No other man in the history of the earth has been more influential than Jesus Christ. Even his birth became a dividing point in time. But who is he? Who were his disciples? What did he teach? Why did he perform miracles? What happened in the last days of his life? And when is he coming back?
If you have a burning faith question, it’s probably in here!
I’m asking all the questions I’ve had over the years as concisely as possible. I used to be a skeptic, so there are many. Take your time reading (even bookmark it) and soak in this incredible thing that has happened! Take a deep breath — you’re not going to believe all the symbolism and connections.
See the full posts
This is a condensed version (believe it or not) of the 8-part series I did on my faith blog: FaithQandA.com. Head there for the full ad-free articles and podcasts!
Disclaimer: I am unworthy to attempt to sum up Jesus’ teachings. I will try my best with prayer and humility, but you really need to read the gospels and let him speak to you himself. And if reading is challenging to you, listen to them. Check out the YouVersion app and you can hear the gospels read to you as you walk or clean or drive.
Birth & childhood
Who were Jesus’ parents and family?
Jesus was born to Jewish parents Mary and Joseph, although Joseph is not his biological father. Mary was a virgin and conceived through the Holy Spirit before the two were married.
The angel Gabriel came to Mary beforehand to tell her she would give birth to the coming Messiah.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
In light that her reputation would be ruined as an unwed, pregnant teen and that adultery could be punished by stoning, Mary’s response and acceptance of the news reflects her spiritual maturity, faith and love of the Lord.
We don’t have any direct quotes from Joseph in the Bible, but it tells us he was a just man and faithful to the law. He was a carpenter by trade.
When he found out Mary was pregnant he resolved to not put her to shame, but divorce her quietly (Matthew 1). But an angel came to him and told him she conceived through the Holy Spirit and to call him Jesus because he would save his people.
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Joseph and Mary were not wealthy people. We can see that in Luke 2:22. They take Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as the first male of the family. They give an offering of a pair of turtle doves instead of a lamb. Leviticus 12:8 says “And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.”
Joseph might have died before Christ’s death as we don’t see him mentioned again after Jesus was 12, and from the cross Jesus tells John to care for his mother, which would make sense if her husband was no longer living.
As we read, Mary and Joseph did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born, but the couple did have four boys — James, Joseph, Simon and Judas — and also daughters, but they are not counted or named (Matt 13:55-56).
When was Jesus born?
Was the messiah actually born on December 25? There are many theories, but let’s look at two:
Theory 1: December 25
This day dates back to the year 336. Several ancient historians during that time favored this date, including Cyril of Jerusalem who had access to original Roman birth census, which documented Jesus was born on December 25. This date also coincided with pagan festivals and winter solstice, so Christians reinterpreted many of their symbols to be appropriate to their faith.1
Theory 2: Fall
From Bibleinfo.com: “… we can approximate the month of Jesus’ birth to be around the time of Tishri (mid to late September). To arrive at this date, start at the conception of John the Baptist, Sivan (June), count forward six months to arrive at Gabriel’s announcement of the conception of Jesus, Kislev (December), then count forward nine more months, the time it takes for human gestation, to reach Tishri (September), when Jesus was born.”
Year of Jesus’ birth
As for the year, Jesus was most likely born a year or so before Herod the Great’s death in 4 BC — so around 6 or 7 BC. So though his birth divided our calendar, he was not born on year zero. According to DK Illustrated family Bible, “This discrepancy is due to a mistake made by Denys-the-Small, a 6th-century monk, who established the Christian calendar.”
Where was Jesus born?
Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem, called the city of David (as prophesied in Micah 5:2, Ezekiel 37:24, Isaiah 11:1). This also fulfilled God’s covenant with David that His house would endure forever (2 Samuel).
Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, a small Jewish village, but traveled to Bethlehem to register for the census issued by Roman emperor Caesar Augustus because Joseph was a descendent of David. This would have been a 90-mile journey!
“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7).
The house was too full of travelers for the census, so Mary and Joseph were forced to take the stable or holding place for animals.
The word inn (kataluma) can also mean guest room, lodging place or even an eating room. The Bible doesn’t describe exactly what this structure was, whether it was a barn, shelter built from a cave, or even the lower level of the house.
House of bread
There is great significance placed on bread in the Bible and, not coincidentally, Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Jesus says he is “the bread of life”!
Why was Jesus visited by shepherds first?
God chose to reveal the birth of the messiah to the low and humble shepherds first (Luke 2:8-16) because only they would understand its significance, they symbolized what Jesus would do and they represented all the unclean who need a savior.
According to the Quest Study Bible, in those days “the more orthodox members of society despised shepherds for being unclean by strict ceremonial standards. Their reputation was that they were untrustworthy —a shepherd’s testimony was not valid for legal matters.”
Bethlehem was known for raising unblemished lambs for sacrifice at the temple and there was a place nearby called Migdal Eder (Tower of the Flock) that was both a watch tower and stall. It’s mentioned even as far back as Genesis.
Are you ready for this? Shepherds would wrap their perfect, unblemished sheep in swaddling cloths and put them in the stone troughs (mangers) here to protect them and ensure their safety!
Abraham, Moses and David were all shepherds! And now their descendent Jesus is our good shepherd (John 10:1-30) and lamb of sacrifice (John 1:29, Acts 8:32, 1 Peter 1:19, Revelation 5:6).
Who were the magi who visited after Christ’s birth?
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Here is what we do know of the wise men:
- They were most likely gentiles (not of Jewish descent).
- They were scholars and astronomers and had been exposed to God’s Word.
- They were men of the east. This was possibly Persia or modern-day Iran, which would mean they traveled 800-900 miles to see the child king.
What we don’t know:
- When they arrived to meet Jesus. Most scholars agree it was most likely not on the night of his birth as we see in today’s nativity scenes. It was most likely when he was a toddler. Notice also, Mary and Jesus were in a house when they arrived.
- How many magi there were. There were three gifts, but there were quite possibly more than the three we think of today. The Bible doesn’t tell us.
- What kind of star shone so brightly. Some suppose it could have been a comet or supernova, but most likely it was a supernatural phenomenon or celestial being similar to the pillar of fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt.
What did the wise men’s gifts mean?
These gifts were typical to offer a king, but also had practical medicinal purposes in addition to biblical meaning.
Gold: The precious metal represented royalty.
Frankincense: This perfume or incense represented divinity.
Myrrh: This anointing oil (also used for burial) represented humanity.
These truly were wise men. They not only admired The Light, they followed it at great length no matter the cost, they worshipped and offered their best gifts.
What was Jesus’ childhood like?
Jesus lived in Egypt for some years with his parents until Joseph had a dream it was safe to return to Israel after Herod had died.
He spent the rest of his childhood and adolescence in the small village of Nazareth, located in the region of Galilee in northern Israel. He had sisters and four brothers. He was likely trained up in the way of carpentry, like Joseph. (People called him a carpenter in Mark 6:3.) He spoke Aramaic in his everyday life, but also knew Hebrew, the language of his ancestors (Luke 4:16).
Luke 2 tells us they went to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the Passover, so Jesus would have been accustomed to the temple and participated in all Jewish ceremonies.
Jesus did not fit the profile of a young king. He was born to poor, unwed parents, which would have been scandalous and one can only imagine the gossip in a small village. He had a Galilean accent that would have stood out in Jerusalem society, which considered itself superior. It would have been inconceivable to them the the messiah would come from a place like Nazareth in Galilee.
What did Jesus look like?
The only verse that tells us about Jesus’ appearance tells us nothing. Isaiah (53:2) prophesied:
“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”
As in keeping with the humble circumstances he was born, his appearance was the same. He looked like an ordinary Israeli man, presumingly with darker skin and hair.
His appearance was left out on purpose. He is the king to all people of all nations and ethnicities.
When did Jesus or his parents know he was the Son of God?
Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was Holy before he was born from:
- An angel appearing to each of the them in a dream (Luke 1)
- Shepherds coming to worship (Luke 2)
- Magi coming to worship (Matthew 2)
- Prophet Simeon and Prophetess Anna recognized the savior at the temple when he was just a month old (Luke 2)
We don’t know when Jesus would have understood he was the messiah, but it’s clear that by 12 years old he knew. In Luke 2 we see his parents lost him, thinking he was with family on their journey home from the Passover celebration in Jerusalem:
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
Mary and Joseph must have had a great reminder that day of who he was born to be. The text says they were “astonished” at his teaching. Jesus calls the temple “my father’s house.” At that time Jews would have called him “our Father” or “Father in Heaven,” so he is aware of his relationship.
The DK Family Illustrated Bible points out that: “All Jewish boys attended the annual Feast of the Passover at least a year before they were thirteen. At the age of thirteen, boys celebrated their “bar mitzvah” and were considered adults in the religious community.
Nevertheless, Jesus went with them and was submissive to his parents. We’ll see him over and over again being respectful to his mother. It’s also interesting to note he sat under the teachers and was willing to listen to them as an upstanding young student would.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Why did Jesus come to earth as a human?
Jesus’ story doesn’t start in the New Testament. He has always existed and he has always been one with the Father. Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit together decided he would come to earth to save their beloved creation.
Jesus in the Old Testament
“Christ is at the heart of the Scriptures: he is patterned, promised, and present from Genesis onward,” states an article by Desiring God. The Old Testament is a story of God’s love for his people even as they walk away from him again and again. It points to his rescue story through is son Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ birth fulfilled God’s covenants with:
- Abraham: land, many decedents, all people on earth would be blessed through him (Gen 12:1-3, Gen 12:7, Gen 13:14-17, Gen 15, Gen 17)
- David: Messiah would be born from David’s lineage (2 Samuel 7)
- God’s people: a messiah and redeemer
Jesus in the New Testament
Jesus was not born an ignorant man who had to figure out he was the savior. It was his choice from the beginning of time to put on the robe of humanity. And his sacrifice did not end after 33 years on the earth. This was a forever decision he made, executed and continues to carry out.
After fulfilling all the covenants of old, Jesus gives us a new and final covenant offered to anyone who is willing to receive it:
“For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28
If you chose to exchange robes with him in this covenant of old, to put on his robe of righteousness because he has taken your robe of humanity, you will take communion, become baptized and begin to live in the spirit rather than just your physical body.
Why are Christians baptized?
Believers in Jesus Christ are baptized in water to outwardly demonstrate a spiritual change on the inside. Being washed in the water is a public way to declare faith in Jesus Christ and symbolize the cleansing of sin. It represents the death (going under the water), burial (being submerged) and resurrection (coming up for air) we now join Christ in.
Why was Jesus baptized if he never sinned?
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17
Jesus says he was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” I don’t know in fullness what that word encompasses, but here are some thoughts to consider:
- Jesus publicly declared his love of God his father and complete desire to obey him on the brink of his world-changing ministry. And his Father and Spirit publicly approve.
- It represented the future of Jesus’ ministry — his burial, death and resurrection.
- Jesus was our earthly model. He calls us to baptism and he did it himself as well.
- It demonstrates him taking on our sin as if it were his own and giving us his righteousness, making us right with God.
- It means that we truly do join him in this baptism of rebirth. We are now baptized into him!
It’s also remarkable to see this hand off from John to Jesus. John declares Jesus the chosen one to his followers, completing his mission to make straight the path for the messiah as Isaiah prophesied 600 years prior.
What an incredible moment that must have been to witness —the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) visibly united in front of humans.
How was Jesus tempted in the desert for 40 days?
After Jesus was baptized his ministry was set in motion. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by the devil in every way (Luke 4:1-13). The number 40 symbolizes testing in the Bible.
Satan used three tactics:
- Appealing to physical needs and desires, along with the temptation of self reliance.
- Appealing to pride and desire for glory that belongs only to God.
- Warping, twisting, counterfeiting God’s word in attempt to stir up doubt and mistrust.
Satan has not changed his playbook. He still uses the same methods and tactics today.
Imagine how weak the Savior must have been after 40 days. It seems from reading this that Satan amped things up toward the end of this journey, when he was weakest. He also attacks believers at their lowest and appeals to them through their physical needs, pride and planting doubt.
Why was Satan allowed to tempt Jesus?
“And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:14). EVERY temptation? Can you imagine standing up next to every temptation? We would be crushed. And “an opportune time”? He wasn’t done yet. He would be there every step of the way during Jesus’ ministry, tempting and whispering lies into the ears of those who would listen.
Each time the devil tempts him, Jesus refutes him with the very words of scripture! It is the powerful Sword of the Spirit and the only weapon on the spiritual armor of God of Ephesians 6.
By the way, Matthew 4 tells us that Jesus said “Get out of here, Satan” and that’s when he left, as Christ has authority over him. And then angels came to minister to Jesus. His time in the wilderness demonstrates his authority over the evil one, even clothed in human flesh. It reveals his sinlessness.
Jesus knows more tempting that any of us and can relate to us in every way because of this.
Satan is a powerful fallen angel, more powerful than humans, but he has no authority over believers. We are under the authority of Christ, who all things were made through and for (John 1:3).
The Chosen, Season 1 (You HAVE to watch this one!)
Who were Jesus’ disciples?
Jesus chose 12 men to be his disciples and friends. They were with him for about three years, learning from him, being prepared to ignite a new fire the world had never known. Jesus invested most of his time in these future missionaries.
- Simon Peter
- Bartholomew (Nathaniel)
- Simon the Zealot
It was a strange roster indeed for a revolutionary religious movement — the majority were fishermen, one a despised tax collector … even women followed Jesus. Would you expect something different from our unconventional hero?
Did Jesus have female followers?
Jesus cared about the treatment of women, which was radical in ancient Israel. He defended them, treated them with unparalleled kindness and taught them as well as men.
Jesus the teacher
The 12 listed above were the disciples Jesus called, but he also had many followers, including women. Luke 8:1-3:
Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Mary Magdalene has a prominent role in the gospels and is mentioned 12 times. There are about six Marys mentioned in the New Testament, as it was a common name. She is sometimes confused with Martha and Lazarus’ sister, who washed Jesus’ feet with perfume or a prostitute at the house of a pharisee who wiped his feel with oil.
But all we are told of her past is that Jesus healed her of seven demons. Jesus transforms her, gives her a new life and she is faithful until the end. She’s there at the cross, she’s there for the burial and she was there for the resurrection. In fact, Jesus appeared to her first in the garden after he had risen from the grave!
This is as unconventional as announcing a king’s birth to shepherds or calling a bunch of fishermen to preach the gospel to the world! In those days women were excluded from school, places of worship, easily divorced and their testimony in court was questionable.
Jesus the savior
Jesus sent his disciples to get food and waited for someone (John 4). He asked the woman at the well for water. This was no ordinary request. She was at the well in the heat of the day, most likely because that’s when she could avoid other women and their gossip due to her scandalous relationships with men. Also, she was a Samaritan, which Jews didn’t associate with because of “racial and religious prejudices” (The Quest Study Bible, page 1470).
Yet, Jesus would be seen with her, talk to her and even ask to share water with her.
He went out of his way for her.
She was worth his time.
She was not too unclean for him.
Her sin was not too big for him.
He did not condemn her, but offered her living water.
Which she accepted right there, dropping her water jar where they stood, and ran into town to tell everyone the messiah had come. Now that’s a testimony!
Jesus the defender
One more story of Jesus showing up for not only women, but women society had cast down. Let’s read in John 8:
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Jesus the defender, the savior, saved her from a brutal death of stoning. What did he write in the sand!? Wouldn’t we love to know? My Quest Bible (page 1478) speculates in the commentary. “Perhaps he was listing the sins of the accusers. Perhaps he was writing the Old Testament laws the required them to convict both the man as well as the woman in situations of adultery. Whatever he wrote, Jesus stopped the vigilantes’ rush to judgement and made them wait for his surprising answer.”
Children in those days were not given the attention and care most do today. They were not highly valued, usually seen as laborers and oftentimes didn’t make it into adulthood. Jesus thought differently. Mark 10:13-16:
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
What an image, Jesus taking the children into his arms. And not only does he not deter the children from coming to him, he says that if we want to see Heaven, we’ll need the mentality they have!
Why was Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine?
Let’s read from John, the only gospel that records this miracle. Chapter 2:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Stone jars were used for washing in Jewish purification ceremonies. They were more expensive than clay jars as they were cut from one piece of stone, because stone is not subject to impurity.
It was common for people to put wine in their water to purify it and improve the taste of the unfiltered water. Could it be that Jesus was also purifying the water in these jars? That even though they, as the Jewish people, tried to be clean by obeying the law with these rituals, still needed cleansing. He’s making clean what we never could — our hearts.
How beautiful that his first miracle was performed at a wedding. Marriage was created by God to be a tangible representation of his relationship with his people. It is meant to point toward him and advance his kingdom. Jesus is referred to as our bridegroom over and over! And one day he will come back to claim his bride, the church.
Like the covenant between a husband and wife, believers enter a covenant with Jesus when they decide to follow him. Communion or the Lord’s Supper is a way to symbolize our covenant with him. It is the breaking and eating of bread to symbolize Christ’s body broken for us and drinking wine to remember the blood he shed for our sins.
The focus on wine during this union was a foreshadowing of communion. Old Testament Jewish laws were necessary and reminded God’s people of their inability to keep the law, but Jesus had come to fulfill the it, to cover those sins with his own blood and reunite us with the Father.
It’s interesting that the only observers to this miracle were the servants and the disciples. He has clearly come not for status or applause, but for the lost and those who know they need a savior.
I smile when I read this interaction between Jesus and Mary. It used to bother me that he called his mother “woman,” but the Hebrew word gynē (pronounced goo-nay) is actually a respectful term commonly used in scripture, meaning woman or wife. It’s not cold or condescending as it is translated into English.
Mary knew it had begun. The baptism, students, things were in motion. “Do whatever he tells you,” she says. I just love it. His mother knows him, what he’s capable of, and trusts in him. I imagine this was an endearing interaction with a hint of humor. You know Jesus is super funny, right?
What did Jesus teach?
Ok, here’s when things get sticky. Everyone wants a hero who wrongs rights, heals the sick, defends the weak and stands up against corrupt authority. But some cannot accept this hero who says he is the only way to God. He did not say “all religions are stepping stones” or “find your own truth inside yourself.” He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
He claimed that he is God’s own son, who has given him authority over Heaven and Earth. He even said the Father and him are one (John 10:38).
He preached he was the messiah prophesied by the Old Testament who could save his people from their oppressors and even their sin.
Jesus reminded us we cannot uphold the law God gave the Israelites; therefore, we are in need of a Savior, an escape from our debt of sin. Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.
Jesus instructed that we cannot earn our salvation through good works, but it is by faith alone in him that we can make amends with the Father. Good works do and should follow this eternal decision, naturally, as we grow in the Spirit, but they do not pave a way to Heaven. For we have all fallen short no matter how much good we attempt.
Jesus taught us the two most important things are to love God and love people. The Pharisees, or religious leaders, tested him in Matthew 22 by asking:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
It has been said, in fact, that loving God sums up the first five commandments and loving people sums up the last five.
Sermon on the Mount
In his longest recorded sermon in Matthew 5,6 and 7, called the Sermon on the Mount, he preaches to thousands from the mountain about character, influence and righteousness. I did not come up with that on my own! I learned so much from Jen Wilkin’s Sermon on the Mount audio sessons.
(Side note: I’ve always wondered how everyone could possibly hear him. Turns out you can still visit what is thought to be the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus delivered the sermon and it’s basically an amphitheater created by nature! I read tourists’ accounts of still being able to hear a voice from top of the rocky, con-caved mountainside beside the Sea of Galilee with excellent acoustics.)
In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus gives the beatitudes, which means “supreme blessing,” to an unlikely group of people. The people he was talking to were poor, hurting, some ill, and not considered important by society.
Jesus modeled his sermon after other Jewish blessings and proverbs, but with a radical twist. Jewish society had come to think that God was with you if you were wealthy and of high status. They added their own proverbs onto scripture — sayings something like “blessed are those of high status and much wealth.” Instead, Jesus turned these common sayings on their head and told these hurting people that in fact the poor in spirit and the meek would inherit the earth!
Can you imagine how the crowd must have received this revolutionary word?
The “poor in spirit” refers to the humble. Those who “mourn” are grieving loss, but also mourning their sin. The meek are those who choose God’s will over their own.
Jesus told his followers to be the salt and the light of the earth. As salt prevents the decay of meat, we are to prevent the moral decay of the earth. As lights, we are to shine the light of Jesus to those around us and give glory to the Father.
He showed us it’s not about behavior modification or being legalistic, it’s about motive of our hearts. As Jen explains, he tells us to stop running up to the line of sin to see how close we can get without crossing, but instead run as fast as we can away from it!
He told people to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Love God, love people, even your enemies.
Give to the needy. If you have two coats, give one to the poor, he says. But don’t do it to attract attention or praise by men. Do it in secret, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so your Father may reward you (Matt 6:4). “Money is the root of all kinds of evil,” Jesus said. Not that money itself is bad, but the love of it is.
Read more: How can I be blessed? >>
Let’s read Matthew 5:38-48 from the same sermon:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Love Your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I learned a three fascinating things about this passage in Jen’s study. One, a slap on the cheek meant someone had insulted you, not wounded you. The second, is that in the court of law in those days you could take someone’s tunic until they had paid you back their debt. So Jesus is saying do more than just pay back your debt; do more than just the bare minimum. And finally, it was Roman law that any citizen had to carry a Roman soldiers gear for a mile if he asked them. So again Jesus is saying do above what is expected for your fellow human!
He’s radical, yet kind. He’s not who they expected, but he’s everything they needed.
Why did Jesus speak in parables?
Jesus often spoke in parables or stories to illustrate his teachings. These aid in remembering the lessons, but they are also a clever way to deter those who rejected him. Our response to them demonstrates our heart posture toward God.
Personally, I always wonder if I would have understood the parables if I could have been present as he preached them for the first time. But I’ve heard it said that the Bible was written for us, but not to us. Meaning, the original ancient Israeli audience would have understood the scenarios and analogies pertaining to things such as grapes and their vines, harvesting wheat, wineskins and Jewish law.
The disciples themselves didn’t always understand Jesus’ parables in the moment and frequently asked him what they meant, but there are many mentions in the gospels about how they recalled his teachings later when Jesus was gone.
There are dozens of parables in the first three gospels. John, however, does not mention parables or exorcisms. If you look over the meaning of the parables in this chart I have made, you can see how much he spoke about the coming Kingdom of Heaven, leading a humble life and offering mercy and compassion to others.
Andy Stanley puts parables into perspective: “What you have and have been entrusted with is less important than what you do with what you have. One day we have to give an account to God about what we did in our circumstance.”
The parable of the moneylender: A “woman of the city, who was a sinner” brought an alabaster flask of ointment for Jesus’ feet while he was at a Pharisee’s house. She wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. When the Pharisee disapproved, Jesus said (Luke 7:41-50):
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
This is why he came for the poor, the outcast and the suffering. They would be the ones who knew they needed a savior. They would be the ones who would receive this wonderful news!
Along with parables, Jesus also spoke in hyperbole. The dictionary defines hyperbole as “exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.” I bet you weren’t expecting an English lesson today!
Matthew 5: 29-30 from the Sermon on the Mount:
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Of course he doesn’t mean you should literally cut off a body part. That would not actually prevent you from sinning. He is telling you to stay far away from sin. Don’t treat it casually, it’s serious and needs to be cut off from your life.
And finally, he often answered questions with questions — especially with his accusers. (In fact, the first biblical quote we have from is him is a question to his parents!) This clever tactic switches the focus off of him and back to the seeker.
Why didn’t Jesus travel the world?
The Bible gives us no indication that Jesus left Israel aside from fleeing to Egypt as a child. Luke 4 tells us Jesus was “brought up” in Nazareth and also calls it his “hometown.” Nazareth was a small town located in the northern province of Galilee, where he spent most of his ministry. Galilee even means “wheel” or “revolution.”1
Jesus was the long-prophesied Jewish messiah, the descendant of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David — all men God made covenants with to establish a partnership between God and man. Jesus came to fulfill those promises! So it makes sense he would start with the Israelites to share the good news of his arrival, to spend the only three years of his ministry to call God’s chosen nation out of the old law and into the new law.
Christ came to make a new covenant, the final covenant, that God will forgive the sins and restore fellowship with those who seek him.
But he was just getting started. Yes, he came for the Jew, but he also came for the gentile. As he worked to call Israel back to God, to expose religious corruption and declare himself as the savior, he was also investing his time — most of his time, in fact — to his 12 disciples who would one day bring his message to the entire world.
In fact, today there are about 2.3 billion people across the world today who claim Jesus as their Savior!
What was Jesus like as a person?
There are many sides to Jesus, as we have seen. He is kind and tenderhearted to those who call to him. He has compassion on people and walks through their pain with them. He has humor, inside jokes and close friends. But he is also just and will not stand for corruption or pride.
Slow to anger
We see Jesus angered only a couple times in scripture — and it wasn’t when his will was obstructed, it was when his father’s will was obstructed (Jen Wilkin’s, Sermon on the Mount). Two occasions were when 1) people had turned the temple into a marketplace instead of a place of worship and he overturned their tables and even made a whip to drive them out (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-22)! And then 2) in the Capernaum synagogue when the Pharisees said he could not heal a man on the sabbath and refused to answer his questions (Mark 3:1-6).
So we can see that he is slow to anger, but when he is, it is righteous and selfless.
Gentle and lowly
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
He describes his own heart and soul as gentle and lowly. This king of the universe describes himself as gentle. And lowly. Dan Ortlund says “The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger but open arms.”
Desires us to come to him
Jesus spent much time in prayer and often went to be alone in the morning with God (Mark 1:35). And in his beautiful, heartfelt prayer in John 17, Jesus tells God that his desire is for us to be with him in Heaven.
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
The servant king is offering an invitation to follow him. He is always a gentleman, knocking at the door, not bursting his way in. This is a mutual covenant you enter with him — one that makes you family and friends. He loves you deeply. If you knew how much, your heart wouldn’t be able to contain it.
What is a miracle?
God sustains the universe by his word. He holds our home planet at a 23.5 degree angle with a perfect gravity force so we are neither crushed nor float away. He tells the sun when to shine and the moon when to rise. He put each star in the sky. He encrypts a 3 billion letter human genome into every human cell and gives us bodies that adapt and give birth and even heal. And all the while he provides for our individual needs and establishes our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
All these things are miraculous, so I have a difficult time placing rigid lines around this topic as the works of God shall remain mostly a mystery. But for the sake of this post, we’ll describe a miracle as when God does something outside his natural law to bring awareness to himself for his glory.
- Miracles in the Bible authenticate a leader has God’s favor.
- Miracles glorify God.
- Miracles have meaning and purpose.
- Miracles call us to worship.
Why did Jesus perform miracles?
Jesus performed miracles so that people would believe and his disciples would trust him as the one and only messiah.
About 35 of Jesus’ miracles are mentioned in the gospels as you can see in this chart, but John 21:25 says, “Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
That’s interesting to me, because I see that John only mentions 8 of these miracles. Three of them are healing, four are power over nature and one is raising someone from the dead (this does not include Jesus’ own resurrection). What I believe this means is that miracles were not the primary focus of Jesus’ ministry.
It is important to note that he does not do miracles as a spectacle or for entertainment. There are no firework displays or magic tricks. There was always meaning and purpose to each of them.
As Dan Ortlund says, “…miracles are not an interruption of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. We are so used to a fallen world that sickness, disease, pain and death seem natural. In fact, they are the interruption.”
Let’s take a look at just a few of Jesus’ miracles — his power to heal sickness, his power over nature and his power to raise the dead.
Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’ Daughter
What happens to the sin, uncleanliness, the disease Jesus forgives and heals? He takes it on himself, absorbs it and pays for it on the cross.
A synagogue ruler, Jairus, pleads with Jesus to come to his house and heal his dying 12-year-old daughter. On the way, the crowd pushes in and a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touches Jesus’ robe and was instantly healed. Jesus asked who touched his robe.
“And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’”
Meanwhile, someone came and told Jairus his daughter died. But Jesus came to his house anyway.
“And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, ‘Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, ‘Child, arise.’ And her spirit returned, and she got up at once.”
We have two contrasting stories happening simultaneously — a rich man and and sick woman both need Jesus’ help.
Jesus does not bypass the woman for someone of more status. He has time for her. Why did he ask who touched his robe? Did he not know? He did, but he wanted her to know that her faith in him healed her, not his robe. But more that, he wanted to present her to everyone as his own. This woman had been bleeding for 12 years, considered unclean by Jewish law and cast out of society. But Jesus calls her daughter in front of everyone, claiming her as a daughter of God.
Are you under the impression, as I once was, that this was bothersome to Jesus? To constantly be mobbed by crowds, people touching his robe and constantly begging for healing?
This is what Dan Ortlund says in Gentle and Lowly:
“He does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness, for renewed pardon, with distress and need and emptiness. That’s the whole point. It’s what he came to heal. He went down to the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace to his people.”
We’re going to shift to an incredible moment when Jesus shows power over nature. Matthew 14:22-32
Jesus Walks on the Water
25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
This miracle was specifically for the disciples, so they would believe. And their reaction was worship. This small mustard seed of a group would need the courage when Jesus was gone to build and grow God’s kingdom here on earth. There would be storms, there would be persecution. This experience showed them God’s authentication of Jesus as his son. It demonstrated Jesus’ power over all his creation. It would serve as a reminder to never lose faith, cast aside fear and cling to what Jesus taught them while we walked among men.
One more miracle — one that shows Jesus’ power over death. Jesus has been informed that his friend Lazarus was dying by his sisters, Mary and Martha. When he heard this he stayed two days longer where he was, for he knew this would bring glory to God. John 11:
I Am the Resurrection and the Life
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
… 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
Jesus Raises Lazarus
… 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Now later in chapter 11 and 12 we see that because of this miraculous event some Jews put their faith in Jesus, but others went to tell the Pharisees what had happened. So they plotted to kill not only Jesus, but Lazarus! He died and was brought back to life but people wanted to kill him again (John 12:11)! Poor Lazarus.
Ok, where to begin. I think a bulleted list is in order:
- Again, we see God authenticating Jesus as his son.
- This is a foreshadowing of his own resurrection, so that they will believe.
- Jesus has power over death.
- People glorified God and his son.
- Jesus meets people where they are.
Each of the sisters said the exact same thing to him: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would have not died.” But his response was different to each of them. He knew what they needed and met them where they were emotionally. Martha needed comfort and wanted answers, so he responded to her in explanation that he would raise him from the dead and strengthens her faith in him as the Christ.
Mary on the other hand, falls at his feet in tears. He too meets her where she is, and being moved by her pain, also weeps. Why would he weep if he knew he would raise him from the dead? Because he weeps with us, he walks through pain with us, he is there beside us and doing it with us. He is not a distant savior, he stays near to the brokenhearted.
Why were so many people possessed during Christ’s time?
We’ve seen Jesus heal, conquer nature, even raise the dead, but five of these miracles deal with demon possession and Matthew 8:16 says “they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons.” In these events the demons know exactly who Jesus is and call him the Son of God and Holy One. They also obey him in every circumstance. In fact, they are terrified of him.
I’ll borrow this excerpt from my Angel series:
Can people still be possessed by demons? This is a gray area and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I still want to address it. I believe possession can occur, but those cases are rare, few and far between. The demons can’t own someone as this word suggests, but rather occupy. But the person would have to give the demon permission through participation of occult or abuse of varying kinds. I heard a message by Alistair Begg once on Moody Radio saying he’d only encountered something like this a couple times in his long pastoral career. He said there’s no question when you do see it.
If you are a believer you can be oppressed, but not possessed. You have the Holy Spirit and Jesus has claimed you as His own. It’s important to mention, however, that oftentimes we voluntarily give over parts of our lives to the devil. We offer him footholds, something to work with, when we habitually sin. Erwin Lutzer writes, “If we walk in obedience, we have no reason to fear the works of the enemy, even though his attacks may be numerous and persistent.”
It is my theory that these possessions we read about in the gospels possibly happened more frequently because 1) The Holy Spirit had not yet descended and 2) Satan could see his defeat was eminent and his time on earth narrowing. He had to pull out all the stops when the Savior came as a man. It almost seems like his tactic has shifted to a quieter, more subtle evil. He is very much still at work, but would prefer to be unseen that way you’re not even sure if he exists or if God exists.
What is faith?
Jesus mentions the words “faith” and “believe” repeatedly after miracles. It clearly plays a big role in the healing of these people. Let’s look at some of Jesus’ responses after he heals:
- Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.
- According to your faith will it be done to you.
- Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.
- Go, your faith has healed you.
Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
1 Peter 1:8-9: Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Faith in action
The faith that healed these people shows they believed Jesus was who he said he was — the Son of God who created the universe. Faith is not something we can earn by works, it can only be given by God (Eph 2:8). Faith produces glorious joy and saves our souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Jesus said even if we have faith even the size of the tiny mustard seed we can move mountains — nothing will be impossible (Matthew 17:20)! As the small seed grows into a tree, so does our faith grow and blossom over time spent in relationship with God. (This is another hyperbole. You will not move actual mountains. The mountains represent obstacles.)
If you struggle to understand the definition of faith, as I have for a long time, remember it is not a magical feeling, it is conviction and action. Hebrews chapter 11 is called the faith hall of fame. Take the time to read it to see how faith plays out, how it is much more than a feeling, it is doing. (I’ll bold the action in the verses below to help you see.)
29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
These people acted on their faith and were rewarded. And the people Jesus healed acted on their faith, called out to him for help repeatedly when people told them to be quiet. They sought him out with determination among the large crowd just to touch his robe. They poured their best perfume on his feet in worship.
Does faith guarantee healing?
The Quest Study Bible (pg 1432):
“Jesus teaches that faith prompts God to respond to our need. Sometimes, it is the faith of friends or family that God rewards. Occasionally, God’s healing work seems unrelated to anyone’s faith — the only explanation is God’s sovereign choice. But Jesus never teaches that faith automatically brings healing. In Christ’s 35 miracles recorded in the Gospels, no formula to guarantee healing can be found.”
Sickness is not punishment
It’s also important to mention affliction is not punishment from specific sin. We live in a fallen world and sin has crept into every crack and crevice, corrupting and destroying. Of course there are natural consequences from our sin, but God is not punishing you. Let’s read from John 9:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
We also read in Job that he was an upstanding man who God allowed to be tested by Satan to prove to him how faithful humans can be.
Would more people believe today if they saw miracles?
Jesus’ wonders did solidify many people’s faith in his claims to be God’s son, but not always — or even usually.
In John 6, the morning after Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, some of the same crowd the followed him across the sea and demanded more miracles and displays. And this is just after they had just seen him feed 5,000 people! For some, it is never enough.
They saw Christ face to face, witnessed his miracles and it still was not enough to earn their affection or trust.
It’s the same today, we wonder if people would believe if he were here physically with us, but even 2,000 years ago thousands of people saw his signs and heard his words and rejected him.
And, of course, there seems to be a Pharisee lurking on every corner to criticize Jesus’ healings, saying he is possessed by demons or unlawfully healing on the sabbath.
And honestly, I don’t think humans would be happy with or without the miracles. If he had done nothing supernatural, outside the laws of physics, we would question if he was truly all-powerful. Yet when He does them, we say “Nah, I can’t believe that could ever happen.”
Are there miracles still today?
First, let’s put something into perspective. There are arguably 56 or so miracles in the Old Testament which spans thousands of years. So animals weren’t going onto arks or seas parting on a regular basis. According to Concise Theology by J.I. Packer, “These miracles in Scripture are nearly all clustered in the time of the Exodus, of Elijah and Elisha, and of Christ and his apostles.”
Jesus broke the mold with his countless miracles, but this was an exceptional time when God was on Earth! And the people witnessing his works comment consistently that they — or even Israel — had ever seen such wonders.
Ok, so we have established that miracles are not the norm. God tends to operate within the natural laws he created. But are there still miracles today?
Yes! Please hear me: there are healings and rescues and prophesies that all bring glory to God. He is still moving, speaking to us, bringing awareness to himself! He has given us spiritual gifts and fruit of the Spirit, but the biggest miracle we see today is Jesus continuing to bring the spiritually dead to life.
I cannot speak authoritatively, but rather speculatively, that miracles might look different today than in biblical times. The power-over-nature miracles used to show a leader had God’s favor in the Old Testament would be no longer necessary as Jesus is our final high priest and has already been shown to be who he says he is.
Let me explain, with humility, because no one can say what God will or will not do. When Jesus was on the cross, he said “It is finished.” His work was complete — the fulfillment of the old law and moving into the new covenant with him. Finally humans can be reconciled with God! This is the story of the entire Bible.
The biblical leaders were authenticated through miracles. Noah and the ark, Moses and the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, Joshua defeating Jericho, Daniel surviving the lion’s den, etc. — these special events authenticated their leadership through God. The Jewish people have a tumultuous story. They would need these stories to cling to, to believe, to have faith.
In the New Testament we read in Acts about the apostles performing miracles, exorcisms and healing people. God authenticated them as well through miracles, so people would believe during this delicate time of preaching the gospel to the world for the first time.
Christ, the ultimate leader and messiah, has already been authenticated and we have the privilege of living this side of the cross in great anticipation of his return! There is nothing that can be added to the Bible. It is indeed finished. He conquered death and has complete victory.
And one final note. Friend, be cautious of healing events and street miracle workers. Select wayward leaders have made a mockery of God’s miracles and profited millions of dollars from afflicted, suffering people. They seek their own glory, not God’s. And when the person is not healed, they tell them it is their lack of faith. This is wrong and this is not the definition of faith we are operating from.
Healing our hearts takes precedence over healing our bodies. Again, the biggest miracle and best miracle is Jesus continuing to bring the spiritually dead to life.
What happened in the last week of Jesus’ life?
Let’s go over a brief timeline to get perspective and then we’ll go in and ask more detailed questions.
Sunday: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as the crowd welcomed him with “Hosanna!” and laid down cloaks and palm branches. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12
Monday: Jesus drove out those who sold and bought at the temple, overturning tables. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19
Tuesday: Jesus went to the temple and told many parables. Matthew 21-24, Mark 11-13, Luke 20-21
Wednesday: The Bible does not mention what Jesus did on this day. Judas took 30 pieces of silver from the priests
to betray Jesus. Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22
Thursday: Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, excused Judas to betray him, celebrated Passover and gave it new meaning with first communion. He prayed in The Garden of Gethsemane and was taken by soldiers. Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13-18
Friday: Jesus was tried, carried his cross to Golgotha, was crucified and laid in Joseph’s tomb. Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19
Saturday: Jesus was in the tomb on the Sabbath.
Sunday: The rock at the tombs entrance was rolled back. An angel told the women Jesus was alive! Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20
What is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday was Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, five days before his death. Many Jewish people were traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, the annual celebration of the Israelites’ departure from Egypt.
Jesus tells his disciples to take a donkey and her colt they would find tied up in the village ahead.
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Donkey: Most kings would ride into their kingdom on a horse or chariot, but Jesus chose a humble donkey, not a war horse. He fulfilled the prophesy by Zechariah 9:9 that said the messiah would come on a donkey’s colt. (But Revelation 19 tells us that when Jesus comes back he will be riding a white horse.)
Hosanna: Hosanna means “save us.”
Son of David: They acknowledge Jesus as the messiah God promised David would come from his lineage.
Palms: Palms were symbols of Jewish nationalism. Waving them was a celebration of victory! They were acknowledging him as the messiah who had come to be king.
What is Passover?
We read in scriptures that Jesus has gone to Jerusalem every year to celebrate Passover since childhood.
Passover is the annual celebration of God liberating the Hebrew people from their 400-year enslavement in Egypt. The Passover seder (or ceremonial dinner) uses symbolic elements to remind God’s people of his rescue and his faithfulness.
God remembered his covenant with Abraham, and in Exodus directed Moses to tell pharaoh to let the Israelites out of his country. Pharaoh, of course, said no. Ten times. And each denial was followed by a plague: water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness … and finally the tenth.
“At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock (Ex 12:29).”
But something saved the Israelites — the blood of the lamb sacrifice God told them to paint with a hyssop branch over their doors. The blood was a symbol of covenant. The blood of the innocent lamb spared them from the angel of death.
God told them to eat the roasted lamb that night and keep this tradition throughout the generations.
As in most ancient covenant traditions, you exchange blood, you eat a meal together, two are becoming one. By the lamb entering their bodies they were entering communion with God. They were making it a part of themselves.
God commanded the Israelites to eat bread without yeast or leaven (Deut. 16) on Passover. It reminds us that the Israelites had to leave Egypt in a hurry, but it also has other symbolism. Yeast and fermentation is associated with corruption. Christ said the bread was his body broken for us. His body was without corruption or sin.
Jesus, our Savior, bread of life and perfect lamb died on Passover, fulfilling completely the old covenant.
Why did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet?
The first communion took place with Jesus and the disciples in a large upper room in Jerusalem — possibly the same room where Jesus appeared to the disciples after his death and where the Holy Spirit came to the disciples on Pentecost. We don’t know who the owner was, but when Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the room he was expecting them.
John is the only one who tells us about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet before the meal in chapter 13:
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
In these days people wore sandals and the roads were very dirty and dusty. Feet would have been filthy and needed to be washed, especially as tables were very low. This would be a job only a servant would do. Jesus is the servant king and he is asking that we serve one another as well.
Did Jesus know Judas would betray him?
Undoubtably, yes, Jesus knew Judas would hand him over to the religious leaders. Probably about a year before it took place Jesus said, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” in John 6:70.
Why did Judas betray Jesus?
Judas is an example to us of those who hear the Word, but do not understand it or receive it.
John tells us that Judas “used to help himself” to group’s money bag (John 12:6) and was willing to betray Jesus to the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver. (The same wage to be paid for an accidental slave’s death in Exodus 21:32.)
But it wasn’t just his greed that blinded him, it was also his idealism. Jesus wasn’t the messiah Judas envisioned. He wasn’t stepping up to his throne of power. He wasn’t overturning the Roman occupation. And now he’s going to be killed — willingly. No, this was not Judas’ vision. Maybe he wasn’t the Messiah after all. So Satan tempted him and he accepted. He took the money. He betrayed Jesus in the most heartless way to his enemies.
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
He still did not know the forgiveness and grace of Christ after three years. Even this Jesus could have forgiven.
Before we sit in judgement against Judas, we have all betrayed Jesus. We have all tried to put him in a box and rejected him when he didn’t fit inside of it.
Peter also betrayed Jesus. Jesus tells Peter as they leave the upper room the night of the Last Supper that he will deny him three times before the rooster crows. It was as Jesus said and Peter denied him, even saying to “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!”
The difference is who they thought Jesus was and what they did afterward. Thinking nothing could be done and doubtful Jesus was the Savior, Judas ended it all. Peter instead believed wholeheartedly Jesus is Lord and repented. After his resurrection, our loving Jesus offers the same question to Peter three times to restore him: “Do you love me?” To which Peter answered each time with a resounding yes, you know that I do, Lord!
What is the Lord’s Supper or communion?
After Judas left the upper room, Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover with the first communion, also called the Lord’s Supper.
The Bible tells us that they were reclining at the table for their special Passover meal, so they were most likely seated on the floor. We know unleavened bread and wine were on the table, but the Bible does not mention what other food was present.
Ancient Passover rituals include drinking four cups of wine. And before you start thinking the group is going to be tipsy by the end, the wine was weaker than it is today, and the cups smaller.
Each cup has meaning:
- Cup of sanctification
- Cup of plagues
- Cup of redemption
- Cup of praise or blessing
Jesus emphasized the third cup during his Passover meal with the disciples as he declared the New Covenant. This was the cup of redemption he was going to fulfill shortly.
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
The cup of redemption is also the cup he was referring to in the garden when he “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39).
He fulfilled the first three cups, but the fourth is yet to come. Notice he did not partake in the final cup of praise or blessing. He told the disciples he wouldn’t drink wine again until he is in the new kingdom of God. This is quite possibly during the Supper of Lamb after Christ returns.
What is the connection between the New Covenant and a marriage proposal?
Let’s look at the Last Supper through the disciples’ eyes. To them it sounded like Jesus was offering a marriage proposal!
What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane?
As they leave the upper room, Jesus warns the disciples that they will be scattered. Peter says he will never fall away (Matthew 26) but Jesus says to him in Luke 22:
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Satan is amping up his game, demanding a second disciple to join his team.
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
We see in Matthew 26 that Jesus prayed the same prayer three times, aligning his will with God’s.
Why was Jesus troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane?
He said he was troubled to the point of death. Drops of blood dripped from his brow.
His earthly life is coming to an end. He knew his closest friends would betray and desert him. (They couldn’t even stay away with him in his agony.) He knew every detail of pain and mockery he would suffer on that cross. And when you read John 17, his lengthy prayer is his heavy burden for all believers — for our sanctification in truth, that we would unite as one, that God’s glory would be given to us, that we may be with them!
But mostly, he would endure being separated from his beloved Father, absorbing his wrath and judgement meant for humanity. That must have been unimaginable. The whole world rests on his shoulders.
How could Jesus sweat blood?
And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44
According to the National Library of Medicine, “Hematidrosis is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood; it occurs under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress.”2
Why did the guards arrest Jesus at night?
Jesus had been teaching in the temple during the day, so why would they need Judas to help them find him? Because they wanted to do it quietly to avoid a riot from the crowds.
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the details — even argue about them. I’ve got a few “maybes” in this post, some educated speculation by experts on things like geology, dimensions, locations. These are to help bring the text to life, to help us understand what Jesus endured and experienced, but most definitely not to spark debate, only curiosity. And I took the approach to present the theories, not claim one or the other as fact, as they are not integral to our salvation.
What was the political structure in Jesus’ time?
Israel had a two-tier system with both Roman leaders and Jewish leaders.
Israel was a Roman province at this time with Tiberius Caesar as its emperor. The local governor or prefect was Pontius Pilate. The Roman army was known for their weighty armor and shield tactics. They would use oversized shields in unison as a massive blockade to continue advancement in war.
This Jewish system is more complicated due to many smaller, local systems and religious sects, so I’ll stick with the key players here:
◾️ Herod Antipas: We have the Jewish “client king,” Herod Antipas, who is Jewish but still an ally of Rome. Antipas beheaded John the Baptist for criticizing his marriage to his brother’s wife. His territory is in Galilee, as he inherited one-fourth of this father Herod the Great’s kingdom. His father was the one who tried to have Jesus killed as a baby when the wisemen left. (It’s helpful to keep in mind that Herod is a family name, so there are various Herod’s in the Bible.)
◾️ Next we have the religious groups — the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes, the Essenes and the Zealots. The scribes did what their name suggests — copying scripture. The Essenes were characterized by asceticism self-denial, celibacy, and joint holding of property. And the Zealots were in favor of overturning the Roman government. The two with the most power, however, were the Pharisees and Sadducees.
◾️ Pharisees: Pharisees gave equal weight to oral tradition and scripture. They believed in a spiritual realm, resurrection and an afterlife. They were more representative of the working class.
◾️ Sadducees: Sadducees gave weight only to written scripture. They did not believe in a spiritual world or afterlife. They were mostly wealthy and aristocratic men and friendlier with Rome than the Pharisees.
◾️ Sanhedrin: The Sanhedrin comprised of a 70-member supreme court including Sadducees and Pharisees, but the Sadducees held the positions of high priest and chief priests. Caiphus was the high priest at this time.2 They were not allowed to put anyone to death. The group ceased to exist after the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.3
Who killed Jesus?
There are quite a few players here and all of them want to pass the buck onto someone else.
The 6 trials of Jesus took place in less than 12 hours:
1.Annas: After Jesus was arrested he was taken to the the house of Annas, former high priest and father-in-law to the current high priest. He agrees to proceed.
2. Caiphus: He sends him to the house of Caiphus. It was early morning. He was outraged when Jesus finally agrees that he is God’s chosen one and declares blasphemy.
3. Sanhedrin: The council gathered and “were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none” (Matt 26). Nonetheless, they agree he must die. The guards spit on him, mocked him, beat him.
4. Pontious Pilate: They took him to Pilate because the Jewish council could not put anyone to death. They use the vantage point with Pilate that Jesus is a threat to Caesar and peace. But Pilate finds no fault in Jesus. He hears that he is a Galilean, so he attempts to sidestep the matter and sends him to Herod Antipas, as that is his jurisdiction.
5. Herod Antipas: Herod wanted to meet this Jesus in hopes he would perform miracles. There were no miracles and Jesus made no answer. Herod found no fault in him. Herod’s soldiers beat him and mocked him, sent him back to Pilate in “splendid” clothing.
6. Pontious Pilate: Pilate had Jesus flogged and examined him once more. Pilate tells the chief priests he nor Herod found fault in him and he would punish him and release him, but they demanded his crucifixion. He looked for one more opportunity to release Jesus. Each Passover the governor would release one prisoner dictated by the crowd. This crowd though was stirred up by the priests and declared they wanted Barabas, a robber and murder, released instead of Jesus. Pilate relented and ordered the crucifixion.
So the guilty one was given life when he deserved death. Jesus took his place, the same as he has done for you and for me.
But to answer the original question — who killed Jesus? — it wasn’t religious leaders or the Romans or the citizens shouting for his crucifixion. It was God himself. This was his rescue plan from the beginning.
It was love, not nails that held Jesus to the cross. He said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:18).
Why did people welcome Jesus as king and then want him crucified?
There are several factors at play here. First, the followers on road with Jesus Palm Sunday would have been from Bethany and Galiee, traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover. They would have heard about Lazarus’ resurrection and Jesus’ many miracles. The excitement of a coming Messiah would have been in the air! Were they even part of the crowd calling for his crucifixion? We don’t know how large this crowd was or who comprised it.
If they were present, that fickle excitement might have wained as they saw Jesus arrested, seemingly powerless with bruises and swollen face from beatings. This wasn’t the Messiah who fit in their box of expectations. They might have also feared the zealous religious leaders. And the high priests were stirring up the crowd against him.
Where was Jesus crucified?
Jesus died on a hill called Golgotha just outside the city walls, which means “place of the skull” in Aramaic. Calvary is the Latin phrase for Golgotha. So they refer to the same hill.
How far did Jesus carry the cross?
Jesus carried the cross from Pilate’s praetorium (or headquarters) to Golgotha. The problem is scholars don’t agree on where the praetorium was located when Pilate stayed in Jerusalem. (His main headquarters were north in Caesarea.). Some think it was at the Antonia Fortress near the temple and others believe it was in part of Herod’s Palace.
Pilgrims have come to Jerusalem for hundreds of years to walk the Via Dolorosa (or Stations of the Cross), which represents the path from the Antonia Fortress, north of the temple on the east side of the city — though the path has changed a few times depending on politics. Newer evidence, however, seems to suggest that Pilate’s praetorium was more likely in Herod’s temple.4
Either way, Jesus would have carried the cross at least half a mile.
Who were the thieves on the cross with Jesus?
There were two theives on either side of Jesus being crucified as well. We don’t know exactly what they did, but one of them became a believer in Jesus.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Philip Yancey says in his book The Jesus I Never Knew: “In a sense, the paired thieves present the choice that all history has had to decide about the cross. Do we look at Jesus’ powerlessness as an example of God’s impotence or as proof of God’s love?”
How was Jesus nailed to the cross?
You’ve probably heard these debates before — nails in the wrists or the hands? One nail for both feet or two? The answer is we don’t know. But GotQuestions.org has an interesting point about the Greek word for hands:
While historical scholars are uncertain of the nail placement in Jesus’ crucifixion, or anyone else’s for that matter, the Bible simply says that Jesus had wounds in His hands (John 20:25-27). The Greek word translated ‘hands’ is cheir, which means literally ‘hands.’ There is no Greek word for ‘wrists’ in the New Testament, even though some versions translate Acts 12:7 to say that the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. But the Greek word in this verse is also cheir.”
The important part here is that by his wounds we are healed.
Who was present at the cross?
Here are the people the four gospels mention:
- Passers-by, mocking him (Matthew 27:29)
- Simon from Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the cross (Matthew 27:32)
- A great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him (Luke 23:26)
- Soldiers, mocking him and rolling dice for his clothes (Matthew 27:35)
- Chief priests, with the scribes and elders, heckling him (Matthew 27:41)
- His mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25)
- Mary the mother of James and John (Matthew 27:56)
- John, comforting Mary the mother of Jesus (John 19:26)
- Many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem (Luke 15:41)
It is unclear where the other disciples besides John were. Matthew 26:56 says after his arrest, “Then all the disciples left him and fled.”
What did Jesus say on the cross?
◾️“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Even in horrific physical, emotional and spiritual suffering, he desires forgiveness for the people beating, mocking, spitting, gambling for his clothes.
◾️“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.“
The criminal who believed in Jesus is assured he will see Heaven that very day.
◾️“Woman, behold, your son! Behold, your mother!”
As we talked about in Part 1, Joseph may have died at this point, so Jesus is asking John to care for his mother. John says, “And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
◾️“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
God left him in that moment and took all man’s punishment and put it on his shoulders. Jesus experienced the undeserved wrath from his dear Abba even though he had done no wrong.
He is referencing Psalm 22:1-2:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
He is offered vinegar wine a second time after he says “I thirst” by the way of a hyssop branch.
He fulfilled prophesy in Psalm 69:
You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
◾️“It is finished.”
John used the Greek word “tetelestai,” which is translated “it is finished.” Interestingly it was also written on business receipts then, indicating that a bill had been paid in full.
◾️“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
Jesus is referencing Psalm 31:
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. He is returning to the Father, his refuge and redeemer.
What supernatural events took place when Jesus died on the cross?
◾️Darkened sky from 12 to 3pm: The darkness symbolized judgement — God pouring down judgement on the unblemished lamb for the sake of humanity. Remember that the ninth plague God sent the defiant pharaoh was three days of darkness and then the final plague was the killing of the firstborn sons.
◾️Curtain torn from top to bottom: Jesus has torn down the barrier between us and God, from top to bottom, from Heaven to Earth, so we may all be in the presence of the Lord.
◾️Earthquake and rocks split: An earthquake represents the presence of the Lord (Judges 5:4 ; 2 Sam 22:8 ; Psalms 77:18; 97:4; 104:32). Earthquakes are common in Judea due to tectonic plate shifts located there. In 2011 geologists found sediment evidence from the Dead Sea evidence of an earthquake occurring during the timeframe of Jesus’ crucifixion. There are historian accounts of an earthquake during this time as well, namely by Josephus.
◾️Saints resurrected and coming out of tombs: The tombs could have been opened by the earthquake. This miracle authenticated Jesus once again as the Savior who would raise the dead to eternal life. The people went into the city to tell others so they might believe. What might have all those who rejected him thought then?! 1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
Why was it so brutal?
C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Letters to Malcom, “Roman Emperor Constantine banned crucifixion as a method of execution in the fourth century due to its inhumanity. Jesus died in one day, but it wasn’t uncommon for people to last days. It wasn’t until after this ban that it became a symbol of faith or appear in art — because everyone who had witnessed the horror of a real crucifixion was dead.”
Up until Jesus’ death, God required a prescribed sacrifice from his people laid out in detail in Leviticus. It was a bloody, bloody affair. Remember, blood means life. Blood is what separates us from the spiritual world.
12 After Aaron had killed the ram that was sacrificed to please the Lord, Aaron’s sons brought him the blood, and he splattered it against all four sides of the altar. 13 They brought him each piece of the animal, including the head, and he burned them all on the altar. 14 He washed the insides and the hind legs and also sent them up in smoke.
It goes on to say he did this also with a bull and a goat.
It’s a horrible, somber picture. And it was no different for the Lamb of God. His death was violent and bloody.
We no longer sacrifice animals because Jesus paid it all. If we continued to sacrifice animals according to the old law, it would be saying what he did on the cross wasn’t enough. Not only did he spill his innocent blood for us, but he rose again! He continues to live and offer himself as a substitution to anyone who believes in him!
Did Jesus actually die on the cross?
On the cross, people would push up with their feet to help get a breath into their lungs. When they became too weak, they would die of asphyxiation and blood loss. That is why the guards would break their legs to speed up the process. But Jesus was already dead, so they did not break his legs as the prophesy said. Nor are the sacrificial Passover lambs’ legs to broken according to scripture.
Aside from the hundreds of eye witnesses, John describes the crucial blow to his death: “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” Medical professionals think his beatings and hanging on the cross alone would not have been survivable. But if that weren’t enough, this outpouring of blood and clear fluid would have come from a punctured lung and the clear fluid that surrounds the heart.
Where was Jesus’ tomb?
At least two members of the 70-member Sanhedrin council believed Jesus was the messiah after all — Joseph and Nicodemus. Scripture tells us up until that point they kept their belief a secret, but now their reputations would be on the line. This was a bold, even dangerous move to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus.
They were willing to give significantly of their own resources. Joseph offered his own unused tomb nearby. Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of embalming ingredients.
Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus down from the cross. This would have been laborious and difficult work, not to mention morbid and messy. It probably included climbing a ladder and hammering the nails out from the other side, carrying his lifeless body down and removing the crown of thorns lodged in his head. They were not alone, however. We know from Luke and Mark that Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother were there, along with other women.
Speaking of Mary, what this mother endured that day is unspeakable. She watched her baby boy unfairly tried, flogged, tormented, humiliated and betrayed. But she was there, just as she had been his whole life. One can imagine that she used Nicodemus’ ingredients, along with her own tears, to clean and anoint his bloody, disfigured and maimed body.
The Savior, born of a virgin, entered the holy city on a unridden donkey to die and was placed in an unused tomb.
How many prophesies did Jesus’ earthly life fulfill?
Jesus Christ fulfilled over 300 prophesies in the Bible. He essentially fulfills the old testament. Here are the major eight, all written between 500 and 1,000 years before Christ’s birth:
- The Messiah will die by having His hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16).
- The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
- The Messiah will remain silent while He is afflicted (Isaiah 53:7).
- A messenger will prepare the way for the Messiah (Malachi 3:1).
- The Messiah will enter Jerusalem as a king riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).
- The Messiah will be betrayed by a friend and suffer wounds in His hands (Zechariah 13:6).
- The Messiah will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).
- The betrayal money will be used to purchase a potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13).
According to “Science Speaks,” written by Peter Stoner, the chances of the just eight major prophesies of Jesus being fulfilled by one person is 1 in 10 to the power of 17. 1:100,000,000,000,000,000
The chances of one man fulfilling 40 of the prophesies in the Old Testament is 1:100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.¹
Why did Jesus die on the cross?
Jesus lived a perfect life and died willingly on the cross as a substitution for those who believe in him, breaking the barrier between sinners and God, changing our eternal home to Heaven.
What is sin? Why do I need saved from it?
Our purpose in life is to glorify God. A sin is when we miss the mark, when we fall short, when we do not glorify him. And the Bible tells us that we have “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Think of the 10 commandments: Have you worshipped anything other than God? Have you taken his name in vain? Have you ever dishonored your parents? Have you ever murdered someone in your heart? Or looked at someone with lustful intent other than your spouse? Have you ever stolen something? Or lied? Or coveted?
Clearly no one can no to all of these — or most of them. Some years ago, as a newly-committed Christian, I wasn’t sure what a sin was. I googled for a list. The list I found was expansive, but I quickly found out, not exhaustive. So I began to ask myself this question I heard on the radio: Can God bless this? It’s not a perfect definition, but it can put new perspective on our smaller, everyday actions.
Can he bless this tv show? This drink? This computer time? The way I’m treating my family? The white lies to avoid things? The gossip I just shared? …
So we all sin, but why do we need saved from it? Because our sin keeps us separated from a holy God. Sin is a decimation to his creation. We are endanger of hell if we chose to reject Jesus’ offer and remain in our sin. God will judge us one day — think of all the things you’ve said and done — but there is one who paid the price for you. All you have to do is accept it.
I heard this once: The person doing the rescuing has something the rescuee does not. We cannot earn our way back to God.
The solution is to turn toward God, not away from him, and ask forgiveness. You are now granted a full pardon, for your debt has been paid in full by his son. It’s true we don’t stop sinning this side of Heaven, so this will be a repeated process, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can grow from our mistakes, learn and leave sinful habits.
What was Jesus doing between his death and resurrection?
From Friday afternoon to Sunday morning Jesus’ body remained in Joseph’s tomb. But where was his spirit during this time? Well, there is a lot of debate on the subject. First we’ll look at a few places in scripture that many scholars think pertain to this time:
Acts 2:31: he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Psalm 16:10: For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
1 Peter 3:18-19: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
This is out of my theological league, so I’d like to offer this explanation from GotQuestions.org:
“So, where was Jesus for the three days in between His death and resurrection? For a time, He was in Hades, preaching to the spirits in prison (whoever they were). Then, He released all of the righteous dead of Sheol/Hades and took them with Him to heaven. But, again, there is controversy on virtually every point.”
So the answer isn’t clear where Jesus was on Saturday, but the important thing is what happened on Sunday!
What happened on Easter Sunday?
Piecing the gospel accounts together, here is what happened on Resurrection Sunday:
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Joanna and other women went to Jesus’ tomb very early Sunday morning (Mark 16:16, Luke 24:10). They brought spices they prepared to anoint Jesus’ body, as they had been in a rush to put Jesus’ him in the tomb on Friday before the Sabbath (or day of rest). They were unsure who would roll away the stone in front of the tomb for them (Mark 16:3).
Then there was an earthquake and an angel, whose appearance was like lighting and clothing white as snow, rolled back the stone and sat on it. Angels told the women “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6). The two angels told the women to go and tell the disciples. So they ran with fear and joy to tell them.
The guards witnessed the earthquake and angel “and for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4). They went into the city and told the chief priests. “… they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day” (Matthew 28:12-15).
Mary Magdalene told the disciples the tomb was empty. Peter and John ran to see. Peter went inside. “Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes” (John 20:6-10).
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)
Jesus also appeared to Mary The Mother Of James, Salome, And Joanna on their way to tell the disciples. “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:9).
Isn’t Friday to Sunday two days not three?
This is a very particular question, but one I have often wondered, so I’m including it. Jewish tradition is that each day that is touched is considered counted. So this would make Friday, Saturday and Sunday three days.
Who saw Jesus after he was resurrected?
It was 40 days from the day of Jesus’ resurrection to his ascension into Heaven. During this time he appeared to hundreds of people. These are the encounters his followers recorded, though there may have been many more:
- Mary Magdalene
- Other women
- Two Disciples On The Emmaus Road
- The Disciples (Thomas Absent)
8 days later:
- All Of The Disciples
- Seven Disciples At The Sea Of Galilee
- A Mountain In Galilee
- Over Five Hundred People
- James (Jesus’ half-brother)
- The Disciples (during the Ascension)
- Saul (some time after the Ascension)
Why did Jesus remain on earth 40 days after he rose from the grave?
After Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples and followers were dismayed. But then he showed them repeatedly that he lives! His body was not stolen. He conquered death and holds the keys to death and Hades (Revelation 1:18). He also prepared them for what was to come and gave them instructions to take his message to the world.
Though his body was able to do things that it had not before (for example, walking through a locked door in John 20:26) and on a few occasions his disciples did not recognize him at first (John 20:14, Luke 24:16, John 21:12), but he still ate fish and bread in front of them (John 21:13, Luke 24:42). He was not an apparition, but flesh and blood.
Jesus appeared to many and they believed, but read what Jesus tells Thomas about you and me. Matthew 28:12-15:
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
What happened when Jesus ascended to Heaven?
Let’s read from Acts 1, written by Luke. In fact, you can read Luke and Acts like a two-part series.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Before Jesus ascended he prepared his disciples in these ways:
- He proved to the apostles multiple times he lives. There was no more room for their continual doubt.
- He opened the mind of the apostles to understand the scriptures and his fulfillment of “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24).
- He told them to stay in Jerusalem because they would soon receive the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
- He gave them the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As Christians we celebrate Christ’s birth, his resurrection, but quite often we skip celebrating his ascension into Heaven altogether. It’s like we skip the best part! He had conquered death, secured our reunification with God and was returning to Heaven to reign forever! As John MacArthur says, it is “heaven’s affirmation that he had accomplished everything he had come to do.”1
What is Pentecost?
After Christ’s ascension, the eleven chose Matthias to replace Judas. The group of followers numbered 120 at this time, according to Acts 1:15. This included the apostles, Jesus’ brothers, mother and women. It is unclear if they continued to meet in the same upper room where they partook in the Last Supper, but they remained in Jerusalem as Jesus had directed them.
It was 10 days after Jesus went to Heaven that the Holy Spirit came upon the group. We know this because Pentecost means “50” in Greek, as it is a festival that takes place 50 days after Passover. And as we just read, Jesus went up into Heaven 40 days after Passover. Pentecost is the Jewish Festival of Weeks, a celebration of “the first fruits of wheat harvest” (Exodus 34:22).
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
That day was the first fruits of the spiritual harvest, indeed. After Peter addressed the crowd, telling them to repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, they were “cut to the heart” and “about 3,000 were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:37-41).
Why did the disciples need the Holy Spirit?
In John 17:7, before his death, Jesus told his disciples, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
In the Old Testament, the Spirit would on occasion come upon people, but only for a period of time. For example, when Saul was the first king of Israel, the Spirit came to him but after his disobedience God took his blessing away (1 Samuel).
When Christ lived the perfect life and conquered death, he paved the way for us to our Holy God. Before this moment in time, God could not dwell with man, let alone inside of him. But now that we are one with Christ, the Spirit of God no longer resides inside a temple. The temple is now our body. This is what Jesus meant when he said “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
Jesus says in John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Dane Ortlund lists what the Spirit does in his book “Gentle and Lowly”: He regenerates us, convicts us, empowers us with gifts, testifies in our hearts, leads, makes us fruitful, enables, intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray, guides us to truth, transforms us into the image of Christ.
Once you have accepted Christ, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and are “sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). He will “help you and be with you forever” (John 14:16).
After the Holy Spirit came to the disciples, they were on mission for Christ instead of for themselves, their minds were opened to scripture instead of living in doubt, their spiritual vision was clear instead of blinded by only what they could see with human eyes. That’s not to say they didn’t have their disagreements later, but that’s a story for another day.
Like we teach the kids in Sunday school, it’s like they were flashlights who finally received the battery.
Who is Saul or Paul?
Some years after Pentecost, Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus. He was a Pharisee actively persecuting and murdering Christians, but something turned his life upside down. He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.
… and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” … Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
God told a man named Ananias to lay hands on him. “And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.”
Note that Jesus said, “Why are you persecuting me?” Saul wasn’t persecuting Jesus, was he? He had already died and risen. But these Christians are one with Christ through the New Covenant. A covenant is a solemn oath between two loving friends. It is essentially saying: We are one. Your enemies are my enemies. Your family is my family. So to Jesus, Saul persecuting them was the the same as persecuting him.
From this point Saul was transformed and dedicated his life to preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. He changed his Hebrew name, Saul, to the Roman version, Paul. He was now a messenger to all people — Jew and Gentile. Paul went on to write at least 13 of the 27 New Testament books.
He had persecuted Christians with all his might and zeal only to find out he was on the wrong side. He called himself the worst of sinners, knowing that he had sent many innocent to their deaths. On top of that, once he changed sides and lived his life for Jesus, he himself was persecuted, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned.
There are many takeaways, but the two that stand out to me in this moment are: 1) following Christ does not mean a trouble-free life; 2) anyone can turn their life around and use it for God’s Kingdom!
What happened to the apostles?
Here are the traditional stories of their missions and deaths. As you read, ask yourself what the chances are of every single man willingly to be tortured to death for something that he thought was a lie or something he did not actually believe in. To me, these stories are overwhelming evidence that Jesus’ disciples truly believed he was the Messiah — that he did die on the cross and rose from the dead.
Peter: Peter’s teaching can be linked to Samaria, Rome and Asia Minor. He was crucified in Rome probably during the reign of Nero and asked to be crucified upside down as he felt unworthy to die the same death as Jesus.
James, son of Zebedee: He is thought to have taught in Spain and Syria. Acts 12:2 says King Herod had him killed by sword.
John: He cared for Jesus’ mother and was the church leader in the Ephesus area. He survived being boiled in oil in Rome. He was exiled to the mines on the island of Patmos for his faith, where he wrote Revelation, and later released to modern-day Turkey. He was the only apostle to die a natural death.
Andrew: He brought the good news of Jesus to Greece, Asia Minor and Russia. He is thought to have been crucified for days on an X-shaped cross in Greece. His last words are reported to have been: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.”1
Philip: He is thought to have preached in North Africa, Asia Minor, Ukraine and Turkey. He may have converted a Roman proconsul’s wife to Christianity that led to his crucifixion in Turkey.
Nathanael: He ministered in Asia Minor, India and Armenia. He was flayed alive in Armenia.
Matthew: He taught in Persia, Macedonia, Syria, Parthia, Media and Ethiopia. He was possibly stabbed to death by sword in Ethiopia.
Thomas: He brought the gospel to India and was stabbed with a spear during one of his trips.
James, son of Alphaeus: James might have been crucified in Sinai or Persia. The other tradition is that he was stoned to death in Jerusalem.
Thaddaeus: He took many missionary trips, but is best known for founding a church in Turkey. It is said he was either clubbed or axed to death. Another says he was crucified.
Simon: He is thought to have taught in Persia and killed after refusing to worship and offer sacrifice to the sun god.
Matthias: He replaced Judas and was supposedly stoned and beheaded.
Paul: He traveled throughout Asia, Greece and Italy. He was tortured in Rome and then beheaded in 67AD.
James, brother of Jesus: He was not one of the 12, but he was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He is said to have been thrown off the pinnacle of the temple and survived, so he was clubbed to death. This could be the same pinnacle that Satan took Jesus to during his temptation in the wilderness.
Jesus warned of their persecution, yet they remained faithful and their reward is in Heaven.
What is Jesus doing now?
Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). He is at the right hand of his Father, ruling the universe and reigning over all. He is the commander of angel armies.
With all the evil that happens today this might seem confusing. Professor D.A. Carson writes, “God’s will is being done without being contested in heaven. And there will come a time in the new heaven and the new earth when it will not be contested anywhere. But right now it is being contested, even though Christ is reigning, even though God’s sovereignty is not removed.”
Jesus the high priest
Jesus the great high priest who:
- Sends the gospel out into the world
- Teaches his followers in tandem with the Holy Spirit
- Oversees and guides his churches
- Calls people to himself
Jesus the intercessor
Unlike high priests of the old testament who offered animal sacrifices for the sins of the people, Jesus the High Priest offered himself as the final and perfect sacrifice. Because of this he can also act as our intercessor or advocate to our high and just God. This is why we pray in Jesus’ name. His blood has atoned for our sins so that we might sit blameless before a holy God. It’s like getting in because you “know a guy.”
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
He also says he will prepare a place for you, working on your behalf in heavenly places.
Jesus the friend
In John 15:15 Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
He is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” in Proverbs 18:24. King Jesus of the universe asks you to be in a relationship with him so that he can be your high priest, intercessor and friend.
When will Jesus come back?
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
In Matthew 24:36 Jesus tells us: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
Some people try to decipher the book of Revelation as if it will unlock a code to when Christ’s return will be. Or maybe they can predict when it will happen by the series of events in this prophetic book. I know, because I used to be one of these people! I studied and studied. The more I studied the more I realized the beautiful mystery that it is. The book is packed with symbolism and Old Testament references, but it is not a secret code to knowing exactly when the end of days will come. For we are not meant to know.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 says: “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
MORE: Bible Project has an excellent short video on this topic for further study.
How will we know it’s Him?
The Bible says there will be many false teachers in the end of days and to be on guard.
23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
We read that he will come back the same way he left. Let’s read Revelation 1:7: “Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.”
1 Thessalonians 4:
16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
It seems he will be visible to all people. This will not be a quiet entry like his first coming. He came as a lamb, but he’s coming back as a lion to not only claim his own, but “repay everyone for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12-13).
We don’t have time to get into the fundamental views on the rapture, second coming and the millennium, but when he comes back he will defeat Satan.
Let’s read what John saw in his revelation, given by God. Chapter 19:
The Heavenly Warrior Defeats the Beast
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
King of kings and Lord of lords.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
It is said, the first time Jesus came, he came to redeem; the second time he will come to reign. It’s a gruesome image, but it is recorded so we will know the truth, of what is to come. The people who will go down with Satan into the fiery lake of burning sulfur will go there because they choose it. God grants us the choice — if we want to live without him on earth, it will be the same after death. But this life will be as good as it gets. For only torment awaits those in the fire.
Why does Jesus have so many names?
Christ, Messiah, Savior, Son of Man, Lamb of God. What do all of these mean?
Jesus’ name would have been pronounced Yeshua in ancient Israel. It was changed over the course of time to Jesus in English translations. Yeshua means “to save” or “deliver.”
Christ is not Jesus’ last name. Instead it means “the anointed one” or “chosen one.”
Messiah also means “anointed.” It refers to the awaited king of Israel promised in the Old Testament.
Humans have sinned since the beginning and because of this our world is fallen and corrupt. Jesus lived a perfect life we never could, died on the cross to take all the punishment on himself and reconcile humanity with God. He saves us from our sin.
Isaiah 7:14 prophesied “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us.”
Son of Man
Interestingly, Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man” more than any other name and it indicates an emphasis on his humanity. It refers to a dream Daniel had while he was a captive in Babylon. He had a vision of four beasts representing “four kings who shall arise out of the earth” (Daniel 7:17). But there’s another who will take the throne.
Son of David
God made a covenant with David, that the messiah would come from his lineage (2 Sam 7). This rested upon and reinforced the Abrahamic covenant. So when the suffering people cry out to Jesus on the street, saying “Son of David,” they are telling him they acknowledge his deity and that he is the chosen one sent from God.
Lamb of God
Leviticus details how sacrifices were to be made. The bloodshed from an animal didn’t blot out their sin forever, but only atoned it. So this would have to be done again and again. Instead, Christ, who is the perfect lamb, sacrificed his life ONCE for ALL sin.
Lion of Judah
Jesus was from the line of Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Its symbol was a lion (for leadership) and most kings came from this tribe, including David and Solomon.1 He came to the earth the first time as a sacrificial lamb to give us a way out. But the second time he comes it will be like a lion, a king who judges.
His name is above any other name. It is powerful to call upon the one who has conquered death, the one who invites you into relationship with him. Never abuse it. Never take it in vain and use his holy name as a bad word. Instead, offer it up in prayer and thanksgiving for the one who mediates between you and God.
How can Jesus’ death atone my sins?
I didn’t understand how Jesus dying on the cross could atone my sins until I began to learn about covenants.
First, let’s note that God is just and cannot let evil go unpunished. And the Bible is clear: “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Our sin from the beginning has corrupted and distorted his perfect creation and separated us from him.
Now, a covenant is a solemn oath between two loving friends. It is essentially saying: We are one. Your enemies are my enemies. Your family is my family. From this moment forward we are one. Traditionally, throughout time and throughout the world, a covenant was sealed with a sharing of blood. Because blood represents life. This transfusion of life is symbolic. They share the same blood and life now.
When we take communion and drink the wine representing his blood and eat the bread representing his body, we are entering a blood covenant with him. We are making him a part of us and us a part of him. What this means is because he put on our robe of humanity, we may put on his robe of righteousness.
Jesus lived a sinless life and therefore conquered death. He still shed his blood and willingly died though. For what purpose? He went to the cross so we wouldn’t have to. He can be our sacrifice, our substitute, because we have accepted him and are one with him. It is so that those who enter the covenant with him, who become one with him, will be admitted into the Lord’s presence on his account rather than our own. We are adopted children of God because we are one with Jesus and God is his Father, his family. The Holy Spirit can dwell inside of us for the same reason.
How can I become a follower of Jesus?
These events are still as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago and you have a part to play. If your heart is pounding and there is a lump in your chest, don’t put this off for another day. Wipe away that tear. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, God wants you. His son calls you. This can be the beginning of a transformation like you’ve never imagined.
Here’s what to do:
- Pray to God in your own words. Ask for forgiveness from your sins. Tell him you accept his son Jesus as the messiah and that you believe he died for your sins. Invite him into your life and make His will your will.
- Receive the Holy Spirit and begin the renewing and transformation of your mind and life.
- Get plugged into a Bible-based church. Check out this church directory by The Gospel Coalition. This is key to having those seeds he has planted flourish and not be pecked away by the birds.
- Take communion with the wine representing his blood and bread representing his body. This is the New Covenant you are entering with the King of the Universe.
- Get baptized and publicly declare your love for the Lord Jesus!
- Go tell the world about the good news of Jesus Christ!
Are you wayward? Have you not been baptized? Do you need a recommitment? It’s not too late! Now is the perfect time. For not one day of life is guaranteed.
You might not be able to see his face as the disciples did. You might not see the kindness in his eyes or hear his soothing voice confessing his love for you. You might not be able to physically touch his scared hands, feet or side. But his promises remain. What he did stands — the same as then as today. He loves you and calls to you in your spirit. Do you feel it? One day we will see his lovely face, hold onto his scared hands and hug his body of flesh and blood that he took on for our sake. The day is coming soon, friend.