Who is Jesus Christ?
Real or mythic?
With the help of a few historical records, we can say that Jesus Christ was born around 7 B.C., a few years before the death of Herod the Great. He was born of a human mother--her name was Mary--in the land of Palestine. He ate and slept, he worked and prayed, he suffered and he died. Although countless efforts have been made for twenty centuries to reduce him to a mythical figure, it is hard for anyone to doubt his human existence.
According to writings of the New Testament, which written by his early followers, Jesus was a descendant of David, the warrior-king of Israel. Born in Bethlehem, he was raised in Nazareth of Galilee. His birth was ordinary in itself, although extraordinary happenings were reported as having taken place on this great event.
What about his early life?
Except for a few events, we know very little about the next quarter-century of his life. Jesus was called "the son of a carpenter," and was raised as a Galilean artisan. His neighbors, expecting children to follow in their parent's footsteps, looked for nothing more from him. Later, when he began to teach, they were utterly surprised at his wisdom and the authoritative way he taught. Nothing much was supposed to come from Nazareth, an obscure mountain village of Galillee. Jesus had a good Jewish background. He knew the Jewish Scriptures, but we don't know if he could even write his own name. He was proudly Jewish. Immersed in a Biblical culture, he shared a knowledge of Jewish history communicated to him by his parents and teachers. He also shared the desire of his people for the coming of God's Kingdom and believed in their special place in God's plan of salvation.
When did Jesus' mission begin?
Jesus began his ministry when he was about thirty years old, after his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. At first, onlookers noted nothing extraordinary about him. Remember, for almost 90% of his life he lived as a humble carpenter. Then suddenly, with no advance warning, he began to speak with wisdom and authority. Those who knew him were surprised and shocked. Early on, the people of Nazareth expelled him from their synagogue. Opposition to him continued to grow until eventually he was put to death.
What did he do?
Once his public career began, Jesus seemed completely absorbed in proclaiming that the Kingdom of God had come! There was a consistent singleheartedness about him. It almost seemed as though his own family ceased to exist. Or perhaps it would be truer to say that the world had become his family. Never attached to any one place, he was ever on the move: "I must preach there, too."
Crowds gathered around him. He healed the sick of illnesses as a sign that God's Kingdom had come. He chose others and called them to follow him. He told people to turn to God, to love him with their whole mind and heart and soul, and their neighbor as themselves. He taught using parables. Available to everyone, he treated each with a singular reverence and kindness. He was rarely alone, excepting for hours of prayer in the desert or on a mountain-top. Living one moment to the next, he didn't seem to have any organized set of plans at all.
Among those most attracted to him were society's outsiders: the prostitutes, tax-collectors, sinners, whom he went out of his way to welcome. That disturbed some of the religious elite, who could not understand why he shared the table of sinners.
A prophet, or more?
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me," Jesus proclaimed. And in the next few years, in the Jewish territories of Galilee and Judea, a growing number of people called him a prophet sent by God, and some said perhaps the long-awaited Messiah had come.
His death In Jerusalem
At the time, revolutions were common in those Jewish territories, and the Romans, then in control of Palestine, moved swiftly against any popular figure who might cause unrest. The Jewish ruling class in Jerusalem was also wary of anyone upsetting the delicate peace with the powerful Romans. And so, when Jesus came up to Jerusalem for the great feast of Passover, he was sentenced by Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator, to death by crucifixion.
Risen from the dead!
There it all might have ended. On Sunday after his death, however, his followers saw him, risen from the dead! He ate, drank and spoke with them; after a time he ascended into the heavens to establish God's Kingdom. He sent the Holy Spirit on them and their faith grew. They believed that Jesus was the Son of God, born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, his mother. He brought victory over death, forgiveness of sins and the promise of everlasting life. His followers became his church, a people gathered by him and led by the Holy Spirit. Soon they carried the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world.
What do Christians believe about Jesus?
The Apostles' Creed summarizes what Christians believe about Jesus Christ:
The Apostles' Creed is a summary of the Four Gospels. You can learn more about Jesus Christ from them and the other writings of the New Testament. Jesus once asked those who followed him
That's an important question for all of us. Our answer can change our lives.
This "Ask a Catholic" response written by Kilian MacGowan, C.P.
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