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耶稣 Jesus (英文版) 作者:Ingrid

来源:本站原创 | 作者:Ingrid  | 时间:2011-11-27 | 阅读[] 字体: [ ] [繁体] [推荐]

Part I – The Life and Teachings of Jesus

Events surrounding his Birth

The Birth of Jesus.

The birth of a Saviour had been foretold by prophets many years before.1The Jews were under Roman occupation at the time when Jesus was born. They were praying and hoping that God would send this Saviour right now to set them free from the Romans. The Bible tells us that a baby boy called Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in the town of Bethlehem in Israel and that Jesus was a special baby because his birth was announced by an angel and by a star.

The angels announce the birth of Jesus. When Jesus was born an angel appeared to some shepherds nearby who were looking after their sheep. The angel told them that the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, had been born. The shepherds were given a sign to show them that this was true: they would find a baby lying in a manger. After the angel had left, the shepherds decided to go to the town of Bethlehem to find this baby. When they had found Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus lying in a manger they told everybody all the things they had heard and seen, and all the people who heard it marvelled at the things they had been told.2

The wise men from the East are guided by a bright star. Some time before Jesus was born a ‘new’ bright star appeared in the sky3   but what had traditionally been called a ‘star’ was actually an alignment of stars and planets within the constellation Leo, the Latin name for lion.4 The Bible records that wise men from the East had come to Jerusalem because they had seen this bright star. They most likely had searched their ancient writings and had found that a bright new star announces the birth of a king. The astrological practice of calculating destinies by the stars had been popular in the East before and at the time of Jesus’ birth.

These wise men were guided to Jerusalem, Israel, and were asking questions: ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? We have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was greatly troubled and immediately called the scribes to search the ancient Jewish holy writings to find out where this ‘Special King’ was to be born. They found that their prophet Micah, chapter 5, verse 2, had written, that out of Bethlehem in Judah would come ‘the One to be Ruler in Israel’. King Herod secretly called the wise men and asked them when the star had first appeared. He told them to go to Bethlehem and to search for the young child and then to let him know so that he too could worship the new king.

The bright star continued to guide the wise men and when they saw that the star stood still over a house they went in and found Mary and Joseph and Jesus, and greatly rejoiced and worshipped Jesus and presented their presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The wise men didn’t report back to King Herod but went home a different way. When Herod realized that the wise men weren’t going to tell him where to find the new king he became very angry and sent his soldiers to kill every boy below the age of 2 in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.5  There is no other historical record of the slaughter of these babies but historians are in agreement that it’s very likely that Herod had ordered the killing because he was known to be a cruel king and even had his own children murdered.

The wise men didn’t go back to Jerusalem but instead took a different route home. Had they gone back to Herod and reported where to find the ‘New-born-King’ Herod would have killed the baby Jesus and this ‘Biography of Jesus’ would never have been written. The wise men didn’t realize that their decision not to go back to Jerusalem would change the course of history. Thanks to their decision it is now possible to write about the historical Jesus, the man Jesus who was born about 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem in Israel, who lived and who started teaching about God and healing people and performing miracles at the age of 30 and who died on a cross in Jerusalem in Israel, at the age of 33. The ‘Historical Jesus’ is the man of ‘history’ and it is HisStory. His story tells us that Jesus had come to tell us about God and to save us by dying for us.

The wisdom of the wise men enabled Jesus to be kept alive and nothing has changed: Jesus is still alive today; and throughout the ages people have continued asking the questions: ‘Who is Jesus?’ and ‘What makes Jesus so special and different from other famous people?’ The popularity and fame of Jesus comes from the things he gives us: greater happiness, better health, inner peace, the ability to form better relationships with people, greater success in life and our career and our financial situation, a greater ability of giving more love and receiving more love. But most of all:  Jesus has given us salvation by setting us free from our sins through dying on the cross for us. It is this belief in Jesus and this knowledge that only Jesus can forgive us our sins and give us eternal life that has changed people’s lives and continues to do so.

But how can this Jesus who died about 2,000 years ago affect our lives so much in the year 2012 and beyond? The answer lies in knowing what Jesus has said and done and believed and then doing, saying and believing the same. There have been and still are many people in the world who choose to only follow some of his teachings.  It is everything or nothing. We can’t just take the things we like and ignore the teachings we don’t like.

This book gives an account of the man Jesus. What do we know about this man Jesus? The Apostle Paul’s letters to various churches are the earliest records we have that tell us about Jesus.6  Most of the details of the life of Jesus have been recorded by the four gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.7 But is their record reliable? Their record is seen as reliable because they use sources that, in some cases, go back very close to the time of Jesus.

1.      the writers of the gospels of Matthey, Mark and John had been with Jesus

2.      all four gospel writers had recorded a great deal of information  that had been given to them by people who had been with Jesus or

3.      who had seen the miracles performed by Jesus or

4.      who had heard the teachings of Jesus or

5.      who had watched the crucifixion or

6.      who had seen the resurrected Jesus.    

We now know that Jesus was born at least 4 years earlier than originally thought because the Gospel of Matthew gives an account of King Herod who wanted to kill the baby Jesus. Herod died in 4BC according to historical records. So Jesus must have been born before the year 4BC.8

The circumcision of Jesus.  Jesus was circumcised when he was eight days old. This was an ancient Jewish custom dating back to the time when God told Abraham that he would be the father of ‘God’s chosen people’. Abraham was told to be circumcised together with all the male members of his household and from then on every male child should be circumcised when he is eight days old.9

 

Jews call this ceremony Brit Milah because Milah is the Hebrew word for ‘covenant of circumcision’. The language of the Jews is Hebrew. Circumcision initiates the child into the Jewish community and is also the time when the baby is given his Hebrew name. Mary and Joseph gave their son his official Hebrew name ‘Jesus’ when he was circumcised.10 Had Jesus not been circumcised he would not have been allowed to go into a synagogue or visit the temple.  Religion meant so much to the Jews that any boy or man who had not been circumcised was cast out of the Jewish community.

The dedication of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. Religious laws and customs were very important to the Jewish people 2,000 years ago. There were still many Jews in different countries only about 100 years ago who strictly observed their religious rules according to God’s commands.11 Their Bible, the Torah, says about the commandments of God ‘You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your home, when you walk by the way, when you lie down  and when you rise up’.12                                       

In obedience to their religious laws Mary and Joseph took their baby to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him to God and to offer to God a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. Two special events took place when they were in the Temple. The first incident took place when Simeon, a wise old man who had been praying for the salvation of Israel for many years, took the baby Jesus into his arms, and praising and thanking God, he said: ‘My eyes have seen your salvation’. The second event happened when an old woman called Anna, who was well known in the Temple as a devout woman, also gave thanks to God and spoke about the baby Jesus to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Although Jesus was only about 4 weeks old, yet there had already been a number of people making a link between Jesus and the Jewish prophecies that promised the Jews that God would send them ‘The Christ’, the ‘Redeemer’, the ‘Saviour’.

When Mary and Joseph had performed all things according to the Law of the Lord they returned to Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong in spirit and filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.13

 Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of 12. The Jews were expected to make three pilgrimages every year to Jerusalem to celebrate major religious events: the Passover marking the Exodus out of Egypt, Shavuot marking the giving of the Torah to the Israelites on Mount Sinai and Sukkot, remembering the forty-year-journey through the wilderness.14 The Gospel writer Luke records that Mary and Joseph would go to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the Passover. Luke gives a special account of their pilgrimage. He tells us that Mary and Joseph and their son Jesus together with other family members had gone to Jerusalem for the Jewish Festival. When the festival was over they left Jerusalem to go back home and had already travelled a day before they realized that their son Jesus wasn’t with other family members or friends as they had assumed. With great anxiety Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem, seeking Jesus everywhere.

 After a 3day search they went back to the Temple where they found Jesus sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. They could see that all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. Mary said to her son that they had been very anxious and had been searching for him and she asked him why he had done this to them. Jesus expressed great surprise that his parents should have been looking for him anywhere except in the Temple of God and he asked them, ‘Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ The Bible says that Jesus went home with Mary and Joseph and was obedient to them. And he increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men.15

 

Part II:  The  public Ministry of Jesus at the Age of 30-33

The baptism of Jesus Jesus was 30 years old when he first appeared in public, teaching and doing miracles.16  People started getting interested in Jesus when he was baptized by a man called John the Baptist who told everybody, ‘Behold the Lamb of God (another title for Messiah)  ‘Baptism’ is a Greek translation of the word ‘tevila’ meaning ‘Immersion’. This is usually done in amikveh’, which is a pool where water has gathered.   A mikveh is an essential part of any synagogue (Jewish Church) and is used for spiritual cleansing in a purification ceremony. 

                          A Mikveh outside the synagogue                                                             A modern Mikveh

                                                 

Jews believed that their sins would be forgiven if they repented, but John the Baptist was telling everybody that forgiveness was impossible for the person who refuses to abandon his or her wickedness. John was teaching that repentance and showing fruits of repentance were necessary before God would forgive sins.17 

The Bible says that John was baptizing at Bethany, east of the river Jordan. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote about John the Baptist and the historical record can be found in all the extant manuscripts of the Jewish Antiquities.18 (John had been an influential figure in the history of the Jewish nation and in connection with Jesus.  Many people came to John the Baptist because they believed that he was a prophet sent by God. He had many followers and disciples and was baptizing people in the river Jordan. All four Gospel writers record that Jesus was seen with John at the river Jordan, but it isn’t clear whether Jesus had been a disciple and/or follower of John. We know from the Gospel writers that the religious leaders and Jews had been expecting their Messiah to come and to set them free from the Roman occupation. They thought that John might be the Messiah, but he told them that he wasn’t the Messiah. John said that he was preparing the people for their Messiah and was baptizing them with water but that someone greater would come who would baptize them with fire and the Holy Spirit. When Jesus asked John to baptize him John immediately saw that Jesus was without sin and had no need to be baptized, but Jesus knew that God wanted him to be baptized because one day he would die the death of sinners and for sinners.  John was sure that Jesus was the Messiah because he saw the Spirit of God come down on Jesus in the shape of a dove after he had baptized him.

The temptations of Jesus. Shortly after his baptism Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and to pray. A time of prayer and fasting was often seen as a time of preparation. What was the special event Jesus was preparing himself for? Jesus knew of the mighty power God had given him and the work God had given him to do. He had come to bring us Salvation, to set us free from our sins and to give us eternal life. Jesus also knew all about satan, the enemy of God, who had always wanted to be God – and even greater than God – and who would use every opportunity to ruin God’s plan of Salvation for all of the people God had created.

After Jesus had finished his 40day fast he was very hungry. Satan tempted him and said, ‘If you’re really the son of God then command these stones to become bread’. Jesus felt sure that he had been given supernatural powers for the purpose of saving people. He was not going to abuse these powers to create an easy life for himself and so he said, ‘It is written that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’. Satan tempted Jesus a second time by suggesting that Jesus should throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple because God had promised the Jews that his angels would look after them. Jesus quoted part of the Jewish holy writings, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’. The third temptation was about using the supernatural powers to become famous and powerful and being the mighty king of many nations. Satan promised to give Jesus the kingdoms of the world and their glory if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesus also resisted this great temptation and said, ‘Away with you satan. For it is written that you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve’. Then satan left him.19    

The disciples and followers of Jesus. Soon after Jesus started his public ministry he attracted many followers. He called twelve disciples who were always with him. Most of them were fishermen from Galilee. Jesus instructed them and at times would send them out in pairs to preach the Kingdom of God. The Gospel writer Matthew records in Matthew chapter 10, verse 1, that Jesus gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. These disciples remained with Jesus throughout his time of public ministry – except Judas Iscariot who betrayed him - and saw him after his resurrection and ascension and later were commissioned by Jesus to carry on the work God had given him to do. There had been times when Jesus had to correct his disciples, for example when people brought their children to Jesus hoping he would bless them. His disciples tried to stop them but Jesus showed his great love for children by telling his disciples to let the children come to him and not to stop them.  Matthew records in Matthew chapter 19, verse 15, that Jesus blessed the children. Jesus had many followers and crowds of people gathered wherever he was. The people listened to his teachings, received healings and saw miracles performed by Jesus. Some of them believed, some didn’t believe and some weren’t too sure.

The beliefs of Jesus. Jesus was a Jew and was brought up in the Jewish faith and was instructed in the Jewish religious writings. He knew about the prophecy that God would send the Messiah, the Saviour and rescuer. He would also have been told by his mother the events that had taken place at his birth and the prophecies spoken over him. Did Jesus act out the role of a Messiah or was he in reality the Messiah, the Son of God? There is no historical evidence - except the records of the four Gospels – to provide us with an answer. If Jesus had only been a player acting out the role of a Messiah he needed to rely on everything that had been written in the Holy Scriptures about the Messiah in order to play the role convincingly. Yet Jesus was more than fulfilling the prophecies about the Messiah, because he also had amazing supernatural powers no other person ever had in the history of the Jewish nation. Jesus not only knew about God from the Holy Scriptures, but he also knew God as his father and had an intimate relationship with God his father. He also knew something about God that was not recorded in the Jewish holy writings, for example, he could tell the Jews the most recent plans God had for them.

Jesus believed that he had been with God from the creation of the world and had  come to reconcile the people with God and to help the Jews to have a close relationship with God as a father. Our sin has separated us from God and a Saviour was needed to take our sins away. Jesus believed that he was this Saviour.. Christians believe that Jesus is the Mediator between God and the Jewish people – not only the Jewish people but ALL people. Jesus used many different images to help us understand this. Jesus believed that God had made a way for the Jews and other people to come to God and to live with him forever. This ‘Way’ is his son Jesus. In order for us to understand this most important message to us from God Jesus used many different images and symbols to show that no one is able to come to God except through his son Jesus. So we are told by Jesus:

·         I am the way20

·         I am the door21

·         I am the light of the world22

·         I am the good shepherd23

·         I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me24

·         I am the true vine25

·         My Father is greater than I26

·         I am the resurrection and the life27

·         I give eternal life28

·         The words that I speak to you are Spirit and they are life29

·         I and my Father are one30

·         I came from the Father and have come into the world. I leave the world and go to the Father31

·         I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me32

·         I am a King …… my kingdom is not from here33

Jesus was convinced that God had given him a message for his people yet the majority of the people didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God and therefore they didn’t listen to his message. Jesus did all the miracles and signs and wonders in order for the people to see, to marvel and then to listen to the message and then to respond by believing him and in him as their Saviour and the Son of God – the one who has been sent by God for their salvation.

Miracles performed by Jesus.  Jesus was special and wherever he was God did many miracles for him and through him. The healings are usually seen as signs of the power of God and that God’s kingdom will be established soon.

The miracle of turning water into wine. The first recorded miracle Jesus performed in public took place in Cana, Israel. He and his mother had been invited to attend a wedding. We are told34 that the bridegroom had run out of wine. This was quite a serious situation because it would have been very humiliating and shameful for him and his family. Jesus was told of this situation by his mother. She most likely had been hoping that her son would help the bridegroom by performing a miracle, but Jesus didn’t respond immediately. Jesus’ mother had faith that her son would help and said to the servants: ‘Whatever he says to you, do it’.35 The Gospel writer records that there were 6 water jars and Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water and to give some to the master of the wedding feast. After the master had drunk it he said to the bridegroom, ‘Every man serves the good wine first and after the guests have got drunk he serves the bad wine. You however have kept the best wine till the last.’ This he spoke without realizing that he was drinking the water Jesus had changed into wine. We are told neither how the miracle happened nor when it happened, only the fact that the water tasted like excellent wine.

After having saved the bridegroom and his family from public shame and disgrace Jesus showed similar kindness and compassion to people who were ill. There were many people in those days who were too poor to go to a doctor. Word had spread that a man called Jesus had special powers to heal people and that he didn’t charge money for his services. Soon the fame of Jesus as a mighty healer had spread throughout the country and many people came to him for their own healing and also the healing of their loved ones.36

Jesus helps and heals Jews and non-Jews. About 2,000 years ago it was quite common in Israel for prophets and religious teachers to have special healing powers. Indeed right through the ages God has always given special healing powers to people and places, for example in France, there is a place called Lourdes  where divine healings take place37 I personally have been with people who have been healed by Jesus when someone prayed ‘in the name of Jesus’. This took place in churches in the U.K., in Canada, in the U.S and in Germany between 1995 and 2009, and also in Nanjing, China, in 2010. Again, overwhelming medical evidence exists and has been archived over the years in Western countries. However, no one ever had powers quite like the ones seen in Jesus: he could heal every form of sickness and also cast out evil spirits.

 

Jesus only had to speak the word and healing would take place. We are told that one day a Roman officer came to Jesus asking him to heal one of his servants. The Jews told Jesus that this officer was a kind man and good to his servants and that his servant was Jewish and deserved to be healed. When Jesus got ready to go and visit the servant, the Roman officer said, ‘Please Sir, don’t trouble yourself coming all the way. I command and my servants obey.

Only speak the word and my servant shall be healed’.38 Jesus was amazed at such a high level of faith. The officer appeared to believe that there were invisible powers in the universe and a word from Jesus spoken into the atmosphere/universe released the power to heal the servant who lived quite a distance away. Maybe he knew about the Jewish faith and believed that God had given Jesus the divine power to heal everybody everywhere of every disease. Jesus told the officer that his servant would be well – and when the officer came home and heard that his servant was well, he inquired and found out that his servant got well the minute Jesus had told him that his servant would be healed.39

Jesus heals a man who is mentally ill. Jesus’ love and compassion would go out to everyone – the deserving and the undeserving, e.g.  people who had done harm to others. The Bible says that there was a man who was crazy and who lived among graves and lonely places and sometimes attacked passers-by or would do harm to himself. At that time people thought that anyone who was crazy was possessed by evil spirits that made them crazy. Jesus had compassion on this man and cast out the evil spirits. Jesus had the power over those spirits because God had given him this power. People who watched Jesus casting out evil spirits from the crazy man were amazed when they saw him healed and in his right mind and behaving like other people.40

Jesus raises the dead. The Bible says that Jesus even had the power to raise people from death to life. We are told of a little girl, the only child of the Jewish church leader Jairus, who was very ill. Her father was in deep despair and had come to Jesus for help. Jesus immediately went with him to his house, but as they got near his home they saw many women crying and telling the father that his daughter was dead and saying to him that Jesus, the healer, had come too late. Jesus knew about his power over every kind of sickness and death and calmly said, ‘She’s just asleep’. Then he and two of his disciples followed the father to the bedroom of the little girl. Jesus took the girl’s hand and said to her, ‘Little girl, I say to you: arise’ and life came back into her body. Jesus then asked the father to give his daughter something to eat.41

There are always people who do not believe in miracles and find it difficult to accept that anyone could possibly have the power to raise the dead. They may say that the person wasn’t really dead and that the doctors had made a mistake. But Jesus not only raised the little girl who had just died, but he also raised a young man who had already been prepared for burial and relatives were on their way taking him to his grave. Jesus stopped them, touched the coffin and said, ‘Young man I say to you, arise’. So the young man who had been dead sat up and began to talk – and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Then people started to believe and  glorify God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us’, and ‘God has visited his people’. And this report about him was heard throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.42

Jesus did an even greater miracle by raising Lazarus from death to life after Lazarus had already been dead for 4 days. The Gospel of John tells us that Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus telling him that their brother was very ill. Two days after receiving the message Jesus starts his journey to visit them. However, when he arrives at their home in Bethany he learns that Lazarus has already been dead for four days and immediately proceeds to go to his tomb, where he was buried. He tells the people to roll away the stone to the entrance of the tomb. Jesus is respected as a Master/Rabbi and is usually obeyed, yet this time people are concerned and Martha reminds Jesus that Lazarus has already been dead for 4 days. In those days Jews would embalm their dead with a special ointment that speeded up the process of decomposition. Martha says to Jesus that there will be a bad smell in the tomb. Jesus says to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the Glory of God?’

 

Then they take the stone away and Jesus prays thanking God that God has heard him, Jesus then calls out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out’43 and Lazarus, who has been dead for four days, comes out, still wearing his shroud (grave clothes) and his face covered with a cloth according to the burial custom of the Jews. Jesus says, ‘Loose him, and let him go’. Many of the people who see this miracle believe in Jesus. Some people leave to report this incident to their religious leaders.

Jesus listens to the cry of the desperate. Jesus knew what people needed and always responded to the cry of the desperate person, as recorded by the Gospel writer Matthew.44 We are told that two blind men had followed Jesus shouting, ‘Son of David, have mercy on us’. Jesus asked them, ‘Do you believe that I’m able to do this?’ They had faith in Jesus and answered, ‘Yes, Lord’. Then Jesus touched their eyes saying, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ 

Jesus heals those who don’t expect to be healed. Jesus saw a man who was blind from birth. This man never asked Jesus for his healing because he believed it to be impossible, yet Jesus had compassion on him and made clay and then anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. Jesus told the man, ‘Go and wash in the pool of Siloam’. So the man went and washed and came back seeing. This again showed that Jesus was more than a prophet. The man expressed his own opinion about Jesus by saying, ‘Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God he could do nothing’. Jesus explained this in a different way, ‘that the works of God should be revealed in him’.45

Jesus heals those who have given up hope. The Gospel writer John describes a pool in Jerusalem. 46 Bible critics couldn’t find any evidence of the existence of such a pool. But then in the 19th century an archaeologist discovered the remains of a pool exactly matching the description of the Gospel.47

The Gospel tells us of a man who had been ill for the past 38 years. He was at the pool of Bethesda, together with other sick people, waiting for the ‘stirring of the pool water’. It was believed that an angel would come down to stir the water and whoever was first in the pool would be healed of whatever disease he/she had. Jesus saw that this man had been ill for a long time and had given up hope. Jesus always knows the right question to ask to kindle hope in us. He asked the man, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The man told him that he had no one to help him to be the first in the pool and get healed. Jesus had compassion on this man and said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’. Immediately the man was healed, took up his bed, and walked. Jesus always knows the cause the illness. He could see that this man had done something wrong that caused him to be ill.  He warned the man therefore ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, or a worse thing will happen to you’.48

Jesus demonstrates his supernatural powers.Wherever Jesus went he drew a large crowd because his fame as great healer and teacher had spread throughout the regions of Israel. People liked listening to Jesus and maybe they were also hoping to see signs and wonders. The fame of Jesus grew and so did the peril. The religious leaders tried to find a reason to arrest Jesus, and King Herod had just executed John the Baptist. When Jesus heard about it he took a boat and withdrew to a place of safety, to a remote area in Galilee not far from Bethsaida.

When the Jews heard about it they followed him on foot and a large crowd was already waiting for Jesus when he arrived there. When Jesus saw the large crowd he had compassion on them and healed their sick. When it was evening his disciples reminded him that it was getting late and that the people should leave to go to the villages nearby to buy some food. But Jesus replied that there was no need to send the people away, the disciples should feed them. The disciples answered that they had no food to feed a large crowd of people. They only had 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus didn’t laugh at this small amount of food but said, ‘Bring them to me’. And then Jesus performed the miracle of multiplying food which is the greatest ‘food miracle’ that has ever been done by anyone in the past 2,000 years.

He commanded the people to sit down. He then took the 5 loaves and 2 fish and, looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke and gave the food to his disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitude. They all ate and were filled and there was also enough food left over to fill 12 baskets. Now those who had eaten were about 5,000 men, besides women and children. We are not told by the Gospel writers how the miracle happened, just that it happened.49 Jesus prayed and expected God to supply as much food as was needed to feed everyone. This was the level of faith Jesus had in God.

He often referred to God as ‘our father’ and told the people to believe that God loves them. He gives the example of a father who is asked by his son for a fish and therefore will give him a fish - and not a snake. Jesus reasoned with them saying, ‘If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven, give good things to those who ask him?’50 Jesus had asked God to give the crowd bread and fish and believed God would do it – and God answered his prayer and fed the multitude with a multitude of food. Maybe Jesus’ disciples had the same level of faith in God or just faith in their teacher Jesus. We only know that ‘they obeyed Jesus and God multiplied the food’.

This amazing miracle was just the sign the crowd needed to be convinced that Jesus was their Saviour. They thought that they would never be hungry again once Jesus was their King. Jesus knew what they were thinking and told his disciples to take a boat and meet him at the other side of the lake. He himself went up a mountain to be alone. Maybe he was going to pray and ask God what to do next because Jesus told his disciples that he only did what God wanted him to do.

Throughout his public ministry – spanning about 3 years – Jesus performed many miracles. The Gospel writer John says, ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’.51

 The teachings of Jesus. The question, ‘Is this Jesus the Messiah God has promised us?’ was on everybody’s lips. The Jews knew their ancient writings and they knew that one day God would send them a deliverer.

Right now the Jews were under Roman occupation and in great need of a deliverer. They expected this deliverer to be a king and powerful like their former King David, who was strong and mighty in battle. They expected this King to set them free from the Romans and to establish his kingdom. The words ‘Saviour’, ‘Deliverer’ and ‘King of the Jews’ meant roughly the same to most Jewish people – someone to set them free from the Romans. Their thinking was guided by their hopes and dreams. Had they listened properly to Jesus’ teaching they would have learned that Jesus spoke of a different Kingdom. He spoke to them of the ‘Kingdom of God’.

The Kingdom of God. The core of Jesus’ teachings was ‘the Kingdom of God’. The Gospel writer Luke records Jesus saying, "I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent." 52 The Kingdom of God is a kingdom quite different to other kingdoms, yet it is a kingdom that can and should be established on earth. It is God’s Kingdom where God reigns supreme. It is an eternal kingdom, it will never end. We may say that it is Heaven or Paradise. But how can God’s Kingdom be established on earth? Jesus was asked  by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God was coming, and this is what he answered them, “The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, `See, here it is!' or `See there!' indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you”.53 The country England is a kingdom and has a king/queen. English people live in the country and are English because they’ve been born in England, but they’re also English inside in their way of thinking, their speech, their culture and their love for their country. It is the same with the Kingdom of God, we live in the Kingdom of God and it’s also inside of us.

How can people become citizens of the Kingdom of God or ‘enter’ the Kingdom of God or have the Kingdom of God inside of them? God is holy and pure and so is everything connected with his Kingdom. Therefore God’s Kingdom can only be established in hearts that are pure and free from sin. Jesus emphasized the importance of having a clean heart, and he laid down guidelines people needed to follow in order to get a clean heart. Jesus talked about our desire: for example, we should be careful how we use our eyes and thoughts. If a married man looks at another woman with the desire to sleep with her, he is already guilty of adultery, because he has committed adultery with his eyes and thoughts and in his heart. Sinful actions start with a desire in our hearts and thoughts.

Some of Jesus’ teachings are quite difficult to understand. Jesus had – like most great masters – great ideas and visions that went far beyond the mind of ordinary people. Even when his teaching was easy to understand, people didn’t want to hear his message because it was contrary to their nature. Jesus taught that ‘we must listen, learn and do’. This means that we have to be obedient and honest and full of love and forgiveness. Most Jews found it difficult to understand why we should be nice to our enemies; even more than that: we should love them. People expressed surprise at his teaching and said of him that he taught with authority and not like the other religious leaders.54

What made Jesus such an excellent teacher who attracted crowds of people eager to listen to him and to learn from him? Jesus was very sincere and lived out in his life what he was teaching; and he was teaching from his heart rather than his intellect. He also used various teaching techniques. At times he would teach about the Kingdom of God through parables and included a variety of illustrations; for example, he compared the Kingdom of God with a precious pearl of such great value that a person gives everything in order to possess this pearl. Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a lost coin that is so important to a woman – maybe it was part of her dowry – that she searches the whole house and doesn’t give up till she has found it and then tells all her friends and neighbours about it. Sometimes Jesus would compare the Kingdom of God to a light that shines in the darkness. At   times Jesus would talk about himself being the ‘Good Shepherd’ looking after his sheep.

At times Jesus would use discourses to teach about the Kingdom of God. For example, one day a rich young man came to him asking him, ‘Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ The young man asked Jesus what commandment he had to keep, and Jesus listed some of the Ten Commandments God had given to the Jewish people, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honour your father and your mother, you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man replied, ‘All these things I kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard that, he went away for he had great possessions.

Then Jesus told his disciples that it was very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. His disciples asked him, ‘Who then can be saved?’ and Jesus answered, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’55 Jesus was asked the same question by a young lawyer and  Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ The young man said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ Jesus agreed with him, but the man had another question, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus told the young lawyer a parable to illustrate that it is important to love God as well as other people. He said that a traveller saw a man who had been robbed of all his money and severely beaten by the robbers. Various people had passed by, including very pious people who loved God, but nobody had helped the injured man. This traveller, who was not a Jew, helped the man by bandaging his wounds, putting him on his own donkey, taking him to a hotel and paying for the man’s food and accommodation there. Then Jesus asked the young man, ‘Who was neighbour to him who fell among thieves?’ He replied, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do the same’.56

The love for God and for people was central to the teachings of Jesus. Jewish religious leaders and teachers had developed a system of rules and regulations that left very little room for a warm ‘heart-to-heart’ relationship with God and compassion towards other people. Jesus tried to change their way of thinking by pointing out that God is not far from us but is more like a father who loves us and cares for us and listens to us when we pray to him.

At the beginning of his public ministry, only a few people knew about Jesus. He had no disciples and no followers and no supporters. After almost 3 years of public ministry he had an inner circle of 12 disciples who were always with him and who received special attention and teaching from him. He also had crowds of people following him. Some people came out of curiosity wanting to find out about this man Jesus, some came listening to his teachings and were hoping to see some miracles, others came because they wanted Jesus to heal them or their friends or relatives. Jesus also had many opponents who were hostile to his teachings and jealous of his popularity. The religious leaders were afraid that the Roman officials would think that this gathering of large crowds around Jesus might be the beginning of an uprising or even rebellion against the Roman occupation. Jesus was a champion of the poor and the downtrodden. In his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ he said among many other things ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’57

From the very outset of his ministry Jesus was giving us important information about God and our life here on earth and in eternity. Towards the end of his ministry Jesus had already experienced a great deal of hostility against him from the religious leaders and he now started to foretell his own death. ‘The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.’58

His teachings started to include a great deal of other prophecies, for example, he would tell his disciples some of the things that were going to happen to them. Life might get difficult for them and they may be arrested by the authorities59 but Jesus promised them that God would help them. Jesus said that God’s Holy Spirit would give them the right words to say when they were taken to the police station and questioned about God and their belief in Jesus. Jesus told his followers not to be afraid of Jewish and Roman authorities.60 Did that mean that they didn’t have to be afraid of anybody or anything? No, Jesus is very clear about the things people should be afraid of. ‘And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).61

Part III: The Death of Jesus and Events shortly before and after his Death

Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph. Many Jews thought that Jesus was the Saviour and Messiah their Holy Scripture had been talking about.62 They remembered their former King David who was strong and who defeated all their enemies because  God was with him. They were longing to have another strong king. The Jews had been watching Jesus for the past 3 years and had seen many miracles no one else had done before, for example raising the dead and feeding 5,000 people with just 5 small loaves and 2 fish. They could see that God was with him. A large crowd of pilgrims had gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover and there was an air of expectation in that city. The Jews felt that the time of waiting was over and the time had come to have a king and deliverer. Jesus also felt that the time for action had come and had already made his own preparations. He told his disciples to go into a certain village and there they would find a donkey fastened and a colt with her. They were to untie them both and take them to Jesus. If anyone tried to stop them the two disciples were to say, ‘The Lord has need of them’.63

Jews knew their Holy Scripture and when they saw the disciples take the animals  to Jesus and put their clothes on the colt and Jesus riding the colt they started spreading their clothes and palm branches on the road. A great multitude walking in front and following Jesus shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’64

The crowd hailed Jesus as their King and Jesus accepted the title ‘King of the Jews’. The religious leaders were very concerned and afraid that the Roman army would see that as the early stages of a revolt and insurrection, and would severely punish the Jews and that many Jews would be killed. They thought that Jesus would be dangerous to the peace of Jerusalem and Israel. Therefore they said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ But Jesus wept over the city Jerusalem because he knew that he had come as a ‘King of Peace’, to reconcile people to God and with each other. His message of the ‘Kingdom of God’ would bring peace. Jesus knew that he and his message would be rejected; he also knew what was going to happen  shortly to Jerusalem 65                                                     

The religious leaders thought that the time had come to arrest Jesus. However, they were afraid of the crowd and had to do it secretly. One of Jesus’ closest friends Judas Iscariot, who was also a disciple, promised to betray Jesus and to deliver him into the hands of the Jewish authority for the price of 30 pieces of silver. He knew that Jesus would often go to the Garden of Gethsemane and Judas arranged to meet the Temple guards there after midnight just before the Passover Festival. The Bible offers no explanation why this man chose to betray Jesus; but Bible scholars have speculated.66 The Bible only records that Judas was given money, yet when he realized what happened to Jesus after the betrayal he deeply regretted his action and went to the Temple, returned the money and said to the religious leaders, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’, hoping that this would set Jesus free. When this didn’t happen Judas killed himself.67

The last Passover meal of Jesus. Jesus knew that this was going to be the last time he and his disciples would have a meal together and he was deeply troubled and upset. He knew that Judas had already agreed to betray him and that the decision had been made by the religious leaders to have him killed. Jesus was always surrounded by many people and it was quite difficult for him to do anything secretly. However, he obviously managed somehow to make private arrangements and even to keep them secret from his disciples. After everything had been organized he told two of his disciples to go into the city where they would see a man carrying a jug of water. They were to follow the man to a house. There they had to ask the owner of the house ‘Where is the room in which I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ Then he would show them a large upper room, furnished and ready for guests; and there they were to prepare the Passover Meal.’68

After Jesus had sat down to eat the Passover meal with his disciples he told them that he had greatly desired to eat this meal with them before he had to suffer and die. Then he took bread, broke it, gave thanks and said, ‘This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Then he took the cup and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.’69

The Jews knew all about the Old Covenant God had made with their ancestor Abraham when he promised that he would raise a nation from Abraham’s descendants to be known as ‘God’s chosen people’. This covenant was sealed with the act of circumcision and from then on every male child had to be circumcised on the 8th day if he was going to be a member of the Jewish nation. The Old Covenant was only for Jews. The New Covenant was going to be different because it was going to be for everyone who believed in Jesus and believed that Jesus was God’s son who shed his blood for everyone for the forgiveness of sins.

The betrayal of Jesus and his prayer of obedience. Jesus had told his 12 disciples that one of them was going to betray him. Everyone was very sad and troubled and the disciples began to ask each other who this could possibly be. Jesus had given Judas, the betrayer, this last chance to change his mind, but Judas didn’t. He left Jesus to meet with the religious leaders and to help them in their efforts to arrest Jesus.

The disciples were not only wondering who was going to betray Jesus, they were also concerned to establish who was going to be the greatest of them in God’s Kingdom. There was so much Jesus still had to teach them and this issue of ‘who was going to be the greatest’ had to be clarified. This time Jesus taught by example and demonstrated his teachings to his disciples by starting to wash their feet. Washing someone else’s feet was the lowest job in Israel and by washing his disciples’ feet he was teaching them that we are all servants in God’s Kingdom.70 Nobody was the greatest, not even Jesus, their teacher and master.

When Jesus saw Judas leave the room he knew that the time of his arrest, trial and death was near. He went to the Mount of Olives with his disciples and when they got near a garden called Gethsemane he asked eight of his disciples to wait for him while he went to pray, taking with him Peter, James and John, saying, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.’ Jesus prayed for an hour hoping that there would be another way for him to save God’s people, and for God’s will to be done and not his own. Jesus prayed again this prayer for another hour, and a third time the same prayer for an hour. After having prayed three times for one hour Jesus was sure that it was God’s will that he should die for the people the death of crucifiction. Now he knew what to do and when Judas the betrayer arrived with the Temple guards and gave him a kiss in order to show the soldiers who Jesus was, he quietly said. ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’71 Initially his disciples tried to defend him but Jesus told them to put the sword away and he asked the soldiers to let the others go free. Jesus never stopped caring for the people God had given into his care.72

The trial of Jesus. This was the beginning of an extremely difficult time for Jesus. Over the previous few days he had already lost the favour of many people who had expected him to organize and lead a revolt or rebellion against the Romans, and who were disappointed that instead of leading a rebellion Jesus was giving them teachings about the Kingdom of God and his own death and God’s judgment on the people. Now in his hour of need everyone had left him, one disciple had betrayed him and one had denied him three times. Jesus was bound and led away to be tried by the Jewish Council/Sanhedrin. The Jewish authorities may have arranged this pre-trial to determine a cause that justified them handing Jesus over to the Roman governor Pilate with the request that Jesus would be sentenced to death. This pre-trial took place on Thursday night. The Jewish Council couldn’t find Jesus guilty. Finally the high priest asked Jesus, ‘I put you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God’. Jesus replied, ‘It is as you said’. Jesus was charged with the crime of blasphemy and was declared guilty. However, the Jews were not free to sentence someone to death; this could only be done by the Roman governor.

Early Friday morning the religious leaders sent Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. They had to wait for Pilate to come out to meet them because Jews would be defiled if they entered the house of a heathen and would no longer be allowed to eat the Passover meal. This was quite ironic because the Jewish leaders  never thought that it would defile them sending an innocent person to death. Initially Pilate didn’t want to get involved and he told the Jewish leaders, ‘You take him and judge him according to your law’, but the Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death’. Then Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to ask him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Pilate followed the Roman law that considered prisoners innocent until their guilt had been established. Jesus wanted to know whether Pilate thought that Jesus was the King of the Jews or whether someone had told him about it. Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you to me. What have you done?’Then Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom wasn’t of this world, because had it been of this world his servants would have fought for him so that he wouldn’t have been arrested. Jesus said, ‘Now my Kingdom is not from here’, to which Pilate replied, ‘Are you a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I’m 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.’ Pilate had different ideas about the meaning of ‘truth’ and said, ‘What is truth?’. Then he left the Praetorium to tell the Jewish leaders his verdict, ‘I found no fault in him at all’.73

Pilate wanted to release Jesus because he knew that the chief priests had handed Jesus over because of envy. The Jews had the custom to pardon one prisoner at the  Passover festival and Pilate wanted to set Jesus free. But the chief priests had stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas who was a rebel and had killed someone during the rebellion. Then Pilate asked them, ‘What do you want me to do with him whom you call the King of the Jews?’, and the crowd shouted, ‘Crucify him’. Pilate still wanted to set Jesus free and asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ Again the crowd shouted, ‘Crucify him’. Then Pilate took water and washed his hands before the multitude saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.’ And all the Jews answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’ Then Pilate released Barabbas and delivered Jesus, after he had scourged him, to be crucified.

The soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around him. Then they put a scarlet robe on him and twisted a crown of thorns and put it on his head and a reed in his right hand. They mocked Jesus by bowing and saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews’, spitting on him and hitting him.74

The crucifixion of Jesus. When the soldiers had finished mocking Jesus they put his own clothes back on him and led him away to a place called ‘Golgatha’ (place of a skull) to be crucified.

The soldiers forced a man from Cyrene called Simon to carry the cross for Jesus.

On the cross was written his accusation: ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’. Two robbers were crucified with Jesus, one on his right and one on his left. The place of crucifixion was a public place and many people had come to watch. The Gospel writer Mark tells us that it was the third hour when Jesus was crucified.75 Many Jews, including the religious leaders, mocked Jesus saying, ‘You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ and  ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let God deliver him now if he will have him.’ But one of the robbers who had been crucified with Jesus believed and asked Jesus ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’. Jesus, although in deep, deep pain physically, emotionally and spiritually, comforted him and promised him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’.76 Jesus also had compassion on all the people who had rejected him and condemned him to death and he asked God, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’77 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing at the cross trying to support him in his most desperate hour, his heart went out to them in their sadness and he greatly desired that they were both taken care of and looked after, and he said to his mother , ‘Behold your son’, and to the disciple he said, ‘Behold your mother’78 and from that moment on the disciple took Jesus’ mother into his own home.

The Gospel writers tell us that there was darkness over the whole earth from the 6th to the 9th hour and that there was an earthquake and that the veil of the Temple in Jerusalem was torn in two, and about the 9th hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ After having said this Jesus died. When the centurion and the people who were with him saw how Jesus died and all the things that were happening they were afraid and said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God’79

This particular Friday has become a special day for everyone who believes in Jesus. It was a day of deep pain and suffering for Jesus, a day when he was publicly executed as a criminal, someone who deserved to die. This is what the Jewish leaders had wanted. They didn’t know that this is what God had wanted too. The Jews had made elaborate laws to help people to live a life free from sin/free from doing anything wrong, yet ‘Never do anything wrong’ is something quite impossible to do. The Jews had therefore another set of elaborate laws that enabled people to be redeemed from their sins. It always involved the sacrifice of an animal that was perfect. The guilty person would have to sacrifice an animal and it was believed that when the animal was killed the man’s sin would be transferred to the animal and he would go free. Since death is the only acceptable punishment for sin, the death of an animal was necessary to set the guilty person free.  Jesus is the ‘Only One’ who is perfect and without sin.  He is the only one acceptable to God as a sacrifice to redeem us. When we believe in Jesus our sins are transferred from us on to Jesus and we can go free. This is the reason why Christians call the day Jesus died on the cross for us ‘Good Friday’ because it was a good day for the whole human race.

However, this particular Friday was also a special day for the Jews because it was their ‘Preparation Day’, and the dead weren’t allowed to be left on the cross, according to their Holy Scriptures. The religious leaders therefore asked Pilate that the legs of the criminals should be broken so that their death was speeded up and their bodies could be taken away. The soldiers didn’t have to break the legs of Jesus because he was already dead, but to make sure that death had already taken place a soldier pierced Jesus’ side and immediately came out blood and water.80

When Joseph of Arimathea saw that Jesus was dead he asked Pilate to give him permission to take the body of Jesus down from the cross. Pilate was surprised that Jesus had already died, but after he had been given confirmation from the centurion in charge of the crucifiction that Jesus had been dead for a while, Joseph of Arimathea was allowed to take the body of Jesus away. Joseph wrapped Jesus in clean white linen clothes and laid him in his own new tomb and rolled a big stone to the door of the tomb. Then he left because it was the Preparation Day of the Jews. Now Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses and other women who had followed Jesus from Galilee had been watching where the body of Jesus was laid.81

The next day, the Sabbath Day that followed the ‘Day of Preparation’, the religious leaders came to Pilate saying that Jesus had promised that he would come back to life on the third day. They were begging Pilate to guard the tomb until the third day in order to stop the disciples stealing the body of Jesus and then proclaiming that Jesus had come back to life. Pilate gave them soldiers to watch the tomb and told them to make it as safe as they could. Then the religious leaders sealed the stone and set soldiers as watch to guard the tomb.82

Historical evidence exists that there was a man called Jesus who was arrested, tried, crucified , died, and was buried.83 Although some of the scholars were hostile to Christianity, yet they still documented the historicity of Jesus.  The very enemies of Christianity claimed that he lived--and that he performed miracles! Early Jewish documents such as the Mishnah and even Josephus--as well as first-century Gentile historians--such as Thallus, Serapion, and Tacitus--all testify that the one called Christ lived in Palestine and died under Pontius Pilate. As the British scholar F. F. Bruce put it, "The historicity of Christ is as [certain]. . . as the historicity of Julius Caesar" (NT Documents, 119). If they document his death, then he had to have been born.84

Was this documented burial of Jesus the end of Jesus? The religious leaders had been hoping that this was the last they would ever see or hear of Jesus. His family and friends were in deep mourning. His followers were greatly disappointed because they had been hoping Jesus would set them free from the Romans. Nobody really believed that Jesus would come back to life after 3 days, but the religious leaders weren’t taking any chances and made sure that the tomb was guarded by soldiers to stop anyone stealing the body of Jesus. This has become strong evidence that the body of Jesus was not stolen but was resurrected supernaturally. Shortly before his death Jesus had brought back to life a man called Lazarus who’d already been dead for 4 days. If the power of God worked this miracle, then it’s logical to assume that the power of God can also raise Jesus from the dead after three days.

The resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel writers record that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on the first day of the week while it was still dark. She had come with spices to take care of the body of Jesus according to the Jewish custom. When she saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance to the tomb she thought that the body of Jesus had been stolen. She ran to Peter and to the disciple whom Jesus loved and told them what had happened. They immediately came to find out for themselves and saw the tomb empty except for the linen clothes and the napkin that had been around his head – and the disciple whom Jesus loved believed that Jesus was alive. Mary Magdalene was sad and weeping and anxious to find the body of Jesus. When she looked into the tomb she saw two angels, one sitting at the head, and the other sitting at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been. The angels asked her why she was weeping and Mary Magdalene answered that the body of Jesus had been stolen and that she didn’t know where he was. As she was turning round she saw Jesus but didn’t recognize him. She thought it was the gardener and asked him to tell her where the body of Jesus was. Then Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’ and immediately she recognized Jesus and said, ‘Rabboni (Master)’. Jesus told her to go to his brethren and to tell them ‘I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’85 This was the first time Jesus was seen after his resurrection.

Later the same day two disciples were on their way to a small village near Jerusalem, called Emmaus. They were talking about the events of the past 3 days and that some women had gone to the tomb early that morning and seen two angels who had told them that Jesus was alive. And as they were talking about these events they were joined by a stranger, who was travelling the same road and had been listening to their strange tale and who was now questioning them. After they had told him everything concerning these recent events he began to teach them from their sacred writings that all this had been prophesied many years before.86 When the disciples got to the village they asked the stranger to stay with them and as they were sitting together for a meal the stranger took the bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to the disciples. The disciples had seen Jesus perform this action so many times that they immediately realized that this stranger was Jesus, but before they could say anything Jesus had vanished from their sight. This was the second time Jesus was seen after his resurrection.87

In the evening of the same day the disciples were gathered together. They had locked all the doors because they were afraid of the authorities. Suddenly they saw Jesus standing in the midst of them and greeting them with the words ‘Peace be unto you’, and he showed them his hands and side. Jesus then told them that he was sending them out in the same way his Father had sent him out. Then Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’88 The disciple Thomas had been absent and when he was told by the other disciples that they had seen Jesus he told them that he wouldn’t believe that Jesus was alive unless he could put his hands in the wounds of Jesus. This was the third time Jesus was seen after his resurrection.

Eight days later when his disciples were together again, Jesus stood in the midst of them although the doors were locked. Again he greeted them with ‘Peace be unto you’. The resurrected Jesus was as compassionate and caring as the Man Jesus had been, because he invited Thomas to touch his wounds and to believe. Thomas didn’t have to touch Jesus, he recognized Jesus and said ‘My Lord and my God’. Then Jesus said to him, ‘You believe because you’ve seen, but blessed are those who don’t see yet believe.’89 This was the fourth time Jesus was seen after his resurrection.

One day Peter said that he wanted to go out fishing and his friends joined him. They’d been out all night but had caught nothing.  In the morning they saw a man on the shore who was asking them whether they had any  food and they replied that they had nothing. He then told them to cast their net to the right side of the boat and when they followed his advice they caught so many fish that they were afraid the net was going to break.

This miracle of catching more than 150 large fish at a time of the day when it’s difficult to catch any fish made one of the disciples realize immediately that the man on the shore was no other but Jesus. After they’d dragged their net to the shore they saw that Jesus had prepared food for them, bread and fish. He then invited the disciples to have breakfast by saying, ‘Come and eat’. No one dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They all knew that it was Jesus.90 After they’d finished eating. Jesus asked his disciple Simon Peter three times whether he loved him. It was Simon Peter who had denied Jesus three times after his arrest and Jesus may have wanted to give him the opportunity to reaffirm his love for Jesus. Then Jesus told him: feed my lambs and feed my sheep. Simon Peter understood what Jesus meant because in the past Jesus had referred to himself as ‘The good shepherd’. Simon Peter was concerned about the disciple whom Jesus loved and asked, ‘What shall this man do?’ Jesus replied, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me.’ In John’s Gospel we read, ‘This is the disciple who testified of these things and who wrote these things and we know that his testimony is true.’91 This was the fifth time Jesus was seen after his resurrection.

After his resurrection Jesus could change his appearance and had the ability to move anywhere at any time. He was usually recognized by his personal characteristics no one else possessed, such as his voice or his teaching and the breaking of bread or the wounds on his body from his crucifiction or performing a miracle.

 

The eleven disciples had been instructed by the risen Jesus to go to Galilee. They went there to a mountain where Jesus met them and said to them, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’92 Jesus also told them that he would send them the promise of his Father but that they should wait in Jerusalem till they would be empowered from on high. Then Jesus blessed his eleven disciples and as he blessed them he was carried up into heaven.93

Forty days after his resurrection Jesus had ascended to heaven. This had been the last opportunity for his disciples to ask him questions. They remembered that Jesus had told them that he would come again94 They were still hoping that one day there would be again a mighty Jewish Kingdom in Israel and they asked Jesus therefore whether this was going to happen on his return. Jesus told them that this was going to be decided by God and that only God knew the time. But Jesus re-affirmed what he had promised his disciples shortly before his  death 95 ‘You shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth’96  After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the disciples were joined by two men in white clothes who told them, ‘Why are you gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven’.97

The disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.98 Why were the disciples rejoicing? They were rejoicing because they could now see the death of Jesus on the cross as his great victory and our victory. Jesus ‘chose’ to die for us because of his great love for us. In John 3:16 Jesus says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ This has been the desire of people throughout the ages: to live forever. Yet we can’t buy forgiveness of our sins or buy eternal life through good deeds or money or by making sacrifices to various gods; only Jesus can give us eternal life!

How is it possible for Christians to live a life of victory today in these difficult times? The answer lies in the promise Jesus gave his disciples when He said that He would give them the Holy Spirit from God and they believed him. The disciples never doubted Jesus when He told them that the ascended Jesus would have the same power as the Man Jesus and the resurrected Jesus. In truth: even greater power! Jesus had told them: ’I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these………’ (John 14:12)   

 

 

The Bible tells us in Acts chapter 2 verses 1-4 that shortly after Jesus ascended to heaven the disciples were ‘… all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.’99

Christians claim that Jesus is as alive today as he was when he lived on earth almost 2,000 years ago. How can they make this big claim and what is their evidence that Jesus is alive today in heaven and on earth? They give as evidence their own experience and state that they are connected with Jesus through the Holy Spirit who helps them to have a personal experience with Jesus and who gives them the power to perform miracles even today.100 Jesus said, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.’101 ‘The Kingdom of God’ was at the heart of Christ's message 2,000 years ago and will be for the next 2,000 years – unless Jesus returns before then. The life and power of Jesus is supernatural and eternal and can only be explained supernaturally.102

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

Bibliography

1         Micah 5:2

2        Luke Chapter 2

3        Matthew Chapter 2

4        http://newsinfo.iu.edu/OCM/packages/bethstar.html and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_Bethlehem

5        Matthew 2:16

6        http://www.centuryone.com/25dssfacts.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.Jesus#Constructing_a_historical_view the earliest extant texts that refer to Jesus are Paul’s letters (mid-1st century), which affirm Jesus’ crucifixion, Keulman and Gregory hold that the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, predates the four orthodox gospels, and believe it may have been composed around mid-1st century{273ll274}

7        The Bible The New Testament

8        http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus  it mentions that Jesus was probably born between 7 and 4 BC/BCE. Several Jewish and Roman historians, such as Flavius Josephus, Tacitus,[note 2] Pliny the Younger, and Suetonius (all born after Jesus was crucified), mention Jesus in their writings

9        http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/jewishethics/circumcision_1.shtml

10    Torah (Genesis 17: 9-14).and Luke 2:21

11    (http://www.mmiweb.org.uk/gcsere/revision/judaism/people/familylife.html)

12    Torah (Deuteronomy 11:19 ) and http://judaism.about.com/library/3_blessingsprayers/bl_mezuza.htm

13    Luke 2:39-40

14      http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/holiday5.html  

15    Luke 2:42-52 and http://www.jewfaq.org/barmitz.htm 

16    Luke 3:23

17    Josephus' Antiquities  (18.116-118) and http://www.abu.nb.ca/Courses/NTIntro/LifeJ/JohnBaptist.htm#B2

18    John 1:28 and book 18, chapter 5, 2) by Flavius Josephus (37–100):[46]  and http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/JOSEPHUS.HTM and http://bibleatlas.org/regional/bethany_beyond_jordan.htmn  

19    Matthew 4:4-11

20    John 14:6

21    John 10:7+9

22    John 8:12 and John 9:5

23    John 10:11

24    John 14:6

25    John 15:1

26    John 14:28

27    John 11:25

28    John 10: 28

29    John 6:63

30    John 10:30

31    John 16:28

32    John 5:30

33    John 18: 36+37

34    John 2:3

35    John 2:5

36    Matthew 15:22-28 and Mark 5:22-23

37    http://olrl.org/stories/lourdes.shtml and http://www.healingcancernaturally.com/lourdes-malignant-sarcoma-bone.html

38    Matthew chapter 8 and Luke chapter 7:7

39    Matthew 8:8-13

40    Mark 5:1-15

41    Mark 5:35-43

42    Luke 7:12-17

43    John 11:43

44    Matthew 9:27

45    John Chapter 9

46    John 5:2

47    http://www.facingthechallenge.org/bethesda.phpp://www.facingthechallenge.org/bethesda.php

48    John 5:14

49    Matthew 14:13–21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-13 

50    Matthew 7:8-11

51    John 20:30

52    Luke 4:43

53    Luke 17:20-21

54    Mark 1:22

55    Matthew 19:16-26

56    Luke 10:25-37

57    Matthew 5:4-5

58    Luke 9:22

59    Luke 21:12

60    Luke 21:15

61    Matthew 10:28

62    Zechariah 9:9

63    Matthew 21:1-8  

64    John 12:12-15

65    Luke 19:40-44 and http://www.tentmaker.org/books/destruction-of-jerusalem.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_(70)

66    Luke 22:3-6 and http://bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Topical.show/RTD/CGG/ID/654/Judas-Iscariot.htm

67    Matthew 27:3-5

68    Mark 14:13-15

69    Luke 22:19-21

70    John 13:1-5

71    Luke 22:48

72    John 18:8-9

73    John 18:28-38

74    Mark 15:15-20

75    Mark 15:25  

76    Luke 23:42-43

77    Luke 23:34

78    John 19:25-27

79    Matthew 27:54

80    John 19:34

81    Luke 23:55

82    Matthew 27:62-67

83    http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/rmsbrg06.htm and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_of_Jesus#Scientific_analysis

84    http://www.creatingfutures.net/birth.html

85    John 20:1-18

86    Micah 5:2, Isaiah 35:4-6, Isaiah 53:3-11, Psalm 16:10, compare Psalm 22:7-8

87    Luke 24:13-31

88    John 20:19-23

89    John 20:26-29

90    John 21:1-12

91    John 21:24

92    Matthew 28:18-20

93    Luke 24:51

94    John 14:1-3

95    John 14:26

96    Acts 1:8

97    Acts 1:11

98    Luke 24:52-53

99    Acts 2:1-4

100    John 14:12-13

101    Luke 4:43  

102    . http://healingfortoday.com/_miracles.html, and http://revivalfires.org.uk 


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