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Life of Jesus
The name of Jesus is perhaps better known than any on Earth. Men of every nation, of every class and of every race respect and admire him for his wisdom, for his love and for his courage.
It may be expected that someone of such importance had an expensive education with a privileged childhood. Yet Jesus was raised as the son of a humble carpenter and he spent his childhood in obscurity working in a small town in the north of Israel.
Although he was brought up in this way he was not born as the natural result of a man and a woman. He was conceived uniquely, being the true child of God. He united the natures of both God and man, being the mediator between us and the Father.
Never did he show any desire for power or wealth but focussed instead on what he knew to be wise - to follow a life of love, sincerity and commitment to our heavenly Father. Throughout his time on Earth Jesus passed on this wisdom to others, encouraging them to give up the pointless pursuit of treasures on earth. He taught that a loving, healthy relationship with God and with our fellow human beings would produce a much more fruitful and useful life.
Love for others
His compassion for others has been unrivalled by anyone who has ever lived before or since. His life is a testimony to the sincere love that he had for those around him. Time after time we are told of how Jesus helped those who could not help themselves.
"Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them." (Matthew 15:30)
In our modern world we are sceptical of miracles yet even today we see what can happen when people believe strongly in something. Jesus showed us what belief can accomplish when he gave sight to the blind, speech to the dumb and the power to walk to those who were lame.
His motive for using this healing power was not to make a display before others but a simple, deep care for the needs of the weak and ill.
Yet not everyone who came into contact with Jesus appreciated his teachings or his healing powers. A group of people, called Pharisees, became particularly upset with him. These Pharisees claimed to be religious and holy yet Jesus knew that in their heart they were as guilty as anyone else, and Jesus condemned them for it.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:28)
Jesus told them that God did not care about vain rituals and sacrifice, all that mattered was a sincere love for God and for man. If only they paid more attention to helping others and less attention to rules and regulations, they would be much better off.
Rather than changing their ways they decided that they had to get rid of Jesus. As a result Jesus was always on the move, having nowhere to call his home. Within only a few years of starting his ministry, when he was just thirty-three years old, Jesus was arrested and handed over to the Romans who were ruling Israel at that time.
After an unfair trial Jesus was condemned to death by crucifixion. This method of killing prisoners was a horrendous, slow death where the body was nailed to a wooden cross and put on display in front of the crowds. We are given the following account of Jesus' death:
"Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.
When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS." (Matthew 27:22-38)
Jesus' death was a tragedy - an innocent man tortured and killed because of the hatred of a few fanatics. Yet Jesus still loved those who murdered him. While he was dying, in the midst of unbearable pain, Jesus asked God that these men would be forgiven. A truly generous thought from the heart of a great and noble soul.
However this tragic death is not the end of Jesus' life. Although he was buried in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers, his body disappeared. The reason for this disappearance is that Jesus was raised to life again. In the following days he appeared repeatedly, providing over five hundred eye-witnesses to prove his existence, before ascending into Heaven where he is still watching over us.
"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:1-20)
Jesus was wise and honourable, being persecuted only because some people disagreed with his views. His life is a testimony to the spirit of God with which he was of the one essence. It gave him the power, and the love, to achieve things which no man has accomplished before or since.
Yet Jesus told us that we too can be filled with the spirit of God. If we turn to God and give up our insincere, vain pursuit of earthly treasures, we can call God our Father.
The question is how can we who are by nature selfish and insincere be treated as children by a holy, pure God? The answer is that Jesus' death acts like a sacrifice for us. Instead of each of us being punished for all that we have done, Jesus symbolically died in our place.
The life of Jesus is truly extraordinary and his short time here on Earth has impacted more people than anyone else in history. Jesus taught us to love, and he loved. He taught us to be sincere, and he was sincere. He taught us that God was our Father, and he truly was the child of God.