A special Christmas episode, Jesus of Nazareth. This content is shared from a Christian world view. We hope you enjoy it and have a marvelous Christmas and New Year!
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Jesus of Nazareth
2000 years ago one man changed the world. 2000 years ago, one manned spawned a movement that continues to grow to this very day. His life was subject to political intrigue, his death more so. His teachings have set men free and sent men to war. His treatment of the poor, of woman and the needy were revolutionary. He claimed to be the incarnation of God on earth - one with the Father - and since he did people have both loved and reviled him for it. Man, Prophet, Teacher, King, Son of God. This is Jesus of Nazareth.
Born to a carpenter of humble means, according to the most reliable sources, Jesus of Nazareth made his appearance into this realm in the town of Bethlehem under the lowliest of circumstances - a feeding trough in the stable of a regional Inn. For the next 30 years, things didn't get much better. After his birth, Jesus' parents packed him up and headed to Egypt to avoid the purging of the Jewish children two and under by the then king Herod. After returning to his Nazareth with his adopted father Joseph and mother Mary, Jesus settled into being a child in a relatively poor but happy household. Though historical and Biblical texts don't share anything specific about the childhood of this religious revolutionary, it seems he was a special child - evidenced by the fact that he was a child who actually obeyed his parents! No, really, it's in the text.
Around age 12 or 13 Jesus did something that was a harbinger of things to come. While in Jerusalem for one of the traditional feast days Jesus decided to bug out on Joseph and Mary and hang with all the old professors of theology in the Temple. Give the boy his props - he had them all eating out of his hand. And anytime a 13 year old can stand toe to toe with a theology major - that's a good job. Unfortunately for Jesus, it was probably one of the last times that the Jewish priests didn't try to trap or kill him.
Between the Teaching at the Temple and the next major event in Jesus' life, no historical source says anything about the young prophet. In fact, nothing is heard until we see Jesus at a wedding party with his mother. And to think, everyone there was drinking! And, Jesus even contributed to the delinquency by performing his first miracle - turning water into wine. Rebel. OK, not really, but now we think that he SO was.
That was just the start for the now 30 year old Jesus, barely a warm up act for what was coming next.
After going to John to be baptized, and into the desert for 40 days of fasting, Jesus started his public ministry. Jerusalem and the surrounding area had never seen anything like it. Blind men born blind were given sight. People who had never walked now walked. And, a widow's son was given back to his mother because Jesus interrupted the funeral procession to bring him back to life! As amazing, as awesome, as jaw dropping spectacular as those miracles were - they were nothing compared to the message that Jesus spoke wherever he went. Love. Love for your enemy. Love for the unlovely. Blessings and not cursing. Forgiveness from the throne of heaven. And this forgiveness didn't depend on your own righteousness. It didn't depend on you being good. Tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans (virtually enemies of the Jews), even women living with men out of wedlock were all welcome. As Jesus said, it wasn't the healthy that needed a doctor - it was the sick, the hurting. And Jesus came and healed them. Some of physical ailments, but more with ailments of the heart. The rejected, the lowly, the outcasts of society - Jesus had one message that no one else had ever had: come. His treatment of women was earth shattering and revolutionary - in the truest sense. Never before had anyone considered women on such equal footing. Never before had any theology treated women with such dignity and respect. Jesus now wrote the rules. But there was one problem. The religious leaders hated him. They were afraid that this man that spoke nothing but love, openly - in the Temple courts, would somehow bring the wrath of Cesar down on the Jewish nation. Why? Because he claimed that he was the I AM. The name that God called himself by in the Jewish scripture. The Jews had been awaiting God's messiah - who they assumed would be a King - and indeed Jesus was a King and he verified that claim in his interview with Pilot. Because they were afraid that Jesus would incite the people to a political uprising, while all the time Jesus was pointing people a spiritual renewal and rebirth by the Holy Spirit, the Jewish leaders panicked and tried to protect themselves by arresting Jesus. Instead by doing what they did, within 70 years they brought the Roman Eagles down on themselves.
After arguably his most notable miracle where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (which is saying quite a bit considering he walked on water, and calmed the sea), the religious leaders began to work more fervently to bring Jesus down. They were so determined to trap Jesus that two sects of the Jewish priesthood that were at odds even agreed to work together. They didn't trap Jesus though they certainly tried, but they did finally get one of his disciples to sell him out for 30 pieces of silver, and they took him captive. After railroading him through a rigged trial where they couldn't even get two of their own paid witnesses that could agree, the Sanhedrin (the ruling religious body) sent Jesus to the Roman government to be crucified. And that was the only thing they were interested in and insisted upon, even inciting a mob to near riot in insisting upon releasing a known murder and having the carpenter's son condemned to hanging on a cross.
In the end, the Sanhedren succeeded, and Jesus was crucified. At his death, the day darkened, there was an earth quake and the temple curtain was torn in two - something never before recorded. At the end of the day a follower named Joseph took his body and buried it in his own private tomb. Fearing that one of his followers might steal the body and claim that Jesus was raised from the dead, the Jewish leaders convinced the Romans to guard the tomb. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead as he had claimed. Because of the inexplicable evidence, or lack of evidence to show that his followers might have taken him, the Jewish leaders paid off the Roman guards and had them taken care of while spreading the rumor that they had fallen asleep and that was when the body was taken. Never mind that a Roman soldier would have been virtually drummed out of service for such gross incompetence - that was the story. The problem for the religious leaders was that the story didn't wash with reality AND there were over 500 witnesses that saw Jesus after his resurrection.
After restoring Peter, Jesus blessed the rest of the Apostles, promised his return and then ascended into the heavens promising that he would send the Holy Spirit of God as a deposit for those that believed. And the world has never been the same.
In all, during the course of his life, Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled over 300 prophesies in the Jewish scripture regarding his birth, life, death and resurrection. The odds of one person being able to fulfill all of these prophesies is astronomically against it ever happening. Even if Jesus and his followers were able to orchestrate some of the events - and even if his parents were in on it before he was born and purposely arranged his birth and subsequent flight to Egypt, there are still hundreds of prophesies that could never have been arranged.
Jesus life was one was not one in a million or one in a billion. It was ONE. There has never been another like it. And in it all, Jesus did something that no one else did - he claimed to be God. Above and beyond being a good man, a moral leader, a prophet or a teacher - something that any man and many men have claimed to be, Jesus made one claim that put him into a unique class. A class where he was either what he said he was - God incarnate - or he was a completely stark raving mad lunatic. If he wasn't God then everything he taught was subject to his lunacy. In fact, one of his own followers - a former murderer named Saul who became the most prolific writer of the New Testament and became known as the Apostle Paul - even said that if we lived according to the rules but had no hope of life with God after physical death that we were fools and to be pitied above all else. Jesus of Nazareth was unique. He asked for nothing and everything. He asked for our hearts, but before he did, he gave his life as a sacrifice for our sins because he thought we were worth it.
So, who is this Jesus of Nazareth? Is he a mad man? Is he the Messiah? We know that he lived and that he died. We know that according to one of the most reliable historical references that he was witnessed as being alive after the Resurrection. We know that history changed with his life, we know that the accounting of time changed.
Yes, many men have done stupid things in the name of this Jesus. Wars have been fought, lives have been lost. Ironically, according to what Jesus taught - there is never a word anywhere that would have instructed his followers to do such a thing. Jesus was about the love. The love of God for man. The love that takes away all mans sin. The love that raised Jesus from the dead and provided the Resurrection power for each and every person that would choose to believe in him and have new life and life eternal. LOVE. Love for your neighbor, love for your enemy, love for your spouse, your children, your parents. Love that transcends, love that goes beyond anything we can understand. Not "love" as we so often think of it or equate it with simple emotion or physical attraction. Love rather that prefers others before itself, love that serves, love that brings freedom, joy and new life with it.
This is Jesus that says come as you are. This is the Jesus that we hear the angels tell the shepherds about, the reason why there is peace on earth and good will towards men. This is the Jesus that caused the angels to rejoice, this is the Jesus that was born in a manger. Born to die, be raised and to one day come again in all his glory as the risen Lord of Lord and King of Kings. This is the Jesus of Christmas. This is Jesus of Nazareth.
On this Christmas, may the joy, peace and love of the Christ child enter and dwell in your heart. Merry Christmas!
A final comment: Please note that I hold no ill will towards the Jewish people. In fact, because I'm so interested in all the Jewish holidays and feast days people ask me if I'm Jewish - and I tell them I am by adoption. What I have shared regarding the actions of the religious authority in the state of Israel is just that, a statement. Without these actions by the authorities the ancient prophesies regarding the Messiah would have never been fulfilled. Without a Messiah, this goy would still be a sinner lost in his sin rather than a sinner saved by grace. If anything, I have boundless and eternal gratitude towards those of Jewish heritage because without them, I would have never gotten to join the party.
OK, that's a wrap and I do hope you've enjoyed the Biography Podcast presentation of Jesus of Nazareth. If you have any questions regarding Jesus, feel free to contact me. In fact, if you have any flames or any comments feel free to send them along. Till next time, do something amazing that will be in your biography - LOVE someone. I'm out - Peace!