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Who was Jesus anyway?

Updated: Mar 22

Jesus was born into a poor Jewish family[1] over 2000 years ago[2]. His hometown was Nazareth in Galilee[3] – an uninfluential part of Israel which was occupied by the Roman Empire. He was the eldest biological son of Mary and his adoptive dad Joseph[4]. Mary and Joseph went on to have other sons and daughters[5]. The four biblical Gospels outline that Jesus was remarkable even before His birth. There were 351 Old Testament prophecies written 400-1600 years before He was born that would accurately predict details of His life and death[6].

Mary had a visit from an angel with a message that she would carry God’s son[7]. She conceived whilst still a virgin[8] and gave birth to Jesus in a town called Bethlehem in Israel[9]. His birth was highly unusual. Local Shepherds, who were strangers to Mary and Joseph, visited them after angelic visitations told them to seek out this special baby[10]. A roaming star led a group of curious magi (learned men from the East, possibly astrologers) on a long journey to seek out this newborn King. They brought expensive gifts symbolic of royalty to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem[11]. The magi's journey, however, caused unintended tragic consequences. Herod the Great heard through them that the star and the prophecies attested to the imminent birth of a new King. Jealous for power, Herod decided to eradicate this threat by ordering the slaughter of all male boys under the age of two in Bethlehem. Jesus avoided this fate because Joseph had been warned in a dream to flee to Egypt and become refugees until the danger had passed[12].


The family finally returned to Nazareth once King Herod had died[13]. Jesus spent his childhood, up to his early 30s[14], learning the family trade from Joseph as was the custom. Jesus became a carpenter[15], spent time with his family[16], learnt the Jewish scriptures[17], attended synagogues and annual Jewish festivals in Jerusalem[18]. Not much is documented about this period of His life.

During His early 30s, for a 3 year period[19], Jesus travelled around Israel[20], parts of Jordan[21] and Samaria (Palestine)[22]. This period is well documented in the four biblical Gospels. Jesus brought together a band of disciples who travelled with Him[23] who numbered at least 72[24]. His closest friends during this time were fishermen, tax collectors for the Roman empire and zealots (freedom fighters striving to liberate Israel from the Romans)[25]. He also had female disciples who travelled with the group and provided for their needs[26]. Jesus is recorded as teaching in synagogues, on mountains, in homes and in towns[27]. Huge crowds would search for Him and ask Him to heal their sick, which He did[28]. There are miracle accounts of paralyzed men walking[29], the blind seeing[30], the deaf hearing[31] and lepers being cured[32]. Jesus is also reported to have cast out demons from people who cut themselves with stones[33], threw themselves into fires during seizures[34] and frothed at the mouth during episodes[35]. Even more remarkably, Jesus raised at least three people from the dead: a widow’s son in the village of Nain[36]; the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue[37]; and Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha in Bethany, after he had been dead four days[38]. Other miracles of Jesus demonstrated His authority over natural laws: multiplying just five loaves and two fish until over 5000 people were fed (with leftovers!)[39]; walking on water and calming a storm at the Sea of Galilee[40]; and turning water into wine at a wedding[41].

The final week of His life involved a triumphant procession into Jerusalem with crowds celebrating His arrival as He rode upon a humble donkey[42]. It is likely the crowds were ecstatic because they thought He was coming to start a rebellion against Rome in order to liberate the Promised Land for the Jews. Five days later, these same crowds were chanting for His crucifixion before a Roman Governor of the Province (Pontius Pilate)[43]. The night before this dramatic U-turn involved Jesus being betrayed by Judas (one of His 12 main disciples) to the Jewish religious leaders who wanted to kill Him[44]. Jesus was put through an all-night trial with Jewish priests accusing Him of blasphemy (claiming to be God)[45]. They had no authority to implement the death penalty, so had to convince the Roman Governor to carry out their wishes[46]. The crowd were stirred up to chant for Jesus’ death[47]. They were possibly easy to convert from their earlier ecstasy because Jesus hadn’t brought the revolution they desired. Instead, He had caused quite a stir against the Jews by going into their holy temple and driving them out with whips in a fit of anger. He was displeased to see moneychangers focussing on business in the temple courtyards rather than prayer and worship of God[48].

Pontius Pilate reluctantly ordered Jesus to be executed, as he was suspicious about the Jewish leaders’ motives[49]. No evidence could be found to convict Jesus as a criminal worthy of death[50]. The only charge the Jewish leaders brought against Him was from their own belief system: that no one can claim to be God[51]. Pilate questioned Jesus and found Him to be an innocent man yet cowardly sided with the crowd for fear of a riot forming[52]. Jesus was sentenced to a flogging and then crucifixion outside the city[53]. The Roman soldiers struck Him, mocked Him by forcing a crown of thorns on His head, spat on Him and made Him carry the cross to the execution site. Jesus collapsed on the way, so a random stranger was seized to carry it for Him[54]. Jesus was stripped of His clothes and hung on a cross between two criminals possibly about 9am[55]. He died about 3pm. The guards wanted to check He was really dead, so they pierced his side with a spear and saw blood and water gush out. This is a sign of clinical death when the blood starts to separate[56]. At 3pm the whole land went dark, there was an earthquake[57] and the huge curtain in the Jewish temple (which separated the Holy Place from where the common people could gather) was torn in two. When a Roman soldier saw all these events take place, he concluded that “surely this man was the Son of God[58]


Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in funeral cloths and placed in the freshly cut tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (a wealthy Jewish leader). A huge stone was rolled in front of the cave tomb to seal it. Jesus’ female followers desired to anoint His body there and then, but didn’t have time before the Sabbath was due to start, which forced them to do no work. The women decided to return to Jesus’s tomb after the Sabbath to complete the Jewish funeral rites, which would be early on Sunday morning.[59]

These events occurred on a Friday (the day after the Jewish Passover meal) and by Sunday morning, Jesus’ disciples claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene outside the now empty tomb where He had been placed. The stone was rolled away and the funeral cloths were left in a pile inside with angels in attendance.[60] Jesus showed Himself to the male disciples whilst they were hiding in a locked room (they possibly feared being next on the execution list!). Jesus showed them the wounds from the nails that were hammered into His hands and feet and His pierced side. Jesus wasn’t instantly recognisable, and could appear and disappear through walls[61]. He was seen in Jerusalem and walking along the Emmaus Road (7 miles away) with other disciples, before having a meal with them and disappearing before their eyes[62]. He showed himself sporadically over a period of 40 days between the Jewish festivals of Passover and Pentecost[63]. Once His disciples were fishing on a lake when they saw the resurrected Jesus on the beach, cooking fish on a fire, which they then ate together.[64]


Jesus was finally taken from them, very much alive, up into heaven as they watched from below[65]. He had 120-500 followers at least by this point, who all claimed to have seen Jesus alive or experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost[66]. He left the disciples explicit instructions to wait in Jerusalem until they would receive power from Heaven (the Holy Spirit) to help them fulfil their delegated mission, which was to tell His story to the furthest ends of the world[67]. The disciples were to tell of what they had seen, heard and touched, so that all of humanity could believe in the "Son of Man" who had conquered death and invited everyone to share eternal life with Him[68]. It was a message of forgiveness of sins via the sacrificial death of Jesus, so we could have a renewed relationship with our creator God and live with Him forever[69].

A remarkable story. But is it true? Read on through the posts to wrestle with this question for yourself.


References [1] Leviticus 12:6-8 outlined the Jewish custom of offering pigeons in the temple for a newborn infant if “you are not able to bring a lamb” possibly due to being too poor to afford one, which Mary and Joseph did in Luke 2:22 [2] Herod the Great reigned from 072 BC - 004 BC. Jesus is reported to have been born during the end of his reign (Matt 2:1-2). The dates of Jesus’ birth & death are approximate within this time period. [3] Isa 9:1, Matt 2:23 [4] Luke 3:23, Luke 1:26-38, Matt 1:18-25 [5] Matt 12:46, 13:55-56, Mark 6:3, John 2:12, 7:1, Acts 1:14, Gal 1:18, 1 Cor 9:4 is comprehensive evidence that the Catholic view of Mary’s perpetual virginity is incorrect. 3 of the Gospels refer to Jesus’s brothers and so does Paul. The book of James is attributed to Jesus’ brother who once was a sceptic but converted after meeting the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor 15:7). [6] See my previous post “Reason 3: Predicting the Future” and “Doubt 2: Prophecy Controversy” [7] Luke 1:26 [8] Luke 1:34-37, Matt 1:18-25 [9] Matt 2:1,Luke 2:1-7 [10] Luke 2:8-20 [11] Matt 2:1-12 [12] Matt 2:13-18 [13] Matt 2:19-23, Isa 9:1 [14] Luke 3:23 [15] Mark 6:3 [16] Luke 2:51 [17] Luke 2:52 [18] Luke 2:41-50, Luke 4:16 [19] John 2:13, John 6:4, John 11:55 are 3 references to 3 separate annual Passover events which Jesus took part in at Jerusalem. Prior to the first Passover mentioned, Jesus had already been baptised, spent 40 days in the desert, performed miracles, etc. (John1:19-2:12). So, there is some debate over the length of Jesus’ ministry, but 3 years seem a reasonable conjecture. [20] Israelite towns Jesus visited documented throughout the Gospels: Bethlehem. Bethsaida Julias. Caesaria Philippi Paneas, Cana, Capernaum, Chorazin, Decapolis, Gennesaret, Jericho, Jerusalem, Nain, Nazareth, Sidon, Sychar, Tyre [21] Luke 4:1 [22] John 4:4 [23] Luke 5:1-11, Matt 9:9-10 [24] Luke 10:1-12 [25] Luke 5:1-11, Matt 9:9-10, Mark 3:13-19 [26] Luke 8:1-3 [27] Matt Ch 5-7, Mark 3:1, Matt 9:10, Matt 8:1, Luke 8:1 [28] Luke 8:19, Matt 19:2, Matt 14:14, Matt 15:30 [29] Luke 5:18-25 [30] Mark 10:46-52 [31] Mark 7:31-37 [32] Luke 5:12-16 [33] Mark 5:5 [34] Mark 9:22 [35] Mark 9:20 [36] Luke 7:15 [37] Mark 5:42 [38] John 11:44 [39] Matt 14:13-21 [40] Matt 14:22-36, Matt 8:23-27 [41] John 2:1-11 [42] Luke 19:28-44 [43] Mark 15:12-13 [44] Matt 26:14-16 [45] Matt 26:57-67, 27:1 [46] Matt 27:2 [47] Matt 27:20 [48] Matt 21:12-13 [49] Matt 27:18-19 [50] Mark 14:56, Matt 26:59 [51] Matt 26:65-66 [52] Matt 27:24 [53] Matt 27:26 [54] Matt 27:27-33 [55] Luke 23:32-33 Matthew Henry explains in his commentary, Jesus was nailed to the cross between the third and the sixth hour, that is, between nine and twelve o’clock. And soon after the ninth hour, that is, between three and four o’clock in the afternoon, he died (Matt 27:45-46) [56] John 19:33-35 [57] Matt 27:45-53 [58] Mark 15:38-39 [59][59] Mark 15:42-47 [60] Mark 16:1-11, Matt 28:1-10, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-18 [61] Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-44, John 20:19-31 [62] Luke 24:13-35, Mark 16:12-13 [63] Acts 1:3 [64] John 21:1-14, Luke 24:41-42 [65] Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:50-53 [66] Acts 1:15, 1 Cor 15:1-11 [67] Luke 24:49 [68] John 3:16, Luke 24:44-48, Matt 28:18-20 [69] John 20:30-31, Isaiah 53

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