Spirit”. Some people suggest that this meant Jesus was not born with the infection of sin like the rest of us who are conceived by the seed of “men”. Either way, this was a miraculous birth in itself. A true virgin giving birth to a child.
Luke 1:35 (NIV)
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Imagine the weight of what God was asking of Mary. To be scorned by all, including her fiancé, at being pregnant out of wed lock? But she took up this task. We struggle in raising our own children today. Are we doing it right? Could we have done it better? Now imagine the pressure of raising God’s son! And any step-parent can surely understand the pressure that Joseph took on in accepting the responsibility of raising, providing for and protecting the son of God. Talk about the weight of the world on your shoulders!
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Notice also that Jesus was born in a barn. (Stable). They literally laid him in a manger (which is where livestock eat). God did not choose a wealthy king to bore and raise his son, no, he chose the poor and humble. God could have easily manipulated circumstances to provide a nice room, but he didn’t. He chose to enter this world through the most meager and humble beginnings.
I think in a way, this sets a stage, for none of us can say, “yeah, but God doesn’t know what’s like to sleep in a barn, or be cold, or hungry”. No, God made sure he got what we would consider to be the “worst” experience as a human being.
So we see that Jesus was born a babe. He was 100% dependent on his parents for food, security, well-being and comfort. He had dirty diapers that needed changed. He didn’t come out speaking words of God. He had to grow, and learn and work with all the physical limitations that we human beings have. There are many reasons God chose this path, but one of which is to truly “walk a mile” in our shoes.
We don’t’ have too much account of the young Jesus. No doubt, he grew up like any other boy. He had to maneuver puberty and take up a profession. We know that Jesus was a carpenter, and he didn’t enter his ministry until age 30. If we think of this, that’s a hard labor job for someone who once sat upon a throne in heaven. To give up all the power in the universe so that he could sweat over putting food on the table. It seems crazy, right? But he did it for us.
Even more, Jesus grew up in “the bad part of town”. (Nazareth)
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
He was born in a barn, and he grew up in a town that had a reputation among many. We can relate this to anyone who has lived and felt they are ‘stuck’ in a bad neighborhood. Once again we see that God took notice to walk in what we would deem “the worst”.
And like all of us, his past and where he lived effected how others viewed him.
Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us” as well? And they took offense at Him.
We get this account when Jesus is teaching in his home town. At first, everyone is in awe of the wisdom he is enlightening them with, and the miracles that he performed. They were truly amazed until it dawned on them… “hey, this guy is just a carpenter!”. And like that, they got angry and discounted his words and the miracles that he performed. It would be like us finding out our brother was in fact a real-life superman, but then discrediting his superpowers because we knew him as the kid who used to play in the dirt. Odd how finicky we humans can be.
Jesus answered this in:
Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is without honor only in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own household.”
I think we can all relate to this one. For those of who were not raised up in a Christian home, it can often be very difficult for friends and family to accept our new found faith. The truth is, Jesus forgives ALL sin. So even the worst, most heinous person (let’s say a serial killer for example) Jesus forgives them. To God, those murders (or worse) that they committed no longer exist. They are gone. Washed clean! We humans can’t understand that concept. It is very difficult for us to forgive people, and when we do, even harder to forget.
Many born again Christians have a past, some “worse” than others. (We use quotation marks here, because the Bible doesn’t really outline a measuring stick for sin. God doesn’t make a personal note on his opinion on which sins are “worse” than others. For all we know, telling a white lie to spare someone’s feelings may be as “bad” as killing someone in God’s eyes. This is yet one more thing that we can’t fathom, yet.) My point is, sometimes it’s hard for those around us to accept our born-again faith because they point to our messy pasts. “Oh you love Jesus do you? Did you love him last year when you stole from so-and-so?”
In the same way, we can see that Jesus, though he didn’t have a ‘messy’ past, suffered the same thing based on his ‘meager’ past. Mark 6:5 goes on to tell us that their rejection and unbelief actually impeded his ability to perform miracles, but that he still, despite their treatment, healed the few that he could.
We see that Jesus had the ability to ‘shake’ things off. We will see that he was rejected time and time again. He did not curse anyone, he only showed anger to the Pharisees (We’ll get to that later). He always seems to turn the other cheek. Their words don’t hinder his path, they simply seem to bounce right off of him. He is strong and He is determined.
The Point here is: Our past doesn’t matter. Once we are born again and accept Jesus and his Salvation, then our pasts don’t belong to us anymore. Others may try to cling to that, and they might even use it against us, but we have to stay fixed on our path ahead. The Path Jesus laid out for us. Chin up. Armor on. Let the words bounce off you and stay your course.
His Ministry Begins
It’s important for us to understand that Jesus lived as an ordinary man, doing ordinary things until about age 30. In that time, age 30 was seen as the age for “entering into one’s full vigor”. It makes sense why this would be the age that Jesus began ministry.
Baptism - (See Matthew 3:15)
We see that even though Jesus had no sin to repent for, or be cleansed of, he still insisted that John the Baptist, baptize Him. This really outlines Jesus’s “Lead by Example” mantra. It goes back to a leader not asking their team to do something they themselves wouldn’t do. We see here from the beginning of his Ministry Jesus is giving us a step-by-step example of what we should do.
Now something amazing happens here, (not that any part of Jesus wasn’t amazing). But here specifically, when Jesus comes up out of the water, the sky opens and God’s voice booms down from Heaven acknowledging Jesus as his son. We also read that the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven like a dove and rested upon Jesus. This really marks where Jesus started as an “ordinary man with none of his Godly power” and transitions to “a Man walking with God” where he has God’s power working through him. This is how he performed miracles. This is VERY important for understanding that it’s not that Jesus hung his powers on a hook in heaven, and then at age 30 took them back off the shelf for his ministry. No. Instead, Jesus picked up our tool belt and led his ministry with the tools available to us mere humans. He is leading a perfect example of what we can be through him by partnering with the Holy Spirit.
No doubt, Jesus faced the same temptations throughout his first 30 years that we do. The everyday opportunities to fall short of God’s best. But we see that after he receives the Holy Spirit, he is led into the wilderness for 40 days (Without food). He is hungry, REALLY hungry. No doubt his physical body is complaining just as ours do.
At this point, Satan has figured out who “the woman’s seed” really is and he makes an appearance in person here to try to tempt Jesus. We struggle sometimes with the temptation of small things, such as bad traffic, and angry person, a celebration that seems to have infinite alcohol etc... But here, Satan himself has made an appearance to try and stray Jesus’s path, since nothing else has worked up to this point.
And we see that Satan even quotes scriptures in attempt to trick Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t fall for it. Jesus is well learned in the scriptures at this point, and more importantly, he is aligned with God’s Will. He shows us here that being aligned with the Will of God protects us against temptations and tricks. Jesus stands toe-to-toe with Satan and doesn’t stagger. He doesn’t stumble, he doesn’t FEAR. In fact, Jesus treats Satan as if he’s nothing, no more than a thorn to be plucked from his sandal.
Matthew 4: 10
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
So we see that Satan was NO match for Jesus. Jesus is our champion. We often portray him in photos as being lean, and kind, and nice, but we miss this total “touch guy” that fears nothing, not even Satan himself. He shewed Satan like a bug, with mere words. Remember, Jesus is partnering with the Holy Spirit at this point, and modeling the power that the Holy Spirit brings to us through that partnership.
So Jesus comes out of the wilderness unscathed & ready to go.
The Rough Crowd
Many people don’t take the time to really look at who the men were when Jesus called them to be his disciples. Now you would think that God’s son leading the most world impacting ministry would have chosen from the highest educated leaders, whom had experience in ministry. Even when we apply for a job such as running a cash register, there are other applicants that we are measured against. But Jesus doesn’t do this. No, he picks ordinary men, of whom are many fisherman. In some cases, despised men, like tax collectors.
The 12 Disciples:
Simon (known as “Peter”) -Fisherman– impulsive, strong willed, zealous.
Andrew (Peter’s brother) – Fisherman -
James (son of Zebedee) – Fisherman – “Son’s of thunder”, easily angered, quick to judge
John (James’ brother) Fisherman – “Son’s of thunder”, easily angered, quick to judge
Thomas - Gloomy & easily discouraged
Matthew (the tax collector) – Classified as filth, or “lowest of low” among the people
Let’s put some perspective to what people thought of tax collectors in that day:
James (son of Alphaeus)
Thaddeus (also known as Judas, son of James and Lebbaeus) -
Simon (the zealot also known as Simon the Canaanite) – member of a political party
Judas Iscariot – thief, betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (that’s about 5 weeks’ worth of wages)
Which of the two did the will of his father?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.
Today, that would be like selling Jesus to his death for ~ $4,000.
Most people wouldn’t give up their beloved pet for $4K, definitely not someone they love. That’s not even enough to buy a good car today!
The bible also mentions “the 72 disciples” that Jesus sent out, though we know very little of them. What we can assume is that they too were of ordinary beginnings, and yet we know they performed the same miracles that Jesus did.
Socializing With Miscreants
The Pharisees were the top-notch religious leaders of that day. Their lives were dedicated to knowing God’s scripture and law, and enforcing those on the people. For the Jewish people, these guys were the top authority.
The Pharisees continued to slander Jesus for “hanging with the wrong crowd”.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
We see that the people on this earth that the religious leaders had given up on, refused to be even in the same room with, Jesus chose to be with. Jesus loved even ‘the unlovable’. In fact, we see that he spends the majority of his time with those who the rest of civilization don’t want to be around.
John 4: 7-8 & 17-18
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
In this day, the way the woman was living would have been considered scandalous to most of civilization. That likely explains why she’s out drawing water (alone) in the middle of the day. Most would draw water in the early morning or late evening when it was cooler. Clearly she is avoiding people at the expense of discomforting heat. But Jesus is here too, and they get this beautiful one-one conversation. Jesus is not condemning her. He’s not even trying to make her feel bad by saying this. He is simply stating the fact of her life (which resonates with her on how he just knew that). She is also amazed that Jesus being a Jew is speaking to a Samaritan. (This just wasn’t done back in that day.)
Jesus goes on to offer her “living water”. In other words, “you’re past doesn’t matter, I can offer you forgiveness and a fresh start”.
In fact, this even surprised his own disciples when they returned.
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman was so moved by the fact that Jesus told her “everything she ever did”, that she ran back into town and proclaimed the Messiah was at the well. The result? The whole town came out to meet Jesus. He even stayed 2 days with them. Remember, it was odd for him (a Jew) to even SPEAK to a Samaritan, but here we see that he actually accepts their hospitality and stays with them for two days.
The Apostle Paul
Anyone who has been in Christianity for any time at all will recognize the name Apostle Paul. He did write the majority of the New Testament after all. We see through his various letters to the churches that he is kind of an overseer that’s attempting to keep everyone on the same page. A “manager” of Christ if you will. But did you know he had perhaps the worst past of them all?
Paul’s original name was Saul. He shed his old name when he shed his past.
However, if we look at who was “Saul”, we see that his livelihood was actually working against Jesus and Christianity. Saul was a hired man that hunted down Christians and delivered them over to be punished by the Jewish Pharisees. He was so against Christianity that he was trying to wipe it from the face of the earth.
But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
Paul (formerly Saul) didn’t get to walk the Earth with Jesus like the other apostles or disciples. No, Paul’s encounter with Jesus would come after the death and resurrection of Christ.
Saul was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus on his way to “hunt him some Christians”, when Jesus appears to him. Saul is blinded and trembling.
3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
So in short, Saul went out to capture some “Christians” and instead, he found Christ. So the result was, the same man who the Christians used to run and hide from (Saul), would soon become the man (Paul) that guided them.
Of course his past made this a bumpy start. It would be like an assassin showing up on your doorstep to kill you, but then deciding he agreed with you and that he should tell you how best to accomplish what you were already doing.
Except in this case, we see that Paul is so closely tied in with Jesus and the Holy Spirit that he seems to have a knowledge and insight far beyond some of those that actually spent three years side-by-side with Jesus on Earth.
Jesus really shows us his Glory here in he can take anything and make something beautiful of it.
Breaking the Divide
Jesus really made waves, especially with the religious leaders of the day, on his refusal to accept the common division of people. We see this above with the Samaritans. He stretches out his hand in love to them, despite the cultural norm at the time.
Jesus goes on to proclaim to the Gentiles. While he was sent to save the Jewish people of the time, instead it was the Gentiles that accepted him. This caused a lot of commotion in the early church, but Jesus was quite explicit on equality.
Paul explains this:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
In other words, it doesn’t matter your cultural background, nationality or ethnicity. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, or don’t have. It doesn’t matter what your gender is, or your freedom status. We also know it doesn’t matter how good or bad our past is.
We are all equally loved by Christ Jesus, and promised the SAME salvation.
We also see that Jesus breaks the gender bias. We must understand the cultural norm at the time to realize how impactful these revolutionary passages really are.
Women in Jewish Society at the time of Jesus
They were deemed “unclean” for several days of the month
Could not be spoken to in the streets
Walked six paces behind their husband
Must keep their hair covered in public (else they were a ‘harlot’)
Passed from control of father to the control of a husband
Limited rights in the home, no rights in public
The Mishnah taught that a woman was like a gentile slave who could be obtained by intercourse, money or writ. (m. Qidd 1:1)
Women were not even counted as members in the synagogue.
They could observe but not participate
They did not recite the daily shema
They did not read the Torah
Were only allowed to receive very little education on religion
They were not taught the Law nor where they eligible for inheritance
They were not able to become a disciple to a Rabbi
And were not allowed to travel with one
In court, a woman’s testimony was considered “suspect”
How did Jesus break this?
MANY women followed Him (Matthew 27:55-56)
Takes pity on a widow and raises her son from the dead (Luke 15)
Women were allowed to come hear him teach (he didn’t restrict teaching to synagogues, but rather to large multitudes of crowds everywhere)
Jesus healed woman after woman (Mark 1 ; Luke 8)
Jesus used women to illustrate spiritual truths in his teachings.
We saw his exchange with the woman at the well (John 4)
He forgives the woman of adultery (who everyone else wanted to stone) (John 7)
His first miracle wasn’t something He or God had planned, but rather was him honoring his Mother’s insistence (John 2:1-11)
After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, He commissioned His apostles and breathed the Holy Spirit into them. As the 120 were waiting in the Upper Room in Jerusalem there is mention of Mary, the mother of her Savior, and "the women":
"These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers."
Jesus showed no partiality to men even in the fact that He chose 12 male apostles. In Christ women are liberated in order to serve Jesus in an equal manner.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Many Christians are often stumped at how Paul refers to women in the church after Jesus has gone to heaven. At an initial glance, it would appear that he is putting women down. However, we must first understand that the fact that women are IN Church is a huge deal at the time. The fact that they are speaking up, indicates that they were allowed some level of participation, which was unheard of in that time and likely very difficult for the men of that day (being so accustomed to the cultural norm) to accept. Likely, this very thing was distracting. We also must consider that these were letters written from Paul to the churches, and it is likely he is responding to some specific issues that we are not privy to, either by word of mouth or by letters written to him. ( 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35). It was very likely that this was exciting for women in that day to be allowed to learn and participate. And given that they were not allowed to be educated before, likely they had a million questions and perhaps, little experience with etiquette. OR, perhaps this was still some “tradition” that men were struggling with from how they had lived their entire lives up to the point of Jesus.
What we do need to recognize however, is as bold as 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 sounds, we often glaze over an astounding portion also written by Paul in other letters.
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
It would be pretty hard for sister Phoebe to be a deacon (or deaconess in some translations) and not “Speak up” but remain “Silent”. Yes?
We also see Priscilla (the wife of Aquila) is actually listed first as an equal part of the married couple. In fact we see Priscilla’s name mentioned many times in scripture, almost always as a equal part of her husband Aquila.
We can almost put this in perspective today if we consider sermons, or any speech for that matter. Typically questions are reserved for after. Can you imagine the President of the Unitied States trying to give his "State of the Union" address while people were shouting out questions throughout the whole thing? No, of course not. He compeltes his speech, and then
there is a time for questions. Sermons in Church today are not unlike this. It would be difficult for a Minister to deliver his sermon while taking questions and comments from the congregation the entire time. Could what Paul is saying be this simple? That he is merely saying, "Don't allow the distractions of interuptions during the message, but rather let Husbands help get their wives up-to-speed on what they've already learned"?
Times were changing, and the men and women of that day had to learn how to change with them. It is understandable that there were some cultural bumps in the road, that is why it is so important to look first to the simple path that Jesus laid out of us, and then analyze the scriptures as a whole to ensure we are getting ‘the big picture’, and not falsely using snippets (like Satan did in the wilderness) to skew the truth.
The Bible does not contridict itself, therefore, any passage that seems to conflict with another is likely missing some context. We have a responsibility to review the entire context of the Bible, especially the game-changer that Jesus played, so that we accurately comprehend scripture as well as how to apply it today.
Jesus Loved EVERYONE! All nations, all people, all cultural backgrounds, ethnicities and genders.