Jesus of Nazareth

As four distinct eye-witness accounts of Jesus' life exist, a biography for this man almost seems unnecessary. The details we have listed in this summary below are not exhaustive, as the full accounts of Jesus' miraculous life, death and resurrection cannot sufficiently be depicted on a single page. However, they do aim to summarize the important events which changed the course of history. For the full details, refer to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which can be found in the New Testament. No other "gospel" is considered a factual account by orthodox Christians, and must not be regarded with the same authority.

The Sermon on the Mount - Carl Bloch, 1877 (oil on copper)

Prophesy

The Old Testament prophets told of a forthcoming Messiah hundreds of years before his birth. Such prophesies are evident in books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Psalms, and Daniel to name a few. There were specific, detailed prophesies given in order for many to know what signs to look for at his coming. Isaiah 7:14 discusses a woman conceiving God's son, and that he would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that he would live in Nazareth (Isaiah11:1), that he would live in Egypt for a while (Hosea 11:1), and that parents would be weeping for the children- a massacre at Jesus' birth (Jeremiah 31:5). The Psalms also predicted that the messiah would be betrayed (Psalm 41), and depict some of exact details of his death (Psalm 22). These are just a sampling of the kind of prophesies that instructed the Jews on how to recognize the Messiah. In fact, the entire Gospel of Matthew was written with the purpose of referencing all the prophesies that were spoken about him, which the Jews would have been well aware of in that day. Though Jesus was the only person to fulfill the prophesies, since he was not the Pharisee's "ideal" of what the messiah would be, many did not recognize him.

Historical Context

However, there were those who watched the signs and acknowledged Jesus' coming as the fulfillment of the long-awaited Messiah. Among these were three kings who studied astrology, and seeing the signs in the skies, recognizing the notable star which would point to where the heavenly child would be born. John the Baptist came as a herald to the birth of Jesus.

Before Jesus birth, there was a long period of silence. From Malachi, who wrote around 430 BC, to Jesus birth around 5-3 BC, there were 400 years without any prophetic message. This season has been likened to a similar time in history of the 400 years of silence and slavery from when Joseph died in Egypt, to Moses' arrival. Moses helped his people escape captivity after several centuries of slavery, and gave them the law. Jesus came on the scene after 400 years of silence, and through his death and resurrection, gave his people the opportunity for eternal life.

In that 400 year period before Christ came, it is important to note some major world events that helped form the context in which Jesus was born. During the days of Malachi, Israel was presided over by the Persians. However, in 330 BC, Greece became the world power in when Alexander the Great led the Greeks and overpowered the Persians. In 323 BC Alexander the Great died and his empire was left in shambles. Israel was attacked, conquered and ruled by a succession of bloodthirsty tyrants and armies, who killed many of the Jews or defiled the temple. Finally, by partnering with Antipater of Idumea and a few neighboring countries, Rome attacked Jerusalem, and from 63 BC was in power over Palestine.

It is also an important contextual note that the Jews, having not heard from a prophet or God in a long time, were likely becoming very restless. During this period, Israel was under Roman rule, and there was a growing sense of insurgence and uneasiness among the Jews; many Jewish zealots wanted to reclaim Israel and be freed from the reigning power of Rome. They felt that their only hope was for the Messiah to come.

Birth

Jesus' birth occurred when a pure-hearted young Nazarene girl found favor with God, and he sent an angel to tell her that she would conceive and give birth to the son of God. This Mary of Nazareth, who was a virgin, miraculously conceived him by the Holy Spirit during her betrothal to a carpenter named Joseph from her village. The angel appeared to Joseph as well, to tell him that the child Mary was carrying was God's son, so Joseph married her and raised Jesus in his home. While Mary was still pregnant, the reigning Roman Caesar at that time ordered a census that required each person to return to their ancestors' villages. This necessitated a journey where Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. (This fulfilled the prophesy that stated the messiah would be born in Bethlehem, from the line of King David.) The greatest authorities concur that Jesus was born between the years 1-6 BC. Mary delivered Jesus in a stable in the city of Bethlehem, since there was no room for them at any inn. On the same evening, a large host of angels appeared to a group of shepherds notifying them of Jesus' birth. The shepherds and three kings from Eastern lands, who had followed a star pointing to the stable where Jesus was born, arrived to worship the child. The kings gave symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, to signify Jesus' kingship/royalty, his position as the high priest, and burial spices foreshadowing his death and resurrection.

Jesus' Early life

Shortly after Jesus' birth, Herod the King of Jerusalem sent messengers out to kill every male child under the age of two, in hopes of wiping out the prophesied messiah. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, warning him to escape with his family. They fled to Egypt, where Jesus and his parents lived for several years, eventually settling in Nazareth again. The early years of Jesus' life were intentionally unspecified in the gospel accounts, putting more of an emphasis on the events which occurred in his adulthood and the years of his ministry. We are told that as a boy Jesus grew in strength and wisdom and that the grace of God was in Him. This period of childhood includes one story when Jesus was visiting Jerusalem with his parents at the age of 12, when he captivated a group of men in the temple for 3 days with his authoritative and wise teaching. When questioned by his parents as to where he had been, he told them he was simply being "about his father's business."

Baptism & Adulthood

Jesus had spent his adult life working as a carpenter in Nazareth after his earthly father Joseph. His cousin John the Baptist lived in the desert, warning people to repent of their sins, and heralding the coming Messiah. He was once described by Jesus Christ as the greatest man who had lived. He baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, when the spirit like a dove descended upon him, and a voice called out from the heavens to many witnesses saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." After Jesus was baptized, he immediately was ushered away into the Judean wilderness where he wandered and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights (this was reflective of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years with Moses before reaching the Promised Land). There he was tempted thrice by satan, whose taunts he rebuked by quoting scripture. Then Jesus went into the city and called some of his disciples. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus' ministry began when he attended a wedding with his family in Cana in Galilee, where he turned 6 vats of water into the finest wine. This first miracle signified the change he the messiah was bringing, and marked the beginning of his ministry of miracles, healings, and teaching.

Ministry & Travels

The countless miracles, healings, travels, teachings that occurred in Jesus' active 3 year ministries period before his crucifixion are far too many to explain fully here. Therefore, we have created the chart below with a brief content title, as well as the corresponding passages in the gospels where the account may be read.

Temptation of Jesus Wilderness of Judea (when satan tempted him for 40 days, and Jesus rebuked him.)Mt 4:1-11 Mr 1:12,13 Lu 4:1-13
Jesus calls the first of his disciplesJoh 1:37-51
First Miracle at the Wedding in Cana (Where Jesus changed the water into wine.)Joh 2:1-11
Jesus cleanses the temple of those buying and selling there, calling it a 'den of robbers'.Joh 2:13-23
Midnight conversation with Nicodemus (when Jesus explained being 'born again' to this Pharisee.)Joh 3:1-21
Jesus and his followers go to Samaria and CanaJoh 1:42-46
Jesus heals the nobleman's sonJoh 4:46-54
Brief visit to JerusalemJoh 5:1-47
Jesus heals the crippled man at the pool of BethesdaJoh 5:1-47
Jesus teaches in GalileeLu 4:14,15
Jesus teaches in Nazareth and CapernaumMr 6:1 / Lu 4:15-31
Jesus invites the disciples Andrew, Peter, James and John to follow him.Mt 4:18-22 Mr 1:16-20 / Lu 5:1-11
Miracle of the fish (when the disciples who caught nothing suddenly had their nets overflowing.)Lu 5:1-11
Jesus heals a demon-possessed manMr 1:23-27 / Lu 4:33-36
Jesus heals many peopleMt 8:14-17 / Mr 1:29-34 / Lu 4:38-41
Jesus draws away to the lonely places to prayMr 1:35 / Lu 4:42
Jesus heals a leperMt 8:1-4 / Mr 1:40-45 / Lu 5:12-16
Jesus draws away to the lonely places to prayMr 1:45 / Lu 5:16
Jesus heals a paralytic man, and summons Matthew during the feastMt 9:1-17 / Mr 2:1-22 / Lu 5:18-39
Jesus heals a man with a withered handMt 12:9-14 / Mr 3:1-6 / Lu 6:6-11
Jesus draws away to the lonely places to prayLu 6:12
Jesus delivers the Sermon on the Mount to those who have followed him.Mt 5:7-29 / Lu 6:17-49
Jesus teaches of parables, and heals a centurion's son and the son of a widow. of House on rock or sandMt 7:24-8:13 / Lu 6-7:17
While in prison, John the Baptist asks Jesus if he is really the son of God, and Jesus testifies to the fruit of his miracles.Mt 11:2-19 / Lu 7:18-35
Former adulteress washes Jesus feet as he dines with PhariseesLu 7:36-50
Jesus travels through cities in Galilee teaching about the KingdomLu 8:1-3
Jesus heals a man possessed by demons, about sins against the Holy Spirit.Mt 12:22-47 / Mr: 3:20-4:29 / Lu 8:4,11-15
Jesus teaches in ParablesMt 13:1-47 / Mr 4:29 / Lu 8:4 & 11-15
Jesus teaches about the parable of the candleMt 5:15 / Mr 4:21
Jesus gives the parable of the sower of seeds and how they grow (being fed by the word and what the result is)Mr 4:26-29
Jesus calms the stormy sea and heals a demon possessed manMt 8:24-34 / Mr 4:37-41 & 5:1-15 / Lu 8:23-35
Jesus teaches in parables about the bridegroom, new cloth and old cloth, and new wine in old wineskins. Mt 9:15-17 / Mr 2:21-22 / Lu 5:36-38
Jesus heals people: women from bleeding, the blind men, mute, and brings Jairus' daughter back to lifeMt 9:18-10:1 / Mr 5:22 / Lu 8:41
Jesus prays over 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and feeds 5,000 people.Mt 14:13-21 / Mr 6:30-44 / Lu 9:12-17 / Joh 6:1-13
Jesus walks on water, Peter walks on water to JesusMt 14:25 / Mr 6:48 / Joh 6:19
Jesus teaches about being the bread of life, and later the heart of manMt 14:34 / 15:2-20 / Joh 6:26-70
Jesus travels through Galilee and the north, healing multitudes, feeding 4,000 men who had been following himMt 15:21-39 / Mr 7:24-30
The Pharisees taunt Jesus to test him, Peter testifies to who Jesus is, and Jesus gives Peter authority. Jesus foretells his death.Mt 16:1-28 / Mr 8:14-38 / Lu 9:22-27
The Transfiguration (Jesus appearing in the heavenly realm before Peter James and John)Mt 17:1-8 / Mr 9:2-8 / Lu 9:28-36
Jesus travels, teaches in principles and parables, heals the sick and demon possessed, visits Samaria.Mt 17:14-18:25 / Mr 9:14-37 /Lu 9:37-56
Jesus attends the Feast of Booths, boldly teaches, creating a division among the people of those who believe and those who want him arrested.Joh 7:2-53
Jesus teaches that he is the light of the world and people threaten himJoh 8:12-59
Jesus heals a blind man, and teaches how he is the door, the good shepherd. He travels out of Jerusalem where people believe him.Joh 9-10:40
Jesus sends 70 people out before him, and they come back triumphant in good works. Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story, and teaches Mary and Martha.Lu 10:1-42
Jesus instructs the disciples on how to prayLu 11:1-13
Jesus heals, teaches and rebukes the Pharisees and that corrupt generationLu 11:5-54
Jesus gives instruction on a godly life and good stewardship. He speaks in parables, and talks about God's provision and righteous judgment.Lu 12:1-59
Jesus heals , and travels to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication. The Jews attempt to stone him, so he fleesLu 13:6-17 / Joh 10:22-30
Jesus heals a man suffering from dropsy, teaches in parables.Lu 14:1-35
Jesus gives the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (prodigal) son.Mt 18:12 & 13 / Lu 15:1-32
Jesus tells the parable of the bad steward, of the rich man who died and poor Lazarus, as well as the servants who were not profitable.Lu 16-17:10
Jesus travels to Lazarus and raises him from the dead, teaching those who bore witness. Pharisees conspire to kill Jesus from that day on. Jesus travels to Ephraim, then quietly to Jerusalem.Joh 11:1-57 (Journey to Jersulem: Mt 19 & Mr 10) / Lu 17:11
Miraculous healing of the ten lepers, Jesus teaches about the second coming, speaks in parables about prayer and actions of false piety from the Pharisees.Lu 17:12-18:14
Jesus addresses the issue of divorce, blesses children, and tells the parable of the laborers and the rich young ruler.Mt 19:3-20:16 / Mr 10:2-22 / Lu 18:15-23
Jesus reminds disciples about the wrong thinking of hierarchy, and that anyone who would lead must serve all.Mt 20:20-28 / Mr 10:35-45
Jesus heals the blind man BartimaeusMt 20:29-34 / Mr 10:46-52 / Lu 18:35-43
In Jericho Jesus stays at Zaccheus the tax collector's house, who becomes a believer, and pays all his debts back generously.Lu 19:1-10
Jesus tells a parable about moneyLu 19:11-28
Jesus is anointed by Mary in the House of Simon the Leper six days before Passover.Matt 26 / Mr 14 / Jo 12
The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (people cast palms down crying 'Hosanna' as Jesus arrives on a donkey).Mt 21:1-11 / Mr 11:1-10 / Lu 19:29-44 / Joh 12:12-19
Jesus rebukes those who are buying and selling in the temple, and rebukes the fig tree for not bearing fruit.Mt 21 / Mr 11 / Lu 19
Jesus claims the authority by which he acts and teachesMr 11:26
Jesus gives the parable about the sons, the landowner and the kingdom of God, and the wedding feastMt 21-22
Jesus talks with the Pharisees about paying taxesMt 22:15-22 / Mr 12:13-17 / Lu 20:20-26
Jesus talks with the Sadducees about the resurrectionMt 22:23-33 / Mr 12:18-27 / Lu 20:27-39
Jesus silences the questions of the PhariseesMt 22:34-40 / Mr 12:28-34
Jesus proclaims a great warning and rebuke over the Pharisees: the many woes & a lament over Jerusalem.Mt 23:13-33
Jesus addresses some Greeks in Jerusalem, and tells them how to gain eternal life. He then foretells his death and preaches about believing in Him and the Father.Joh 12
Jesus speaks to the disciples at the Mount of OlivesMt 24:1-3 / Mr 13:1-3
He tells of the ruination of Jerusalem, the second coming, the signs of the end times, the parable of the fig treeMt 24:3-51 / Mr 13:3-37 / Lu 21:5-36
Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgin, the talents, and the sheep and goatsMt 25:1-46
The Jews plot to kill Jesus, and Judas secretly agrees to betray himMt 26
Jesus' Passover, and the Last Supper with the disciplesMt 26 / Mr 14 / Lu 22 / Jo 13

The Last Supper

During Jesus' final celebration of Passover, he and his 12 disciples traveled to a Jerusalem and had the Passover feast together in an upper room in the city. There Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, and taught them about abiding in Him as if he were a vine, and they were the branches bearing fruit. He taught them about the coming Holy Spirit who would indwell those who believed in him, and would be their guide and voice of truth. He told of broke bread and passed a cup of wine amongst his followers, to symbolize his coming death: the body being broken and blood being spilled as the sacrificial lamb being given as a propitiation for the sins of the world. This was the first communion, and is celebrated among Christians all over the world today. Jesus then prayed for his disciples, and Judas departed, receiving 30 pieces of silver, agreed to betray Jesus to those who were seeking to kill him.

Garden of Gethsemane & Trial

After the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed in anguish at the consideration of his coming death. There Jesus was comforted by an Angel of the Lord, as he asked God 3 times to remove the death on the cross from him. But 3 times, Jesus submitted his own will and accepted the way in which he was going to die. When the soldiers came with Judas at the head of the group, the traitor kissed Jesus and betrayed him to the Romans. Peter tried to defend Jesus and cut off a soldier's ear. Jesus rebuked Peter and healed the man's ear before departing peacefully with his accusers. Jesus was then brought before the council of the Sanhedrin (Jewish Chief Priests), who interrogated and mocked Jesus. He gave no violent or defensive response, besides merely stating that he was the Messiah and the son of God. Thence he was sent to the presiding Roman official Pontius Pilate, where the mobs demanded that Jesus be sentenced to death. Pilate found him nothing in Jesus to be deserving of such a penalty, so he sent him to Herod the Judean King who presided over those from the Galilean region, where Jesus was from. Herod questioned Jesus, and receiving almost no response, mocked his kingship by robing him with a royal garment.

Jesus was then dismissed back to Pilate, who had Jesus flogged in the hopes that this would assuage the anger of the crowds. But they shouted in response, insisting that he be crucified. So Pilate offered to release one of the Jewish prisoners, in honor of Passover. When he brings out Barabbas, who was a murderer and a thief, Pilate hoped they would allow Jesus to go free instead. However the crowd begged for Barabbas to be freed, and for Jesus to be killed. Pilate washed his hands of the event, and allowed Jesus to be taken away by the roman soldiers.

Jesus, having withstood the brutality of a Roman lashing, was crowned with woven thorns, and made to drag his heavy cross up a dusty hill called Golgotha, meaning "Place of the Skull." There Jesus was nailed to the cross, during which time he audibly prayed that God would forgive them for killing him for "they know not what they do." On the hill of Calvary, Jesus was left to hang in agony until death. His robes were divided among the soldiers, and his bones were pulled out of joint, according to the prophesy written in Psalm 22, a thousand years before Jesus was born. The crowds mocked Jesus, commanding him to save himself. On both sides of Jesus' cross, there hung two convicted criminals. One taunted Jesus, while the other looked upon him in belief and asked Jesus to remember him when he got to his kingdom. To this Jesus responded, "Today you will be with me in paradise!"

After hours of hanging on the cross, Jesus cried out to the Father, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" After being given sour wine to drink, Jesus gave a loud cry and committed his spirit to God. Immediately the earth began to shake in a violent earthquake with rocks splitting down the middle, and people in tombs were raised from the dead as all pandemonium broke out. Most importantly, at the moment of Jesus' death, the curtain in the temple that represented the separation between man and God, was torn completely down the middle, which symbolizing how Jesus removed that barrier to humans could have a persona relationship with God. When the Roman centurion who crucified Jesus saw the things that were happening the moment Jesus died, he testified saying "Truly this was the son of God."

That evening a wealthy man named Joseph of Arimathea, allowed Jesus to be wrapped in cloths and laid in his tomb. A large stone was rolled in front of the tomb, by the Pharisees because they were afraid the disciples would try to hide Jesus' body and claim he had risen.

On the third day after his death, there was an earthquake, and an angel rolled the stone away. Some women who had been Jesus' followers, came to see the tomb. An angel announced that Jesus had been risen from the dead, and was no longer there. Thereafter, the risen Jesus in his heavenly glory, appeared to his followers for a span of 40 days. He allowed those who doubted to see his wounds, and witness in person that he was risen and alive. Over this brief period, Jesus fellowshipped with his followers, and instructed them about the Kingdom, their works to be done on earth, and the coming of the Holy Spirit who was promised to them. (This took place just as Jesus said, on the day of Pentecost, as seen in Acts 2.)

Then Jesus and his followers went up to a mountain, and as he was speaking to them, and telling them to go and make disciples of men, a cloud caught him up and Jesus ascended into heaven. As they stood there, two angels appeared and told them that Jesus would return the same way. So the disciples departed, and went on to carry out the works that Jesus had instructed them.

Legacy

Jesus came as the fulfillment for the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for. Though all of the initial apostles, disciples, and followers of Jesus were of Jewish heritage, and accepted him as the messiah he claimed to be, many Jews rejected him. Those who followed Jesus became referred to as Christians. Christianity has become the largest religion in the world today, with over 2.18 billion out of 7.2 billion people professing faith in Christ.

These numbers may seem surprising, for the amount of negativity directed toward Christians across the world. If they are not being threatened for their lives, they are ostracized or mocked for their beliefs, facing constant derision for their dedication to the testimony of Christ. There are even opponents who have devoted their lives to attempting to disprove the Biblical claims. Those who have taken a less violent position opposing Jesus' claim that he is the Son of God, have argued that Jesus was a good teacher, or a model human. Many do not accept that Jesus was the son of God he claimed to be, but do concede that he was a good person and good teacher. This belief has best been debunked in Oxford Professor and famous author C.S. Lewis' book Liar, Lunatic or Lord.

For your consideration, it is worth ending the summary of Jesus' life with mediation from Lewis' book about who this Jesus Christ really was.

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a human and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to be obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."